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Why Can’t GPS Trackers Be Smaller?

April 28, 2022
Measuring tape

How Small Can A GPS Tracker Be? Well, It Depends......

Mon, 11 Apr 2022 11:00 AM CST by Don Sesler

About once a month we get a phone call from somebody who wants a small GPS tracker. A really, really small one. Like, small enough to be sewn into a child’s clothing. That kind of small.

And they would also like to be able to watch the tracker update every second or so, in real-time. Oh, and, it can’t cost more than about $10 bucks. Usually, this phone call happens right after someone has seen a tracking device in a movie or a cop show. And while each piece of this is technically possible, putting it all into one single package is not, at least not yet.

Several factors determine the minimum size of a monitoring device. Let’s look at them one by one:



Location Tracking Method:

    These days, there are multiple methods available to hardware designers when they want a device to monitor location. Here are just a few of the most common technologies in use:

    • GPS: This is a system of satellites that orbit the earth, providing very precise location information all over the planet.
    • Cell Tower: Some devices can report their proximity to nearby cellular towers. While not as accurate as GPS, this method of identifying the location of a device requires significantly less power.
    • Bluetooth: Bluetooth beacons have an interesting niche in location services, and for very specific use-cases they can provide and accurate, low-cost option to subscription based GPS tracking solutions.
    • RFID: RFID technology how most toll tags work, and is also used to implant a “chip” into dogs and cats. RFID tags do not need any type of battery of its own, but they can only be read when in proximity to a reader.

    Power Source:

      All tracking devices must have some kind of power supply to two basic things; figure out where they are, and communicate that information when asked to do so. Here are three of the most common power sources:

      • Battery: Many devices have an internal battery. The general rule of thumb is that the smaller the battery, the smaller the amount of power that is available to the device to do what it needs to do.
      • Hard Wired: Some devices will be connected to an external power source, like a car battery. This is the most common method for devices that are used to track vehicles over long periods of time.
      • Radio Waves: RFID tags get the power they need to operate from the incoming radio waves of the scanning device. It’s not a lot of power, but it can be enough to do the job under the right set of circumstances.

      Communication Method:

      Once the device has been powered up and a location has been determined, that information has to be transmitted to the owner of the device. Some of the more popular methods are:

      • Cellular: These days cellular coverage is almost everywhere. Sure, we all find ourselves in situations where cell coverage is not available, but it’s very rare.
      • Satellite: If you find yourself out in the desert, or in the middle of the ocean, satellite cellular service may be the way to go. It is expensive, but prices have been coming down over the last few years.
      • WiFi: If you are deep inside a large building, cell coverage may be too weak to be useful. In this situation, WiFi may be a good solution.


        The post Why Can’t GPS Trackers Be Smaller? appeared first on Sageplan Technology Consulting.

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