How does gps tracking work?

What Is A Commercial GPS Tracker And How Does It Work?

Commercial GPS trackers have emerged as indispensable tools, revolutionizing the way companies monitor and manage their vehicle fleets. Whether you're a small business owner looking to optimize your operations or a fleet manager seeking to enhance efficiency, understanding the fundamentals of GPS tracking is essential. Explore the inner workings of these powerful tools and their impact on fleet management.
GPS tracker technology has become almost ubiquitous in modern life. Most of us use it every day without a second thought. But do you really understand it?

What Is Commercial GPS Tracking?

Let's begin with the name, GPS, which stands for Global Positioning System. GPS technology has become an integral part of our daily lives, providing us with accurate location information and enabling a wide range of applications, from determining an object’s whereabouts to tracking locations. These days, GPS can be used for anything from military exercises across the globe to offering directions that help driver’s get to their desired locations quickly and safely. 

A Deep Dive into GPS Technology

At the core of GPS technology are satellites that orbit the Earth and communicate with each other and ground-based systems. The primary distinction among 2G, 3G, LTE (4G), and satellite-exclusive GPS trackers is evident in the manner they relay location data to the user. Utilizing cellular networks (2G, 3G, or LTE/4G), these trackers transmit the acquired location data from GPS satellites to the user. 

At MiX, our trackers are not solely satellite-based, rather they utilize a combination of satellite signals for location management and cellular networks for data transmission, our trackers are fitted with a sim card that allows it to communicate over various cellular networks. This communication between satellites and ground-based systems is essential for accurate GPS tracking, driver tracking, and ensuring road safety.

Initially developed in the 1960s for military application, GPS technology eventually became available for public use in 1983, and advances and use cases have increased over the decades.As technology advanced and the potential applications became apparent, this opened up a whole new world of possibilities, ranging from navigation systems in cars to tracking devices for fleet management. 

Today, GPS technology has become an essential tool in various industries, including transportation, logistics, and personal use. Its accurate positioning capabilities have revolutionized driver tracking and enabled businesses to enhance safety measures by monitoring their fleet's movements in real-time.

How Does a GPS Tracker Work?

GPS tracking requires a device to be installed in a vehicle, on an asset, or to be worn by a person. The device then provides information about its exact location and subsequent movements, enabling tracking in real-time. This is useful for fleet managers to locate where a truck or asset is on its scheduled route, report on traffic conditions, and monitor how long each vehicle spends at a job site. 

MiX’s GPS trackers cater to a variety of needs, depending on your fleet size and vehicle type. Our easy-to-use tracking devices can be self-installed to track fleet activities, read CAN trip data and get daily notifications about fleet performance. Plug ‘n Play is a convenient option for vehicles requiring easy installation with 3G connectivity.

When used in tandem with MiX Fleet Manager, our GPS trackers monitor risky behaviors such as over-speeding, harsh braking, harsh acceleration, sudden cornering, and excessive idling. This assists in effectively managing trips, reducing fuel costs, and monitoring driver behavior and vehicle location.

The Space Segmentgps tracking satellites

The Global Positioning System is made up of 27 satellites that orbit the Earth. Of these 27 satellites, 24 are operational, and three are backup satellites if one of the other 24 fails. These satellites orbit the Earth every 12 hours and send signals that are received by GPS receivers.

The Control Segment

The Positioning System is controlled by different tracking stations located around the globe. These stations pick up microwave carrier signals transmitted by the satellites, and the GPS receivers convert these signals into data such as velocity, time, and position.

The User Segment

GPS receivers receive the signals sent by GPS satellites and use them to determine the user's position in space and time.

Two Types Of GPS Systems

There are a few ways this system can work. Commercial GPS devices are often used to record the location of vehicles during their journeys. Some systems will store information within the GPS system itself, and this is called passive tracking. Other systems regularly send data to a centralized database through a modem, and that is called active tracking or 2-way GPS.

Passive GPS tracking monitors location and stores data on trips based on specific events. This type of system can log data on where the devices have been in the past 12 hours. It stores the data internally or on a memory card, which is then downloaded to a computer to be analyzed later. In some systems, the information is downloaded automatically at a set time or can be requested periodically during the journey.

Passive GPS entails real-time tracking systems that automatically send information to a central tracking portal as it happens. This type of system is used on most commercial applications, such as monitoring and tracking children or the elderly, since it lets caregivers know where their charges are at all times. This type of system is also used to monitor employees' driving behavior as they work and streamline a fleet’s operations.

In terms of cost, passive GPS systems tend to be more affordable initially, as they do not require a constant data connection. These systems store location data that can be downloaded later for analysis. On the other hand, active GPS systems require a continuous data connection, which can lead to higher costs for data usage. 

The benefits of active GPS systems should not be overlooked. In scenarios where real-time tracking and immediate response are crucial, such as driver tracking for safety purposes, an active GPS system would be more beneficial. These systems provide up-to-date information on the location and movements of drivers, allowing for quick action in case of emergencies or potential risks. Therefore, while passive GPS systems may be more cost-effective for certain use cases, active GPS systems offer a higher level of safety and security in situations where immediate tracking and response are essential.

What Is GPS Tracking Used For?

Most people are familiar with the most common uses of GPS technology, such as mapping and surveying, getting directions, and keeping track of loved ones for peace of mind. But there are many other uses you may never have realized were out there. GPS plays an important role in all types of applications used by the military and first responders, as well as other commercial and personal uses. Here are some of the ways GPS systems are used.

Military Use Of GPS

Initially developed by the military, GPS is still used to track troop movements, aircraft, navigation at sea, and more. This is very important for military units stationed in unfamiliar territory or on the move at night.

Search And Rescue

GPS tracking is also used in search and rescue operations. It helps rescue teams keep track of where they've searched or even get information from a lost person's smartphone or GPS device.

GPS Vehicle Tracking

Commercial fleets are often integrated with GPS tracking to monitor their fleet vehicles. By installing GPS devices on fleet vehicles, fleet managers can track their drivers' locations and statuses, as well as get important insights about their fleet's efficiency.

GPS tracking systems are a crucial part of fleet tracking to monitor fleet vehicle locations and activity, and to help improve efficiency and safety. In addition, this device makes routing and dispatching more accurate and much easier.

GPS Recreational Uses

Most wearable tech such as watches used for running, biking, and hiking, use GPS tracking, giving users input on distance traveled, their speed, or where they are in the wilderness. With the increase in smartphone use, almost all of us carry GPS tracking devices everywhere we go. This technology can be used in new ways, including augmented reality (AR) applications for location-based games. These types of uses will only increase in the coming years.

The Innovative Uses of GPS in Different Industries

GPS technology has revolutionized various industries, including agriculture, healthcare, and retail. 


In the agricultural sector, farmers utilize GPS tracking to monitor their vehicles and assets. MiX’s GPS solutions help agricultural managers closely monitor their fleet of vehicles and assets through rugged GPS trackers that provide a full view of equipment at any given time. This monitoring gives farmers the ability to better utilize resources by allocating the closest vehicle or machine to get the job done.

Emergency Services

In the healthcare industry, GPS tracking plays a crucial role in the efficient management of emergency response vehicles. By using GPS devices to keep an eye on the location of vehicles and drivers, while being able to dispatch job information and route emergency workers to where they need to be. This technology not only enhances the efficiency of healthcare services but also contributes to patient safety.

Transport and Distribution

Transport and Distribution companies are also leveraging GPS tracking to optimize supply chain logistics and monitor delivery trucks. By equipping their fleets with GPS devices, retailers can track the location of their trucks in real-time, ensuring timely deliveries and reducing the risk of theft or loss. 

Telematics And GPS Trackingtelematics and gps fleet tracking

Telematics and GPS devices work together to provide actionable insights into the operations of your fleet. They are not competing systems but parts of a complementary system. At the center of a telematics system is a tracking device that gathers real-time data about the vehicle's location and status. This solution receives GPS data and sends it to a central server. The data is then processed and turned into updates accessed through fleet management software.

The Legal and Ethical Implications of GPS Tracking

GPS tracking has become a common practice in various industries, especially for driver tracking and safety purposes. However, it is imperative for companies to understand the legal and ethical implications associated with GPS tracking. One of the key considerations is obtaining consent from individuals before tracking their location. This ensures that privacy rights are respected and individuals have the opportunity to give or deny their consent. From an ethical standpoint, privacy is a fundamental right, and companies must carefully balance the need for tracking with the importance of protecting individuals' privacy.

In addition to consent and privacy, data security is another critical aspect to consider when implementing GPS tracking systems. Companies must take appropriate measures to safeguard the data collected by GPS trackers. This includes implementing strong encryption protocols, regular security audits, and training employees on data handling practices. By ensuring data security, companies can prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information and protect the privacy of individuals being tracked. Moreover, maintaining data security builds trust with customers and demonstrates a commitment to ethical business practices.

The Benefits Of GPS Tracking And Telematics

Optimize Routes

A GPS tracking system lets you optimize your fleet's routes. You can easily locate your drivers and determine which is closest to a particular job. You can send the closest driver and reroute the rest of your vehicles if needed. This saves you time and money, while keeping your customers happy.

Reduce Operating Costs

No matter if you are reducing fuel consumption by sending your drivers on more efficient routes or making better dispatching decisions, GPS tracking devices can help you make cost-saving decisions based on data in real-time. By giving you increased insight and visibility into your fleet's operations, this also provides more data about your fleet vehicles, so your decisions can be more strategic and impactful to your business and its bottom line.

Reduce Fuel Use And Costs

Prior to advances in GPS telematics, fleet managers had no way of knowing what their employees did each day, where they were at any given time, and where they were headed to next. They had no way to know who to dispatch for jobs, when the jobs were completed, or if they were even getting done.

With GPS tracking and better dispatching, you can economize on fuel use, save time and reduce emissions. For example, you can use GPS technology to monitor overspeeding or excessive idling, fuel-wasting behaviors. You can coach your drivers to encourage better driving, saving fuel.

Improve Security

Installing a GPS vehicle tracker on your fleet vehicles and assets helps increase fleet security. If a vehicle or asset is stolen or lost, a GPS tracker can help you find and recover your stolen or lost vehicle or asset faster. You can even set a geofence around vehicles and assets that alert you when they leave the pre-designated area or are used off-hours.

Reduce Overtime And Timesheet Fraud

With better journey management and electronic time logs, you can reduce overtime throughout your fleet. You'll be able to better allocate resources based on real-time updates, so that your trucks won't take longer trips and your drivers won't spend more time on the road than they need to. This helps keep your payroll hours under control.

Timesheet fraud takes place when drivers get paid for work they didn't do or for time spent on non-work activities. Sometimes drivers record more hours than they worked, retroactively edit their driving hours, or log regular hours as overtime. Not only does this cost you money, but it also can result in incorrect billing. By using GPS and electronic logs, your payroll and billing are more accurate.

Improved Asset Utilization

A GPS tracking telematics solution can give you insight into real arrival and departure times, stop durations, travel time from one job to another, and when your drivers are inactive. These updates can tell you if jobs are being completed in the allotted time, if there are delays - and why, if detours are taken for personal errands, and when delays occur due to a driver becoming lost. You'll know if drivers are not being utilized even if they have hours available, and you can make decisions based on real-time insights to improve overall fleet utilization.

Validation Of Completed Work

On occasion, your customers may question what you've billed them for, such as if a driver attended to their job and how many hours were spent on it. GPS tracking provides records of where your drivers were, and demonstrates to your customers that they worked the hours on their invoices. Showing your customers electronic proof can build trust, loyalty and improve your customer service.

Asset Tracking

GPS fleet tracking software works for all assets, not just vehicles. If you have expensive mobile equipment, such as generators and trailers, you can monitor their movements with a tool like MiX Asset Manager. This empowers you to know if they are on the job sites where they are needed, and not sitting idly and unused. You'll know they are secure and accounted for. You can also set a geofence around worksites, so you'll know when they come and go from each specific site.

Improved Fleet Safety

Improving fleet safety saves you money and improves your company's image. Now, GPS fleet tracking solutions can alert you when your drivers are speeding, making unscheduled stops, harsh braking, or suddenly accelerating. These actions not only waste gas and increase your fuel costs, but they can also be dangerous. By monitoring these events, you can help your drivers develop better, safer driving habits.

Happier Customers

No matter if your fleet is delivering products to homes or is part of a complex supply chain, your customers expect a certain type of service and convenience. Since this gives you the exact location of your fleet's vehicles and you can dispatch your vehicles far more efficiently, your customers will be happier. You can provide them with increasingly accurate estimated arrival times (ETAs), so they will know when to expect a delivery or other service.

The Future Of GPS Tracking

The future of GPS tracking holds great potential with the integration of artificial intelligence (AI). AI can enhance GPS tracking capabilities by providing more accurate and real-time information. With AI, GPS systems can analyze data from various sources, such as traffic patterns, weather conditions, and even user preferences, to optimize routes and provide personalized navigation. This integration can also enable predictive analysis, allowing GPS systems to anticipate traffic congestion and suggest alternate routes in advance. By leveraging AI, GPS tracking can become more efficient and user-friendly, revolutionizing the way we navigate and saving time and fuel in the process.

In addition to AI integration, GPS tracking also plays a crucial role in promoting sustainable and eco-friendly driving practices. By providing real-time information on traffic conditions, GPS systems can help drivers avoid congested areas, reducing idling time and emissions. GPS tracking can also assist in optimizing routes to minimize fuel consumption, promoting more efficient driving habits. Furthermore, GPS systems can be used to monitor and analyze driving behavior, encouraging drivers to adopt eco-friendly practices such as maintaining steady speeds and avoiding harsh braking or acceleration. By leveraging the power of GPS tracking, we can contribute to a greener and more sustainable future.

Advanced Features of Modern GPS Trackers

Modern GPS trackers have evolved to offer advanced features that enhance their functionality and provide valuable insights for businesses and individuals. 

One such feature is the integration with IoT devices, which enables GPS trackers to communicate and exchange data with other connected devices. This integration opens up a world of possibilities, allowing businesses to monitor and manage their assets more efficiently. 

Another advanced feature of modern GPS systems is predictive analytics. By analyzing historical and real-time data, these systems can predict traffic patterns and provide alternative routes to avoid congested areas. This not only saves time but also reduces fuel consumption and emissions, contributing to a greener environment. Moreover, predictive analytics can also identify vehicle maintenance needs by monitoring factors such as engine performance and mileage. This proactive approach allows businesses to schedule maintenance tasks in advance, preventing unexpected breakdowns and costly repairs.

At MiX, we offer a host of analytics via MiX Insight Dashboards and KPI Manager that offers predictive analysis of areas in a fleet that need attention.

Embracing The Future of GPS Tracking For Your Fleet

 GPS tracking has revolutionized the way businesses operate, allowing them to track and monitor their assets, vehicles, and personnel in real-time. By embracing the future and investing in advanced GPS systems, businesses can significantly improve their safety and efficiency. These systems provide accurate and reliable location data, enabling businesses to optimize their fleet management, reduce fuel consumption, and enhance overall operational efficiency.  Therefore, investing in advanced GPS systems is not only a wise decision for businesses but also a long-term investment that can yield significant benefits.

Learn more about MiX’s GPS Tracking Solutions.

What Is A Commercial GPS Tracker And How Does It Work?
How does gps tracking work?
A fully-implemented and supported MiX by Powerfleet solution is guaranteed to improve driver safety and reduce accident rates while also lowering risk, liability and cost.

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