GPS solutions are used in many fields that require outdoor fieldwork, including construction, courier and delivery services, taxi fleets, and food and beverage distribution. They can reduce fuel waste and time idling and help streamline routes for efficient delivery and service visits.
We tested five commercially available GPS data loggers and two GPS-enabled cell phones for their performance in indoor, outdoor, and in-vehicle mobile tests. We also compared their spatial accuracy in microenvironments like wood offices and high buildings.
GPS technology can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the use of fossil fuels. Fleet operators using GPS can optimize routes efficiently, reducing the time a vehicle is on the road and decreasing fuel consumption. Optimal routing also helps prevent unnecessary idling, which saves on maintenance costs and increases gas mileage.
Research using GPS monitoring devices shows that these devices are feasible for the daily monitoring of people’s time-activity patterns, particularly in microenvironments such as residential indoor and workplace areas with poor satellite signal conditions (e.g., skyscraper areas or concrete buildings)—avail discounts with Garmin promo code to get more of the products.
In addition, GPS tracking systems can provide the data necessary to improve fleet safety and performance. For example, a system that tracks driver behavior can alert managers to harsh braking and other risky driving behaviors that could cause accidents or injuries. By incorporating in-vehicle cameras, the GPS “eye in the sky” can give drivers visual proof of the reasons behind their actions, which may improve their driving habits and result in more efficient, safe, and green fleet operations. Additionally, GPS data collection systems paired with geographic information system software allow environmental concerns to be assessed from a new perspective and much more thoroughly than possible through traditional means.
Recent technological advances have made commercially-available GPS devices smaller, more accurate, energy efficient and user friendly. However, several challenges must be overcome to obtain accurate and comprehensive time-activity data for air pollution epidemiological studies. These include low battery life, inconsistent recordings due to power failures, and difficulty classifying people’s indoor and outdoor activity patterns.
The current study assessed five commercially-available GPS data loggers and two GPS-enabled cell phones on their ability to record consistent time-activity data over extended periods in diverse microenvironments and building structures. The primary factors evaluated were battery life, adequacy of memory for vast data storage, GPS signal acquisition time, and positional accuracy.
All GPS devices consume relatively high amounts of electric energy to operate. The GPhone was the fastest to acquire satellite signals and the most reliable in recording locations throughout the study. It was also the least likely to experience intermittent output errors (e.g., a GPS program stopping and starting). Nevertheless, all displayed comparable performance in acquisition times and were more likely to encounter intermittent output errors.
The data loggers also demonstrated inconsistent positioning accuracy in and around buildings. The median spatial error for each device varied by the type of building and the test location.
GPS technology is used in many industries. Construction, mining, and off-road trucking use telematics to support productivity, fuel efficiency, and driver safety. Agricultural producers also rely on GPS to track crops, soil moisture, and other environmental conditions. Environmental and health researchers even use GPS to understand better how exposure to air pollution impacts human health.
GNSS can be used to observe changes in terrestrial water storage (TWS) on seasonal and multi-decade scales, complementing traditional methods using groundwater observation networks or GRACE satellite data. For example, a network of GNSS stations established over large aquifers where water has been pumped can detect the subsidence that occurs as the Earth’s poroelastic response to groundwater withdrawal offsets expected uplift from seasonal wetting and drying cycles.
Other hydrologic applications of GNSS include monitoring snow accumulation at polar stations, where it is often difficult to obtain direct measurements. For example, the Colorado School of Mines’s Matt Siegfried and colleagues found that a GPS station can measure snowfall year-round in Antarctica, which is critical for understanding the ice sheet’s winter accumulation and melt.
While it’s clear that GPS has a wide range of environmental benefits, there are also potential downsides. For example, GPS devices can be slowed down by various factors that affect signal acquisition time, such as weather, the ionosphere, and other physical obstructions. In addition, studies that measure long-term exposure and activity can be impacted by subject intervention, such as charging or downloading the GPS device.
In the long term, GPS devices can generate a lot of waste, including electronic and battery scrap. This is especially problematic since most of these devices are made with toxic materials, such as lead and cadmium, which can leach into soil and waterways. Additionally, they can contain mercury, which is a hazardous substance and has been linked to health problems.
Fortunately, several companies are working to reduce their environmental impact by developing innovative GPS products. For example, web-based coupon distribution companies use GPS to identify local events and businesses in real-time, allowing customers to choose nearby offerings that fit their interests easily.
Waste management companies can also leverage GPS technology to reduce operational costs by reducing fuel while driving trucks. By tracking the days roll-offs spend on site, they can optimize their routes and eliminate unnecessary trips. Additionally, by utilizing GPS tracking to monitor the locations of their trucks, they can ensure that the truck is in the right place at the correct time for pickup and disposal.
Similarly, high-precision GPS is used in the construction industry to support building roads, bridges, and other significant infrastructure projects. However, this type of work can also increase traffic congestion and contribute to air pollution. In addition, despite the benefits of GPS, recent research has shown that everyday usage negatively affects navigation performance and spatial learning.