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Vehicle Tracking & Recovery: What’s the difference & how does it work?

Whether you’re driving to work or taking a road trip, every journey should be a safe one.

So often, we talk about road safety; how to be a responsible driver, the importance of wearing a seat belt and how to ensure the safety of yourself and your passengers. While this is all very important, there is one important consideration that all motorists should keep in mind when thinking about safety – that is, vehicle safety.

In a time where vehicle theft and hijackings are prevalent, it’s quite daunting that 1 in 4 people will return to their car, only to find that it is no longer there! The latest statistics indicate that vehicle hijackings increased by 30% over the last 4 years and over 19,367 vehicles on average are reported stolen or hijacked every year in South Africa.

The web is full of stories and reports reiterating the importance of installing a vehicle tracking or recovery device in your vehicle. Investing in a vehicle recovery device has shifted from a ‘nice-to-have’ to a necessity, yet so many people have fallen victim to car theft and were unable to retrieve their vehicle because they weren’t subscribed to a tracking company.

Vehicle Tracking & Recovery

The Difference between Vehicle Tracking & Vehicle Recovery. 

Vehicle tracking and vehicle recovery generally go hand-in-hand.

A common misconception amongst many drivers is that vehicle tracking, and vehicle recovery is the same thing, but they are not. The difference is quite simple to understand, helping you know exactly what your vehicle is being protected against.

So, what’s the difference?

Vehicle Tracking

By definition, a vehicle tracking system monitors the real-time location of a moving vehicle using sensing technologies such as GPS, through a tracking device that is fitted in the vehicle. Vehicle tracking is ideal for private car-owners and fleet managers who want to know exactly where their vehicles are at any given moment in time, and to enhance efficiency, safety, security, and operational management of fleet vehicles.

Tracking units provide users with the ability to track their vehicle online or from an app on their phone, allowing the user to trace and track the vehicle anywhere, anytime.

For fleet managers, the GPS tracking software collects and stores information related to vehicle performance and management, including speed, trip distance, and driver behaviour – which can be used by vehicle fleet owners to improve safety and lower running costs.

Vehicle tracking works by utilising a combination of GPS technology, tracking devices, wireless communication, and software applications to monitor the real-time location and other relevant information of a single vehicle.

Here’s a step-by-step overview of how vehicle tracking systems generally work:

  1. GPS Technology: Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites orbit the earth and emit signals that can be received by GPS receivers. These receivers are often embedded in tracking devices installed in vehicles.
  2. Tracking Device Installation: A tracking device is installed in the vehicle, typically in a discreet location such as under the dashboard. This device contains a GPS receiver to capture location data and other sensors to collect additional information like speed, direction, and engine status.
  3. Data Collection: The tracking device continuously collects data about the vehicle’s location, speed, heading, and potentially other metrics such as fuel level and engine diagnostics.
  4. Wireless Communication: The tracking device uses cellular networks, satellite communication, or other wireless technologies to transmit the collected data to a central server or cloud-based platform.
  5. Central Server: The transmitted data is received by a central server, which processes and stores the information. This server can be managed by the tracking service provider or the vehicle owner’s organisation.
  6. Software Interface: Vehicle owners, fleet managers, or authorised users access the tracking system through a software interface. This interface can be a web application or a dedicated software program accessible on computers and mobile devices.
  7. Real-time Monitoring: The software interface provides real-time information about the vehicle’s current location, speed, and other data. Users can view the vehicle’s position on digital maps and track its movements.
  8. Geofencing and Alerts: Geofencing features allow users to define virtual boundaries on the map. When the vehicle enters or exits these predefined areas, the system can send alerts and notifications to the users.
  9. Historical Data and Reports: The tracking system stores historical data, enabling users to review past routes, speed patterns, and other information. Reports and analytics can be generated based on this data for analysis and decision-making.
  10. User Management: Depending on the tracking system, different levels of access and permissions can be assigned to users. This ensures that only authorised individuals can view and interact with the tracking data.

Vehicle Tracking & Recovery how does it work

In summary, vehicle tracking systems use GPS technology to gather location data from a tracking device installed in the vehicle. This data is then transmitted to a central server, where it is processed and made accessible through a software interface for real-time monitoring, historical analysis, and operational optimisation.

Vehicle Recovery 

Vehicle recovery refers to the process of locating and retrieving stolen, lost, or abandoned vehicles. It involves collaborating with law enforcement agencies and specialised recovery teams to locate and secure the vehicle, ensuring its safe return to the rightful owner.

Stolen vehicle recovery involves using tracking technology to locate and retrieve a stolen vehicle.

Here’s a step-by-step explanation of how the process typically works:

  1. Vehicle Equipped with Tracking Device: Prior to a theft occurring, the owner installs a tracking device in their vehicle. This device contains a GPS receiver, cellular or satellite communication capabilities, and sometimes additional sensors.
  2. Theft Occurs: When a vehicle is stolen, the tracking device remains active and operational, even if the thieves are unaware of its presence.
  3. Owner Reports Theft: The vehicle owner promptly reports the theft to the police and their tracking service provider. Providing information about the vehicle’s make, model, colour, licence plate number, and any unique identifiers is crucial for recovery efforts.
  4. Tracking Device Activated: The tracking device in the stolen vehicle continues to operate, periodically sending location updates to the tracking service provider’s central server. Some devices can also send alerts if the vehicle’s ignition is turned on or if it moves beyond a certain radius.
  5. Tracking Service Provider Involvement: The tracking service provider receives the theft report and works with law enforcement agencies to assist in the recovery process. They often have a dedicated team that specialises in coordinating with the police and using the tracking data to locate the stolen vehicle.
  6. Real-time Location Tracking: The tracking service provider monitors the location updates received from the tracking device. This information allows them to track the stolen vehicle’s movements in real time.
  7. Coordinating with Law Enforcement: The tracking service provider shares the real-time location data and other relevant information with law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement officers use this information to plan and execute the recovery operation.
  8. Recovery Operation: Law enforcement officers, armed with the real-time tracking data, initiate the recovery operation. They may use this data to pinpoint the stolen vehicle’s exact location, making the process more efficient and increasing the chances of successful recovery.
  9. Vehicle Recovery: Using the tracking data as a guide, law enforcement officers locate and recover the stolen vehicle. The recovery operation can vary in complexity, from peacefully retrieving the vehicle when it’s parked to more intricate scenarios if the thieves are still with the vehicle.
  10. Vehicle Returned to Owner: Once the stolen vehicle is recovered, it is returned to its rightful owner. Depending on the situation, law enforcement may conduct investigations to apprehend the thieves and gather evidence.
  11. Tracking Device Maintenance: After the successful recovery, the tracking device may need to be reactivated or maintained to ensure it continues to function properly in case of future incidents.

It’s important to note that while vehicle tracking technology greatly improves the chances of stolen vehicle recovery, there are limitations. For instance, if the thieves are aware of the tracking device and disable it, recovery becomes more challenging.

So, what does it mean if you have a Netstar stolen vehicle recovery device fitted in your car? 

If you have a Netstar recovery and tracking device installed in your vehicle and it is stolen, all you need to do is report the incident by phone, online or with our easy-to-use smartphone app.

The Netstar tracking device is always switched on and during a recovery it is placed on high alert to facilitate a speedy recovery. A signal is transmitted to indicate the location of your vehicle to the recovery team, enabling them to find your vehicle and bring it safely back to you.

You can feel confident that the Netstar recovery team is there 24/7 to assist you in finding your stolen vehicle.

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