Thursday, April 23, 2009

GPS Tracking For Cars

GPS tracking for cars works just like any other method of GPS tracking. It makes use of the 24 Global Positioning Satellites that fly in geosynchronous orbit around this little blue spec in the cosmos. These satellites were put in place by the United States Department of Defense in order to get a better understanding of the location of their massive fleets and other military assets, and has been for some time.

These satellites and the information that they broadcast was made available to the public in the Reagan era after the tragic destruction of a passenger airliner over Soviet airspace. Since then, GPS technology has become extremely widespread - trickling into hundreds of consumer electronics. Some of these device have been extremely complex, pushing the limit of present day technology, while others have been simple, straightforward, and unimaginative.

One of the more interesting uses of GPS has been the integration of GPS tracking into cars. It has many immediate and interesting applications in addition to some future applications that are downright intriguing.

Let's start with the immediate applications: car navigation and car tracking.

GPS Tracking for Car Navigation
These are obviously the most prevalent and ubiquitous form of GPS on the consumer market today. Everybody has heard of the brand names in this industry: Garmin, TomTom, Magellan. But have you ever stopped to think what goes on inside these small, compact GPS tracking devices?

Well, they sit on your dashboard where they have access to the sky. The sky is where the GPS satellites transmit their signal from and it is often the case that a GPS receiver (your Garmin, TomTom, or Magellan has a GPS receiver in it) needs to have a line of sight to the sky in order to receive that signal. Once it gets the signal from 3 or more satellites, it does some math (a process know as trilateration) to determine the exact location of the receiver.

Once it has its location, it cross references that with the mapping software that is has loaded on its hard drive. It then displays the your location to you and keeps track of where you have been and where you are going. Because it know where you have been and where you are going your GPS tracking device is able to give you all sorts of cool information like your speed, expected arrival time, distance traveled, etc. This is a form of GPS tracking that is important for us to remember. It may not be the type of GPS tracking for cars that most people think about when they use that phrase, but it is GPS tracking nonetheless.

GPS Tracking for Car Tracking
When most people think of GPS tracking for cars they usually get a picture of the police attaching a magnetized gadget to the bottom of a car that makes a little red dot flash on a computer screen in some room where a geeky guy sits at a computer drinking a Coke and staring at a computer screen. They are tracking the car because they want to know if someone is engaged in criminal activity or because they want to find the location of a hideout or hidden stash of money. This is certainly one application of GPS tracking for cars, but not the only one.

Spies could use it too, or private investigators, or jealous or suspicious spouses. But all these people would be performing the same essential activity as the law enforcement people. They would be tracking a car with GPS for the sake of finding a person or telling where they have been.

One different use of this type of tracking for cars would be its use in recovering stolen property. Cars can cost lots of money, thousands upon thousands of dollars in fact. Many people are not able to afford a car outright and must take out a loan in order make the purchase. What happens when a car gets stolen? Does your loan magically go away? Nope, you still have to pay off the old car and you are going to need a new automobile too, right?

Enter a GPS tracking device stowed secretly in your car. You wake up one morning to find you car gone. It has been stolen. To recover it, all you need to to is activate the GPS tracking device you installed and presto! you have your car back in a matter of hours and the criminal who stole your car gets thrown behind bars.

Another useful current application of GPS tracking for cars is to use it as a way to assist parents in developing safe driving habits in their teens. Too many teens die each year from stupid car accidents that could have easily been avoided if only they had been driving appropriately. While a GPS tracking device is no substitute for good parenting, these devices can be extremely useful in helping parents enforce the family guidelines for safe driving.

It might look a little bit like this: The parent lets the teen know that they are going to install a GPS tracking unit into the car that they drive. The parent instructs the teen by example and through rigorous driver training exercises how to drive in a safe and defensive manner. Aggressive driving and other risky behaviors are avoided by parent and teen alike. Then, the parent and teen come to some sort of consensus on what the consequences should be for the teen if they do not abide by the family guidelines concerning safe driving.

GPS tracking for cars doesn't make your teen a safe driver, it simply helps you better enforce the rules so that you can make them a safe driver.

Future Applications of GPS Tracking For Cars
Have you ever seen iRobot? In that movie Will Smith's character was able to drive and get to his destination with even having to be awake. The car drove itself! This is the future of GPS tracking for cars. We are already making the necessary improvement to our ability to keep track of time, improving even on the current atomic clock that has been around for decades. The new method of keeping time is significantly more precise and allows for much greater precision in GPS technology.

Imagine a world where everything worked efficiently. Rush hour would no longer exists as everyone's route too and from work would be optimized and seamless integrated with every other commuter's route home. There would be no accidents and no stress - you could even take a little nap on the way home because your car could drive itself.

This is closer to reality than many of us realize. Planes essentially fly themselves these days - pilots being there mostly for show and in the case of some disaster where human intervention will save human lives. But what is the system that makes this type of automation possible? GPS tracking.

GPS tracking for cars has several current applications that provide real benefit to is users, but the real power of this technology has yet to be realized. This technology has the potential to completely revolutionize the way that people travel in their world and only time will tell just how quickly this is going to happen. Maybe within the next century all of humanity will have access to GPS tracking for cars.

Finding appropriate methods to use GPS tracking for cars is not that difficult. There are tons and tons of ways for

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Track A Cheating Spouses Car With GPS

GPS tracking for cars can definitely be used to track down a cheating spouse and to corroborate any "stories" they try to sell you. GPS tracking technology will make pinpointing your spouses every move in their car - giving you a heads up if they park outside the same apartment complex when they are supposed to be at the bowling alley or at their mother's. There are several types of GPS tracking devices for cars that you can use and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Some devices require some level of technical know-how. If you have it, or have access to someone that does (like a friend or a friend's husband), I highly recommend that you get the possible tracker that you can reasonably afford. The best kind take their power supply directly from the car and track tons of information. Less complex devices are easy to install and use, but they suffer from relatively short battery life (5 days on the Zoombak Universal A-GPS Locator).

You can keep track of their activities in real time or go with a device that simply logs the activity - the choice is entirely up to you and your level of suspicion. Either way, you are going to accumulate some sort of history of your cheating spouse of significant other that you are going to want to sift through to find patterns and analyze. Downloading the data and overlay it on the mapping application like Google Maps. Most times you won't even have manually do this because the GPS tracking device you are using is already integrated with Google Maps.

Knowing the position of your spouse's car can give you a better idea if your suspicion about their cheating is reasonable or just life getting the better of you. If the data is there and you see a reoccurring pattern in their activity - like making the frequent stops to an unidentified address, frequently attending dances in seedy establishments, or simply not being where they said they would be - your GPS tracking has provided some relevant information for you to think about.

Is GPS tracking for cars going to give you all the answers that you need? Certainly not. Once you have determined that they are engaged in suspicious activity you will have to confront them and make them realize that what they are doing is wrong. GPS is not going to be able to help you to do that.

What you need is a strong support structure around you. Talk to you friends, get help, reach out to those around you. No one should be with someone who will cheat on them - so stand up and confront the person with how their actions are destroying them and hurting your relationship. If you need to, do this with a friend or trusted adviser. Counselors and pastors work well for this if you are in the care of one or simply don't know who else to turn to. Whatever you do get the help that you need to improve your situation.

Cheaters need to be caught. The life that they are living is destructive to both you and to them. GPS tracking for cars can help them get caught.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Track Your Teen with GPS Tracking For Cars

GPS tracking for cars isn't just for the police and special agents - it is increasingly becoming available to parents too. Consumers of all sorts have been getting their hands on this agile technology and have been implementing it in their leisure activities, in their jobs, and in the home. There is so much GPS can do for people that they are finally getting wise and putting it to good use!

One very interesting application of GPS tracking in the home is the use of a device in a car to monitor teen driving habits.

When parents let their teenager drive a car there are tons of things they have to think about. Will they drive safely? Will other drivers be driving safely around my teen? Who will be in the car with my teen to influence their driving behavior?

We can answer these questions when we are in the car with them, but what about when we can't been there? What about when they are driving home late at night from a friends house? Or coming home after the high school basketball game? Who is going to monitor their driving then?

GPS tracking for cars can, that is who.

Using GPS to monitor you teen's driving habits boils down to one word: safety. Teenage drivers have the highest crash risk per mile traveled when compared with drivers in other age groups. The problem is worst among 16 year-olds, probably because they have the least amount of time behind the wheel and are prone to risk taking behavior because of their immaturity.

The following chart from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety is telling:

GPS Tracking For Cars Teen Accident Statistics
As you can see, teen drivers are much more prone to be involved in fatal car crashes due to driver error, speeding, and having too many people in the car than any age rank up to 50 years old.

GPS tracking for cars can help with this if parents are willing to use this tool to prevent unsafe driving practices and enforce parental oversight on their teen's driving habits.

This would probably look something like this: A concerned parent installs a GPS tracking device like Zoombak in their teen's car. The parent goes into great detail with their teenager how they are expected to drive, what it means to drive safely, how to drive safely, and all the other important vehicle safety information the parent can think of. This is much, much more than simply asking your teen to take a drivers education class. It will involve a significant time commitment on your part where you spend hours behind the wheel with your teen instructing them in the safe operation of a vehicle.

Then, after doing this, you outline your expectations on how and when they should drive. Tell them that are not allowed to speed, have 3 or more passengers in the car, and can only drive at night under the strictest of conditions. Then you need to set up some consequences for them if they fail to adhere to these driving guidelines. It should be a graded system where severe or consistent infractions result in ever increasing restrictions on their driving privileges.

Now that you have taught your teen to drive safely and have set up guidelines for how to use the car, it is time to let the GPS tracker do the rest. Simply monitor your teenager's driving habits and when the break one of the rules - like break too fast, accelerate too fast, speed, or even idle the car for too long (yes, some GPS tracking devices for cars do let you know all of this information) - subject them to the consequences.

This is just old-school parenting combined with new technology. GPS tracking for cars can provide parents with the information needed to make informed choices about how to monitor their teen's driving behavior. Safety is synonymous with GPS tracking for cars.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Zoombak GPS Tracking For Cars Review

The Zoombak A-GPS is a small, portable GPS tracking device for cars. According to Zoombak's website it offers two different versions of the product - the Advanced A-GPS Universal Locator and the Advanced A-GPS Car & Family Locator. This product runs from $99 to $150 depending on where you buy it from. It also has a monthly service plan that ranges from $155 to $180 depending on when you want to part with your money. Paying month to month will cost you more while dishing out all the cash at once will cost you less.

When I did a feature comparison between the Car & Family Locator and the Universal Locator I really didn't see much of a difference between the two in basic functionality even though the Car & Family Locator costs $50 more. However, there does apepar to be a a slight difference between the two from what I could see. The Car & Family Locator come with a car mount and lets users set up predefined electric "fences" where they get alerts if the car travels outside "fence" or into a new one. You should make the decision if a car mount and this feature is worth the $50 for yourself.

Since in every other way the two Zoombak GPS devices appear to be exactly the same we will take a look at the basic features for both products.

Zoombak Product Features

This GPS tracking device for cars offers an unlimited amount of on-demand locates, meaning that at anytime your device has enough battery to send you a signal you can get it to do so. There are 3 easy ways to conduct an on-demand location request of your Zoombak :
  1. Log on at and check your status
  2. Send a text message to your device via mobile phone
  3. Contact a Zoombak customer representative for a live location report
However, an unlimited number of locates can be a little misleading. When you take a look at the product specifications you will notice this little blurb:

Battery Life*
Standby - Up to 120 hours or 5 days
Active Locator Use - Up to 150 location requests

* Battery life depends on several factors including temperature, network, signal strength and locator service features used. Location requests include the following Zoombak Locator service features:
  • On-Demand / Find Now requests from your mobile phone
  • Active Safety Zones and Continuous Tracking mode
  • Low battery Alerts: When your Zoombak locator indicates low battery (blinking amber LED), recharge your battery as defined in the Zoombak Locator User Guide.

What I take all this to mean is that the battery will only last for 5 days - max. The more you ask for the location of the device the short the battery will last.

Having a 5 day battery life is major limitation for those looking to use this device for GPS tracking of a car. You will have to take your device out of the car regularly if you are using it as an anti-theft device or keep it in the cab, charging the battery when you drive the car. But how is that supposed to help you recover a stolen car? Won't a thief just grab the device and discard it?

Some GPS tracking devices for cars can be hardwired into your car's computer. It will feed off your batteries power. This makes the device secure, hidden, and capable of being called often. This type of device does cost more than the Zoombak and will have an installation fee as well, but this is definitely the device you are going to want to have if you are using the GPS tracking device to aid in the return of a stolen car.

It appears that the tracker is best used for short term tracking. Take a look at this snippet from the Zoombak website:

Zoombak's continuous tracking feature provides you with an automatic update of your Zoombak’s location every 5 minutes for up to 1 hour.

Tracking a teen on a "short" drive; checking a vehicle's loation on over a weekend excursion; making sure the car hasn't been stolen while you on vacation - this is what the Zoombak should be used for.

On of the key features of this GPS tracker for cars is that it is A-GPS. The "A" here denotes "assisted." This means that the Zoombak is uses cell signals to transmit information and gather location information in addition to GPS signals. This is very good, since cell phone singals often penetrate where GPS signals cannot - providing increased coverage.

Zoombak GPS Tracking For Cars Service Plans

Zoombak offers three service plans that provide the same exact coverage at three different prices. These are the:

Monthly Plan
  • Only $14.99 a month
  • Annual cost: $179.88
PayNowPayLess Plan
  • Starts at only $9.99 a month.
  • Save $15 by pre-paying the first three months for only $29.97 ($9.99/month). After three months, pay only $14.99/month.
  • Annual cost: $164.88
12for12 Plan
  • Save $24.89 by pre-paying the whole year.
  • Annual cost: $154.99
All Zoombak service plans include the following:
  • No activation fee
  • No hidden fees
  • Unlimited on-demand location requests via the Internet and customer service
  • On-demand location requests via mobile phone
  • Unlimited continuous tracking via web and customer care
  • Unlimited safety zone alerts
  • Opt-in for “Power Off” and low battery alerts via email and text message
  • Location history via and customer care
  • 24/7 live customer care and location support
Those subscribing to the service plan must meet the following requirements:
  • One-year customer agreement required for all service plans
  • Convenient, paperless online billing and account maintenance
  • Credit or debit card
  • Early termination fee applies

Zoombak Coverage

Like all assisted GPS devices, the Zoombak does have some coverage limitations. It appears that the coverage is fairly decent for this car tracker:

Zoombak Specifications

Size 2.87" x 1.69" x .0.82" (L x W x H)
Weight 2.5 Ounces
Housing Water Resistant
Battery Life* Standby - Up to 120 hours or 5 days
Active Locator Use - Up to 150 location requests

The Zoombak appears to be a decent GPS tracking device for a car. It certainly has its limitations with short battery life, but is certainly sufficient for certain type of GPS tracking activity. If you can handle the $250, you could enjoy the convenience and information this GPS tracker for cars affords.

Friday, April 3, 2009

GPS Tracking Defined

What is GPS tracking? How can you use GPS tracking on cars? Is tracking done in real time or do I have to download the information from the device? Is GPS reliable? Is it safe?

These questions and more are probably what have brought you here in a quest to find out how you can track your automobile. Let's take a look at each question and come to some sort of conclusion about what this technology is, how it is used, and what it can do for us.

What is GPS Tracking?
Right now, as you sit and read this article, there are at least 24 satellites orbiting the earth 11 nautical miles above its surface. They are continuously broadcasting signals that specialized receivers are able to pick up. Within each signal that the the satellite is broadcasting is some important information that a GPS receiver is going to use to generate position information in the form longitude and latitude. This information is the position of the satellite and the time the signal was sent.

A GPS receiver then takes this information and calculates how far away from the satellite it is. It does this by simply taking the speed of the signal (a known) and multiplying it by the amount of time it took the signal to reach the GPS tracking device. The equation for this looks something like this:

Speed x Time = Distance Traveled

This will tell you just how far away you are from one satellite. However, since the tracker only knows how far away it is from on satellite it cannot tell where it is in the world. One satellite just isn't enough. You really need at least two, but more like three, satellites to be able to get a true picture of where you are on the earth's surface. This process is known as trilateration and is very much like triangulation, except that trilateration is about finding an objects position in three dimensional space while triangulation is about finding an objects location in 2 dimensional space.

Once the tracker has established your position it logs that data in a database and then it does one of two things with that information - keeps it or sends it out. If the device keeps the information it is called a data logger. A data logger does not provide real time GPS tracking. For that, you need a data pusher. A data pusher will send the location of the device to a central processing station where the data will become available to anyone with access to it - where it is a parent tracking the car of their teen or a dispatcher tracking a police car.

How can you use GPS tracking on cars?
Like I mentioned above, there are two ways that GPS tracking for cars can work - data loggers and data pushers. A data logger is like a little black box inside your vehicle that silently records all the car's position data throughout the day. Some devices can be integrated with your vehicle's onboard computer and can provide remote access to the functionality of the car. Honk the horn, cut the engine, unlock the doors - these are the types of features that some GPS devices can enable parents or spouses to do remotely to their cars.

A passive GPS tracker will store all the data on its hard drive until you come and take it off. Some of the types of information it will store is the speed of the car, its location, where it started the day, where it ended the day, whether or not there were any unsafe braking or accelerating action - basically anything having to do with the day to day driving operations of a car one GPS device or another is going to be able to track.

Real time GPS trackers work in essentially the same way and with essentially all the same functionality of a passive tracker except that it can give you updates in real time about the status and location of your vehicle. You can watch your teen's entire drive to school from your work computer if you wanted to with this type of tracking for cars!

Is tracking done in real time or do I have to download the information from the device?
I have answered this already in my discussion of the difference between data pushers and data loggers. Data loggers require that you download information from them before you can view it. A data pusher sends out the data as it receives it from the GPS satellites. Whether you have to passively track your car or whether you can track it in real time depends entirely upon the device that you purchase and the plan you have with your provider.

Is GPS reliable?
Yes, GPS tracking for cars is very reliable. It can locate the position of a car to withing a dozen or so yards and with the assistance of mapping applications it can provide even more accurate information about the location of your vehicle.

Is it safe?
The military, commercial airlines, major shipping companies, the police, the fire department, many municipalities, school districts, and many, many companies with different sized fleets all use GPS tracking in one shape or form. They use it because it provides results for their business or organization and does so in a safe and cost effective manner.

GPS tracking for cars is not for everyone, but those that decide to use can rest assured that it provides, safe, reliable, and useful information to those that use it.