What GPS is best for me?

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Choose the best GPS navigation system for your needs

How can you find the best GPS navigation system?

In previous posts we talked about the basics of what GPS is and how it works, as well as how a GPS device can be connected or disconnected. Knowing more about how GPS works can help you make the right choice when choosing the best GPS system.

With so many GPS navigation systems on the market it can be really confusing to even know where to start. So before you start looking at getting a Garmin, TomTom or a Magellan, you need to be clear about what you need your GPS tracking system to do. And with most of the talk on the internet about personal or in-car GPS devices, it can be easy to overlook other systems such as fleet management software or GPS people tracking.

What are your GPS needs?

Of course it’s tempting to buy a GPS system just because everyone else is or because you can’t resist buying the latest gadgets, but if you did you’d probably miss out on the true benefit of a GPS system. By knowing the problem you want to solve, you’re in a much better position to find the best GPS navigation system, and will get far greater value from it.

Let’s consider the different types of GPS navigation systems available.

Use / Connected (what’s this?) Description
Personal GPS tracking devices

Either connected or disconnected – A connected system can receive messages from other devices or alert third parties with exception reports e.g. a child is driving outside of their curfew.

Standalone devices that are carried by the person. In some cases, these people-tracking devices have been criticized as a privacy invasion.

Sports such as running, hiking, hunting or boating. Can also be used for tracking the safety of children.

  • Lightweight
  • Small
  • Long battery life
  • Discreet
  • Weather-resistant
  • Rugged to cope with the rigors of outdoor pursuits
In-car GPS Navigation System

Either connected or disconnected – Disconnected devices can have maps and navigation pre-installed but need to be manually updated. On the other hand, a connected device can receive updates automatically and instantly, as well receiving messages and data from other connected devices.

Some wireless companies such as Verizon offer directory services that can automatically update a connected GPS device with directions to the nearest movie theater or favorite restaurant.

A device must be connected if it is to be used with telematics software (see GPS Fleet Management below).

Probably the most common GPS device, the in-car GPS navigation system has been made ubiquitous by manufacturers such as Garmin, TomTom, Navman and Magellan.

Many car makers are now installing them as standard equipment.

Drivers use them for route-planning and to provide helpful (if not irritating at times!) turn-by-turn directions.

  • Device is within easy reach of the driver, built-in to the dashboard or mounted
  • Large displays complemented with audio navigation offering turn-by-turn directions
  • POI (Point of Interest) markers to make it easier to find service stations and other amenities en route
GPS Fleet Management

Must be connected – For GPS devices to work with telematics software they must be connected to a wireless provider as shown in this illustration.

Enjoying growing popularity in the transport industry, fleet management software uses a combination of hardware and software devices to allow fleet owners effectively manage their drivers.

  • Manage trucks and drivers to promote better fuel economy and greater productivity
  • Dispatching vehicles to respond to emergencies or customer requests
  • Protect vehicle assets from unauthorized use
  • Tracks fleet vehicles in real-time for improved customer service
  • Route-planning that factors in road restrictions and traffic information
  • Intelligent decision-making based on multiple, real-time data feeds such as vehicle location, vehicle attributes, road restrictions, ETAs and relevant POIs
  • Reduced carbon footprint with efficient driving and route planning saving fuel and time
  • Easier re-routing of drivers to deal with last-minute changes or customer requests
  • Accurate historical reporting to promote better driver behavior, reduce insurance premiums and simplify regulatory compliance
  • Real-time exception alerts make managing large fleets a snap

Choosing a GPS navigation system

Now that you have a better idea of the different types of GPS navigation systems available, you’re in a better position to make a good decision on what’s best for you and your business. There’s no point spending more than you have to, so if you only need a device to help you find your way across town then a Garmin, TomTom or Magellan in-car will be adequate.

Of course, if you just want to go hiking in the San Bernardino Mountains then a lightweight hand-held GPS system, such as a Garmin Oregon 200, will most likely be all you need.

But if you need to manage multiple vehicles, a fleet of trucks or vans then it makes sense to investigate fleet management software. Even fleets of only 2 or 3 trucks find using GPS fleet management software profitable with a lot of fleets reporting that the cost of the system is covered by the savings they make within about 3 months of use.

What am I looking for in a GPS system?

The best rated GPS systems for fleet management should have plenty of grunt, offer blazing speed and be flexible enough to adapt to your specific business needs.

Check for the following attributes when shopping for GPS fleet management software:

  • Compatible - The software is compatible with a wide range of GPS. This will allow you to have the freedom to choose the hardware you need to manage your vehicles effectively. For example, Telogis design their fleet management software to play nicely with devices that run on Windows Mobile, a popular operating system for GPS-enabled hardware.
  • Tells you what you need to know now – Relevant information on your entire fleet is easily accessible and exception reporting alerts you immediately to anything that requires your attention.
  • Intelligent routing – Route-planning that includes vehicle-specific restrictions so your drivers can avoid messy accidents like these ones.
  • Online all the time – Web-based systems to provide you with the speed and flexibility of a hosted SaaS application, giving you more options to access fleet information and share that data with relevant parties.

The more you learn about GPS navigation systems and how they work, the more likely you are to choose the best GPS system for you, or your business!

If you’ve purchased a GPS device, how did you decide which one was right for you? Where did you go for advice?

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