The Technology Behind GPS Tracking: GPRS, CDMA & Satellite To Satellite

6 Apr 2008

GPRS, CDMA, or Satellite to Satellite:  How do you determine which Right is for you?

With so many tracking systems out on the market today, it can be a difficult job determining which one is right for you.  As technology keeps getting better, companies keep coming out with new and improved ways to provide GPS tracking systems.  It can be difficult to determine if a GPRS, a CDMA or something that does satellite to satellite tracking is a better option.  Hopefully after reading this your troubles will be over and you will know exactly what type of system to purchase for your needs.

First, let’s take a look at a GPRS tracking system. Short for General Packet Radio Services it is a type of wireless communications similar to that of mobile phones.  It is used for sending and receiving data over an IP based network.  It is a relatively fast speed way to deliver data from just about anywhere.  It is always on and information can be sent between the connections (a GPS tracking device and the software program) as soon as the need is there.

Basically, this system requires both software and hardware for the system to work properly.  Once the hardware is installed properly you will be able to pinpoint what you are tracking anywhere it might be, indoors or out.  Generally the location is updated every 15 seconds and sends a real time position to you.  You can easily set up the software to your specifications.  The disadvantages of this type of system are that there are usually monthly contract costs (cost will vary from place to place and the provider that you choose) and that the connection quality will vary depending on the amount of traffic using the system.   Another problem is that providers have to set up their own static IP networks to allow GPRS to work properly.  Many times these networks are not large enough to accommodate their customers.

CDMA stands for Code Division Multiple Access.  It is what the average person knows as digital cellular technology.  The biggest advantage of this type of technology is that there is no assigned frequency to the users.  Every user has the ability to use the full spectrum of the technology.  This means that CDMA is able to provide much better data communications and voice communications than other mobile technologies out there.  Many big companies such as Sprint, AT&T and Verizon are starting to offer GPS tracking services on mobile phones with this type of technology.  The disadvantages to CDMA are that the companies limit the number of inquires allowed to about 4 an hour.  This means that if you are tracking something, you are not getting second by second tracking.  This makes it difficult to know exactly where the device has been at all times.  While they are a great tool for peace of mind keeping track of loved ones, there is a monthly fee associated with this type of technology and it only works as far as the phone itself does.

The final type of technology is satellite to satellite tracking.  This type of technology encompasses the SPOT and SX1 systems. These devices get their GPS location data and send the transmissions through a satellite network.   Satellite tracking devices are relatively inexpensive and are generally a one time cost.  There are no monthly fees or subscriptions that you have to pay (that is unless you want the 911 service on the SPOT system which is a mere 100 dollars per year for the feature).  Both the SPOT and SX1 systems are systems that work wherever you happen to be as it uses the satellite network to transmit its data.

Now that you know what each type of technology hopefully you will be able to determine which is better for your needs.  If you are going to use your GPS tracking system to keep track of your kids, then the CDMA system or the GPRS system is probably a better way for you to go.  If you are an avid traveler or outdoors person then investing in a satellite to satellite system is your best bet. On the other hand, if you are planning on using your system to monitor your employees or keep track of vehicles, then stick with the tried and true GPRS system for your needs.

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