VehiclesVehicle TrackingVehicle tracking - GPS and RFID explained

Vehicle tracking – GPS and RFID explained

There are lots of different branded fleet management technology products with a whole plethora of varying features so it’s easy to get buried away in the detail without seeing the bigger picture.

It’s useful to understand a bit about how this technology actually works as this can help business owners figure out what this means for their company thereby making an informed choice of product.


This description identifies the two different types of fleet management tracking technology. 

Most people are familiar with the name ‘GPS’ which stands for Global Positioning System – this uses satellite navigation which is already a feature on mobile phones and most cars.  RFID stands for ‘radio-frequency identification’ and refers to technology where digital data is encoded in RFID tags or smart labels which are then captured by a reader using radio waves and deciphered.  This is a similar type of technology to barcoding on products.

RFID and GPS power two different types of vehicle tracking systems which are loosely described as passive and active although just to mix it up a bit, GPS tech can be either active or passive depending on the product.  Each type will suit some businesses more than others and understanding the broader concepts surrounding tracker technology will help you find the best system for your company.

Is GPS or RFID the best technology?

Sourcing the best tracking system for your cars, vans or lorries boils down to the actual operation of the business and what type of trade it is involved in.

Passive trackers systems collect data on an ongoing basis throughout the day but it cannot be viewed until the vehicle returns to base and the data is uploaded.  Passive tracker systems can also collect metrics on driver behaviour, fuel consumption, cargo, inventory data even CO2 emissions and can be a positive boon when running fleet vehicles.

Passive tracker systems are a good entry point to the tracker market and do work for small fleets.  However, as you move on and want more data or if you have a large fleet to manage then an active tracker system may prove to be a better investment.

Active van tracking systems update information in real time so it is an interactive process which you can manage and orchestrate as the day unfolds, perfect for taxis or courier companies or businesses with lots of vehicles out on the road at any one time.  Active tracking systems are versatile and agile and can respond to traffic delays, weather problems and vehicle breakdowns.  They can prove essential to businesses operating within the service industry.

Active tracking technology offers myriad benefits once you scratch the surface as the data captured can be used in all sorts of ways from reducing fuel consumption through planning more efficient journeys to monitoring driver behaviour and crunching data to demonstrate which vans are the most economic or have the lowest carbon emissions.  Once you understand the benefits of this technology then the implications for even a small business can be profound.

Written by

Mark Hodgson
Mark Hodgson
Mark Hodgson is one of our expert writers. Mark is our lead researcher and editor who writes our main guides and expert topic coverage. He’s passionate about helping entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses with practical advice delivered clearly. Mark’s worked for a number of business magazines and titles and has started two small businesses himself, so has first-hand experience in setting up, managing and growing a small business and shares his expertise with our readers.

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