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The Beauty of the GPS Tracker

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This story appears in the October 2014 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Large-fleet operators have been using GPS tracking devices to get real-time location information on their vehicles for years, and now the technology is trickling down to small-business applications and consumers. A cellular connection and smartphone interact with existing equipment on your personal vehicle to turn it into a company car in a snap.

The simplest units plug into the OBD-II (on-board diagnostics) port, which has been mandatory on every passenger vehicle sold in the U.S. since 1996. The port is easily accessed on most vehicles (usually under the driver's dash), and is used by mechanics to read trouble codes sent by the electronic control unit--the brains of the car. Once plugged in, the GPS tracking unit draws power from the car's electrical system and sends its information via existing cell phone networks to the home company's servers. The information is then routed to the users via the web or through an app on a mobile device.

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