GPS device or Smartphone – which is best suited for vehicle tracking?

Most often we encounter customers asking which is preferable - GPS device or Smartphone for vehicle tracking. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and what primarily determines the selection is the transport operation arrangement in a company. For some companies it could be either one of them and others both. Let us examine the capabilities and pros and cons of these options.

GPS Device

blog-banner-2 Fixed GPS device is an independent hardware unit whose primary function is to send latitude/longitude co-ordinates to the configured server. The device is inserted with a SIM Card, installed under the dashboard of the vehicle and wired to the vehicles battery for power supply. Most GPS devices come with a 4 – 6 hour battery backup so when wiring is tampered with by drivers - a common occurrence, it can still continue to track the vehicle as long as the battery lasts. It also typically comes with a 4GB memory card so when device loses cellular signal, the latitude/longitude is still tracked and stored in the memory card and beamed to the server when cellular connectivity resumes. The ports in the device allows integration with accessories like HID/RFID readers and Panic button, a common setup in the employee transportation industry. Since the device is hard wired to the vehicle, installation and deinstallation requires the help of an electrician and generally takes about 30 minutes per vehicles. GPS device can function on a 2G Sim Card with a plan that costs as low as Rs. 35 per month.


blog-banner-3A good 7 – 10K smartphone with a vehicle tracking app such as Safetrax’s driver app can act as vehicle tracking device. The app tracks the latitude/longitude and sends it to the server. Additionally, tripsheets can be sent to the app which helps eliminate paper tripsheets. Employees as they board can enter an OTP on drivers smartphone to confirm their boarding / alighting status. From the app, drivers can call employees whose numbers are masked using call forwarding. It is also easier to add new features to the app which can make the driver more productive and employees safer. Smartphones will require a 3G/4G Sim Card with a data plan that starts from Rs.150 per month.

Smartphone vs. GPS Device

Below is a neat infographic comparing both the options to help you decide on this fundamental component of employee transport automation system.

So which one should I go for?

If majority of operations is managed by dedicated fleet, it is practical to go with GPS device + HID Reader + Panic button setup. This brings in certain stability to the operations with the only con being companies will have to print and handover tripsheets to drivers. On the other hand, dedicated buses, shuttles, etc where dependence on tripsheets is minimal, can be installed with the fixed GPS setup.If majority of operations is managed by non-dedicated fleet, it is most ideal to go with Smartphones which can be easily swapped by vendor when the cab changes. Additionally companies can maintain a stock of phones to deploy when new or adhoc vehicle is assigned duty. Since, operations are usually managed by registered vendors, it is easy to manage the flow of devices and any loss/damage can be levied on the vendors.In large operations, which involves multiple offices in a city or spread across different cities, each site or citys' operations need to be considered before concluding the mode of tracking. We recommend a hybrid setup going with smartphones where there is a frequent churn of vehicles and GPS setup where major segment of fleet is dedicated.Further, if the drivers carry a capable smartphone (7-10k), as is the case often today, companies can leverage by insisting drivers to install the Driver app. With a clause that only GPS tracked trips will be considered for billing, companies can enforce discipline on the usage of smartphone for tracking and receiving trip duties.
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