How does location tracking work?


Commonly-used tech phrases and jargon can be confusing to grasp in the world of smart devices or IoT (Internet of Things). Our jargon buster series explores what all of these common phrases and words mean in plain English so you can spend less time Googling and more time enjoying the benefits of a connected world. First up, location tracking.

What is GPS tracking?

You might already know that terms like GPS tracking for pets refer to technology that helps you track your cat or dog but how does it work?

GPS stands for Global Positioning System and is the term given to a group of satellites up in space that devices connect to, which locate where they are in the world – whether it’s a laptop, mobile or other smart tech.

GPS is accurate but relies on a clear line of sight between the device and at least three satellites. Getting signal might be difficult if you’re in areas surrounded by dense foliage or locations built-up with very high buildings.

How does location tracking work?

What is Bluetooth technology?

Bluetooth is a wireless technology found in a range of smart devices, from smartphones and speakers to trackers – like Curve, the smart GPS tracker. Bluetooth allows devices to communicate wirelessly to each other when they’re close together.

Bluetooth typically works with a range of up to 100 metres, which is limited to keep its power-drain to a minimum. As Bluetooth is a battery-friendly feature, it’s still as commonly used today as it was back when it launched in 1994.

What’s the difference between GPS location tracking and Bluetooth?

GPS tracking is an accurate locating technology that uses satellites in space. A GPS device reads the signals of at least three satellites and can determine its exact location in the world. The more satellites it can locate, the faster your device can be found.

Bluetooth, on the other hand, is used to determine if a device is close by – detecting proximity rather than the location of whatever it is you’re searching for. Bluetooth doesn’t necessarily ‘track’ location, but rather searches to see if something is still nearby.

What is WPS?

WPS stands for WiFi positioning service, which sounds like it’s a similar technology to GPS however it’s quite different. A GPS device finds signals from satellites and calculates a position from them, while a WPS device looks, or ‘sniffs’ for surrounding WiFi signals. It then sends any found WiFi signals up to the cloud, which checks if it has information on them (like where it’s located).

If it does find info, the cloud service can then perform a calculation of its position and send it back to the device. WPS may not be as precise as GPS but it can still do a good job of finding a device’s location.


About the Author

Curated by the in-house team.

  • Facebook
In-House Editor

In-House Editor

Curated by the in-house team.

What do we do?

Our smart devices connect to our global network, so you can get updates to your smartphone from far away and keep in touch with the things you care about.

Read more

Something for everyone

We’ve been making all kinds of things smart in all kinds of industries for over a decade. Now, we’re designing and connecting smart devices for in or outside the home to fit seamlessly into everyday life.

Read More