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Active and Passive GPS Devices

The amount of GPS capable devices can be staggering and confusing and adding to this confusion is the difference between active GPS devices and passive GPS devices. Today, we would like to outline the difference between an active and passive GPS device.

Active GPS Devices

These are devices that can be tracked in real-time using a mobile phone, personal computer or any sort of external monitoring device. They can also give statistics such as coordinates, altitude, speed, time in use and distance travelled.

Active GPS devices have a larger price tag and will incur an ongoing monthly or yearly fee, as active GPS tracking requires a constant network connection – typically to a cellular signal. This means it requires a SIM card (some active GPS devices don’t include one) and much like a mobile phone plan, the use of the cellular network requires an ongoing payment to use.

Black Knight GPS tracking devices are classified under this category, as you can remotely check your vehicle or asset’s location in real-time. Black Knight tracker have an in-built SIM card and can either be purchased outright with a $12.99 monthly payment, or with monthly payments of $29 or $35 with no outright purchase.

Passive GPS Devices

The biggest difference between active and passive GPS devices is the ability to send data in real-time. While active GPS devices transmit data, passive GPS devices record data, and some can record the same statistics as active GPS devices. They record all data points onto a memory which can be checked when connected to a computer. Some passive GPS devices can have a database of maps stored and displays the location data on the map in real time, however it cannot transmit this data to a separate device.

Since passive GPS device do not require an ongoing network connection to transmit data, they are cheaper than active GPS devices. Passive GPS devices include GPS watches, GPS navigation devices and anything that can log location data without transmitting it.


GPS devices do more or less the same thing: tell you where you are, or where you went. An active GPS device can transmit location data in real-time, whereas passive GPS device just records where you went. Make sure you know what your needs are and check whether the device you’re purchasing is an active or passive GPS device.


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