GPS trackers are essential tools for the geolocation of vehicles in a company fleet. More and more easily available, different models have emerged on the market, with different characteristics, for different uses.
In order to choose the GPS tracker that best suits your own geolocation needs, it is essential to understand the operating principles of these devices.
And of course to select a tracker that matches your budget.
The purpose of this article is precisely to detail how GPS trackers work, the different types of devices and the objective criteria for choosing a model, including the prices of GPS trackers.
What is a GPS tracker?
A GPS tracker is a transmitter/receiver allowing the geolocation of vehicles in which the device has been installed. But how does it work?
How does a GPS tracker work?
A GPS tracker, GPS tracking system or GPS beacon is a small device that connects to the GPS satellite positioning network to record in real time the exact location of any object on which it is attached or in which it is integrated.
Given the very small size of these devices, they can be used to locate almost anything. They are sometimes put in a child's schoolbag or on a pet's collar.
But their main use is related to vehicles. They thus make it possible to locate very quickly any stolen car. GPS beacons are therefore a popular tool for corporate fleet managers or road transport company operators.
It is essential to distinguish the reception phase from the transmission phase:
- The receiver is fixed in the car, either directly under the bodywork with magnets, or in the glove box or trunk,
- In the case of powered receivers, it can be connected to the vehicle battery,
- The gearbox is switched on either when the vehicle is started, at regular intervals of 2 minutes, or when the vehicle is moving or the driver switches off the engine - it is actually the variation in voltage when the vehicle is started or stopped that triggers the system,
- The receiver connects to the signal from the GPS satellite network, which sends its geographical position at regular intervals,
- Thanks to a connection via mobile cellular networks, the position itself is sent at more or less regular intervals by the tracker to the "real time" tracking device, usually software, by forms of SMS alerts, or to the vehicle return for unconnected systems.
There are many benefits to using GPS trackers, as they allow companies to collect a wide range of information such as:
- The exact location of its employees in real time,
- The number of kilometres driven daily,
- The number of stops made, as well as their duration,
- Travel history: a map represents the precise route of the vehicles in the form of a diagram.
In addition, the service providers' servers offer other key functions that provide data to optimize the use of the corporate fleet.
It is thus possible:
- To obtain a complete daily report for each vehicle: departure times, arrival times, break times, duration of each trip, average speed..,
- To receive all this information by SMS: at regular intervals, at a specific time or when the vehicle leaves a previously defined geographical area.
The use of a tracker connected to the GPS network thus serves both the company and its customers: the company gains in productivity by optimizing the work of its employees and the customer has, for example, the assurance that its delivery will be made on time.
Types of GPS trackers
There are several types of GPS trackers for company vehicles: with or without a subscription, powered or autonomous, connected or not connected.
Connected and unconnected trackers
It is important to specify that the "connected" or not character of these trackers only concerns the functionality of reporting and communication of geolocation data on the move. Obviously, any tracker must be connected with GPS signals in order to work.
But "unconnected" trackers are not associated with data transmission over mobile cellular networks. The geolocation data are therefore consulted once the tracker has been extracted from the vehicle, or at least the tracker's memory medium. These tracers, which have been successful with road transport companies, are no longer widespread.
Autonomous and powered trackers
One of the main categories of GPS trackers comes from their power supply mode.
A stand-alone GPS tracker is a tracker that uses an internal battery. A powered tracker is a tracker that can be connected directly to the vehicle's battery circuit.
Autonomous trackers should be recharged at more or less regular intervals. The powered trackers have an almost unlimited operating autonomy.
GPS trackers with and without subscription
This is perhaps the main question about the operation of the different GPS trackers models: does this operation require a subscription for data transmission?
The question is not so obvious, since many non-subscription GPS trackers are nevertheless equipped with SIM cards and connect with cellular networks to send geolocation data regularly, by SMS.
How to choose your GPS tracker
These broad typologies provide the outline of a grid of questions that can constitute as many objective criteria for choosing a tracker. One of these criteria is of course the price of the different types of GPS trackers.
Several questions can be used to guide the choice of a GPS beacon according to the needs of each company:
- How long does the tracer last? This question must be compared with the average travel time of equipped vehicles.
- How often are geolocation updates done? For a solution that allows near real-time localisation, subscription-based models are essential.
- What are the other safety features of the device? Some include, for example, motion detectors.
- What are the various reporting features? The characteristics of tracking software are not always as developed.
- How can the GPS tracker be fixed on the vehicle? Magnetic receivers allow discreet installation, but require a good level of tightness, verifiable according to the announced IP standard.
- Is the tracker equipped with voice communication with the vehicle or rather its driver?
- Finally, what is the level of customer service of the supplier, between reachability and efficiency of assistance, and warranty policy for example?
GPS Tracker prices
Price is of course also an essential criterion to be considered in any comparison of GPS trackers.
Depending on the different types of tracers, prices may be within the following ranges:
- The tracers without subscription, with internal battery, with limited functionalities can be sold for less than £80 and up to £200 for a communicating model,
- Subscription trackers are generally sold for between £200 and £400,
- The subscription itself being invoiced between £5 and £20 in addition to the purchase cost of the tracer.
In any case, it is always preferable to request as many quotes in GSP trackers from as many suppliers as possible to ensure that the price charged for the model and service that best meets the company's needs is correct. Online services such as Companeo allow you to obtain a large number of clear and informative quotes in a few clicks.