Support centre and sales  0860 12 24 36

Emergency  0800 11 22 22


What are all the ways you can track your vehicle?

Vehicle tracking sounds pretty self-explanatory, right? But there’s more to it than just locating your car, and it’s more complex than you think.

From Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology and Bluetooth, there are various methods and technologies that can be used to track the location and status of a vehicle. Whether you’re a fleet manager looking to optimise your operations or a concerned car owner wanting to protect your vehicle, investing in a reliable vehicle tracking system can provide peace of mind and valuable data.

By understanding the different tracking technologies available, you can choose the best solution to meet your specific tracking needs.

Active versus passive tracking

Several types of vehicle tracking devices exist. Typically, they are classified as passive and active. Passive devices store GPS location, speed, heading and sometimes a trigger event such as key on/off, door open/closed. Once the vehicle returns to a predetermined point, the device is removed and the data downloaded to a computer for evaluation.

Active devices also collect the same information but usually transmit the data in near-real time via cellular or satellite networks to a data centre or fleet management system for evaluation.

Many modern vehicle tracking devices combine both active and passive tracking abilities: when a cellular network is available and a tracking device is connected it transmits data to a server; when a network is not available the device stores data in internal memory and will transmit stored data to the server later when the network becomes available again.

The different types of tracking

Fundamentally there are four distinct types of vehicle tracking systems available on the market today. All have various advantages and disadvantages. These systems are:

  • GPRS
  • Cellular
  • RFID
  • Bluetooth

1. General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)

GPRS is a packet-oriented mobile data service available on 2G and 3G cellular communication systems. It enables continuous tracking of vehicles by utilising cellular networks to transmit data packets, supporting both real-time and periodic data transmission, which is crucial for vehicle-tracking applications.

A typical vehicle-tracking system uses a GPS module to obtain geographic coordinates at regular intervals, which is then transmitted to update the vehicle location to a database. This setup allows for continuous monitoring of the vehicle’s location via a smartphone, computer, or tablet, allowing owners, fleet managers, or parents to monitor their vehicles 24/7.

How it works

  • Data transmission: GPRS uses a network of cellular towers to transmit data. It breaks down information into small packets and sends them over the network to a central server.
  • Network integration: The technology integrates seamlessly with existing Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) networks, allowing for widespread coverage and reliable data transmission.
  • Cost-efficiency: Unlike traditional circuit-switched networks, GPRS only uses bandwidth when transmitting data, making it a cost-effective solution for vehicle tracking.

Applications in vehicle tracking

  • Real-time location monitoring: GPRS enables real-time tracking of vehicle locations, providing up-to-date information on fleet movements.
  • Route optimisation: By offering continuous location updates, GPRS helps in optimising routes, reducing fuel consumption, and improving delivery times.
  • Fleet management systems: GPRS is widely used in fleet management systems to monitor vehicle usage, driver behaviour, and maintenance needs.

2. Cellular technology

Cellular technology for vehicle tracking uses mobile phone networks (such as GSM, Long-term Evolution (LTE), and 5G) to transmit location and other vehicle-related data. This technology leverages the extensive coverage of mobile networks to provide reliable tracking services.

How it works

  • SIM card integration: Vehicle tracking devices equipped with SIM cards use cellular networks to send data to a central monitoring system.
  • Data services: Cellular technology supports various data services, including SMS, GPRS, Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE), and LTE, enabling different levels of data transmission depending on the network availability and requirement.
  • Network dependence: The reliability of cellular tracking depends on the availability and strength of mobile network signals, which can vary based on geographical location.

Applications in vehicle tracking

  • Real-time tracking: Cellular technology provides real-time tracking capabilities, ensuring that fleet managers have immediate access to vehicle locations.
  • Emergency response: Cellular networks facilitate quick communication in case of emergencies, allowing for rapid response and assistance.
  • Geofencing: Fleet managers can set up virtual boundaries (geofences) and receive alerts when vehicles enter or leave specified areas.

3. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)

RFID technology uses radio waves to identify and track objects, including vehicles. RFID systems consist of tags attached to the vehicles and readers that communicate with the tags to retrieve information.

How it works

  • Tags and readers: RFID tags, which can be passive or active, are attached to vehicles. Passive tags are powered by the reader’s signal, while active tags have their own power source and transmit signals to the reader.
  • Data communication: The reader emits a radio signal that activates the RFID tag, which then sends back its stored information to the reader. This data is transmitted to a central system for processing.
  • Frequency bands: RFID operates on different frequency bands (low frequency, high frequency, and ultra-high frequency), each with specific characteristics and applications.

Applications in vehicle tracking

  • Access control: RFID is widely used for access control in parking lots, garages, and secure facilities. It allows for automated entry and exit, reducing the need for manual checks.
  • Inventory management: In logistics, RFID helps track the movement of vehicles and cargo; improving inventory management and reducing losses.
  • Theft prevention: RFID systems can be used to prevent vehicle theft by triggering alarms or disabling the vehicle if unauthorised movement is detected.

4. Bluetooth technology

Bluetooth technology facilitates short-range wireless communication between devices. In vehicle tracking, Bluetooth can be used to connect tracking devices with smartphones or other Bluetooth-enabled devices for data exchange.

How it works

  • Pairing devices: Bluetooth-enabled tracking devices pair with a smartphone or central hub within a certain range (typically up to 100 metres).
  • Data transmission: Once paired, the devices can exchange data such as location, status updates, and alerts. Bluetooth uses short-wavelength Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) radio waves to communicate.
  • Low energy consumption: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is particularly useful for vehicle tracking as it minimises power consumption while maintaining reliable communication.

Applications in vehicle tracking

  • Proximity tracking: Bluetooth is ideal for tracking vehicles in close proximity, such as within a parking facility or fleet yard.
  • Driver authentication: Bluetooth can be used for driver authentication, ensuring that only authorised personnel can start or move the vehicle.
  • Supplementary tracking: Bluetooth can complement other tracking technologies by providing additional data points when vehicles are within range of Bluetooth-enabled devices.


Each of these technologies – GPRS, Cellular, RFID, and Bluetooth – play a unique role in vehicle tracking, offering distinct advantages and applications. GPRS and Cellular technologies are integral for real-time and remote tracking, providing continuous data transmission over wide areas. RFID excels in access control and theft prevention, especially in confined spaces. Bluetooth offers low-energy, short-range tracking, making it ideal for proximity-based applications and supplementary tracking.

By understanding the functionalities and applications of these tracking technologies, fleet telematics providers and consumers can make informed decisions to enhance their fleet management capabilities.

Back to news