When it comes to device installation, there are many GPS options on the market, but few are as robust as those designed and manufactured by CalAmp. Here at UniteGPS, we deploy CalAmp devices to our Crosswalk K-12 and Town Transit solutions, specifically the 2600 Series in our standard procedure. Companies deploy millions of CalAmp devices around the world due to their reliability and value.
Devices and Antenna Styles
For starters, CalAmp 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.
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, UniteGPS would recommend buying this version because the design with the adhesive already applied to the disk leave no room for error in terms of the antenna 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. In the end, this will cause lower quality GPS coordinate readings.
External Antenna Pros and Cons
The external antenna has distinct advantages and disadvantages compared to devices with internal antenna. That’s to say, 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 operate in hot humid places like Florida. If you’re concerned about somebody disconnecting or tampering with the device, then we will find a less conspicuous area other than 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.
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.
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.
Time for the CalAmp GPS Device Installation
A company called ActSoft has put together a beautiful installation video that we recommend.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMC5xC9AoPM
Should you install the devices yourself?
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 different types of devices. Not many people can be expected to be familiar with them all.
Once the device is installed, remember that it’s extremely important to test and verify the accuracy of GPS data with a solid connection to the network. As you will see, CalAmp devices have a green LED that provides status of GPS connection. Equally important is the orange LED that gives the status of the network connection.
When UniteGPS first started working with CalAmp GPS devices, the various patterns of GPS blinking were very confusing. We made some quick videos below that will hopefully help you understand this more quickly.
CalAmp2600 Connected to GPS and Network (Video below): Solid Green = Successful GPS, Solid Orange (or Intermittent Solid Orange) = Network Connection
Extra reading: Read how school districts across the country are tracking COVID-19 with Crosswalk K-12 after you’re done learning about the CalAmp GPS device installation process!