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December 2, 2022

What Is GPS Tracking and How Does it Work in 2023


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Business practices are evolving due to technology. Companies are adopting new strategies to maintain the efficiency of their operations, such as mobile apps and cloud-based services. However, one technology that’s particularly popular among small businesses is GPS tracking software.

With the advancement of GPS and tracking over the years, businesses and individuals now have the ability to track assets and vehicles to address issues with efficiency, compliance, and safety. These include law firms, construction firms, and even restaurants and hotels.

While Google Maps is a great resource, businesses often need more advanced real-time location and asset tracking. 

Let’s look at what these GPS trackers are and how they work.

What is a GPS tracker device?

Before we get into the types of trackers, we need to get some background knowledge.

First, what is a GPS tracking device?

A locator tracking device uses a satellite tracking system called the Global Positioning System, or GPS. It uses a network of 24 satellites in orbit and equipment on the ground to pinpoint a person's or object's location on Earth. Positioning, navigation, and timing are the three distinct data sets that GPS tracking monitors.

How does a GPS tracker work?

But how do GPS trackers work?

Well, GPS trackers are navigational devices that are typically mounted on a vehicle, asset, person, or animal and use satellite navigation to track their movement and location.

As opposed to in-car navigation systems, a GPS tracking system uses GPS technology to monitor a vehicle's location and travel patterns. A computer or tablet receives the information and notifications the devices have collected. 

Some GPS trackers are also already integrated in Android and iOS devices, with which users can access a location history, find family members and loved ones who use a device that allows location tracking and can detect driving behavior. 

How are GPS tracking devices used?

Tracking location devices can be used for different purposes, such as:

  • Position locating,

  • Vehicle tracking,

  • Field service,

  • Crisis assistance,

  • Caring for the elderly, and

  • Search and rescue.

Let’s get into each of them.

1. Position locating 

GPS tracking of locations is one of the most important and popular GPS applications uses, whether hiking, in a car (think of those mapping software devices you might use while driving, for instance), or even communicating between people or vehicles. Either with specific location trackers or those already on your phone, you can use these to locate the position of any person, animal, or item.

2. GPS vehicle tracking 

Modern GPS fleet tracking systems rely on GPS as a key component to track vehicle activity and location, enhancing safety and effectiveness. Every vehicle in a fleet should have a GPS, which allows fleet managers to track the precise location and status of each driver, gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of the fleet, and, in an emergency, immediately render roadside assistance.

GPS systems in vehicles have been shown to significantly reduce accidents for small businesses in addition to simplifying and improving dispatch and routing. As a result, everyone will drive more safely and your company's fleet will enjoy a better reputation.

3. Field service

Field service businesses, such as the ones who specialize in construction, landscaping, plumbing, or other home repairs use GPS online tracking for route planning, vehicle tracking, and cost monitoring purposes. They’re able to track the routes that field technicians use on their way to clients, as well as create accurate estimations of when field service teams can arrive on site.

4. Crisis assistance

Your GPS location is shared with emergency response services as part of any built-in emergency support systems in your car, phone, or other devices. A similar thing occurs if you sustain an injury while hiking and are wearing an emergency beacon or another GPS tracker device: you are able to get assistance because your GPS location is shared with emergency response teams like search and rescue. 

5. Care for the elderly

GPS locators are quickly growing in importance in the care of elderly patients, both at home and in specific care settings like hospitals or assisted living facilities. It can be used in the form of GPS watches or a necklace that enables geriatric patients to call for assistance when they fall, and also in the vehicles of patient care companies.

6. Search and Rescue

In search and rescue operations, GPS tracking is crucial because it enables rescue workers to keep track of the areas they have covered, view the overall search operation, and even pull GPS data directly from a lost person's GPS device or phone.

A grid system is used by search and rescue operations when trying to find victims of a large-scale disaster or track down a missing person in an uninhabited area. As a result, each area is thoroughly searched, and no area is searched twice at the expense of other places.

Types of GPS location trackers

There are a few types of location tracking devices, ranging from physical tracking units to phone and mobile automatic trackers. But what does GPS tracker look like?

Let’s look at a few of them.

1. Plug-in GPS trackers

Image from LandAirSea Sync GPS Tracker on Amazon

Due to the fact that they plug directly into a vehicle's power port, plug-in GPS trackers may be the easiest trackers to install. They are typically compact and simple to maintain. This tracker is the most widely used by those who want to use it for both personal and professional tracking because of how simple it is to install.

The primary drawback of plug-in GPS trackers is that they become inoperable when the engine is shut off. Because of this, the data is not always as accessible as it is with some other trackers.

2. Wired trackers

Image from MasTrack on Amazon

Vehicles are already directly wired for hardwired GPS trackers. Businesses that may have company vehicles without the required electrical port for plug-in trackers will benefit the most from this car GPS location tracker. They can be hidden for security reasons, are simple to install, and continue to serve as the vehicle's permanent tracking fixtures.

The main drawback of the hardwired tracker is that it is more challenging to remove for maintenance than the other car GPS trackers. The location information is also only accessible when the vehicle is turned on, just like plug-in trackers.

3. GPS trackers that operate on batteries

Image from Brickhouse Security on Amazon

Instead of relying on the vehicle, battery-operated GPS trackers run on their own power. These trackers can run without maintenance for weeks or months at a time thanks to a strong battery. Even rechargeable battery options exist that might end up being less expensive overall.

The main drawback of battery-powered trackers is that, in order to conserve battery life, they will probably send location updates less frequently. However, even when the vehicle is off, it will still send location updates.

4. Device Location Trackers

Image from Atto

Another type of live GPS tracker is the one already installed on mobile devices, tablets, and laptops. These track the location of devices as long as they’re turned on, but they are small enough that you don’t need to install them manually. 

Different apps and software, like time tracking tools, also come with options to track the location of employees or work vehicles when on the clock. They automatically connect with your device’s GPS tracker and show the location of employees on a live feed.

4 benefits of GPS tracking for small businesses in 2023

Adding a GPS employee tracking system to your operations process has a lot of advantages. These advantages could lower costs and boost profits by emphasizing efficiency, depending on the size of your company and the scope of your tracking system.

Supervisors can spot workers who are in trouble and need assistance thanks to employee GPS apps that track location. They can send the best help because they are aware of where their employee is. But a GPS location tracking app can offer a lot more advantages than just safety.

Some more benefits of GPS tracking solutions include:

1. Asset protection is enhanced by GPS fleet monitoring

With GPS fleet management, the whereabouts of a business’ vehicles are known to fleet managers at all times. They’re aware of when shipments are made by drivers who are not following their usual routes or whenever drivers are using their vehicles to make unauthorized deliveries.

When drivers encounter a crisis, fleet managers need to be prepared to take swift action. Rapid response is required in cases of accidents, mishaps, and malfunctions. Through fleet GPS tracking service, dispatcher data is accessible to address all of these safety violations and many more.

2. Reduce operating expenses

The cost of fuel and maintenance is one of the biggest costs a company using transportation services will encounter. A business can track how frequently its drivers use their vehicles by installing a GPS tracking device in them, allowing them to map out the most effective routes. 

Additionally, it enables businesses to confirm that drivers are using their vehicles for the intended purpose. With the help of cutting-edge GPS trackers, a company can even determine whether drivers are exceeding the posted speed limit or accelerating quickly which would result in burning more fuel.

3. Monitor routes

When companies monitor the daily movements of their employees with the help of a location tracking system, they can provide their clients with shipping and delivery diagnostics. Customers will receive this information about the location of the field service team and the expected arrival time via GPS tracking.

4. Planning effective routes

Businesses can use the GPS data gathered when constructing a route plan to ensure that the most effective routes are always in use. It is possible to prioritize saving time, money, and fuel by creating a comprehensive plan that outlines the best routes to take. These routes will always be available and efficient thanks to real-time tracking. 

Looking for a GPS live tracking app for your business?

With so many GPS tracking apps available, it can be difficult to choose which one is best for your business. With Atto, you get an all-in-one solution that offers both time tracking and GPS live tracking, all from one dashboard.

With Atto’s GPS tracking feature, you can:

  • Track your team’s progress without constant check-ins

  • Increase the visibility of your team’s daily movements

  • Improve the safety of your field or remote employees

  • Check how efficient employees are at completing jobs

  • Trace the routes taken and stops made while on the clock

  • Identify different activities easily with color-coded routes

Read more on Atto’s location tracking feature here.

Key takeaways on GPS and tracking

Military operations led to the development of GPS tracking technology. However, technology has been widely embraced throughout the world and has made its way into modern gadgets that allow us to enjoy the conveniences of today.

Because employee GPS tracking devices track location, managers can identify staff members who require assistance. When they know where their employee is, they can send the best assistance. Tracking GPS locations with an app, however, can provide a lot more benefits than just safety.

GPS tracking will provide the business with the necessary information, whether it’s protecting its valuables by keeping an eye on them or monitoring its vehicles and drivers. It can also help track when field service teams are on the road or restrict them from clocking in until they arrive at a job site.


Is it legal to track your employees?

Yes. Courts have granted permission for employers to keep an eye on their property over the years. This means that almost all activities performed on a work computer or cell phone device may be observed by your employer.

What does a GPS tracker look like?

A real time GPS tracker typically consists of a small box with some electronic parts inside. Usually, the outer portion includes an antenna or an LED light. The electrical system of the car or a battery system is also used by them. A GPS tracker can also be already included in phones, laptops, and other devices.

Does location tracking violate the privacy of employees?

The accelerated development of tracking software and devices has not been matched by state and federal privacy legislation.  Collecting, selling, or use of personal location data is not specifically prohibited by federal law. However, the focus of recent significant actions has been on location tracking.

What is the smallest GPS tracking device available?

Usually, the smallest GPS trackers are called mini-GPS trackers. Whistle 3 and Geozilla GPS tracker are two options if you're looking for trackers designed specifically for pets. If you fall into the category of people who want more than just a tracker, you might want to consider an Apple Watch or Fitbit. 

Will GPS work indoors?

Simple answer - Sometimes. Even though today's more sensitive GPS chips can occasionally receive signals from enough satellites to determine a location inside of a building, the location that results is typically not accurate enough to be useful. Roofs, walls, and other objects attenuate and scatter satellite signals in various directions.

What is an OBD port for GPS tracking?

OBD or "On-Board Diagnostics" refers to a vehicle's self-diagnostic reporting capabilities and is a version of an onboard vehicle computer. The OBD port itself is what transmits this data from various vehicle subsystems.

How does motion activation work for GPS trackers?

Motion activation for GPS trackers works by notifying you when the device leaves or enters a predetermined area, or when something (like a car) begins to move. The accuracy of modern GPS systems allows them to pinpoint locations to within a few feet. 

What is a geofence and how is it used in GPS tracking?

A geofence is a fictitious boundary that a GPS tracking system creates around a particular location. It can be used as an event or alert trigger once it has been created, or it can be used to restrict when field service teams can clock in and start tracking their time.

Is there a SIM card in GPS trackers?

Yes, there are some GPS trackers that have SIM cards. When using a GPS tracker with a sim card, your tracker can wirelessly communicate with other devices and transmit location information in real time to the tracking platform. 

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