GPS Trackers in the Movies Vs. GPS Trackers in the Real World
At their most basic level, GPS trackers can protect your family and your valuables. By placing a GPS tracker on someone’s person or on an object that they are carrying, you can ensure that your loved ones—and your most precious valuables—are safe.
Having said that, you may have watched some movies or television shows where the hero uses a GPS tracker to save the day. Along with this, you may think that you can use a GPS tracker to become the equivalent of James Bond in your neighborhood.
While GPS trackers are powerful, they can’t do everything. Because of this, it’s important to understand how GPS trackers in the real world are different from GPS trackers in your favorite action movie.
GPS Trackers: Common Misconceptions
GPS trackers aren’t the be-all, end-all of security. They have their limitations and knowing them can help you manage your expectations when buying your own GPS tracker.
To start, picture this. A police officer in a hot new action movie is speaking with a kidnapper over the phone. The kidnapper demands some cash as ransom and the police officer places a GPS tracker in a stack of the ransom money. The officer tracks the money to the kidnappers’ location, where the police enter the room, guns blazing, and rescue the kidnapped victim.
Size of GPS Tracking Devices
While this is a crucial part of an edge-of-your-seat crime thriller, the reality is a bit more complicated. True, GPS receiver chips have become smaller and smaller, but GPS trackers themselves have not. The trackers also require two antennas (one for GPS and another for cellular) and better signals require larger antennas. In addition, GPS trackers require consistent power to report its location. Bigger batteries provide more power, but make it tougher to hide in a small place. Because of all of this, it’s nearly impossible to place a GPS tracker inside a stack of bills.
Movies or television shows also make it seem like users can continuously track a GPS tracker’s location. This is also a bit of fiction. While users can track a GPS tracker at certain intervals (typically 10 seconds), it often isn’t the case where you can see a tracker smoothly run across a map. This is actually in your best interest, however. Continuously seeing a GPS tracker move across a map would quickly drain the tracker’s battery and cost a lot in cellular data services.
Upon using a GPS tracker, you may discover that you need to pay a monthly fee. Not only are these details not mentioned in your favorite movie or television show, but you may be confused that you need to pay a monthly fee, especially if you have a GPS navigator (which doesn’t require a subscription and is an entirely different kind of device). While a GPS navigator has maps that are stored to the device’s memory, a GPS tracker receives data from the Global Positioning System and its location is transmitted by cellular service, which comprises much of the cost of your GPS tracker. These costs are conveniently forgotten in pop culture.
GPS Tracking Implants
Let’s not forget about GPS devices in sci-fi movies. Specifically, we’re talking about implanted GPS trackers in humans and animals. Simply put, you cannot implant a GPS tracker into a human. While trackers can be small, batteries aren’t. Even if a GPS tracker was implanted into a human, the battery issue would make it essentially pointless. As for animals (specifically dogs and cats), tracking chips are not GPS trackers. Rather, they use radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, which a veterinarian reads with the proper equipment. You can basically think of them as digital barcodes rather than chips that can be tracked at all times.
GPS Tracking Accuracy
Finally, let’s talk about the accuracy of GPS trackers. While your favorite movie may show the hero using a GPS tracker to locate someone with pinpoint accuracy, GPS trackers in real life are more complicated. About 95 percent of the time, regular civilian GPS trackers are accurate from a few yards to 25 feet. Weather, buildings, and trees can also affect accuracy. The accuracy of the GPS tracker may also change depending on the amount of GPS satellites that your tracker can detect.
Learn More Today
In movies and television, GPS trackers are a critical part of any hero’s toolkit. While it is fun to picture ourselves as an action hero that uses gadgets to save the day, it’s important to understand the real-life capabilities and limits of GPS trackers.