In comparing location tracker technologies (GPS, vs RFID vs Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi) you must first know what they do and the attributes of each. Which is best? What are their weaknesses? This article will examine the 4 main types of technology used for tracking people, pets and things.
Where is the technology in 2019?
Global positioning system (GPS) trackers are different from Bluetooth and RFID as GPS is an active locator. GPS technology utilizes satellites to pinpoint a user’s location in proximity to a given area.Whereas bluetooth and RFID use “tags” to proximity search/locate where they are located.
GPS trackers are not limited to a geographic area since they don’t require the tag and a personal device to communicate directly with the tag like the small square tiles do.
- GPS can directly notify you, on your computer, smartphone or tablet where the tracker is, in real time. This is a HUGE benefit over the other technologies. So you are not wasting time actively searching where the “tag” is located. Depending on where you are located in proximity to the tag, you may have to search for a while in order to find it.
- GPS trackers are active devices and are great when used in a large, outdoor area with access to clear sky.
- GPS trackers can track people, phones, cars, kids or seniors anywhere. Active trackers usually require a subscription service which usually covers North America. If you plan on your tracker leaving the our continent then be prepared know what the terms are for your service in Europe, Africa, etc. You may have to pay a premium but at least you will know where your tracker is at all times.
GPS trackers do have their downsides.
- First, since they are constantly communicating with the satellite, using data and more battery life than the passive trackers.
- They also need direct access to the sky to have line of sight communication with the satellites. You have probably experienced a GPS tracker lose of service in a car, for example. Every once in a while the navigation or tracker cannot reach the satellites and cannot deliver. This is very infrequently.
- For civilian GPS platforms, it isn’t as accurate as an RFID, which can locate a tag in the next room. The general public doesn’t have access to the precision that the ultra accurate military GPS trackers do.
Bluetooth trackers are paired (synced) up with your smart phone or other bluetooth enabled device. Once the tags are paired, they can use their two-way communication to locate the object.
Lets say you put a tag on your TV remote. When you lose the remote in the sofa or when your child puts it in the refrigerator you can locate it with your phone.
Alternatively, if you lost your phone you could activate the tag on the remote to locate your phone. The devices can locate each other which is a lot different than how GPS systems are configured.
- This two-way communication is the strength of the bluetooth tracking system. So, if you set up a network of tags on your remote, keys, dog, purse then you would be able to find all of your devices. The additional devices with tags should allow your family to find the keys, or TV remote fairly quickly. You wouldn’t be able to do this with a GPS tracker.
- The flip side of the bluetooth’s strength is also a large weakness. In order to find all of these devices you would have to purchase several tags, which could be expensive.
- Other disadvantages of bluetooth is that is operates in a much lower area than gps. Typically it is good for locating objects inside a residence, under a bed or hidden underneath your sofa. They are not good for directly communicating their location outside to your smartphone. So they would not be ideal for locating a child was lost on their way home, after school, unless the tracker was paired with a smartphone that uses cellular tech to send texts or alerts to your phone.
- Bluetooth is not the most battery friendly mode. Having it on all the time will quickly drain your phone.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) devices are similar to bluetooth in that they use a reader (similar to the bluetooth’s smartphone) and the tag. The tags are inactive until the reader activates them, at which point the tag transmits data back.
- As a passive tag, the RFID devices have several advantages. First, the biggest is probably that your battery on the tag will last a long time. The reader is the primary activate user of juice so, as long as it is charged you should not have to worry about the tag itself.
- Like bluetooth devices, RFID systems are very good at locating lost objects inside your house or business. This type of technology definitely has its benefit.
- Don’t lose your reader! They are often fairly expensive and not easily replaced.
- A lot of the RFID weaknesses are similar to the bluetooth devices. In order to find all of these devices you would have to purchase several tags, which could be expensive.
- RFID, like bluetooth operates in a much lower area (range) than gps devices do. You won’t be able to easily locate your child with only this technology either. RFID is also good for locating objects inside your house just like bluetooth tags.
- They are not good for directly communicating their location outside to your smartphone.
How it works:
Wi-Fi tracking technology is similar to GPS devices. Wi-Fi trackers can determine where they are located in relation to the signal strength of “hotspots”. A hotspot is a physical location, identified by the MAC address, via a wireless local area network (WLAN) using a router connected to the internet. So the tracker uses the hotspot’s geography and signal strength to determine an approximate location within a few meters.
- Wi-Fi trackers are becoming more widely accepted as hotspots increase which increases the accuracy and (range) of the trackers. These trackers can operate in hospitals, large warehouses or anywhere indoors, unlike GPS units.
- Many stores are offering this as a free service to their customers. Wi-Fi is also not hampered by weather and does not need direct access to the sky.
- Although Wi-Fi tracker technology and the corresponding hotspots continue to expand, the technology does have its disadvantages.
- You can’t use it in rural areas where there few, if any, hotspots.
- Urban cities can take advantage of this technology faster since they tend to have several areas with densely packed hotspots. There are also security concerns with Wi-Fi. In unsecured hotspots, whether it be an airport or hotel there is a higher risk of your phone or computer becoming compromised and hacked.