GPS Tracking Systems

All GPS tracking systems use the Global Positioning System to determine and regularly record the location of a person, vehicle or other asset. The systems are popular with government and law enforcement officials, and have many civilian applications. Generally, these fall into the following areas: tracking, mapping, navigating, locating and obtaining precise timing. People involved in hiking, boating, biking and many other activities benefit from this technology. Even farming is enhanced. Farmers use GPS to guide farm equipment in precise rows for farming, fertilizing, and spraying operations. This helps reduce the cost of producing crops.

The Global Positioning System is a network of satellites placed into orbit by the U.S. Department of Defense. Although intended for military use, the government made the system available for civilians in the 1980's. Some civilian applications track cars or fleets of vehicles, or monitor packages or equipment to assure delivery or retrieve stolen assets. Monitoring people for medical reasons -- like keeping an eye on Alzheimer's patients -- and finding lost pets are other non-military options. GPS works anywhere in the world, and the information is available 24 hours a day. The government does not impose subscription fees to use the system. However, private companies may charge fees for a GPS car tracking device or data plan. Costs are related to the number of times a vehicle's position is checked or the frequency of monitoring. The devices may not be used to violate local, county, state or federal statutes regarding privacy issues.

A variety of types of equipment is available. Passive devices record information about the car's travels for future downloading and analysis. Another type of GPS car tracking device gives real-time feedback, and records information about the car's speed, direction, and whether the vehicle stops on the way. Combined with earth mapping software, this gives a visual picture about the vehicle's progress. Some GPS tracking systems offer other services, such as monitoring the car for mechnical problems, providing directions and even remotely unlocking the car doors if one has left the keys inside. Another service will cause the car's horn to beep, in order to indicate the location of the vehicle if it is 'lost' in a parking lot! Panic buttons are part of some packages as well, offering medical or police notification in case of emergencies. Some monitoring centers have assisted victims of carjackings by recognizing the situation and alerting the police.

Business owners, especially those with a fleet of vehicles, will certainly appreciate the depth of information which is available through GPS tracking systems. These take the information which is transmitted by satellites and use triangulation to calculate the user's location. Some systems can pinpoint location within about 6 feet. A GPS receiver needs information from at least two satellites to calculate a 2-D position (latitude and longitude), but with four or more satellites, a 3-D picture (latitude, longitude, and altitude) can be obtained. After that, speed, bearing, distance to a destination and other information may be calculated. With special software, an animated picture may be imposed over a street map or satellite image or displayed in a report format. A GPS car tracking device can operate on a battery pack, or can be connected to a vehicle's 12 volt power supply. Depending upon the type of system, information is recorded for future download or transmits live details of a vehicle's progress. Owners use these systems to improve productivity, track service calls for accurate billing, and prevent workers from using vehicles for personal excursions. Using cell phone options, vehicles can also be dispatched or recalled efficiently.

Some types of businesses which could benefit from these services are contractors, distributors, municipal vehicle managers (snowplowing, street-sweepers) and those who deal with perishable commodities. Safety or security issues can be minimized when transporting fuels, chemicals or any type of hazardous materials. Even for everyday transportation needs, GPS tracking systems may be useful for removing careless drivers from a business' fleet. Overtime claims can also be verified. Limousine or bus companies benefit from determining the best times and routes for the vehicles. One type of GPS car tracking device allows a vehicle to be disabled remotely.

Construction businesses may wish to attach GPS tracking systems to equipment which may be tempting to thieves. Construction equipment costs thousands of dollars, so it is worth investing in a number of simple tracking devices which may be magnetically attached to these items. The tracking device is water resistant, so some splashing will not affect the device. However, continual contact with water can cause damage which is not covered by warranties. Because of the nature of tracking systems, most are non-returnable, except for repair.

Some parents use a GPS device for keeping track of novice drivers. Developing trust is an important part of relationships with teens, yet such a device may be useful in times when teens do not arrive home on time and repeatedly neglect to answer a cell phone. Although these situations happen regularly and do not necessarily indicate an emergency, locating the car by means of a tracking system can be a better alternative than trying to track a teen by calling his or her friends or alerting authorities. Drivers known for their need for speed can also be monitored and have their driving privileges suspended until they can handle such responsibility. Let the teen know that the GPS car tracking device has been installed in case of emergency, rather than secretly monitoring the young driver. This can eliminate recriminations and may serve to deter foolish choices. The teen will protest anyway, but openly discussing the matter may help prevent misunderstandings or a tragic alternative. In Psalm 139:9-10, David says, If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. Regardless of which GPS system they have, many parents find this the most comforting thought of all.

Handheld GPS Units

Two handheld gps units were given to the seven scouts before beginning one of the final directives leading to earning the rank of Eagle. The scouts were taken twenty miles into the interior of a large Washington state forest and asked to find their way to a ranger outlook within twenty four hours. They had been trained in the use of the global positioning satellite devices and the equipment was packed in one of the seven backpacks to be passed out once the scouts were left alone. In all of the excitement of one of their final missions, the gps units which were rather small and did not weigh over a pound for the two of them, were left in the bottom of that backpack covered up with rations for the seven during the next twenty four hours. In the first eight hours of the trip, they were required to navigate by compass alone, and then for three hours by stars. Each of these young people was very intelligent and very savvy in their knowledge of the outdoors, but no person could foresee the fall one of them would take soon after dark. There was a small ridgeline hiding a fifty foot chasm which the scout carrying the gps units did not see.

The fall happened after dark and was quick and actually silent. The young man was unconscious but breathing, but none of the others knew the young man's condition. The others called for him repeatedly, but the brush was very heavy and even strong willed flashlights could not reveal the young man's location. The requirement for this part of the Eagle badge had been planned well by adult leaders who knew the terrain. For most of the trip, unbeknownst to the hikers, the group was always within two miles of a major road. But the road could have been a million miles away and the now critically needed gps units could have been simply discount handheld gps units that only had a few capabilities, such as the ability to reverse the track log and enable the holder to end up back exactly at the starting point.

But the tracking devices the scouts were given were world class global positioning satellite units. These units, costing over five hundred dollars each, had capabilities far more sophisticated than the discount handheld gps devices that can be purchased for less than one hundred dollars. Capabilities such as a constant 3D picture of the surrounding terrain, and topographical downloads of the entire United States. The options are too many and many very technical in nature, but those were the gps units that were in the young man's backpack one hundred feet straight down in high brush and the dark of night. Wisely, the remaining scouts knew that they had to remain where they were until morning. Attempts to try and find a way down in the black of night to the injured scout would have been foolhardy. So, a fire was built, three scouts of faith got together and prayed for their comrade and then a vigil began for the morning light. "But as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." (John 1:12)

Even the so called discount handheld gps units are designed to communicate with 24 medium earth orbiting satellites that send out microwave signals all over the world. After the downing of the Korean Air jet, President Reagan asked that the gps technology be given to the world of the assistance of humanity, and so the military gps satellites were made available from the Defense Department to civilian use. The cost of maintaining these orbiting bodies is about a billion dollars each year, but these satellites now provide precise guidance for the military, construction projects, mapping, surveying, for athletic events, and even assist golfers in knowing how far their ball is from the hole... They do not find lost golf balls!

Discount handheld gps units are perfect for casual hikers who fear becoming lost. Most enable the carrier to retrace a person's steps to go back to the beginning of their hike. One of the scouts could have taken any of the hundred dollar discount handheld gps units that are sold online or in retail stores and found his way back to the starting point to get help. But the seven units lay in a backpack at the bottom of a ravine strapped to a scout who was very much alive, and slowly coming out of a very dazed condition, just as the very early stages of dawn as beginning to appear. The young man had been spared his life by landing on very heavy brush, cushioning his fall. A nine foot final drop to the ground had knocked him out and brought on a concussion. But the most amazing part of the story was just about to occur.

Out of the horizon appeared a state police helicopter that hovered right over the young men. Within an hour, the scouts were out of the woods, and the fallen young man on the way to a local hospital. This very happy ending was all due to a worry wart mother who wanted to feel at peace about her son entering the woods. Against the rules, she had secretly slipped a discount gps unit in the bottom of her son's backpack after he had gone to bed the night before the long hike. This particular unit was built to be more of a beacon unit to emit a constant signal to the gps system for location purposes. When the scouts had not checked in at the midway checkpoint, by three am, the call went out to find them via the tracking unit.

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