Managing a fleet of vehicles can come with many challenges. You need to keep tabs on where your vehicles are at all times, manage your team of drivers and ensure their safety, all while trying to keep fuel and maintenance costs at bay. For businesses with fleets, GPS tracking is essential. It can automate your fleet management to increase productivity and efficiency while helping you cut down on costs. This way, you’re able to focus on other parts of your business.
An important aspect to consider when inquiring about GPS tracking software is data usage. Having a GPS tracking system is great, but it’s important to know how much data it consumes because it could drive up the cost considerably. Below is a rundown of GPS tracking and the associated data requirements.
How much data is enough for GPS tracking?
There are many factors that play into the amount of data required for GPS tracking. These factors can include the kind of GPS tracking device drivers use, the frequency with which the device is used, and the kind of tracking information you’re looking to receive. As such, there’s no absolute standard or single number when it comes to how much data GPS tracking systems consume. Ultimately this will depend on your business needs.
The best way to get an idea of how much data GPS tracking uses is to learn about the particular tracker and assess the kinds of tracking information your company needs. On average, you should have at least 1 GB of data per vehicle per month if your drivers are using the GPS tracker on a daily basis. Note that the most amount of data is typically consumed when the GPS tracker is downloading a map. Many map apps reload the map often to ensure that the driver is receiving the most accurate and up-to-date information, which can cause the data consumption rate to sky-rocket.
While it’s certainly possible to use GPS trackers without internet access, they’ll only give you a limited amount of information. The satellite technology can operate without an internet connection; however, if you’re looking for more detailed information such as options regarding the fastest routes or those with the least amount of traffic, this will require a data connection.
What is the data used for?
There are many misconceptions surrounding GPS tracking technology and how internet connectivity can power it. To help clear that up, it’ll be useful to quickly explain how it works.
GPS technology pinpoints a device’s location down to 5-10 meters of its true location on earth in real-time. This information is provided via 24 GPS satellites that orbit the planet approximately every 12 hours. The satellites transmit one-sided information through radio signals to your GPS device. In other words, your GPS system and the satellite do not correspond with each other.
This satellite technology means that GPS trackers don’t rely on internet connectivity to function. The GPS radio can still be detected via satellites for occasions where you don’t have access to the internet. It also means that if you’re using data to obtain additional tracking information, your device isn’t feeding or transferring any device information to any source. Instead, on the most basic level, the data is used to refresh the map to give the most accurate updates regarding any changes to locations, buildings, new stores, restaurants, etc. There are other tracking tasks that rely on data to power them including finding efficient routes, avoiding traffic or construction, or rerouting instructions if the driver takes a wrong turn.
What is the average cost?
GPS tracking expenses can be divided into 2 parts: the cost of data consumption of different tracking tasks and the cost of the physical GPS tracker.
Cost of data consumption
As we mentioned, the amount of data will depend on the tracking task you’re requesting from your GPS tracker. If you’re using your GPS system offline, the cost of data will, of course, be zero. This will limit you, however, in terms of the kind of information you can gather.
For your fleet, having access to data is important because it’ll provide useful information to your drivers such as rerouting the directions if they make a wrong turn as well as allowing the tracker to download maps so that the information presented is accurate. The cost of this will ultimately depend on your data provider and plan. Some will be more expensive than others. It’s best to ask for a little more data than needed just in case your drivers go over their mobile data limit so that you can avoid hefty overage charges. If you abide by the 1 GB minimum, the average cost is around $8.
Cost of GPS tracker
Similar to the cost of data consumption, the cost of GPS tracking devices will vary depending on the GPS tracker. It also depends on the functionality of your GPS tracker. For instance, are you only interested in real-time GPS tracking, or do you need fuel efficiency monitoring, route optimization, safety and security management etc.? There are also other considerations like whether you are looking to buy the tracking devices or lease them. If you are looking for basic fleet GPS trackers to simply monitor the vehicle’s speed and location, buying will cost you around $100, while leasing will be around $15 per month. Force Fleet Tracking offers free GPS trackers with subscriptions at $20 per month, per vehicle.
How to use GPS without an internet connection
Since GPS technology is made possible because of satellites, they don’t require internet connection or cellular data to operate. A driver can download a map while online, then when they no longer have a connection, the preloaded map will display the device’s location on it.
This cell phone tracking is certainly different from GPS tracking technology. The main difference is that cellphone tracking systems track the driver’s smartphone — there’s no GPS device in the vehicle. Instead, the phone’s built-in receiver is the device that obtains signals from satellites. On the other hand, vehicle tracking devices plug into a vehicle’s OBD-II port to these satellite signals.
Tracking your device via cellphone offline is certainly the cost-efficient option, however, offline tracking means that the driver can’t make any mistakes. If they go the wrong way and are in an area that isn’t known to them, the map will not be able to reload with updated directions until they are within wifi distance. Even online cell phone tracking can be disadvantageous for managing fleets. This is because cell phone tracking tracks the individual carrying the device, meaning you are relying on your driver to have their phone on and that it’s with them at all times. You’ll also give up vehicle health, security, and driver behavior information by merely cellphone tracking. Cellphone tracking may also come with privacy concerns that vehicle tracking doesn’t.
Does the GPS use a lot of data?
Compared with other devices and applications, GPS uses a relatively conservative amount of data; however, if you have a fleet, the price of data can add up. Typically a connection to a map application and live tracking will use less than 5 MB per day and viewing a map in standard view (including search and zooming in and out) will use between 5 to 15 MB for about 10 km of the map view.
Do tracking apps use data?
The two most common tracking apps are Google Maps and Apple Maps. These apps will allow you to download maps onto your phone and enable navigation without data. You can download maps and store them on your phone and the navigation software will access the information without requiring any data usage. With that said, the navigation will be limited without an internet connection. For one, Google Maps only allows you to pre-download a 30 square miles map for temporary offline use. If the trip distance is within the limit, then this amount will suffice. For longer distances, however, you’ll need a different solution.
Though GPS tracking can be an unwanted expense, especially when factoring in the cost of data, it’s a necessary one. Having a GPS tracker will allow you to rest knowing the location of your vehicles at all times. You’ll receive updated vehicle health information, and it will allow you to monitor your fuel costs so that you can improve your efficiency and reduce your operational expenses.
Ready to get started with GPS fleet tracking? Request a demo to learn how Force Fleet Tracking can help your business accurately track your vehicles at a low cost.