Think of a bumper beeper that transmits the time and location of your target directly to a digital map view in real time. This is what you get when tracking systems go digital.
You attach your tracker in a similar way, but instead of using radio frequencies to transmit data back to you, the GPS system beams detailed information up to satellites in orbit that beam it back down to you – either on a hand-held display (PDA device) or computer.
You monitor everything using a website interface. Many of these devices interface with the popular mapping website MapQuest. If you cannot monitor your target in real time, one of the most powerful advantages of this tracking system is the fact that you can get automated reports that will give you a log of the target’s location over the course of a day (or even several days).
The cost of these systems is consistently falling, though the most potent and complete systems are still at least a couple thousand dollars.
Luckily, there are several variations of this technology that can give you options in the two, three, and hour hundred dollar range. For example, instead of planting a tracker on the target vehicle, you might use a “tracking stick” that you conceal somewhere on or in the target vehicle and retrieve it in order to collect (download) the surveillance data.
These sticks are smaller than a candy bar, and can run for up to a week on a pair of AAA batteries. Just plug it into your computer’s USB port, and you can retrieve the data in several formats, including HTML, Microsoft Excel, or Google Earth’s own KML format, which is custom built to handle 3D three-dimensional geo-spatial data.