Are all GPS trackers equally useful? Do they all offer the same security? These questions are hard to answer, as there are all sorts of trackers depending on the purpose they serve: for motorcycles, cars, animals and even people- they all offer different possibilities and adapt to the needs of their users. To understand which type of tracker your use case is more suitable for, in the following lines we will display the various technologies available in the market to understand their advantages and disadvantages.

The main types are:

  • Trackers with GPRS or 3G connection
  • Trackers that use LPWAN (Sigfox)
  • Trackers that use Bluetooth

Each one of these technologies has its pros and cons and is adequate for some uses.

GPS trackers with GPRS or 3G connection

These devices use 2G and 3G technology, even though the correct nomenclature would be GPRS (for 2G) and UMTS (for 3G). Their main advantage is the signal, which is generally very good because it uses the same communications infrastructure as mobile phones so it is available in almost all corners of the world. In the same way as phones, they use a SIM card to function, so depending on the company that supplies it the cost may vary each month- other aspects that make the cost variable are according to location, as some companies charge extra when using it in other countries. Some devices work with data, like current phones, and others work through the sending and receiving of SMS messages to inform users on the position of the device. This method may prove expensive if the company charges a fee per message.

This technology has the capacity of transmitting large amounts of data in relatively small amounts of time, thanks to bandwidth. This allows, for example, to display the route of the vehicle in a very detailed way. Additionally, other sorts of information on the vehicle can also be sent- but only if the necessary devices are installed that allow capturing this type of information.

On the other hand, this technology has its own disadvantages. The main one is the battery consumption and the cost of the SIM- especially when comparing this two metrics with the other available options. Additionally, this type of technologies are easy to block with signal jammers, that block the signal and don’t allow communication with the device.

Because they use a lot of battery, there are two options: charging it every day or plugging the device in the battery of your vehicle. This option requires the installation by a specialized technician and in some cases, might cause problems with the battery of the vehicle and may discharge it if it’s not used in a long time.

So, in a nutshell:

PROS

  • Broad coverage
  • Allows sending large amounts of data, so user experience is improved

CONS

  • Monthly costs are high
  • Fees when travelling
  • Needs professional installation
  • Consumes a lot of battery
  • Connection can be lost in the presence of signal jammers

 

GPS trackers with LPWAN (Sigfox)

These devices are identical to those that function with GPRS or 3G except regarding the communication technology they use. Instead of using a SIM card to connect to the telecommunications network, it uses a communication module with the technology known as Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN). This technology is very new and is designed for the development of applications in the field of the Internet of Things. The main idea is that the devices communicate among each other through this frequency. In Spain, the network with Sigfox technology is employed by Cellnex, the company that oversees TV signal. Another use case of this company is Securitas Direct for its alarm system.

The advantages of this technology are, on one hand its coverage (very similar to GPRS systems) and the fact that it is present in several countries. Additionally, the annual cost for users is significantly reduced and fixed, so there are no extra charges for sending more information or going abroad. It is also important to note that the battery discharge rate is significantly lower. This allows for the creation of devices with its own battery that don’t require installation by a professional and that must not be connected to the battery of the vehicle.

This technology through radiofrequency allows creating smaller and more autonomous designs, with a lower maintenance cost. Additionally, the devices that use this technology are not susceptible so the blocking done by signal jammers.

Unfortunately, not all characteristics of this technology are advantages… these systems tend to have a low capacity to send large amounts of data. The implications are that for example they offer less detailed routes. Additionally, it is not possible to obtain a GPS location in closed spaces like homes or garages.

In a nutshell:

PROS

  • Broad coverage without additional charges
  • Lower price
  • Lower discharge rate
  • No need of installation by a professional
  • More mobility (because it doesn’t require installation)
  • Immune to signal jammers

CONS

  • Higher bandwidth, which means it can send lower amounts of data (offering less detailed routes for example)
  • Less precise location in interior spaces

 

GPS trackers with Bluetooth

It is very common to see devices that use Bluetooth to locate objects or persons. This technology is useful for the location of objects that are placed in short distances of 10 meters or less. These devices use their phones to determine the position, warning the user if they are inside or outside the covered area. Their main advantage relies on the small size of the device and minimal battery consumption (they use button batteries with around one year of duration). Additionally, they are usually very cheap and don’t require a monthly subscription.

If everyone had the same Bluetooth location application, this technology could be used to locate vehicles or people all around the world, but in fact the truth is that they are only useful to determine if a certain object, animal or person is close by. So, this would be useful to inform users if they forgot their keys for example, but not to determine the location of a stolen object (which is what here at Mapit we are focused on).

These devices don’t use a GPS, but instead use the one on your phone- so it is not possible to determine a location if there isn’t a mobile phone close by.

In a nutshell:

PROS

  • Reduced cost
  • No annual communications cost
  • Small size

CONS

  • Only locates objects in a 10-meter range

These are the currently available options in the market. In Mapit we have two different devices, one that uses Sigfox technologies and the other that uses 3G. According to the descriptions above, which is the most interesting for your use case?