GPS in Cellular Trail Cameras: What you need to know before you buy into the hype!
In today's current cellular trail camera market advertising GPS capabilites is pretty normal but there's a catch. Much like other trail camera specifications, companies seem to stretch the realistic truth of what the specific camera model actually has.
Let's face it, most folks today worry about theft. So having "GPS" capabilities is certainly attractive. However, there's slim chance that you're going to track down a stolen camera, kick in the front door, whoop somebodies rear end, and take your camera back....Regardless of what people say on the internet. With that said there is still some obvious advantages of having GPS capabilities within your cellular trail camera. Let's take a full scope look at GPS, it's capabilities and how you can realistically benefit from them with cellular trail cameras.
WHAT IS GPS AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
GPS is an acronym for Global Positioning System, which is a U.S. owned utility that provides users with a positioning, navigation, and timing services (PNT). GPS consists of 3 segments: SPACE, CONTROL, and USER. The US government develops, maintains, and operates both the SPACE and CONTROL segments. The USER segment is essentially developed, maintained, and operated by companies who choose to include GPS capabilities into their products.
The SPACE segment consists of 24-31 satellites that orbit the twice per day at approx. 12,500 miles above the earth's surface. From any given point on the earth's surface a minimum of 4 satellites can be reached at anytime.
The CONTROL segment consists of 29 global ground facilities that have the sole function of keeping tabs on the orbiting satellites. From these ground locations satellite transmissions are tracked, control commands are sent, communication data is logged, along with other various monitoring functions. The master control facility is located in Colorado with the reserve or backup master station located in California.
The USER segment is much more broad and a little harder to define. The easiest way to quantify the USER segment is to include any device that has GPS capabilities.......cars, atms, phones, and in our case cellular trail cameras. As the world grows closer to iOT we can basically include most electronic devices used in our daily lives.
WHEN IS GPS RELEVANT IN CELLULAR TRAIL CAMERAS?
GPS capabilities within a cellular trail camera can be very beneficial. We've listed a few helpful scenarios below along with some disadvantages that need to be mauled over.
Stolen camera - Obviously this is the gem that most people think of or reason they desire GPS in cellular trail cameras. But most folks fail to think about the next step....how the user segment actually works. How, when, and where to you monitor the cameras location? Are there any possibilities or scenarios of the GPS function not working? Does is need to be physically turned on through a setting? Does it run automatically? How does it affect overall batteries and battery life of the trail camera? Ask these questions before purchasing a cellular trail camera advertised with GPS and you'll be a much smarter consumer.
Timestamp/Info strip - With GPS integrated into the camera's hardware, Northing and Easting Coordinates should automatically be populated on the timestamp/info strip of every photo and video. No more entering this manually when you have that option.
Camera location - Probably the most useful scenario of having GPS capabilities within your cellular trail camera is having the ability to pull up your mobile app and pinpointing the camera's location. The pain of add, deleting, and moving camera locations on your desired mapping service would be no more if the option existed within your camera's mobile app.
With all the advantages you also have to think about the disadvantages such as inaccuracy, battery or signal failure, privacy issues, and commercial exploitation. The two biggest being privacy issues and commercial exploitation.
BE CAUTIOUS OF ADVERTISED GPS WITH CELL CAMS!
Here's the catch...Any cellular device or device with an IP address has the ability to be located through triangulation similar to GPS but not nearly as precise. Due to this, way too many trail camera companies advertise GPS capabilities without having actual GPS or GPS abilities that consumers are used to. Pretty dirty right? Actually, it's nothing new in our industry and companies have been taking this approach of "stretching" the truth for as long as I can remember.
True GPS capabilities with cellular trail cameras should offer tracking without power to the product, overlaid location map features, coordinates on the timestamp or info strip amongst other features. And the cellular trail camera should do all that without you manually inputting the data.
So, unless the cellular trail camera has the ability to be tracked within some type of application you should serious second guess it's GPS ability. If you fail to find any specific info beyond marketing terms on the product packaging or product listing it's a good idea to call their service team and inquire.
THE BOTTOM LINE.
GPS capabilities are something every cell cam user wants but the marketplace of products is simply not there yet. While there are several models available with real GPS features you still need to way the pros and cons before purchasing. And whatever you do DON'T BUY INTO THE MARKETING HYPE BEFORE TALKING WITH SOMEONE KNOWLEDGABLE FROM THE COMPANY!
Images by: nasa.gov