Synovia Solutions Blog

How does vehicle tracking work?

Posted by Bill Westerman on Thu, Aug 01, 2013 @ 10:15 AM

shutterstock 78757285GPS has helped make our lives easier - from guiding us to a new location in our car to providing safety and convenience in our school buses. But have you ever wondered how these little directional wizards work? Let’s take a look at what vehicle tracking is, how it works, and how Synovia Solutions physically prepares their school buses for GPS.

What is GPS?

According to Merriam-Webster, Global Positioning System (or GPS) is “a navigational system using satellite signals to fix the location of a radio receiver on or above the earth’s surface.” Orbiting satellites watch your vehicle from above. (Crazy, huh?) Obviously, it’s a bit more complex than that.

How many satellites are there?

According to, the Air Force manages the availability of at least 24 GPS satellites, 95% of the time. For the past several years, they have been flying 31 operational GPS satellites, in addition to 3-4 decommissioned satellites that can be reactivated if necessary.

What do the satellites do?

The satellites orbit the earth every 12 hours and transmit signals to the ground. They’re strategically placed for impressively accurate triangulation.

Triangulation...what's that?

In short, this method requires at least three active satellites but can view as many as 12 simultaneously. On the ground, a GPS tracking device receives signals from the GPS satellites to know the exact distance from the other satellites in its proximity. Depending on the time it takes for a signal to reach the device from each satellite, the GPS receiver can calculate its exact location.  

How precise is GPS?

Extremely. Considering the distance a signal has to travel (all the way from space!), the accuracy of GPS tracking is remarkable. If you have ever used a handheld GPS, you know that your tracking dot can pinpoint whether you are at an intersection or between two blocks. GPS can tell your location within a few dozen feet. The accuracy depends on atmospheric conditions, the speed at which you’re traveling, your location, and the type of vehicle tracking you’re using.

What type of vehicle tracking does Synovia use?

Synovia utilizes Cellular Vehicle Tracking, which is used in areas with reliable cellular network coverage. Depending on your region, we partner with wireless companies such as Verizon or Sprint. This offers much more connectivity as opposed to radio-based solutions which lose connection once vehicles are outside of their area.

For Core GPS, do you attach anything to the bus? How does it work?

We do. We install a GPS transceiver on the bus, which is wired into the battery to give it power. Then we put an antenna on the roof of the bus. These send information at a pre-set interval (every 10 to 30 seconds) back to the main hub so that it’s transferred in real time. It records every stop, every flasher, every arm that goes out in hosted software. The school can access this information at any time, making your school bus experience that much more safe.

It’s pretty amazing to think that satellites orbiting the earth can locate your vehicle wherever it is. In the event that your school bus needs found, Core GPS has a proven track record, providing up-to-the-minute information in real time, because life happens in real time.

Synovia Solutions: your partner in safety, service, and savings.

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Tags: GPS