When it comes to tracking the whereabouts of a vehicle, asset, or person, GPS devices provide the most accurate information. Still, users often wonder how accurate location data is. To understand GPS tracking accuracy, it’s important first to understand how a GPS tracker works.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find commercial vehicles that are not equipped with GPS navigation systems. However, most people can attest to the fact that many GPS systems are not entirely accurate. If you have ever found yourself driving on the road, only to look at your GPS and see that the system assumes you are in a field, you have experienced this phenomenon. If you are purchasing a GPS vehicle tracking system for your commercial fleet, you need to know that the system is going to be reliable. Here’s what to look for to help you choose a dependable GPS tracking system for your fleet.
How Accurate Is GPS Technology?
Today’s vehicle tracking systems & telematics can find the location of a vehicle within a very small radius — as small as about 3 yards. Some are even able to pinpoint location within 1 yard. Regardless, both of these are quite impressive. Thus, if the GPS is able to pinpoint locations so well, you need to know what other factors can impact the reliability of these systems.
What Can Impact the Reliability of GPS Tracking Systems?
Many factors can affect the consistency of a GPS tracking system. One of the biggest factors affecting reliability is the quality of the system, software and the receiver. If you need a high level of GPS tracking accuracy, you need to invest in a system that can deliver this.
Sometimes, systems will appear inaccurate because they have not been updated. Systems designed for passenger vehicles, may require occasional upgrades to update the mapping and include new roads and routes. Commercial systems often do this updating automatically, but each system will vary.
If you have a reliable, proven system, you may still notice times when it’s not behaving as accurately as you might like. This may be due to obstructions, like high buildings, tunnels and trees that are compromising the transmission of the data. Since GPS relies on data being transmitted from the GPS satellites to the vehicle’s receiver, these types of obstructions can cause temporary reliability problems. Some areas of the country also have a low GPS signal, which can compromise the system’s accuracy.
Consider Track Your Truck for Reliable GPS Tracking
If you are looking for reliable GPS systems for your business that come fully tested and with full warranties, consider Forum Group’s telematics & GPS tracking solutions. Our vehicle tracking systems have proven reliability and are optimised for the needs of small- to medium-sized businesses. With fleet tracking systems, you can be confident that the information about your vehicles is accurate and timely, allowing you to make informed decisions in the field when routing your vehicles.
What is GPS Tracking?
GPS tracking devices connect to the Global Positioning System and communicate via signals. Multiple things can be tracked via GPS, such as people, vehicles, aeroplanes and plant equipment. The accuracy of GPS tracking is very important. Therefore if the signal is affected and the accuracy isn’t a hundred per cent, it can have consequences.
The accuracy of GPS can be affected by multiple things:
- Being covered by metal
- The weather
- Being in a remote area
- Time of the day – due to the satellite changing position – they orbit around the globe
What is Assisted GPS (A-GPS)?
A-GPS is a web-based service that significantly improves the performance of a satellite positioning system. It tells your device exactly which satellites are available in which location.
Through a data connection, the mobile receiver will contact the server and receive support data only for those visible satellites for that receiver. This will allow you to determine your position in less than 6 seconds. This, in turn, reduces the time to get a good signal from 1 minute to 6 seconds.
GPS Tracking for Businesses
Small, medium and large businesses implement tracking systems onto their assets in order to gain more control, increase efficiencies and reduce risk.
Vehicle Tracking Systems
For a business, being able to monitor the whereabouts of their vehicles is important. Transport Managers are able to see the location of their fleet on a live map, to be able to make informed decisions, such as: who is closest to a delivery drop and where the traffic is in order to take a different route. Therefore, if the GPS trackers are not 100% accurate in real-time, the business could be in trouble with a lack of control over their vehicles and employees.
On top of vehicle tracking, companies can invest in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) readers in order to be in control of who was driving the vehicle, in case of a speeding ticket or mileage records for the tax authorities.
Plant and Equipment tracking
Being able to track plant and equipment is effective for businesses with regards to knowing when the assets require servicing and maintenance rather than having to remember off the top of your head when exactly it is. GPS tracking also enables businesses to see the exact amount of usage the assets have in order to ensure accurate invoicing.
Besides, tracking tools are effective for businesses in case they have lost or misplaced their tools. It is also effective for inventory to see where each tool is.
Conditions That Affect GPS Tracking Accuracy
GPS uses the frequency of radio signals to determine the location of a device. This means that the GPS device can make these calculations by measuring the time it takes for radio signals to be received from several satellites orbiting the Earth. These satellites transmit signals to each other, and the GPS device can measure these transmissions to calculate the precise location of the device.
GPS is not dependent on weather conditions, but accuracy may be slightly altered in areas where there isn’t a clear line of sight to the sky, such as in big cities, underneath bridges, inside tunnels, or even deep in wooded areas. Some common locations that notoriously experience GPS location inaccuracies are:
- below high buildings
- under tree cover
- near land formations like valleys and mountains
- inside tunnels
- inside parking garages
Ultimately, most GPS tracking devices are accurate to within three meters, allowing users to have fairly accurate location information. While operating in low-accuracy areas can negatively affect your results, GPS tracking technology has evolved to ensure stronger signals and greater accuracy.
How GPS Tracking Works in Vehicles
Vehicle tracking systems function by using GPS signals emitted from the device and received by the GPS satellite network. Once the satellites determine the device’s position, the information is sent via a cellular network to the cloud server which updates the device location on a map displayed on a computer, tablet, or smartphone so the owner can monitor it.
GPS tracking has improved in accuracy in recent years because of advanced technology, increased GPS satellites, and better cellular networks.
GPS Tracking for Business
With the increased accuracy of GPS vehicle tracking, this technology has many uses in business, helping to increase efficiency and peace-of-mind.
Businesses can use GPS trackers to monitor the whereabouts and movement of important assets like expensive equipment that belongs to the company. This allows users to keep tabs on equipment, especially if it’s located in vulnerable positions, such as on a construction site. Users can also set up notifications to be sent in the event that the equipment is in motion or relocated, ensuring that the movement can be monitored if it is authorised, or new locations can be identified if the equipment is stolen.
GPS tracking technology can be used to help business managers manage the locations of their fleet of vehicles at all times, with fleet tracking. Tracking company vehicles and knowing how fast they travel, which routes they take, how long they remain idle, etc., provides incredibly valuable data to business managers who are looking to improve fleet efficiency and customer service. For example, companies that offer driver and delivery services are able to use this information to dispatch drivers in the area to handle jobs nearest to them, thereby decreasing wait times and improving customer service. Some technology even allows customers themselves to see the location of their service provider.
Using GPS tracking can also offer an added layer of security for businesses as it can provide the needed evidence for claims disputes. For example, suppose a company vehicle is involved in an altercation, is accused of unauthorised activity, or receives a review from a customer that disagrees with the driver’s claim. In that case, GPS tracking data can effectively settle the dispute and provide accurate information for the company, customer, and, in extreme cases, the courts. Having location, speed, and route information provides managers with the evidence they need.
The precision of GPS (Global Positioning System) refers to the level of distance GPS displays to the actual location of the tracked object. On the list of key points and benefits of a GPS device are its accuracy, precision and reliability. The Global Positioning System (GPS) faults and errors can be decreased to a sufficiently little amount, that the system offers excellent results in business-oriented purposes. For almost any GPS Unit to work the antennae requires a crystal clear look at the sky to connect to the satellites.
That’s why GPS won’t work inside buildings. GPS devices calculate your location by analysing the distance between the GPS tracking receiver and at the least four more GPS System satellites. The geostationary satellites broadcast radio impulses to the GPS Tracking devices regularly, allowing the location computations to happen. Initially, GPS started as a military services guidance system; however, over the years, it developed into an advanced navigation and location system. GPS receivers are now considered as consumer electronics and today almost every fleet company utilise GPS tracking devices in their vehicles.
There are a variety of factors affecting accuracy and reliability regardless of what GPS receiver is being utilised for. The GPS radio signals go through different air and weather conditions while travelling to the Earth. These conditions can often delay the GPS signals and therefore affect the accuracy of a GPS Tracker. The geometry of the geostationary satellites used will likely differ with time as well. The GPS System has a larger selection of satellites available if you are out in the centre of a large field, as opposed to sitting in a cafe in Sydney, Australia. You’re going to get much better positions if the geostationary satellites you happen to be linked onto aren’t grouped in one part of the sky.
Therefore, the more sky view you have, the more satellites to link with, and the more precise your GPS Tracking Device is going to be. Cities and metropolitans can also cause glitches on GPS tracking where the GPS Tracking signals can bounce off of the buildings. For vehicle GPS tracking devices, the accuracy has to be sufficient to track the positioning up against the identified map saved in the GPS Tracking platform used.
The A-GPS receivers on Apple iPhones have progressively enhanced from the iPhone 3 towards iPhone 7 in the past years. A-GPS is probably the most precise of the three GPS programs on your smartphone. A-Gps System functions a little differently compared to typical portable GPS Tracker Device receivers. The cell phone network provides the guidance location. When linked to a cellular network, the mobile phone will download information in regards to the actual locations of satellites.
This gives the phone to lock in on a location of a satellite a lot more swiftly than it could in any other case. The GPS features of a cell phone can still be utilised if the cell network is inaccessible at that given time. Having said that, when disconnected from a network, your smartphone will require several minutes to establish a link to 4 satellites to determine GPS location.
The effectiveness of a GPS signal is presented in decibels. By the time the signals have travelled the 22,200km from the GPS satellite to Earth’s surface, the sign gets weaker as poor as -125dBm to -130dBm, even during clear open skies. In the city, developed urban environments or below forest cover, the signal can fall to as low as -150dBm. For the signal presentation, the greater the negative value, the less strong the transmission is. At these low levels, some GPS devices may have difficulty in obtaining a working link but might be able to continue GPS tracking if a signal was initially acquired in the open environment. A high-quality and sensitive GPS receiver can acquire signals from satellites down to −155 dBm, and tracking can be carried on down to ranges approaching −165 dBm.
To determine the distance and location, the GPS System receiver collects data from each and every satellite. The receiver initially calculates the time these GPS signals has taken to reach the device. It does this by subtracting the difference between the time at which the signal was sent; this time is contained in the signal message. Then it calculates the time the signal was acquired, by using an internal time clock. Because the signals travel at the speed of light, even 1-millisecond miscalculation means a 300km inaccuracy of the calculated distance. To reduce this tiny error level, you would need an atomic clock.
However, not only is this impracticable for consumer GPS tracker products, the GPS System satellites provide signals only about every ten nanoseconds. During this time, a signal would travel 3 meters, which in the total to a significant error. It is for specifically this reason why at the least four GPS satellites are necessary. The extra satellites are utilised to assist correct for the mistakes and glitches. Although hardly ever released to media, the GPS Tracker device receivers must include coded error correction algorithms. In textbooks, one GPS satellite seems to provide the correct location, but in reality, signs must be received from a minimum of 4 satellites in order to accurate for glitches.
As mentioned previously, usually the more satellites found in determining your position, the higher the level of accuracy, precision and reliability. As the GPS satellites orbit around planet Earth, the number of satellites in line of sight under optimal circumstances naturally varies. The positioning of the satellites is totally out of our hands, yet it’s worth identifying this to be an element impacting on precision. For instance, this is one of the many reasons two GPS Device tracks recorded at different times will differ. If you have time, it may be worth documenting a track a second time or even more and calculating the results. A new generation of satellites are being launched, that promise a great increase to not just the accuracy, but also the availability of GPS. Designated as GPS III, a group of 30 new satellites will replace the currently ageing satellites that have been placed in the orbit in the past 40 years.
Accuracy of Smartphones and Navigation Systems vs. GPS Trackers
Moderns smartphones use a combination of GPS, cell networks, Bluetooth, as well as large databases of WLAN networks to determine location. To get these databases, Google and Apple collect large quantities of user data. Tractive GPS doesn’t collect any such user data and only makes use of GPS and cell network signals to locate your pet.
Automotive navigation systems are optimised for street navigation. Imprecise positions away from roads are corrected automatically to match up with the street map. This leads to more accurate route recordings. Since pets frequently travel away from roads, similar route optimisation isn’t possible for pet trackers.
Smartphones and navigation systems show the GPS positions directly on the built-in display. Pet trackers need to transmit the GPS data to the smartphone of the pet owner before it can be displayed. Because this requires a lot of energy, it can only be done at certain time intervals. As technology continues to develop, users are increasingly able to track devices with accuracy. The technology is expected to continue to improve, providing users with even more peace-of-mind than ever before.
To learn more about GPS tracking accuracy, we encourage you to check out our bank of GPS tracking learning articles. You can also contact our team directly to ask your questions. We’re always here to help!