With the rapid adoption of smart phone technology in both the consumer and business markets, tracking a mobile phone through its inbuilt GPS functionality, is quickly becoming a viable alternative to traditional forms of fleet vehicle tracking.
Businesses are fully aware of the benefits that vehicle tracking offers them, but few are aware that the exact same technology used by vehicle tracking systems (GPS). Can now be used through their employee’s smart phones.
With approximately 4 million grey fleet vehicles being used for business travel on UK roads. Traditional fixed vehicle tracking is often not an option which in turn leaves gaps in your fleet visibility. Due to mobile phone tracking’s portability, it has the potential to fill this gap in the tracking market.
What Is Mobile Phone Tracking?
Mobile phone tracking is a system which allows a mobile phone’s position to be tracked using the GPS technology included with many modern handsets and a specialised online tracking application. In addition to real-time tracking of the position of the handset, it is also possible to archive data and report on historical activities and trends, which helps businesses to identify areas where they can improve.
How Does Mobile Phone Tracking Work?
Most mobile phone tracking apps use GPS which uses data from satellites orbiting the earth to calculate the handsets position. Usually accurate to within a few metres and able to accurately calculate speed and direction of travel GPS is considered to be the most effective way of tracking a phone.
Once the receiver has measured its position in latitude and longitude this data is saved inside the GPS tracking device. The GPS tracking device continuously updates the positioning and event data back to a remote server at a secure location. The data is transmitted using the mobile phone network using GSM and where available 3G networks, the cost of sending this data is usually included within the network providers data bundle.
Once the data has been passed to the server, a tracking software solutions are able to pull the data into a database and display the location of the device on a mapping interface using services such as Google or Bing maps.
Each software solution has different features and functionality and display the data being sent to the phone in different ways. Which means Businesses looking for a tracking solution, should first list the type of information they need access to, in order to chose the correct solution for their business needs.
A backup system, which is not as accurate, is to locate the phone using multilateration of radio signals (Triangulation), and is often used by the emergency services as it does not require software to be installed on the handset.
Triangulation works using the proximity of the phone to mobile phone masts and by finding out which masts can contact the phone and using the signal strength they are receiving the rough position of the handset can be calculated. This system is much more effect in built up areas offering an accuracy of within a few hundred metres but in rural areas the accuracy is much lower.
Why Use Mobile Phone Tracking?
Mobile tracking has some distinct advantages over traditional vehicle tracking, as well as a few shortcomings. Both the advantages and disadvantages are tied to the fact that the mobile is not connecting to the vehicles on board computer.
The advantages of using a mobile is it’s portability, which is ideal for companies whose drivers share vehicles but who still want to know who is driving that vehicle and their current position, speed, bearing, etc. Additionally for those companies that have a portion of their fleet that is made up of grey fleet vehicles. Of which there are approximately 4 million grey fleet vehicles currently being used for UK business travel.
Understandably attaching a tracking unit to an employee’s privately owned vehicle is not always possible. With mobile tracking the user can still be tracked via their mobile phones and once the working day has finished they can simple de-activate the mobile app and turn their phone off effectively giving themselves out of hours privacy.
The main disadvantage comes from the mobile applications in-ability to connect into a vehicle’s electronic’s system (via CAN-bus) remotely in order to access in-depth details about the vehicle, via sensors, actuators, and other control devices. Which means you are unable to collect data when certain actions happen such as when doors are being opened, current fuel levels, detailed engine activity, etc.
Mobile tracking is generally a more affordable solution as there is generally no additional hardware costs or installation costs. With mobile tracking the device works through a downloadable mobile application that sits on the phone itself and does not require an engineer to fit anything to the vehicle.