Understanding the factors affecting GPS tracker battery life
One of the most popular questions from our customers is “How long is the GPS Tracker's battery life?” For tracking of high value goods-in-transit, long battery life is critical. It is in fact, one of the most important elements of successful covert tracking deployments.
Battery life is tied to a number of factors:
Battery related issues:
- Battery capacity and type
- Self-discharge rate
- The number of prior battery charges (impacting the remaining useful life of the battery)
The activities the tracker is performing:
- How often the GPS tracker performs locates
- How often the GPS tracker communicates with the cellular network
- Which of the environmental sensors are actively monitoring
- How good the cellular coverage is
- Materials surrounding the package tracker
- Does the tracker have a direct view of the sky (global positioning system)?
GPSit utilizes the Sendum PT300 Package Tracker. This is a VERY sophisticated covert GPS tracking device, chocked full of technology that helps ensure long battery life. TrackFusion, our GPS tracking application, utilizes that technology to help ensure the GPS tracker can successfully complete its mission.
Let's start with the battery. The PT300’s battery is a built in, but removable, 3.7aHr (“amp hour”) Lithium-ion (often abbreviated “Li-ion”, or LIB) rechargeable battery. Li-ion batteries have a very low self-discharge rate, which means they can sit in a non- or low-usage state for years and retain their charge. This is not true of common Alkaline batteries which loose the charge quickly. They also have a high “energy density”, which means the battery size can be small, enabling the compact form factor of the PT300.
Li-on batteries are rechargeable. With each recharge the battery loses a very small fraction of its energy storage capacity. GPSit recommends replacing the PT300 battery after 300 charges to ensure the PT300 has enough batter capacity to handle a typical deployment or “mission”.
Battery capacity is important, but equally important is how efficiently the GPS tracker consumes and manages energy. Sendum has done a fantastic job at ensuring the tracker’s power consumption can be optimized. As a developer we can put the device in low power consumption states (deep sleep) between location or communication activity. This enables mission profiles that can last years in between charges.
The most common tracking usage profiles have the GPS tracker providing relatively frequent location updates, such as once every 15 minutes. For 15 minute updates, a fully charged battery will last between 7-13 days. Factors such as cellular coverage and where the package tracker is located impact this result (when global positioning system signal strength is impaired). So as an example, a tracker in an area of good cellular coverage with a clear view of the sky will last twice as long as a tracker surrounded by metals and in an area of poor cellular coverage. Actual Sendum test results and battery life projections can be viewed at “Understanding Battery Life”.
One of the important features of covert tracking applications is to inquire and report back the remaining GPS tracker battery life. TrackFusion enables alerts to be configured to notify users of devices with low remaining battery life, and display their current location using Google maps. This feature is an absolute must-have for successful covert / package tracking.
The topic of battery life can get very complex, far beyond the scope of this short introduction. As such, one of our important contributions is to help our customers understand and manage it. When necessary, we may suggest configuring a secondary battery or other backup power source. We also provide custom engineering for secondary battery applications if necessary to achieve this. With careful planning and good battery management practices, battery life should not be an issue in the success of your covert tracking initiatives.
Give us a call today to discuss your covert tracking applications. We will help you determine the optimal battery life solution to enable your mission’s success.