The devices that make GPS tracking possible

Truck bubble

GPS Tracking Devices

You’ve heard of GPS tracking and you may have a general idea of how it works but what are the hardware devices that make it possible? What GPS tracking hardware is available, how is it installed, does it need special software to work and how can I get it setup for my fleet?

The good news is that there are several options for fleet managers to choose from, and some are very quick to install, while others require no installation at all.


What is a GPS tracker?

GPS trackers are sometimes referred to as a black box, mostly because it’s an apt description. They are small, sometimes no larger than a matchbox. There is normally a slot for a SIM card and a plug to connect it to the vehicle (normally an OBD-II plug).

A GPS tracker receives a GPS signal (so it knows its location) and then sends that information (along with other vehicle data) to the internet (using cellular or satellite networks) so you can view it using your vehicle tracking system.

Get a demo

What different GPS tracking devices are available?

There are a range of different GPS tracking devices available, and while they all serve the same basic function, there are some differences in the data they collect, how they attach to a vehicle and how they are powered.

What hardware you use may depend on the specific requirements for what data you need to collect.

OEM (factory-fitted) devices

Installed as standard or as an optional extra by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and included in the new vehicle (organized by the dealer).

Plugin devices

Can be purchased from most electronic stores, this small device plugs into the vehicle’s OBD-II port.

Aftermarket devices

Normally installed by a technician, these GPS tracking devices are wired in to the vehicle, often in a hidden location.

Smartphone / tablet

A mobile device equipped with GPS can be used as a tracking device. The disadvantage is that it is not tied to the vehicle like a dedicated tracking unit.

Can GPS tracking devices be used to create a WiFi hotspot?

Yes, some devices have a WiFi option, using the cellular data plan on the SIM card in the hardware.

Also known as Vehicle-as-a-Hotspot (VaaH), this option creates a WiFi hotspot area around the vehicle, allowing drivers (and passengers) to access the internet.

How do you access the data that GPS tracking devices collect?

To get the data from a GPS tracker you need special software. Our GPS tracking software allows users to access the data from a diverse range of devices (it’s often referred to as ‘hardware agnostic’, adapting to different hardware).

Collect data
How does the GPS tracker know where to send the data it’s collecting?

It needs to be set to point to the correct IP address and port number of the internet server (used by the GPS tracking solution). Software companies who provide trackers will generally preprogram devices to connect to the correct server.

Send data
How does the server identify each different GPS tracker?

Each GPS tracking device has a unique code, known as an International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number. This code allows the GPS tracking software to match the GPS tracker (in the tracked vehicle) to the moving marker you see on the screen.


Is GPS tracking right for my business?

GPS tracking can provide more than just location. There is a wealth of vehicle performance data that can improve your fleet’s security, safety and productivity. If you’d like to discuss your options and the potential benefits, we invite you to chat with our sales team and learn more.

Get a Free Demo

No commitment. Takes around 15 minutes.

Fleetmatics, Telogis and Networkfleet have come together. Learn more.