How to select a good GPS tracker?

If you are entering into GPS tracker business before long, and you are willing to grow gradually in this business, the most important thing is to select a good GPS tracker product. While facing the countless suppliers in the market, how to select a good GPS tracker?

A good GPS tracker should be cost-effective, good quality and service, as well as it should support a good GPS tracking platform.

1.What is cost-effective?

Most of the people think that cheap is the cost-effective, which is seriously misunderstanding the meaning of cost-effective. If you are only in pursuit of cheap price, you will be beaten by it correspondingly quality or service finally. When we are discussing price with supplier, we are not going to bargain with them like buying some cabbage in the plaza, we have to understand the product’s real value and what its main costly part is. GPS tracker is consist of two main part, one is GSM module/chipset, another is GPS module/chipset. The price of these two modules/chipsets decides the cost of the device.

When we are querying a GPS tracker from a supplier, it suggests to getting their products specification first. In the specification documents, you can get to know what GSM module and GPS module they are using, or what main chipset they are using. According to the module or chipset brand and model, you can search out the cost from website or from the module or chipset supplier directly. Sometimes you may find the suppliers give you the specification are similar, while their price are big difference, which may because some of them have not given the correct details while only copied other’s information, or some were using second hand materials in production. Besides, the scale of company also affects the cost much. If two companies are offering 99% similar products, the higher price one may spend higher operation expense, lower price one may be a small individual workshop, except the company who covets high profits.

2.How to check the trackers quality?

In fact, we are unable to check the quality by only read the specification of the tracker, and even when we get a real device in hand, we cannot judge it as a qualified product in short time unless we have tested in real for some time. When you are interested in a tracker, the first thing you need to do is purchase sample device from supplier. After received it, we can check basically the module or chipset is as the same as the specification described, and check if there are any signs of renovation since a lot of over cheap product are using second hand materials. During these years, as the development of applying the chipset like MTK and Spreadtrum, many suppliers abandoned the previous module solutions, cost saved and device become smaller, while because the researching ability between suppliers are unbalanced, the tracker quality are different which will depend on your lucky index in purchasing. Usually, if you find a tracker is still using module, you won’t have reason to doubt its quality since module are usually offered by well branded company like Qualcomn, Huawei, Simcom, Quectel etc. which would be designed more perfect and under strict testing procedure by their strong and professional team. Besides the hardware, firmware is also an important fact of the quality. A company with excellent researching team and standard design process would create a good firmware flawless which can running more than 10 years without issue, while less rigorous company would create a firmware becomes your nightmare which may cause errors over and over again till you suspect the tracker business.

3.Whether the supplier provides you with comprehensive service?

In GPS tracker business, service is very important because GPS tracker is a complicated product which covers hardware, firmware and platform. A tracker supplier who can offer an excellent service would help you develop fast in this business. Generally, we should define the service as two parts like the service before sales and the service after sales. Beyond all questions, the supplier would offer you very good service before sales to obtain your acknowledgment so to establish the business with you. As a tracker purchaser, we would need this good service as well as their professional technical knowledge so to give us a good suggestion in select a correct tracker, meanwhile, we need understand their attitude in share you their product protocol which would be a important document when you decide to transfer your tracker device to a different platform. If the supplier is not willing to disclose protocol, or intend to attract you by using their platform as condition, it would have an underlying problem in future. As for after sales service, it start from the invoice the supplier create for you which would help you save tax cost and save time in dealing with custom affairs, then comes to the package and shipment, for example, if they often miss accessories, if they often delay shipment or using very bad shipping channel etc.. In the following, when you received the goods, how patient they would teach you the knowledge of using the device. Anyway, you will meet with issue in their package, shipment and using the device, it’s not a terrible thing only if they can solve it finally, the most terrible thing is when you have issue and the supplier won’t solve.

4.How are their tracking platforms?

The tracker must work with tracking platform, you will either use your own platform (own developed, purchased software license and installed in your own server or the third party who offer platform service) or the supplier’s. Some supplier would offer free tracking platform for customer to host device, some may charge certain service fee. If you are getting a free tracking platform with full features and well loading speed in system by lucky coincidence, congratulations, usually we won’t be this lucky, we need to get demo account from supplier to test for some time to check the performance in platform, and confirm if the supplier can offer customization, how will they charge for the job, and if there is any invisible cost or condition. As for a charging platform, it would be easy for you to communicate as per your requirements based on their quotation.

 

 

What’s the situation would cause the GPS tracker dead?

 

As a GPS tracker supplier, do you often receive frequent call from customers asking the product’s issue even at midnight? As a GPS tracker retailer, do you often receive slow response from supplier because of the time difference, and feel very disappointed? The purpose of writing this article is helping both of you to release the pain. Except some professional technical issue, we actually can solve the common issues by ourselves if we knows the reason, when you carefully read the below listed common issues and solutions, you will find things are so simple.

 

There are two main reasons cause the GPS tracker dead, either device hardware issue, or platform software issue. Such as device lose signal, PCBA burnt, cable connection issue, SIM card no GPRS credit, firmware hung, platform server crashed or program bugs.

 

Let’s trying to fix one by one.

 

  1. Device lose signal.

 

We have to pay attention to this issue when we are installing the tracker to vehicle, make sure the GSM signal won’t be shielded by metal or affected by other signal, and place the GPS antenna or the built-in antenna towards the sky so to receive satellite signal. If the issue happens when tracker have worked smoothly for some time already, we need to check if the vehicle with tracker installed is staying beside skyscraper, under roof or big tree, or under bad weather which may affect the signal. If tracker lose GSM signal, it will stop sending data to platform, while usually device has the flash memory to store blind zone data and resend to platform when signal recovered, if tracker lose GPS signal, it will sending data to platform without coordinates, you will see the vehicle online in platform while no location. In this case, we will need to check if GPS antenna is broken or covered.

 

 

  1. Device’s PCBA is burnt.

 

Sometimes, the PCBA of tracker is burnt because of circuit short, seeped into water, or high temperature. When device’s PCBA is burnt, it won’t power on, obviously, the LED indicator in device would turn off or blink abnormally, and GSM module won’t work, if you call the SIM card phone number, it won’t get through or would remind you device powered off.

 

  1. Cable connection issue or battery runs out.

 

Besides the PCBA issue, it may be powered off because of the cable connection loosen when you call the SIM card phone number in tracker but didn’t get through, if it’s wireless device, you may need to check the battery status also.

 

  1. SIM card no GPRS credit

 

If you have checked the tracker LED status and it’s blinking normally, while device is still dead, we should consider whether the SIM card GPRS credit is enough. Try to refresh credit to check the status again. Some of telecom operators would stop all the features when there is no credit in SIM card, some still keep the GPRS working while only limit the flow rate, in this case, tracker is still online, but it won’t upload the data as per the preset interval, and won’t response any command from platform.

 

  1. Device firmware hung.

 

Firmware is the program loaded into device to fulfill each features. Because each supplier may have different research ability, program developed by them may have bugs which would cause the device dead. Usually when the device firmware hung, the LED indicator would blink abnormally. We can use SMS command to restart the device, or manually restart it. If restart won’t work, we may request supplier update over the air or load firmware again through PC.

 

  1. Platform update and maintenance

 

When you tried above 5 points, and find out that the tracker’s LED blink well, it reply SMS, preset parameters are correct, and call can get through, we will have to consider the issue from the platform software. We need to check with supplier if they are updating platform or maintain the server.

 

 

  1. Platform server crashed or program bugs

 

 

If you find tracking platform cannot load in computer, it may because the server is crashed. If the platform remind error, it may because the program bugs, if the platform shows all trackers are offline, it may because the server network issue or program bugs. All these issue will need professional engineer to solve.

 

 

At last, when you eliminate all the errors one by one and the tracker is dead finally, you may just send them back to supplier for repair and don’t waste your time any more.

 

What is the communication protocol of GPS tracker?

 

If you have experienced transferring your trackers from one platform to another, or if you are using tracker in the third party’s platform or your own developed platform, you will inquiry the communication protocol of the GPS tracker from your supplier, while some of them will disclose it, some may not. Anyway, we need to understand what the communication protocol is and know how important it is.

 

Generally speaking, communication protocol of the GPS tracker is the data transmission rules which created by the device developer, from which you can understand data details that device would upload to a specific server. Think of, take example, it’s a language of a tracker, like a language of a country, if you understand it, you will know what it says.

 

 

 

if you are still confused after reading the above explanations, let me take an concrete example for you below.

As an end user, when you open platform and login with your username and password, you will definitely see a vehicle icon display in map or moving in real-time, and all the information like coordinates, address, mileage, speed, time, ignition status or fuel volume are showing regularly in their place. This scene is happened when engineers have decoded the original data from tracker and programmed to be the visiuable interfaces. The original data that the tracker sent to a specific server is actually a kind of hexadecimal string, more like a code combined numbers and letters. Even a n engineer who didn’t read the communication protocol can’t understand the meaning.

let me quote a data example from our trackers as following:

24 24 80 00 25 37 E3 00 A0 13 01 18 07 28 35 02 41 71 15 05 43 86 88 00 00 00 00 C0 47 00 07 A8 19 28 01 16 A0 1D 00 FF E2 0D

 

Do you feel that engineer is a magician when you first time see this data string. but when you read the protocol, you will feel that you own the same power. let me quote the phrase from the communication protocol to explain the above listed data string:

Data Format:

24 24 80 00 23          (29Byte)   0D
Header Main order Packet length Device ID Position Data Calibration Packet end

Position Data:

                                                             
Time Latitude Longitude Speed Direction Angle GPS Status Input Ignition A/D Data

(Fuel)

Mileage Temp

Explanation in details:

Header: 24 24

Main order: 80

Length: 00 25

Device ID: 37 E3 00 A0

Date: 13 01 18

Time: 07 28 35

Latitude: 02 41 71 15

Longitude: 05 43 86 88

Speed: 00 00

Angle: 00 00

GPS status: C0

Detection setting status: 47

Ignition status: 00

Fuel Resistance: 07 A8

Voltage: 19 28

Mileage(meter): 01 16 A0 1D

Temperature: 00 FF

Calibration: E2

Footer: 0D

 

Different suppliers have their private communication protocol for their trackers which is the same as different countries have their different languages. Because at the beginning of developing this products, they would think differently in their company. As the development of this industry, some of the supplier’s tracker is popular in the market, other suppliers then start to copy which cause the one of the protocol type prevailed. Recently due the regulations of government, most of the suppliers are following the protocol named JT808 which defined by government and it finally unified the forms.

 

When we decide to purchase tracker from  suppliers, we have to know if they can disclose communication protocol no matter they are using their private protocol or government public protocol in case there is some unhappy service in future. You never know what experience will happen when you are using the platform provided by supplier.

 

 

 

GPS tracker is not a panacea.

We may have got to know that GPS tracker is a very advanced device from some of the movies, so we may thought that the GPS tracker is as small as chipset, it can tell you the location at anywhere, it can standby as long as possible, and it may have other more powerful features. But in fact, the GPS tracker is not as powerful as our imagination. Its functions are limited by a lot of current technologies.

1) Can a GPS tracker tell the location at anytime or anywhere?

No, it can’t, GPS tracker can only transferring data when it has GSM signal, and can only get correct location when it has GPS signal. When its GSM signal is interfered or shielded by other waves or metal, it won’t work until GSM signal recovered, and the GPS signal is easier to be affected by thick cloud, big tree, skyscraper, tunnel, bridge, under building, etc.

2.Can a GPS tracker tell the location when it was under building?

Yes, it can, but it was not located by satellite since the GPS tracker cannot meet the sky when it was under building or under roof, it gets location by LBS or WIFI, LBS is short for location based service of mobile users which is a kind of location technology based on cell tower. LBS can be very accurate if you are in a city because the cell towers are deployed intensively, while it has big error in village since the area would be built with high power cell towers which mean the towers are scarce. WIFI location technology is almost the same way. GPS, LBS, and Wifi can be mutual complementary in positioning which can make the location more accurate and sustaining..

 

3.Can a GPS tracker work without SIM card?

No, It can’t, if we add screen and keyboard for a GPS tracker, it would be a mobile phone, we could understand that a mobile phone won’t work without a SIM card. If you ever heard that some supplier or people said he didn’t purchase SIM card to put into their purchased trackers, it must be pre-inserted or integrated SIM chipset in tracker’s PCB. If you get a GPS tracker without a SIM card, it would like an ugly decorating vase in your vehicle. Someone may ask about the satellite trackers which doesn’t request us to put SIM card to make it communicate, but don’t forget that you still need to pay the communication cost for satellite service every month like you pay to telecom operators. It actually works like an integrated SIM module provided by the satellite module supplier.

4.Is the installation of GPS tracker complicated?

Except the complicated projects which need a lot of special features realized by sensors, the installation is usually easy, especially wireless tracker.

Standard GPS tracker with simple features will be made with lazy mode connectors which will be requested to connect few certain cables when installing, and most of the supplier would offer detailed diagrams and videos. Not to mention a wireless tracker, you only need to find a place to hide it. As for the personal tracker or pet tracker, who need it, they can just wear it.

5.Can a GPS tracker work globally?

Yes, it can, only if the SIM card have enough credit and open roaming feature, the GPS feature is not limited by territory.

6.Can any of the GPS suppliers track a mobile phone?

No, they can’t. Usually the mobile supplier can track their produced mobile phone if the mobile phone is on using, and the related government department like police can do as well. But a common GPS tracker supplier can’t tracker any of the mobile phone unless he created an application that can install in phone so to acquire GPS information from phone and transfer to their system. Otherwise, the GPS tracker supplier is not powerful enough to control all different kind of mobile phone brand.

7.Is there any supplier can produce button-size small GPS tracker?

Actually now, all kinds of electronic products is limited by the battery technology, small to an earphone, big to a car. If you want the product last longer, you will need a bigger battery or a battery which can contain more energy. GPS tracker need battery to work and it use battery much when working. Beyond all doubt, the small size would request the battery size small as well, we can image how a battery small enough to running a tracker. Besides this reason, the IC and chipset size also decide the products size also. But everything is possible, we only need to wait the battery technology and chipset developing to certain level so that we can create a tracker as mini as a button.

At last, it suggests that you’d better study more about the GPS tracker knowledge before you starting to purchase. Of course, select a well known branded tracker would be the best choice.