GPS Trackers Versus Bluetooth Trackers: The Major Differences

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GPS Tracker Versus Bluetooth Tracker.jpg There’s a lot of new high-tech devices being used in schools, and it’s easy to get confused about what they do, particularly when they seem to be similar products. So it’s not surprising that we get a lot of questions about GPS trackers versus Bluetooth trackers and what sets them apart.

In fact, pretty much the only thing the two technologies have in common is that they’re radio-based tracking devices. Otherwise, they have very different purposes and goals. Let’s explain:

GPS Trackers versus Bluetooth Trackers: What’s the Difference?


GPS (Global Positioning System) is the standard navigational system used by almost all location-based devices, such as cell phones and in-car mapping systems. GPS relies on a system of satellites in orbit above the Earth, which are constantly transmitting identification broadcasts. A GPS tracker picks up the signals from two or more GPS satellites, and then uses triangulation to very precisely determine the device’s location on Earth's surface.

GPS trackers in school buses can have two primary uses. First, the obvious one: mapping and navigation. They’re used just like GPS units in cars or trucks. The other is for keeping track of buses on the road. When GPS units are combined with another communications network, such as cell phones, a bus can continuously send its location back to the school transportation office for tracking.

This can be a major boon to bus safety, since it means it’s almost impossible to lose track of a bus! And when combined with smart route mapping software, you can get alerts if a bus ever deviates from its route, misses a stop or stops moving for too long.


RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) can be hard wired or use Bluetooth technology to track objects or people. An RFID chip is a tiny radio transmitter/receiver, about the size of a grain of rice. It sends out an extremely simple broadcast of a serial number, which can be received by nearby devices tuned to that frequency. Due to the size of the chip, the range of an RFID broadcast is extremely short; only a few meters.

RFID has become a popular addition to student ID cards, because the RFID chip can then be used to track their movements around campus. (It’s a great way to cut down on truancy.) RFID tracking systems can also be incorporated into buses, automatically logging students embarking and disembarking, and potentially aid in attendance-taking.

It’s important to note that RFID does not broadcast personal information, just a serial number or student identification number. Nor could it easily be used to track students off campus, due to the short broadcast range.

So, that’s it. Two totally different technologies, each of which could potentially increase school safety.

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