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Personal Trackers

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Title Personal Trackers
Edited by GMV
Level Basic
Year of Publication 2011
Logo GMV.png

The GNSS personal tracking is a product feature that allows persons to be tracked by a system that can make available the person's position to other systems or persons. This concept can be applied also to the tracking of objects or animals. The system works by attaching a GNSS device to the target to be tracked (e.g. person, object or animal). The GNSS device transmits positioning information to a server using independent communications means, usually the cellular network either by SMS or internet connection.

Personal trackers are an emerging trend, partially spread by the popular smartphones with built-in GNSS that can be used to locate a person with a relative lower cost.

Some of the most common motivation for individual tracking products includes monitoring children whereabouts, newborn infants in hospital nurseries and elderly relatives. There are other tracking systems applications meant for crime control issues, pets tracking and wildlife tracking.

The electronic ankle bracelets are an example of personal tracking products, meant to control prison populations, house arrests or protecting victims of crimes.

Product Description

The GNSS personal tracking devices transmit the location data and a unique id to a server using the GSM network allowing a large tracking coverage. These coordinates are used to determine the device location and present the location on a map service accessed from a website.[1]

There are a number of reasons for GNSS tracking such as the location of individuals who get lost in outdoor activities, safety of children, elderly relatives or Parkinson patients.

Some devices give the possibility to monitor, not only the GNSS data (position, velocity and time) but they can also monitor heart rate, temperature or blood pressure, for people with health problems and special needs. Another feature available is the definition of a geofence, i.e., areas where the presence of the person is allowed, without generating an alert. In case the person trespasses outside the established zone, the device automatically begins tracking and sends an alert to a list of designated recipients usually via cell phone.[2]

Some of these tracking equipments also own a "panic" button, allowing the tracked person to issue an alarm when in a dangerous situation such as being hurt, ill, lost or scared. When the alarm button is pushed in the device an alert is sent to a list of designated recipients[2]. This information can also be transmitted to an emergency hotline.

Tracking systems have an enormous potential for fields other than children or elderly tracking, such as law enforcement, theft prevention, pets tracking or wildlife tracking, among others.

In terms of crime control issues, personal tracker products have potential use in the following situations:

  • Law enforcement: this is the concept of keep tracking of a suspect, usually by attaching a GNSS device in a vehicle, in order to track the suspect’s activities from a control room, preventing the police members to expose themselves and saving investigation resources.
  • Theft prevention: this is the concept of keep tracking of companies' assets using the geofence mechanism. These systems raise an alert to the company's security or to the police once the tracked asset trespasses the control zone.

In terms of GNSS tracking in animals, there are the following common usages:

  • Pets tracking: these are bracelets or collar systems targeted to owners of dogs and cats.
The technology to use GNSS to track pets is relatively new. Most of current systems require an utilization solely in areas covered by the GSM cellular network.[3]
  • Wildlife tracking: meant for wildlife study and prevention, these tracking bracelets or collar systems are usually used in mammals and large birds.
The GNSS wildlife tracking is another high-potential growth area for GNSS applications. With ever smaller dimensions and weights and the availability of solar cell power these devices can be used in a growing number of cases.[4] Simpler units store data in internal memory, which can be later retrieved.
Other systems for wildlife tracking units are able to send the data through a cell phone network in regular time intervals or on demand in the case of units with two way communication modes.
The most sophisticated GNSS wildlife tracking systems send the data in regular intervals via satellites, allowing a global coverage, almost in real time.

The applications for which personal trackers are used are considered as non-critical applications although in some cases can be used to ensure the safety of persons or goods.

The accuracy required by these applications is low. The current accuracy provided by civilian GPS is enough for these applications. Availability, however, can be reduced in urban environments or in areas with heavy foliage and deep canyons.

Product Characterization

GNSS Tracker

The cost of these products has dropped considerably in recent years, offering the possibility of mass consumption by the average citizen. Aligned with this, the devices had demonstrated to be very useful in children monitoring. The tracking systems include a GNSS device to be placed in the tracking target.

Usually, the tracking device is acquired as a service and is monitored by the location provider via cellular network, either using SMS or an internet connection, allowing the service to know always the person's location. This location is provided to the authorized persons through cell phone or through the provider's website[2].

Besides the cost of the device, usually there is a monthly subscription fee, similar to the way cellular phone service operates. [2]

The Electronic Bracelets products are a specific tracking system used for the monitoring of prisoners, persons under house arrest or that have restrictions to their movement due to legal issues.

Detailed information about Electronic Bracelets can be found here.

Product Examples

The children tracking devices appear in several shapes and sizes, such as a wristwatch, a necklace, a cell phone and GNSS devices placed in book bags, shoes and clothing.

Usually the personal locaters are small standalone devices, but GNSS cell phones can be also used. Some cell phone operators provide the type of service either based on GNSS or in cellular network positioning.

Most personal trackers are sold in a package that might include the tracking services and that might require a subscription to a service. Normally these providers have a local nature having each country specific providers. There are too many providers to list here.

GNSS Wildlife tracking systems:

  • Televilt This company manufacture three different types of collars as well as backpacks for birds.
  • Telemetry Solutions A telemetry company involved in GNSS wildlife tracking since 1998.
  • BlueSky Telemetry
  • Telonics



  1. ^ Maps GPS Info Site - Personal Locators
  2. ^ a b c d Maps GPS Info Site - GPS child tracker
  3. ^ GPS practice and fun site - Pet tracking
  4. ^ GPS practice and fun site - Wildlife tracking