Everything You Need To Know About CalAmp GPS Devices
There are many GPS devices on the market but few are as robust and reliable as those designed and manufactured by CalAmp. CalAmp devices are deployed for some UniteGPS solutions. We use the 2600 Series of devices in our standard deployment. There are millions of these devices deployed around the world.
Devices and Antenna Styles: Devices have either an internal antenna or external antenna. Devices with internal antennas must have a clear view of the sky. This typically means mounting the device on the dash with Velcro or some other mild adhesive. Below is a side-by-side comparison of the the CalAmp 2600 with Internal Antenna (Top) and External Antenna (Bottom). Both device will provide equally accurate GPS coordinate data if installed correctly.
CalAmp2600 with Internal Antenna (Top) vs. CalAmp2600 with External Antenna (Bottom)
There are two types of antenna styles that you may encounter. One type is a disk that picks up both the GPS and cellular signal. This model has a 3M adhesive sticker on the back. If you have a choice I recommend buying this version because the design with the adhesive already applied to the disk leave no room for error that the antenna is facing the sky. The newer version antenna works as well except the adhesive is provided loose in the packaging and is easily installed with the antenna facing passenger compartment. This will cause lower quality GPS coordinate readings.
Comparison Older Style 3M Disk Antenna (Top) vs. Newer Plank Style (Bottom)
External Antenna Pros and Cons: The external antenna has distinct advantages and disadvantages compared with the device with internal antenna. The biggest advantage is the GPS box part of the device may be mounted out of view. This can be especially important if the devices are to be used in places that are especially hot like Florida. If there is a concern the device may be disconnected or tampered with it may be helpful if able to installed less conspicuously than on the dash.
One disadvantage of the external antenna is the connection between the antenna and the box part of the device introduces an additional point of failure. Both brass connections must be solid else the device will not connect to the network or read satellites. While loose connections do not happen very often it may take some time to troubleshoot if a device starts acting up. The biggest disadvantage of the external antenna the is the additional 18% to the overall cost of hardware.
Antenna Placement: Placing the external antenna with a clear view of the sky is extremely important to obtaining accurate GPS coordinates. Place the disk part of the antenna on the front windshield of the vehicle with the adhesive side facing the sky. Make sure the antenna is at least 2" from any windshield frit, sticker, exterior sheet metal or anything else that may interfere with function of the antenna. Below are examples of a correctly and incorrectly installed external antenna.
CalAmp 2600 with Internal Antenna Showing Correct Placement Facing The Sky With No Obstruction
CalAmp 2600 with External Antenna Incorrect Installation Facing the Body of the Vehicle
Placement of Devices with Internal Antenna: You want to make sure devices with an internal antenna have an unobstructed view of the sky like we explained related to the external antenna. Below are examples of how to correctly place the device on the dash of the vehicle. The example below of how not to place the device shows the device next to the body of the vehicle and behind a registration sticker and windshield frit.
CalAmp 2600 with Internal Antenna Showing Incorrect Placement of Device
CalAmp 2600 with Internal Antenna Showing Correct View of Sky Placement
Installation: A company called ActSoft has put together a beautiful installation video that we recommend.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMC5xC9AoPM
Should we install the devices ourselves? Probably! About 15% of our clients opt to have a professional installer come on site to handle the devices installation. Most of those clients could do it themselves but need the extra help for various reasons. Anyone capable of installing a car radio should have no difficulty installing the CalAmp 2600. The cost of professional installation runs between $50 and $70 in various parts of the country and depending upon who you call with various levels of quality. Do not assume the installer understands everything covered in this blog because there are many device and they can't be expected to know them all.
Testing: once the device is installed it is extremely important to test and verify accuracy of GPS data and a solid connection to the network. CalAmp devices have a green LED that provides status of GPS connection and Orange LED the provides status of the network connection.
When I first started working with CalAmp GPS devices the various patterns of GPS blinking and solid were very confusing. I make some quick videos below that will hopefully help you understand more quickly.
CalAmp2600 Connected to GPS and Network (Video below): Solid Green = Successful GPS, Solid Orange (or Intermittent Solid Orange) = Network Connection
CalAmp2600 Connected to GPS and Searching for Network (Video below): Solid Green = Successful GPS, Blinking Orange = Not Connected to Network
CalAmp2600 Searching for GPS and Searching for Network (Video below): Blinking Green = Unable to calculate GPS Signal, Blinking Orange = Not Connected to Network
Sleep & Deep Sleep Mode: The CalAmp devices may be programmed with a sleep mode and deep sleep mode. This is very important to avoid unnecessary depletion of the vehicle battery.
<3 mA @ 12V (deep sleep)
<20mA @ 12V (sleep)