How GPS Cell Phone Tracking Works

GPS cell phone tracking is commonly used to guide people who need directions, to lead emergency personnel to someone after calling 911 or to help parents who wish to keep track of their children via their cell phone. While not all cell phones have GPS tracking capabilities, more and more cell phones are equipped with this technology.

Signals Sent From The GPS To Your Phone
GPS stands for Global Positioning System, and is essentially a network of satellites that send out signals towards the surface of the earth. When a GPS satellite sends out signals down to the earth's surface, devices that are equipped to receive GPS signals within that range will pick them up. Signals consist of the time sent and orbital information. These receiving devices could be GPS-equipped cell phones, as well as basic GPS positioning devices used for hiking or on ships.

The Trilateration Process
Depending on the GPS cell phone's location, the satellite signal may be strong or weak. The GPS locator in the cell phone will also be able to detect signals from several other GPS satellites and analyze which signals are stronger than others. Based on the strength or weakness of three or more GPS tracking system satellites, the position of the GPS cell phone can be narrowed down. Using a process called trilateration, a GPS-equipped cell phone can analyze its location based on the information the satellites are sending out.

The Triangulation Process
However, since GPS cell phone devices don't send out signals, another type of technology needs to be used in order to pick up the phone's exact location. The GPS system allows the phone user to know where he is, but the phone cannot broadcast its whereabouts to others without using a second type of technology.

A cell phone modem connects with cellular towers closest to it, even if it is not placing an active call. The cell phone sends out a constant signal, which is picked up by the closest tower and processes it through the cellular network. Other towers can register the signal and analyze the strength or weakness. This process is called triangulation, where a location is discovered from three fixed landmarks (the cell phone towers). The GPS cell phone can then determine exactly where it is based on this method.

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