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GPS Vehicle Tracking

History

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a baseline satellite constellation of 24 active satellites positioned in six earth-centered orbital planes, with 4 operational satellites and a spare satellite slot in each orbital plane.  The current system can support a constellation of up to thirty satellites in orbit.  The GPS system was developed and implemented by the United States Air Force (USAF) for military support and operational reasons, and has since become extensively adopted for individuals and corporations in the pursuit of outdoor recreation, personal vehicle navigation, and a vast array of GPS truck tracking, navigation, mapping, reporting and autonomous vehicle guidance applications.

Principles


GPS truck tracking devices work on the principle of trilateration (a more complex version of triangulation where determining position by calculating the angles from which multiple signals have arrived); to determine its position on the surface of the earth by timing signals from at least three to four satellites in the Global Positioning System constellation. The GPS satellites constantly send signals down to the earth, which are received and processed by the GPS receiver, extracting latitude, longitude, altitude, direction of travel, instantaneous speed, time of day, and a list of the satellite signals received. In order to acquire location and altitude accurately, it is necessary to “see” signals from at least four satellites, although it is highly beneficial to see more than the minimum. A properly mounted GPS receiver with an unencumbered view of the sky to the horizon in all directions may see up to 12 different signals, although on normal terrain it is more common to receive signals from 6-8 satellites. 

Augmentation by including other GPS systems, typically referred to as GNSS systems, can significantly increase both accuracy and acquisition times for the device's calculation of it's current location, and can provide signal and operational redundancy; so long as the system has been designed to ignore communications from GNSS systems that are marked as operating outside of specifications.

Limitations


To derive the maximum benefit from GPS vehicle tracking data, it is important to note the shortcomings of the technology. First of all, GPS signals can not penetrate dense solids such as metal and wood, so indoor use without a GPS repeater or other similar signaling system may not be practical. Furthermore, due to the very low signal levels received on earth, GPS receiver units are often unable to acquire a good 'reading' when shielded by dense foliage. For this reason, it is important to mount the GPS truck tracking receiver in a location where it has the best visibility of the sky, normally on the roof of the truck, trailer or vehicle to be tracked.

Jamming and spoofing are a potential limitation as well, though illegal in the US and most of the EU.  iTRAK can make use of additional technology to filter out jamming signals, and to use Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) to accurately determine if the vehicle is being jammed or spoofed - and to remotely alert when these illegal attempts are occurring in near-real-time against a truck or vehicle.

Smartphone GPS tracking has become a popular method of tracking individuals or vehicles. However, these devices can be easily disabled or turned off which can defeat consistent tracking needs of the owner operator.  If the phone belongs to the driver and not to the owner operator, it may also be considered a violation of the individual's privacy.  The ability to disable or power off systems can also apply to dedicated PC's or tablets in the vehicle; even for EOBR/ELD applications.  EOBR/ELD applications are currently restricted from highly accurate location readings.  In general it's better to have a dedicated device or system specifically for vehicle tracking in order to make sure the truck, vehicle or asset is being properly monitored.


Applications


The adoption of GPS vehicle tracking solutions has become widespread in recent times, as fuel prices and other operating costs have rapidly changed. Using iTRAK, fleet managers can dispatch mobile workers more efficiently, ensure drivers adhere to authorized routes, and closely monitor the use of company assets. Some fleet managers have reported fuel savings of 40% or more by using Mobile Resource Management (MRM) technologies such as GPS.

State reports can help to determine how many miles a vehicle has traveled, in order to quickly calculate and generate fuel tax reports.

Systems can be used for navigation assistance, helping to find the most economical or time saving route to a destination - especially when provided with real-time traffic information.

Integration with the vehicle's engine interface, as well as maintenance plans can help make sure that the truck or vehicle stays in top condition - extending the overall life of the vehicle.

Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) or Electronic On Board Recorders (EOBR) devices can also make use of the tracking system, combined with a light or heavy duty engine interface to help keep track of commercial drivers Hours of Service (HOS) State and Federal requirements.

In the future, these systems will also help with driving assistance to make sure that safety as well as efficiency standards are maintained throughout the life of the vehicle - and to help maintain a company's target goal of zero accidents or incidents.

Read more on the Benefits of GPS Vehicle Tracking.




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