In today’s interconnected digital world, tracking location is a critical feature embedded in countless devices and applications. Whether for navigation, fitness tracking, delivery services, or emergency response, tracking live location is invaluable. Live location tracking is primarily done through three main technologies: GPS, Cell Tower Triangulation, and Wi-Fi Triangulation.

Each of these technologies has unique mechanisms and applications. Let’s understand in detail the advantages and limitations of each technology.

What is Location Tracking?

Location tracking is a technology that tracks devices and objects to track their movement in real-time. Phone applications used for navigation and delivery tracking use this technology to get directions.

This can be achieved through various methods, including GPS (Global Positioning System), Wi-Fi positioning, cellular network triangulation, and other geo-location techniques. Further, businesses use this technology to gain insights about user behavior and curate personalized messaging based on their location.

How does Location Tracking Work?

Location tracking is a technology that determines and monitors the geographical position of an individual, vehicle, or device in real-time.

In navigation and transportation, it provides real-time directions and enables fleet management by monitoring vehicle locations and optimizing routes. Overall, this technology significantly impacts modern society by enhancing personal convenience and organizational efficiency.

3 Methods of Location Tracking

Location tracking system works in three methods; GPS (Global Positioning System), Wi-Fi positioning, and cellular network triangulation.

1. Global Positioning System (GPS) Tracking System

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is the most popular and widely used method for location tracking. Initially developed by the United States Department of Defense, GPS has become a common tool for civilian use worldwide.

How GPS Works?

GPS operates using a network of at least 24 satellites orbiting the Earth. Each satellite continuously broadcasts signals containing its location and the precise time the signal was sent. A GPS receiver like those found in smartphones or GPS devices, picks up these signals. By calculating the time it takes for each signal to travel from the satellite to the receiver, the device can determine the distance to each satellite.

Using the distances from at least four satellites, the receiver employs a process called trilateration to pinpoint its exact location on Earth. This involves solving a set of equations to determine the point where the spheres, representing the distances to each satellite, intersect.

Advantages of GPS

  1. Accuracy: GPS can provide location accuracy within a few meters, making it suitable for applications requiring precise positioning, such as navigation and geolocation.
  2. Global Coverage: Since GPS satellites orbit the Earth, the system provides global coverage, allowing location tracking anywhere on the planet.
  3. Reliability: GPS is highly reliable and continuously available, with satellite signals unaffected by weather conditions.

Limitations of GPS

  1. Signal Obstruction: GPS signals can be obstructed by tall buildings, dense forests, or even heavy clouds, leading to reduced accuracy or even signal loss.
  2. Battery Drain: Continuous use of GPS can drain device batteries quickly, making it less ideal for long-term tracking.

2. Cell Tower Triangulation Tracking System

Cell tower triangulation is a method that uses the network of cellular towers to estimate the location of a mobile device. This technique is widely used by mobile network operators and is particularly useful in urban areas with dense cell tower infrastructure.

How Cell Tower Triangulation Works

When a mobile device is active, it constantly communicates with nearby cell towers to maintain a strong signal for calls, texts, and data. Each cell tower covers a specific area known as a cell, and the device is typically within range of multiple towers.

The device measures the signal strength from several nearby towers. By combining signal strength or timing advance data from at least three towers, the device’s location can be estimated through triangulation. This determines the point where the areas covered by these towers intersect.

Advantages of Cell Tower Triangulation

  1. Wide Availability: Cell tower infrastructure is extensive, particularly in urban areas, making this method widely available without the need for additional hardware.
  2. Low Power Consumption: Compared to GPS, cell tower triangulation consumes less battery power. Here, the device only needs to communicate with nearby towers rather than continuously searching for satellite signals.
  3. Indoor Capability: Cell signals can penetrate buildings more effectively than GPS signals, making this method useful for indoor location tracking.

Limitations of Cell Tower Triangulation

  1. Lower Accuracy: The accuracy of cell tower triangulation is lower than GPS, typically ranging from a few hundred meters to a few kilometers. This majorly depends on tower density and signal conditions.
  2. Dependence on Tower Density: In rural or sparsely populated areas with fewer towers, the accuracy and reliability of this method decrease significantly.
  3. Network Dependency: This method relies on the availability of the cellular network, which may be compromised in remote areas or during network outages.

3. Wi-Fi Triangulation Tracking System

Wi-Fi triangulation leverages the widespread availability of Wi-Fi networks to estimate a device’s location. This method is particularly effective in urban environments with a high density of Wi-Fi access points.

How Wi-Fi Triangulation Works

When a device is within range of multiple Wi-Fi access points, it can measure the signal strength from each one. Each access point has a unique identifier called a MAC address (Media Access Control), which can be used to reference a database containing the locations of known access points.

The device sends the MAC addresses and signal strength data to a location service provider. By combining signal strength data from multiple access points, the service provider can triangulate the device’s position.

Advantages of Wi-Fi Triangulation

  1. High Accuracy in Urban Areas: In densely populated areas with many Wi-Fi access points, this method can provide location accuracy, comparatively better than GPS.
  2. Indoor Positioning: Wi-Fi signals can penetrate buildings, making this method effective for indoor location tracking where GPS signals might be unavailable.
  3. Low Power Consumption: Wi-Fi triangulation consumes less battery power compared to GPS, as it uses existing Wi-Fi infrastructure.

Limitations of Wi-Fi Triangulation

  1. Database Dependency: The accuracy of this method relies on the availability and accuracy of the database of Wi-Fi access points. Newly installed or mobile access points may not be accurately represented.
  2. Limited Range: Wi-Fi signals have a limited range, typically up to 100 meters, making this method less effective in open areas.
  3. Privacy Concerns: Using Wi-Fi networks for location tracking can raise privacy concerns. It involves collecting and processing data about access points and potential user behavior.

Benefits of Location Tracking System

  1. Real-Time Navigation: Location tracking provides accurate, turn-by-turn directions for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, helping them reach their destinations efficiently. It also enables companies to monitor the location of their vehicles, optimize routes, and optimize operations.
  2. Safety and Security: Emergency services can quickly locate individuals in distress, reducing response times and potentially saving lives. Moreover, it can also help locate lost or stolen devices, offering peace of mind.
  3. Asset Management: Companies can monitor the location of assets and inventory in real-time, reducing the risk of loss or theft. Organizations can efficiently allocate resources based on the geographical distribution of assets and personnel.


The combination of GPS, cell tower triangulation, and Wi-Fi triangulation forms a powerful toolkit for location tracking, each method having its unique strengths. By understanding how these technologies work businesses can provide highly accurate and reliable location-based services. As technology continues to advance, we can expect even greater precision and new applications for location tracking.