Written by BSM, a Geotab Company
on November 07, 2018

What Is A Passive GPS Fleet Tracking Device?

A passive tracking system is a reactive method of transmitting data rather than a proactive method. A passive tracking unit will not gather real-time data but rather collect data and store the data, transmitting it only once the vehicle returns to headquarters. Once at headquarters, the data will be downloaded from the passive tracking device via a Wi-Fi hotspot onto a local server.  From there a fleet manager would be able to access the stored data provided by a passive solution.

Memory - Passive tracking solutions must store data on the modem until it can be transmitted to headquarters. The selection of a passive tracking solution is often dependent on how frequently the information is gathered and how much memory is available for storage. Most passive tracking solutions update information every 30 seconds and gather a considerable amount of information very quickly - if the data has exceeded the memory capacity the new data will typically override the old data causing valuable data loss

Myth - A passive tracking solution is more affordable than a real time solution. Wrong! The cost of real-time solutions has decreased significantly over the years, yet the cost of maintaining the specialized Wi-Fi infrastructure necessary for passive tracking can be costly.

What Is A Real Time GPS Fleet Tracking Device?

Real time tracking devices have a cellular and/or satellite modem(s) within the GPS device and will continually update the location, status, sensor data and vehicle information on a predetermined frequency. Update frequency can vary from once a day to once every 5 seconds, depending on the provider.

Real time GPS devices uses wireless commercial carriers to send the data from the fleet tracking devices in real-time to the solutions servers. This information can be accessed online via the solutions web interface anytime and from anywhere.

With the use of a real time solution a fleet manager is able to instantly view the status and speed of a vehicle, engine diagnostic, driving behavior including harsh speeding or breaking, up to date fuel consumption, and more.

Additionally, a real-time solution allows users to setup real-time notifications and alerts to monitor vehicle activity 24/7 even when they are not in the office.  This allows them to monitor, respond and even prevent costly and unsafe activity in real time.

5 Things to Consider When Choosing Between Passive and Real Time Fleet Tracking Devices?

  1. Cost - The cost of a real time solution versus a passive solution has become comparable as a result of significant decreases in the cost of data plans from the wireless carriers. 
  2. Dispatching – Real-time solutions provide the added benefit of effective dispatching.  Know where your drivers are live and the status of each vehicle on a map. This allows you to quickly respond to different scenarios and emergency situations to effectively manage your daily operations.
  3. Alerts & Notifications – Real-time notifications and alerts are critical features in a tracking solution and are only available with a real-time solution.  With a passive GPS tracking device, the vehicle must come back into the yard or area with the Wi-Fi hotspot to be able to transmit the data. Real-time notifications and alerts allow fleet managers to monitor their fleet 24/7 without having to be chained to a desk all day.  Types of notifications and alerts include real-time engine diagnostics such as trouble codes, speeding and excess idling events, driver performance, entering/exiting a geozone, and much more! Upon receiving these alerts, fleet managers can quickly respond to and even prevent costly and unsafe activity. For example, if a vehicle or truck breaks down on the road a fleet manager can view the DTC alerts for that unit and prepare information for the mechanic to address the issue promptly.  The real-time fleet tracking devices will also give dispatch full fleet visibility reducing operational downtime.
  4. Accidents- If the vehicle is in an accident and the unit is damaged, you may be at risk of losing the data with a passive solution. With the use of a real time solution, information is transmitted until the very last moment before the accident, and if still in working condition would continually update live data.
  5. Theft Prevention- Many companies will choose to implement a GPS tracking solution into their fleet for the theft prevention benefits. When a vehicle is stolen the real-time fleet tracking devices will continually update position so retrieval of the vehicle is faster than with a passive GPS solution.

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