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GPS Tracking vs GPS Navigation – what is the difference?

GPS Tracking is taking the corporate world by storm and is growing more every day. However, there is still a distinct lack of knowledge when companies decide how best to use this technology. Most of the time companies will look for a simple solution that shows their vehicles/people/assets on a map, but very quickly they start to realise the real benefit of this technology when applied to logistic or security processes.

There are many applications for GPS TRACKING technology that can be divided into two main groups: TRACKING VS NAVIGATION.

GPS Navigation is related to devices that are installed in vehicles that provide on-board navigation information or through an APP that is downloaded onto a computing device or smartphone. The user will usually enter a destination address and will start receiving audio and/or visual directions on how to travel to that place. Samples of the vehicle devices are seen in almost every computer store, and a couple of the more recognised brands are Garmin, TomTom but there are others and commonly known as “SatNavs”.
Tracking is related to devices installed in/on vehicles/assets/people/animals etc that send information about the position of the device to a Server where the information is processed and presented to users in maps and reports. The information sent by these devices include at least the position in terms of Latitude and Longitude, the speed, the date and the time.

The GPS Tracking Solutions are usually provided as web applications, more than applications that must be downloaded and installed in users’ computers. When looking for a tracking solution, the market offers a lot of options to pick from. Many companies will offer to their users Tracking solutions that can be accessed via web, and that allows to keep track of their assets of the companies in a map and in several reports.

Once a company or an individual decides to consider this technology, the first question that has to be asked is: What type of GPS System I need? Is it a GPS Tracking System? Or a GPS Navigation System? It is very common to start shopping around without a clear understanding of what is needed.

There are 3 main parts to a GPS Tracking System:

– A GPS device or tracker, which receives the location information and then delivers it to a software application or APP.

– A data transmission system, which takes the information provided by the tracker, and delivers it to the software application.

– A Software Application, which presents to its users the data recollected by the GPS Tracker in several formats including maps and reports.

So, the main task of a tracker is to provide information of the location of a vehicle or an asset, or a person. The location of the units is usually acquired from the GPS satellites, but there is another method based on triangulation with cell towers to calculate locations. Getting the location from satellites is the most accurate mechanism, providing a minimal margin of error most of the times (from 2 up to 50 feet). GPS location can be acquired anywhere in the world. The only down side for this location technology is that the GPS antenna must have a view to the sky.

Getting the location based on a triangulation with the cell towers (those that are also used by our cell phones to transmit voice and data) has a bigger margin of error (up to a few hundred feet), making it a not very accurate location mechanism. This type of location also requires the presence of the named cell towers to work. The upside of this mechanism is that it will perfectly work within buildings, which is not the case for GPS satellite location. Some GPS Trackers are designed to work with both location mechanisms, creating a new concept called Assisted GPS (AGPS).

There are mainly three types of trackers: Passive Trackers, PING Trackers, and Live Trackers. Also, there are some trackers that have more features than others – not just a location of an asset.

We are often asked to comment on the legality of GPS use. Some considerations for UK law are well made here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GPS_tracking_unit