Frequently Asked GPS Tracking Questions

Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about GPS Vehicle Tracking and Fleet Management.

How does the GPS technology work?

Global Positioning System satellites transmit signals to equipment on the ground. GPS receivers passively receive satellite signals; they do not transmit. GPS receivers require an unobstructed view of the sky, so they are used only outdoors and they often do not perform well within forested areas or near tall buildings. GPS operations depend on a very accurate time reference, which is provided by atomic clocks at the U.S. Naval Observatory. Each GPS satellite has atomic clocks on board.

Each GPS satellite transmits data that indicates its location and the current time. All GPS satellites synchronize operations so that these repeating signals are transmitted at the same instant. The signals, moving at the speed of light, arrive at a GPS receiver at slightly different times because some satellites are farther away than others. The distance to the GPS satellites can be determined by estimating the amount of time it takes for their signals to reach the receiver. When the receiver estimates the distance to at least four GPS satellites, it can calculate its position in three dimensions.

There are at least 24 operational GPS satellites at all times. The satellites, operated by the U.S. Air Force, orbit with a period of 12 hours. Ground stations are used to precisely track each satellite’s orbit.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a constellation of satellites that orbit the earth twice a day, transmitting precise time and position (latitude and longitude) information. With a GPS receiver, users can determine their location anywhere on Earth. Detailed mapping and navigational programs can be used in conjunction with GPS technology to track the movement and location of vehicles and assets.

The system consists of 24 satellites orbiting about 12,000 miles above the Earth and five ground stations to monitor and manage the satellite constellation. These satellites provide 24-hour-a-day coverage. A GPS receiver on or above the Earth’s surface picks up at least three satellite signals simultaneously and uses these signals to determine exactly how far your GPS receiver is from the GPS satellites in space. It is then possible to pinpoint its exact location on earth. This is known as Triangulation.

What is the best GPS device for me?

We offer several types of GPS devices, each one with its own features. Depending on the specific usage and objectives you are planning, some devices will perform better than others. We have a highly qualified group of senior GPS Tracking consultants who will be more than happy to help you in selecting the most appropriate GPS device. Please contact us to help you!

How is a GPS device installed?

Installing a GPS device is very easy. There are 3 cables that have to be connected:

• Red cable: Has to be connected to a line that will always have power.
• Black cable: Has to be connected to the ground of the vehicle.
• Yellow cable: Has to be connected to a line that will have power only when the Ignition is ON.

The GPS device can be located in a discret place, for example underneath the dashboard, to have the unit concealed.

There are many companies that offer proffesional installation of GPS devices. We can provide you with a list of contacts that will be more than happy to provide you with this service.

How does GPS Vehicle Tracking work?

Our GPS Tracking devices contain two modules:

  • 1. GPS module: This module will allow the locator device to get its location from the GPS satellites.
  • 2. Cellular module: This module acts almost as a cell phone. It transmits the information received from the GPS module to the cellular networks and from there to our servers.

Once the information is received in our servers, a special software process it and presents it to you in our GPS Tracking web system.

What types of tracking systems are there?

There are several types of GPS Tracking Systems:

• Real Time tracking systems: This type of system will collect the information of the vehicle and send it immediatelly or every 5 minutes to the servers that will process the information. This type of system is ideal when it is a priority to have an on-line, instant control of the vehicles activities.
• Passive tracking systems: This type of system will collect the information of the vehicle and store in the memory of the GPS device. Periodically (usually every night) the information is downloaded into the servers for processing. This tpye of system is ideal for those cases when requirements are less strict.

What is the advantage of doing business with TSO Mobile?

“We are commited to listen and understand our customers needs on a continuous basis. Then, provide our customers the best service possible”.
When shopping for a real-time GPS tracking system, there are five (5) components that need to be carefully examined:

  • 1. The vendor – purchase from a reputable vendor. Examine the company you elect to purchase from.
  • 2. Software used – view a demonstration before purchasing. Examine the Web-based (or hosted) software that the end-user will be running to track and report on vehicle/asset activity.
  • 3. Wireless Network – Go digital! Examine the wireless network the system utilizes to transmit the data out of the vehicle (Real-time systems).
  • 4. Hardware Component – Examine the hardware component you are purchasing (does it run on digital wireless networks?).
  • 5. Unlimited Use – for a flat monthly fee. Examine the Polling rate and Monthly Billing Fees (Real-time systems).

Examine the Company you are considering as your vendor.

The Internet has allowed several “fly-by-night” GPS vendors to enter the market, and many companies that are seeking to install a quality system do not take the time to examine the company from whom they are considering purchasing. Many GPS vendors selling product over the Internet are barely educated on the product they are selling, and many are selling out-dated systems that operate on out-dated wireless networks. Take the time learn about your vendor.

The reputable companies generally will react quickly to your inquiry, make it easy to view a demonstration of their system(s), give references, offer multiple products to review and display their customers on their web site. At Tracking Solutions Online, we allow you to view our product demonstrations online.

Always check references and examine the companies who are currently using the products and services that you are considering.

Wireless Networks – GO GSM/GPRS

Wireless Networks: Cellular vs. Satellite

Due to the facts that (1) hardware is less expensive (2) monthly service fees are less expensive (3) superior network reliability; a digital cellular-based system is the best way to go for the vast majority of companies that want to use a real-time system for nearly any type of tracking.

Digital Wireless Networks

For Real-time GPS tracking, the wireless network is used to communicate the GPS data from the vehicle/asset, so location, speed and stop times can be viewed in Real-time. Think in terms of how mobile phones work. There are two types used; (1) Digital Cellular and (2) Satellite. Obviously, digital cellular is more popular due to cost. This is the same with communicating real-time GPS data for vehicle tracking.

If you are looking to purchase a 1st tier GPS tracking system, then you should be looking for a system that operates on a 1st tier digital wireless network. All of the 1st tier wireless communications companies is the U.S. market have moved to digital wireless networks. There are two types of types of digital wireless protocols that the major communication companies have utilized for the build-out of their wireless networks:

  • 1. GSM/GPRS – Cingular/AT&T, T-Mobile
  • 2. CDMA (1xrt) – Verizon, Sprint, Alltell.

There is an on-going debate as to which of these protocols is superior for cell phones, but for live data feeds for devices used for GPS tracking, mobile email, and wireless forms, the “always on” technology of GPRS is clearly superior. To learn more about GSM/GPRS wireless, check out

Satellite Wireless Communications (not to be confused with GPS satellite networks)

Due to the fact that (1) hardware is typically more expensive, (2) monthly service fees are high (and polling rate is low, cost is high; see polling rate), (3) satellite communications networks are unreliable; a satellite network for vehicle tracking is rarely recommended by us. Only when 100% coverage is an essential customer requirement will we recommend a system that uses satellite for communications.

Web-based Hosted Software

A demonstration of any GPS system should show the software and reporting capabilities. The web hosted software interface determines the mapping and reporting features that the system offers as well as the overall end user experience. The features available on the software are largely dependent on the capability of the actual hardware (see Examining Hardware). There are two main areas of functionality that should be carefully examined when reviewing the software: (1) Mapping functionality and (2) Reporting functionality.

Mapping Functionality

For most users of GPS tracking systems, the mapping functionality plays a significant roll in the overall satisfaction with the system. Most GPS systems use web-based mapping applications similar to Map Quest or Yahoo Maps. Our Tracker models use web-based internet mapping. The downside to Internet-based digital maps is that they require a refresh for every action such as panning or zooming. The upside is that they can be accessed from any machine with Internet connectivity. For company’s with intensive mapping usage, we recommend our GPS Devices.

Our software provides routing functions, superior zoom and panning capabilities, a “snappier” application, and several more features not found in other mapping applications. If you are going to be a heavy mapping user (using the system for dispatch/routing), or you simply want a system with the best mapping available, you should consider one of Tracking Solutions Online GPS Devices.

Other mapping features to look for:

  • 1. Geo-fencing capability – should allow unlimited number of geo-fences.
  • 2. Customer/Landmark import capability – should allow mass import of customer/job site records for viewing on the map.
  • 3. Breadcrumb history view – should show historical travel path of vehicle.
  • 4. Find nearest vehicle function 5. User-defined zoom levels.

Reporting Functionality

The web hosted software should have easy to use, detailed reporting capabilities. The reporting capability of the system is largely dependent on the hardware device used (see examining hardware), and the polling rate (see polling rate and billing).

At a minimum, the reports offered should be:

    • 1. Vehicle Activity Report.
    • 2. Vehicle Stop Report.
    • 3. Vehicle Speed Report.
    • 4. Landmark in/out Report.

The hardware is the actual GPS unit and antennas that are mounted in the vehicle. Most GPS units contain a “mini-mother board” with a GPS chip set and a wireless modem (real-time systems). They also may include memory and software which determines the potential features of the hardware. One of the most critical pieces to the unit is the wireless modem. You should always purchase a unit that contains a wireless modem from a 1st tier manufacturer such as Motorola or Sierra Wireless. Our GPS Devices use the best wireless modems – known as the best in the market. Additionally, the modem and hardware components will determine if the hardware has “telemetry” capability, and wireless connectivity potential.

Polling Rate & Monthly Fees

All real-time systems have a monthly fee. In most cases the monthly fee covers the hosted web tracking and reporting fees and the wireless network fees.

Monthly Fees

When it comes to tracking your vehicles for fleet management purposes, Unlimited Use is the key term when it comes to monthly fees. You want to pay a flat monthly fee for unlimited use and unlimited polling – period.

Polling Rate

The polling rate is the frequency in which the GPS unit is configured to send location reports. It determines how close to “real-time” you can view your vehicle’s location, as well as the detail you receive in the reports that are generated. The lower the polling rate, the closer to real-time information is available. From our experiences, a five (5) minute polling rate generates the right amount of detail information for 95% of the businesses who are looking to implement a real-time system. We have experimented with two (2) minute polling rate, but it simply generates too much data for the customer to go through, and really no added value.

What is the difference between a “Real-time” GPS tracking system and a “Passive” GPS tracking system?

A “Real-Time” system generally utilizes wireless networks to allow you to receive the information and view the location of your asset in “real-time”. In most cases, response time and location information can result in delays up to 30-second to 1-minute. Real-Time tracking is becoming the industry standard for vehicle and asset tracking. Features include, on-demand location, speed, and direction.

A “Passive” system generally is limited to vehicle tracking applications only. With a “Passive” system, the location data is stored and downloaded from the vehicle at the end of the day, or when the vehicle returns. Passive systems are used when companies do not need to view their fleet in real-time or have the need to receive alert notifications for speed violations, zones and other features that real-time systems offer.

Why should I purchase a tracking system when I can use my GPS enabled cell phone?

CELL PHONE BATTERY LIFE: With GPS enabled on the phone, the battery life decreases by 50%. This means the GPS phone will not last the entire day without at least one recharge.

TAMPERING: With a GPS cell phone, you must rely on the person who is responsible for carrying the phone. The phone can become lost or turned off entirely, the java applet running the GPS software on the phone can be turned off or the cell phone can be placed in a metal box which will appear as if the phone has a “lost signal” when the person does not want to be located.

COST: GPS enabled phones require a minimum monthly voice plan, a data plan plus monthly tracking services.

GPS Tracking systems or Trackers are in-vehicle or embedded solutions that require no responsibility from the driver. If installed properly, our GPS covert systems make it difficult for anyone, including criminals to tamper with. GPS Trackers can also save you money, many automobile insurance companies provide 5-25% discount on premiums if your car is GPS-equipped.

You have several products, how do I know which one I need?

Determine what type of tracking and monitoring you want to do. Is it basic or advanced tracking? Do you want to monitor people or track assets? If you still are not sure, contact us at or call us at Toll Free 1.877.477.2922 and our staff will be happy to assist you.

What Type of Internet Connection do I need?

A high speed Internet connection (DSL, Cable) is recommended but a simple dial-up connection can be used. Note with dial-up, the user will notice slower response when locating your car or when navigating within the mapping system.

Will I need a professional installer?

Some of our trackers require minimum installation, such as, an ODB2 connection for 12-volt constant source and a covert GPS antenna that can be hidden and installed very easy. However, we provide detailed installation guides with our products. If you have basic vehicle electrical knowledge, you should be able to install the device. Contact us for an installer in your area or you can choose to go to a stereo installation shop and they will most likely be able to install your GPS Tracker.

You will be provided with an online account and given a personal login and password of your choice. You will also be given the website address of your GPS tracking website. Any computer with a working standard Internet browser is required to login and locate your vehicle.

How do I access my account?

If I run out of Locates, what should I do?

You can order additional Locate Requests (or Pings) or Application Credits at anytime on your tracking website application or give us a call at 1.877.477.2922

How do I locate my vehicle?

Visit your GPS tracking website. Login using your personal login and password. Select the car and press the “Locate” button. The system will send the request to the vehicle and in most cases, within 30-60 seconds, a map will display showing the location, time, speed and direction of your vehicle.

What if the system does not locate my vehicle?

There are no GPS systems of this type that give 100% coverage, the vehicle could be out of cellular range or parked in a garage impacting GPS signals. Climate and atmospheric conditions can also impact GPS requests and responses. Wait a few minutes or wait till climate conditions are better and try again. Also consider, the driver may be temporarily residing in a low-cellular signal area and their return may not occur till 1-7 days. You may need to attempt to locate the car over a period of 5-10 days to obtain a successful location response. Note, you will not be charged unless a map is displayed with the location of your vehicle.

Can I transfer my GPS Unit to another vehicle?

Absolutely, there are no charges for this but you may want to purchase another wiring harness instead of removing the old harness. This would be least time consuming and by keeping the wiring harness in the other vehicle you may want to transfer the unit back and forth between vehicles.

What are Emergency Medical Services (EMS)?

Emergency medical services are a branch of Emergency services dedicated to providing out-of-hospital acute medical care and/or transport to definitive care, to patients with illnesses and injuries which the patient, or the medical practitioner, believes constitutes a medical emergency.

Emergency medical services are also known as: First aid squad, Emergency squad, Rescue squad, Ambulance squad, Ambulance service, Ambulance corps or Life squad.

The goal of most EMS is to either provide treatment to those in need of urgent medical care, with the goal of satisfactorily treating the malady, or arranging for timely removal of the patient to the next point of definitive care. This is most likely an emergency department at a hospital or another place where physicians are available. The term Emergency Medical Service evolved to reflect a change from a simple transportation system (ambulance service) to a system in which actual medical care occurred in addition to transportation. In some developing regions, the term is not used, or may be used inaccurately, since the service in question does not provide treatment to the patients, but only the provision of transport to the point of care. Emergency medical services, (last visited Mar. 3, 2009).

What is a Global Positioning System (GPS)?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) developed by the United States Department of Defense and managed by the United States Air Force 50th Space Wing. It is the only fully functional GNSS in the world, can be used freely, and is often used by civilians for navigation purposes. It uses a constellation of between 24 and 32 Medium Earth Orbit satellites that transmit precise microwave signals, which allow GPS receivers to determine their current location, the time, and their velocity. Its official name is NAVSTAR GPS. Although NAVSTAR is not an acronym,[1] a few backronyms have been created for it. Global Positioning System, (last visited Mar. 3, 2009).

How does a Computer-assisted Dispatch (CAD) system works</h2

Computer-assisted dispatch (also called CAD) is a method of dispatching taxicabs, couriers, field service technicians, or emergency services assisted by computer. It can either be used to send messages to the dispatchee via a mobile data terminal (also called an MDT) and/or used to store and retrieve data (i.e. radio logs, field interviews, client information, schedules, etc.). A dispatcher may announce the call details to field units over a two-way radio. Some systems communicate using a two-way radio system’s selective calling features. CAD systems may send text messages with call-for-service details to alphanumeric pagers or wireless telephony text services like SMS. The central idea is that persons in a dispatch center are able to easily view and understand the status of all units being dispatched. CAD provides displays and tools so that the dispatcher has an opportunity to handle calls-for-service as efficiently as possible.

CAD typically consists of a suite of software packages used to initiate public safety calls for service, dispatch, and maintain the status of responding resources in the field. It is generally used by emergency communications dispatchers, call-takers, and 911 operators in centralized, public-safety call centers, as well as by field personnel utilizing mobile data terminals (MDTs) or mobile data computers (MDCs).

CAD systems consist of several modules that provide services at multiple levels in a dispatch center and in the field of public safety. These services include call input, call dispatching, call status maintenance, event notes, field unit status and tracking, and call resolution and disposition. CAD systems also include interfaces that permit the software to provide services to dispatchers, calltakers, and field personnel with respect to control and use of analog radio and telephony equipment, as well as logger-recorder functions. Computer-assisted dispatch, (last visited Mar. 4, 2009).

How does GPS Vehicle Tracking work?

Automatic vehicle location (AVL or ~locating; telelocating in EU) is a means for automatically determining the geographic location of a vehicle and transmitting the information to a requester. While GPS positioning and wireless communication services are used in the most common implementations, AVL is also implemented using GSM, RFID, or RTLS.

Most commonly, the location is determined using GPS, and the transmission mechanism is a satellite, terrestrial radio or cellular connection from the vehicle to a radio receiver, satellite or nearby cell tower. Other options for determining actual location, for example in environments where GPS illumination is poor, are dead reckoning, i.e. inertial navigation, or active RFID systems or cooperative RTLS systems. With advantage, combinations of these systems may be applied.

After capture, the tracking data is transmitted using any choice of telemetry or wireless communications systems. GSM and EVDO are the most common services applied. Because of the low data rate needed for AVL, and the low cost and near-ubiquitous nature of these public networks. The low bandwidth requirements also allow for satellite technology to receive telemetry data at a moderately higher cost, but across a global coverage area and into very remote locations not covered well by terrestrial radio or public carriers. One system description discloses that locations are polled every thirty seconds.


Application with vehicles

Automatic vehicle locating is a powerful concept for managing fleets of vehicles, as service vehicles, emergency vehicles, and especially precious construction equipment, also public transport vehicles (buses and trains). It is also used to track mobile assets, such as non wheeled construction equipment, non motorized trailers, and mobile power generators.

Application with vehicle drivers and crews

The other purpose of tracking is to provide graded service or to manage a large driver and crewing staff effectively. For example, suppose an ambulance fleet has an objective of arriving at the location of a call for service within six minutes of receiving the request. Using an AVL system allows to evaluate the locations of all vehicles in service with driver and other crew in order to pick the vehicle that will most likely arrive at the destination fastest, (meeting the service objective). Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL), (last visited Mar. 10, 2009).