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A Comprehensive Guide to Real Time GPS

written by: KennethSleight•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 9/29/2011

GPS tracking has come a long way in just a few years. The transmitters have become so small they can fit inside the back of a cell phone, be sewn into dog collars or even slipped into a purse or wallet. Real time tracking has a number of practical uses which we will cover in this guide to GPS units.

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    GPS Tracking What is real-time GPS tracking and how does it work? Well, a real-time tracking device transmits a signal that is picked up by an orbiting net of satellites. At any time, at least three of these satellites can pick up the signal and triangulate the position of the signalling unit to within six feet (some units can be tracked even closer). This information is then sent back to the unit which delivers it to either an on board or remote GPS locator unit. The real-time tracking happens with only a second or so delay at the most. You are probably familiar with car navigation systems, these work on exactly the same principle, except that the units we will be covering are much smaller.

    These miniature GPS transmitters can be placed almost anywhere and concealed in almost anything. One of the most popular GPS fashion items is a very elegant bracelet. Another is a fancy cat collar that would befit even the most finicky persian. Keeping an eye on your friends and family and making sure they are safe just got a whole lot easier.

    Although it isn't often mentioned in the news, the use of GPS locators for people with Alzheimer's disease has led to a diminished rate of wander-offs at many of the facilities that incorporate them. Just one more mark on the pro GPS board.

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    Real Time Tracking for Your Kids

    Tracking your children with a GPS unit can bring up a few ethical questions, especially if your children aren't aware of it. Of course, this is an issue for the parents to deal with, but if they do choose to use a tracking device there are several to choose from. If you are a parent that is open about the tracking system, you might opt to purchase a phone for your child that has a built-in tracker or perhaps even an aesthetically pleasing GPS bracelet. Whatever you choose, both you and your child should be aware of how the GPS system works and what it can and can't do.

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    Track Your Spouse?

    If you thought that tracking your kids brings up some ethical issues, how about covertly tracking your spouse? There are services that will do just this. Not only could you track a spouse, perhaps you have an employee who needs to have tabs kept on him. You could do that, too. There are plenty of cost-effective units that can be hooked to real-time tracking services for a cheap monthly fee.

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    Tracking Your Dog

    While there may be ethical issues with tracking other people, tracking a pet seems to be a completely legitimate use for small GPS units. Losing a pet can be like losing a member of the family, but if your pet has a GPS locator your chances of finding him is much better. If you have a pure bred dog, there is always the chance that someone will snatch it for nefarious purposes. Placing a GPS unit in a collar or having him microchipped can help facilitate his return and the punishment of those who took him.

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    GPS for Cats

    Don't think Fido is the only pet that gets the GPS love. Cats can also be microchipped or have units placed in their collars. We take the guesswork out of choosing the best service to keep track of your wandering feline. Tracking devices like the PawTrack allow you to monitor your cat's location via a computer at any time from anyplace while units like the Loc8tor work more like homing beacons that send out a signal to a receiver without calculating the exact location. If your cat sticks around the home the Loc8tor is a cheaper and more viable option.

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    No, GPS isn't a sign that Big Brother is coming to get you. In fact, far from it. With real-time GPS tracking units you can be reasonably sure that your loved ones and pets are where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be, and if they aren't you can start taking measures immediately instead of waiting helplessly for them to show up.


  • Image courtesy of ladyada on FlickR under Creative Commons License 2.0.