A Background to GPS Tracking
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have been used by civilians since the 1980's. Originally developed by the United States military for their own private use, the Americans launched satellites into orbit around the Earth which are capable of transmitting signals to Earth. Orbiting at 12,000 miles (20,000 km) above the surface, each American satellite used in GPS will make two orbits around the planet in 24 hours.
There are 24 of these satellites, and each of them sends a constant radio signal back to Earth, being picked up by GPS receivers which can then calculate the position of the satellites by comparing the delivery times of the satellite signals. The satellites are like space landmarks, allowing GPS receivers to calculate and convey your position relative to the position of the satellites. At any one time, three or four will be in a position utilisable for calculation by a GPS receiver.
The Use of GPS Tracking
GPS has a range of applications. It is used not only for land-based vehicles and trackers for cars, but can also be useful for aircraft and ships. A ship is able to navigate precisely using GPS, being an integral part of a ships system. Vehicle haulage logistics use GPS to help manage its fleets with a long list of use;
- it can use positioning to estimate the vehicles estimated arrival time
- calculate the number of driving hours, and
- track progress the progress of a vehicle on a delivery route.
For military, police and surveillance applications, GPS has a clear advantage in providing information of both personnel and those under surveillance. In everyday use, GPS is used as a navigation system device allowing a driver to plan routes and providing real-time directions to get from A to B. Companies can track field sales representatives, and any employee who works in a role that involves travelling. Private detectives make use of covert GPS in the same way that the police might.
Who may Legally Make use of Tracking Devices in the UK?
Anyone may legally use GPS as a tracking device for their car, as long as the person being tracked is aware of this. Employees need to be told that this is a company policy. There may be an advantage to GPS tracking which gives a safety element to an employee, such as within security vehicles or Lorries than are carrying loads at high risk of theft.
When Might Using a GPS Device be Illegal in the UK?
If a GPS car tracker is used covertly, that is, secretly or hidden and without a person's knowledge, then it may well be illegal. The only organisations that may legally make use of covert GPS tracking devices are legal authorities such as the police and intelligence. The rest of us are breaking the law to do so.
How the Information is Taken From the Device
A GPS tracker is installed on the vehicle. For long-term use, it is generally hard wired into the vehicle, although there are temporary trackers available that use batteries and can be mounted magnetically (these are the type that are more likely to be used covertly).
This device can either store the information for download to a device such as a computer, or it can send out signals on a real-time basis, allowing information on the vehicle to be immediately available and used, such as within the logistics office or a security centre.