How to select a tracking system that is right for you.
1) Define what you want the system to achieve.
This might seem a little obvious... after all we all know what trackers are.. they allow you to get the vehicle back if someone should steal it. It is not, however, that straightforward. The devices fall into two broad categories ATR systems (After Theft Recovery) which are basically devices that report the vehicle’s location to a predefined monitoring station on request.
And Anti Theft systems that are designed to avoid the theft in the first place. Of course there are those that can fulfil both roles too.
2) Fix a general budget. A tracking sales rep is a little like an old style second hand car salesman. He wants to get your highest limit and then have you spend a little more. He will use several techniques to tempt you. The largest, by far, is by tying statistics about vehicle recovery to the features on their own units. Then they come in with the killer punch...”Your insurance will offer you up to 1/3 discount of you have one of these fitted.)
This is, in fact, probably the single biggest lie told by representatives in the tracking industry. At the date of writing this... no insurance companies have shown any level of discount for having a tracker installed. They will , however, use it as a get out clause if you have stated that you have one fitted and it turns out later that your unit was faulty or completely inoperative.
3) Decide whether you want to install the equipment yourself or have a fitter do it for you. The units are relatively simple to fit usually, given a basic understanding electronics and an in depth knowledge of the use of relays. Be advised, however, no warranty will remain valid if the fault is generated through a faulty installation.
You have decided which type of device you fancy Now there are a few things to concider.
1) what is the operating voltage of the unit? Too narrow and it will fail as soon as the battery drops in voltage...
2) What is the average current consumption of the unit... this will tell you how long the unit will run for if the vehicle is left unattended and how long it will take for the unit to discharge your vehicle battery
3) Does the unit include hidden internal power back up? How long does this last for, once employed and are you notified that the switch to internal power has occurred?
4) What level of technology are you using. Here we come to the reason that I hate Chinese imports.
During the last ten years GPS technology has altered dramatically. Rising from a mere sixteel satellites in orbit to a network in excess of sixty, it is possible with the right receiver to achieve positions that are accurate to with feet – even in conditions that would previously have caused huge problems.
In order to appreciate why this is, then you must appreciate how GPS works. (Those who know already just talk amongst yourselves a while!)
A GPS satellite is essentially an atomic clock placed in geostationary orbit that transmits the time.
A GPS receiver can receive that signal and hear the time. Knowing what time the signal left the transmitter; and knowing how fast radio waves travel, it is simple to construct a circle, inside which the radio transmission would have reached you.
Once you have three or four satellites and three or four circles... the point on the map where they intersect is your exact location.
This is the point that the Chinese systems have got to and they still operate at this level, because jumping to the next level is expensive.
You see, no matter how stunning this is with three or four satellites – imagine how much better it would be with a network of sixty... and with receivers capable of reading 40 odd satellites at any one time. The accuracy would be scary!
There is one more fly in the ointment and this one is a biggy.
Usually for the sake of experiments we assume that radio waves are travelling in a vacuum. A speed of essentially 186000 miles per second. Our problem is that we do not live in a vacuum . The unpredictability of our weather means that the speed differentiation caused by the radio waved travelling through areas of high pressure in the atmosphere, thunderstorms, even dense fog, cam introduce an element of error. This element of error can be coped with on a sat nave by using clever software that will read the position and snap to the nearest road... but sine our vehicles may well be off the road we have to have a more reliable system.
Being god’s little helpers... we got one.
It came by way of “DGPS”. Differential GPS. And it is really crafty. This system takes the known GPS co ordinates of a local point. Let’s say the post office tower in London. Then it contacts the London gps receiver to establish whether there is any variation between the current GPS reading and the one that it SHOULD be getting.) This differential can be incorporated into the tracker unit’s calculation routine. Providing a more accurate position than has ever been available to the general public before.
These latest GPS units also benefit from being able to receive a signal in a great many more locations that earlier devices struggle with. Well built up areas were notorious for GPS; underground car parks were a big no no.
Without banging on.... I hope you see why there are two different levels of GPS device and why we generally steer clear of the sh*tty Chinese ones.
HOWEVER:- some tracking is better than no tracking t all, so if Chinese is the only thing you can afford then go for it!
Increasingly systems are being made capable of carring out activities that would normally be considered outside the realms of the realistically possible.
Switches, activated by mobile phone call, and activate a microphone allowing you to listen to the little tykes as they drive away; disable the engine; isolate the ignition; send notifications to nominated phones... engage tamper proof locks to your tool box... accessible only by text message with no visible presence on the outside
Sensors can be set to listed for movement, threat alarms (useful on student’s cars)
The possibilities are endless.
My motivation in writing this short article was not to blow my own trumpet. I simply want people to realise that choosing the right system for them is not a simple and straightforward as many would have you believe