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Soon, I'm going to be building myself a nice car PC. One of the features which I'd really like to implement is GPS tracking. I'd like to, while the car is on, essentially be tracking my GPS coordinates and recording them to a local SQL database for later analysis. I'll probably be programming in Python.

I've seen PCI GPS cards, but how do they work? Do I need a subscription to a cellular network to be able to use them? Are they fairly accurate, down to 2-3 feet when locked in?

How do I interface with such a device? Please forgive me, I'm brand new to this kind of hardware in a computer.

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GPS works standalone; the usage of a cellular network is only for "assistance" -- usually by downloading part of the orbital data from an Internet server instead of a satellite. See Assisted GPS. – grawity May 7 '12 at 16:34
up vote 1 down vote accepted

There's the NMEA0183 protocol, which is basically just a string format to be shipped over a serial port. I think there's a few cell phones that can output their GPS coordinates over a USB-to-serial interface using NMEA0183 (I will update if I find any information).

Basically it would work like reading data off of a serial port.

I looked briefly online for GPS PCI cards, one had a serial port, and this mini-PCIe one seems to support NMEA0183 (over an emulated serial port I would presume).

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Not all receivers actually support the protocol in full; some require fancy initialization commands or such. Because of this, most programs only interface with gpsd -- which provides a more reliable interface and also allows multiple programs to use a single GPS device. – grawity May 7 '12 at 16:36

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