Choosing a GPS tracker

Why does Suivo offer two distinct categories of GPS tracking devices? Easy: different applications need different features. Continue reading to find out how this works.

How do you choose the right GPS tracker for your application? Why does Suivo offer two distinct categories of GPS tracking devices? Easy: different applications need different features, meaning the GPS tracker that was perfect for your last project might not be the best alternative this time.

While Suivo’s Carbon and Hydrogen GPS tracking devices have been designed and developed to offer distinct benefits for different circumstances, they do have similarities. Both provide location information for your asset; both are “black boxes” that you install on the asset; and both use similar technologies for global positioning and transmitting data to a backend server.

So, what are the differences? To understand this, we first need to look at both Carbon and Hydrogen GPS tracking in more detail before deciding which is best for your application.

Carbon GPS tracking devices

• What is Carbon GPS tracking?

Carbon class devices closely resemble the traditional track-and-trace devices that have been popular since global navigation satellites were first used to monitor the whereabouts of important or valuable assets.

They are essentially electronic devices with a GPS chip to determine the device’s position on the global, a wireless modem to transmit that data to a central server, and a power supply for the processor, GPS receiver, and modem. Carbon devices also have additional I/O (inputs/outputs) to connect to accessories which can provide additional information about the asset, its user(s), and/or its surroundings.

Carbon Premium BlackBox device

• What are the features of Carbon GPS tracking?

Always operational

Carbon class devices are always operational thanks to their permanent power supply, which is typically the main battery of the vehicle or machine. They also have a backup battery so they can notify the backend server when the power supply is interrupted and maintain tracking and monitoring for a limited amount of time during the interruption. However, frequent power supply interruptions can damage the backup battery.

Additional monitoring

Carbon class devices tend to the be connected to the ignition key or switch, which, when combined with their intelligent and robust power management system, enables you to monitor the operational state of the asset without the use of any additional accessories.

Near real-time connection

Thanks to the constant electrical power from the asset when it is in use, Carbon class devices can provide excellent location and sensor data, delivering data to Suivo’s servers in near real-time. This live connection with Suivo’s servers also allows the instant delivery of data or instructions back to the device, such as messages to show on a display or switching an output port like an immobilizer or buzzer.

Advanced power management strategy

The main starter battery on an asset is great at providing electrical power in short, intense bursts, but isn’t good at long-term slow discharge. The Carbon devices use an advanced power management strategy that minimizes the impact on the battery during periods of inactivity by reducing its tracking interval and incrementally powering down some features, like the GPS receiver and modem, when the system detects the engine is no longer running. However, the main processors always stay active and the GPS system is activated several times a day to allow quicker reacquisition of location data when the asset is restarted.

Gateway Functionality

Suivo Carbon devices are equipped with a Gateway feature.  Nearby Hydrogen (and Oxygen) devices can interact with the Carbon devices thanks this functionality. It allows the customer to assign a position to assets that have Hydrogen devices attached to them without having to use the GPS (and thus significantly save energy).

Hydrogen GPS tracking devices

• What is Hydrogen GPS tracking?

Just like Carbon class devices, Hydrogen class devices are also GPS trackers, but they function very differently. Both types of devices have the technology to transmit data back to Suivo’s servers and use GPS to determine a global location, however, the latter point is optional for Hydrogen devices.

The main difference comes from their power supply. Hydrogen devices are designed to conserve power as much as possible as they are not connected to the asset’s electrical system and rely entirely on user-replaceable battery packs. These battery packs, available in different sizes, attach to the tracker component and do not require any disassembly of the device so they can be easily replaced by the user during a maintenance check-up or inspection.

Hydrogen Tracker with battery

• What are the features of Hydrogen GPS tracking?

Non-powered tracking

Hydrogen trackers are normally kept in deep sleep mode until they need to transmit a location to Suivo’s servers, usually at fixed intervals. During this wake-up, the sensors can detect its location and scan for nearby Suivo Oxygen devices before returning to its deep sleep mode until it needs to send another transmission.

Although Hydrogen trackers can detect if an asset is in motion using an accelerometer, they cannot accurately determine if an asset is “in use”.

Minimal power consumption

To further minimize the power consumption of Hydrogen devices, Suivo offers supporting infrastructure for use at locations where the assets are expected to spend most of their time. This includes powered Gateways for fixed installation at/in warehouses or other buildings that can receive very low-power transmissions from Hydrogen and forward them to our servers, eliminating the need for the Hydrogen trackers to use the Sigfox or 2G/4G networks.

Organizations can also use geo-beacons (“Suivo Satellites”) that continuously broadcast location data. Hydrogen trackers can use this information to determine their location instead of GPS, saving up to 500% battery power for a single position.

Hydrogen devices only activate for as long as it takes to determine an approximate position (maximum 3 minutes). This means Hydrogen trackers are rarely as accurate as Carbon trackers that keep their GPS receivers on to continuously improve the accuracy of its position data.

Sealed, robust design

As they don’t have a physical connector for power or output signals, Hydrogen devices can be completely sealed (IP69K rated) allowing them to work in extreme situations, including withstanding direct exposure to both high-temperature and high-pressure water jets. This makes them ideal for use in most outdoor situations and harsh industrial conditions.

Which device is best for you?

Hydrogen tracker installed on a chassis

• Power supply

While Carbon devices have clear advantages for powered assets with an engine and starter battery, Hydrogen devices are the obvious choice for non-powered assets. However, the choice isn’t always that simple, for example, Hydrogen devices can deliver operational advantages for power assets depending on the application and situation.

• Data requirements

What extra information do you need from your asset? Carbon devices can deliver accurate routes, user information, and additional sensor data in real-time. But it is often enough to only know (approximately) where the asset is at regular intervals.

• Installation

The different levels of complexity require a different installation process. Carbon devices should be installed by a skilled technician, while Hydrogen devices simply need to be attached to the asset.

• Detection

Hydrogen devices are completely undetectable when they are not transmitting, compared to Carbon devices that are continuously transmitting. This means Hydrogen devices are less likely to be found and disabled by someone with dishonorable intentions.

• Location accuracy

How accurately do you need to know where your asset is? While low-power Hydrogen devices don’t usually offer the same GPS accuracy as Carbon devices, the 20-30 meter difference is often less important than power efficiency. However, Carbon devices continuously track assets, making these assets quicker to find during critical situations.

• Environmental conditions

While the rugged nature and IP69K rating of Hydrogen devices offer clear advantages, they cannot be connected to an electrical signal to register when the asset is in use. If usage needs to be accurately registered, a Carbon device would be a better match.

Carbon and Hydrogen devices from Suivo

Suivo’s Product Experts have many years of experience in helping organizations to find the best trackers for their use case and applications, as well as set up operational workflows to get the most out of their investment. Contact Suivo to discover the benefits of Carbon and Hydrogen trackers for you.

Robert is our hardware specialist and engineer. From the very beginning of Suivo, he's been the brain behind all of our hardware components. Keeping up-to-date with anything from connectivity protocols, new technologies and market-movers is a big part of his expertise.

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