Phone Tracking: Why it Works
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Phone Tracking: Why it Works



Mobile phone tracking is actually very easy. It is just a case of signal timing. If you know that a signal will always travel at a constant speed, and you have the technology to measure signals to within tiny fractions of a second, then you can track a phone. The people who track mobile phones will have access to the phone masts that are dotted around the country.

How it works 

Putting it in simple terms, let us say that you have three mobile phone masts. They are going to make a triangle if you were to join them up with lines. Now let us say that within the triangle is a mobile phone. That phone sends out a signal intermittently in order to find the nearest phone mast. It will send out this signal, and will connect with the nearest mast.

The signal that the phone sent out, will hit all of the phone masts, but will hit them all at different times. It hits the closest first, and the furthest away last. The amount of time it takes for the signal to reach the masts can be used to calculate distance. To calculate how far away the mobile phone is from the mast, you need to know how fast the signal travels and when it started. You cannot know when it started, so you must use the differences in time between the signal hitting the first and hitting the last. That way you can build a picture of when the signal started and where from.


Once you know how far away, the phone is from each mast, you are able to build up a triangulated position. You can do this by finding the mast on a map and drawing a circle that equates to a scale of the distance. The distance would be the radius of the circle. You must draw a circle around each mast, and where all three circles meet is where the mobile phone is.

Luckily, it is very easy to program computers to do all of this math for us. The math behind triangulating the position of a mobile phone is very simple, and so creating a program to figure it out for us is not a difficult job.

Why it is used

It is often used for surveillance, for either good or bad reasons. For example, some companies will track their company phones. They do this to make sure that their staff are where they are, and when they are. There are similar GPS tracking devices in lorries. The lorry does its trip, and the bosses watch it on a screen from in the office. Some people use it to check on their kids and others use to check on their spouses. An increasing reason for use is with apps that help to stop theft. They will install the geo location software onto phones, and when they are turned on they will broadcast the location of the phone and the person should belong to.

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