Finding your way with GPS technology

Robert J Hall plots a route through GPS, stopping off to explain the difference between 'Carrier Certified' and 'Non-Carrier Certified' devices along the way
 GPS devices have increased in popularity & affordabilit..

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GPS devices have increased in popularity in both the business and consumer markets. Uses range from keeping track of company employees on the road to ensuring the safety of children with personal tracking devices – either standard small devices that the child carries in a backpack, those hidden in watches or key chains, or mobile phones fitted with GPS technology.

What exactly is a GPS device?

Originally developed for the military but available to the public since 1980, GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a network of 24 satellites placed by the U.S. Department of Defense in a precise orbit around the earth to transmit location data.

A GPS device sends a signal to these satellites to transmit the bearer’s location. Some devices also receive a signal back. These include navigation-based devices for vehicles and mobile phones that have a number of GPS-enabled apps to help consumers find local information or directions.

Carrier-certified GPS devices

 “Carrier-certified” is a description frequently used when advertising GPS devices. In a nutshell, this means that the GPS device has gone through rigorous testing to ensure that it performs to standards put forth by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the PCS Type Certification Review Board (PTCRB) , or the Global System for Mobile Communication/Code Division Multiple Access (GSM/CDMA) networks. The latter two are specifically for mobile and cellular devices. Each of these has its own standards which a device has to pass, including compliance with specific networks’ requirements.

Unlike the FCC certification, which is regulated by the government, PTCRB certification is awarded by a private, third-party organisation dedicated to confirming that these devices meet minimum standards set forth by the members of the organisation. If a company does not produce GPS devices that meet these certifications, member networks can refuse to share information with that device, effectively blocking it.

Are carrier-certified devices better than non-certified devices?

The ability for networks to block any non-certified device makes purchasing, leasing, or using only certified devices the most prudent route for companies and consumers. Certification also eliminates any risk of problems when a company wants to integrate GPS devices system-wide.

However, not having been certified does not mean that a given device does not meet the standards. Any device on the market might or might not meet or exceed the requirements for certification. The problem is that a non-certified device offers no guarantees of performance as certified products do.

Robert J. Hall is president of Track Your Truck, a leader in GPS vehicle tracking systems and software for small and midsized companies.#

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