Open-Source vs. Commercial GPS Tracking Software: Is Choosing One Over Another Can Make a Difference?

The state of GPS technology changes each year because of how the Information Technology industry evolves in general. According to Global Market Insights, GPS Tracking Device Market size was valued at over USD 2.9 billion in 2022 and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of over 12.5% between 2023 and 2032. The launch of new satellites and systems that increase the accuracy, reliability, and availability of GPS signals happens more frequently.

You can also hear about the integration of GPS with other technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, etc. As for the development of new applications that use GPS to address various challenges and opportunities in the world, more and more companies look for solutions that will fit this modern reality.

Therefore, today, we will look at the key features that a GPS tracking software should have, find out when it is better to choose open source or commercial software, and look at one of the popular GPS tracking systems to have more understanding of this type of solution.

How GPS Tracking Software Differs from Other Logistics Solutions

In order to use GPS technologies, you will need to have three key components: a satellite, GPS tracking device, and GPS tracking software application. Everything is clear with the hardware, because it is usually set in stone and you just need to choose how to receive and transmit the GPS signals. For example, one company offers wearable GPS devices, while other doesn’t, so you just go for the option you need. As for the software side, you have more flexibility, which can cause problems, because you may be lost in choices. So let’s know more about GPS tracking solutions.

GPS tracking software is a type of software that uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) to determine the location, speed, and other related information of an object gathered by tracking and monitoring it. Such an application is able to read, manage, organize, and store the data received from GPS devices.

If talking about the specific features that distinguish GPS tracking systems from other types of web applications and software needed for the logistics industry, we want to have a look at the key ones. This will help you to understand what you want out of the system.

First of all, GPS tracking software connects with GPS-based tracking devices allowing you to monitor certain data, gather it, and store it. Usually, smartphones, tablets, and other dedicated GPS trackers that receive and transmit GPS signals from satellites are used as mediators between the gathered information and a user that needs to manage it. Often, the devices are also equipped with other technologies (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, RFID or radio frequency identification, cellular networks, and more).

Also, this type of software usually has a set of certain features that help its users to understand the data that was gathered. Thus, GPS tracking software usually requires the implementation of geofencing, maps, alerts, routing, speed monitoring, fuel consumption, driver behavior, and other related features. For example, the system is able to track drivers’ speed and review aggressive driving behaviors (speeding, harsh braking, cornering, and stop sign violations), time spent at job site, fuel use, idle time with a running engine, etc.

Other solutions may provide only basic or limited information about the location of objects.Let’s say a driver came to the required destination, but the system that has no GPS tracking solution will get this info only after the driver comes to an operator to check in.

Besides that, GPS tracking systems bring many benefits in a great variety of fields that require navigation, mapping, tracking, surveying, and more. It can be basically any business area, including aviation, agriculture, logistics, healthcare, etc. On the other hand, all the other logistics solutions may have more specific or limited application methods and benefits because they will particularly depend on the logistics operations.

Open Source vs. Commercial GPS Tracking Solutions

GPS tracking software, just like any other type of software, can be built in different ways. For example, there are open source options, like Traccar, OpenGTS, Navit, etc., that offer the source code for free, allowing you to change the system according to your needs. There is also a commercial version of software that is developed by one company for another, usually with very few options available for modification. You can also find white label products that you can rebrand for your business and make your own. The list continues as there are a lot of options to choose from.

Read Also Jumping Between White Label, Private Label, and In-House Product or How We Developed a White Label WMS

But, let’s talk about open-source systems and commercial software and explore these options in relation to GPS tracking solutions. In general, open source software and commercial software have their differences, and the same differences are applicable to the GPS tracking systems. So, let’s take a closer look at them.

  • Access
  • Open source GPS tracking software allows any interested individual to access, modify, and distribute the source code. For example, Traccar that we mentioned above has its own repository on GitHub, which you can use to your advantage as you wish. Commercial GPS tracking software, on the other hand, keeps the source code to its original owner, and it is protected by licenses and patents. For example, GPS Trace or Wialon are not open-source solutions and have subscription plans.
  • Development process
  • Open source GPS tracking systems are often developed by a community of volunteers. It allows basically anyone to contribute to the deed and help with software improvement and its support. With time, a GPS tracking solution can absorb the best ideas and acquire a bunch of useful features and technologies. As for the commercial option, it is usually developed by a company that provides professional services and customer care to let a business use a GPS tracking solution and monitor the data right away.
  • Compatibility
  • Most of the open source applications are typically developed to promote specific hardware and devices, which may lead to limited compatibility. Many commercial systems, on the other hand, are compatible with a wide range of devices and platforms. It means that companies earn money from selling software that supports various protocols and standards.
  • Customization and issues
  • Of course, a free version of a product downloaded from GitHub doesn’t guarantee anything. However, it is easier to find bugs in it, because many different companies download an open-source system, find the issues, and fix them. Thanks to this approach, it is possible to minimize bags and issues of the product. It means that you can basically take the open-source software, get a team of IT outsourcing developers and customize the product according to your needs. If talking about the commercial products, you get the guarantee from the direct product owner. If you locate a bug, the owner will add it to the queue with the other issues. They will fix it some day, but you will have to wait for it to happen. Well, is your business ready to wait? And, when you need to customize the system in any way, the owner is the only one who can perform these changes. Thus, you find your request in another queue. Besides that, you will need to pay a decent amount of money, depending on the sum the owner suggests. And, you will have a little chance to negotiate this sum, because the owner dictates and controls anything happening with their product.

These differences don’t mean that one option is better than the other but simply show that there is an option for any case. Some companies may choose to go for a ready-made commercial software, while others may prefer the modifications an open-source application offers. Each to their taste.

Want to know if it’s possible to develop an ideal GPS tracking software? Or, what are the nuances of choosing open source software (using Traccar as an example)? Check out our full article: