GPS Locating Vs Cellular Locating Technology

Alex Flitton
Jul 17, 2018 8:05:00 AM

Location technology, used responsibly, is one of the most helpful features available to today’s mobile consumers. Although it has been used to track metadata without consent, it continues to be a feature that today’s consumers cannot live without. There are two different types of locating technology that are used in mPERS devices, each with its own pros and cons.

GPS Locating

If you have ever hiked through a mountain range or unpopulated area, it is likely you used a Global Positioning System (GPS) to mark your route and help you return to the trail head. GPS technology is invaluable to have when you are far from home and disconnected from cellular service. Its ability to track your position without the use of cell towers makes GPS a standalone technology to have.

Some Facts About GPS

  • The GPS network is structured by about 30 individual satellites that orbit around the Earth.
  • Locating accuracy ranges from 10 to 100 meters for most devices.
  • With special military-grade equipment, positioning can be pinpointed within one meter.

The Cons Of GPS

Poor Accuracy

Although GPS can locate you anywhere on the planet, no matter how remote, it is not the most accurate locating technology available. Depending on the device used and how advanced it is, locating accuracy can only reach within 100 meters (an entire American football field).

A Fairweather Technology

When the skies are cloudy, so is GPS. Without a clear view of the sky, atmospheric interference makes locating users much more difficult. That’s also why locating people in buildings is ineffective with GPS. Because of this lapse in useability, fewer PERS devices are relying on GPS to locate users. Since senior subscribers spend the majority of their days in their homes, this technology doesn’t help emergency responders locate which rooms or floors they are in; an essential function when trying to find someone who has fallen in their home.

Cellular Locating

Cellular location technology is actually an umbrella term that is used to describe a couple of locating technologies, including Wifi and Sim-based methods. Where GPS lacks, cellular seems to fill in the gaps. Its capabilities shine well in populated areas where cell towers are more densely located. Cellular methods thrive in buildings, cities and densely-populated areas because of how it uses crowdsourced Wi-Fi data.  It can locate a particular device based on its distance from a collection of network access points.

Since most seniors spend their time indoors and in suburban areas, cellular has become the primary locating technology in today’s PERS devices. And, with the impending 5G sunrise, network density will only improve the functionality of cellular locating technology.

Another benefit to the cellular model is its accuracy in pinpointing a user’s location within buildings and areas with network coverage. This technology is capable of locating a user within a couple of feet which results in much more effective action by emergency responders.

The Cons of Cellular Locating

Network Coverage

The biggest pitfall associated with cellular locating technology is geographical coverage. For subscribers in rural areas or people who travel away from home, cellular locating cannot be a reliable ally. As long as 4G and LTE remain in force, this will continue to be the case. However, as mentioned before, the 5G sunrise could greatly improve network coverage, although not perfectly.


GPS is a free service provided by the US government and has been so since its public release in the 1980s. Cellular location on the other hand is dependent on a subscription to a particular network service. While it is not expensive, greater locating accuracy and suburban coverage comes with a price tag.

A Healthy Compromise

Since GPS is free and most subscribers need cellular capabilities, many mPERs devices have both GPS and cellular features included to ensure locating is possible in any scenario. This is a healthy compromise since each locating technology offers its own unique strengths. A good mPERS device should provide each of these technologies to ensure that help will arrive as quickly as possible when it is needed.



AG Weekly: GPS Vs. Cellular Locating Technology

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