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Quick Guide To Pick A Tracking Device

Quick Guide To Pick A Tracking Device

A good first step is going through some simple questions to really narrow down your hardware options. There are so many products available how do you possibly choose one? Lets start with the big questions and work backwards. From here you can pick from a short list of devices and really understand the basic features of each option.

Are you tracking a person or an asset?

Tracking devices made for assets will have features like mounting legs, various antenna options, inputs/outputs, whereas personal tracking devices will often have a screen for messaging, alerts, and configuration.

Do you need satellite connectivity?

If not, GSM tracking devices are easier to install and significantly less expensive and complex.

Need satellite coverage very far north or south in the polar regions?

Iridium is your only option.

Is satellite connectivity available?

If you want satellite connectivity, the satellite antenna must have clear visibility of the sky, or mounted underneath an RF passive material such as plastic, fiberglass, glass, and not metal, carbon fiber, etc. If not, your only option is GSM.

Do you need a device that supports land and satellite based communication methods for ultimate coverage, although at a premium?

Look at hybrid satellite+GSM devices such as SkyWave, NAL, and GSE solutions.

Does the device require an internal battery?

The majority of tracking devices do not have internal batteries so you will have more hardware to choose from if you can utilize an external power source or battery.

Will the device be exposed to the environment?

All satellite antenna's are manufactured to be installed outside, but not many of the actual terminals are. It is more common that a hole is drilled for the satellite antenna to be mounted outside and the terminal remains inside. GSM devices on the other hand are either made to be installed inside or outside without many options. You can also use a non weather proof device by putting it in a plastic box with desiccant for humidity.

Are you utilizing international roaming on GSM?

Coverage can be spotty and quite expensive. Satellite or hybrid solutions may be a better choice.

Do you need a panic button?

Although most personal trackers have some sort of SOS/alerting feature, don't forget that almost all asset trackers with inputs can be wired to a button that triggers the same behavior at the software platform.

Is remote configuration of parameters or programming required?

Look over the feature lists of what the device supports over the air and make sure this covers your needs.

Is the budget the most important aspect of the project?

If you will never need to send a message to the terminal, or remotely change a configuration or parameter, look at Globalstar options.

Looking for covert tracking?

GSM devices are much smaller and can transmit horizontally to towers instead of vertically to satellites.

Good luck on your tracking project!

About the Author
Jeffery Palmer

Jeffery Palmer is an American entrepreneur, inventor, computer programmer, and engineer. In 2004, Palmer co-founded Global Satellite Engineering (GSE); a design and engineering firm for the satcom industry. During his tenure as Director at GSE, he has promoted and inspired the growth of technology for satellite communications. Palmer has given many lectures and works closely with industry leaders to offer custom solutions to clients of the satcom industry.

Contact Jeffery Palmer at

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