Liz Sanderson
Liz Sanderson
  • Updated


Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system that uses a receiver and four or more satellites to determine position anywhere on earth. The term GPS used to refer to only the United States satellite system which is part of the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) but has become interchangeable with satellite navigation systems from other countries. These are the satellite navigation systems provided by each country: GNSS (North America), GLONASS (Russia), Galileo (European Union), BeiDou (China), NAVIC (India), and Quasi-Zenith (Japan). Note that this article uses GPS to refer to the GNSS satellites, your GPS device might be able to use the other systems, consult your device’s documentation for more information.

Knowing your location or the location of your asset is vital. By using a GPS device receiver and satellites, the location is determined accurately (exact accuracy measurements can vary significantly between device brands). Collecting the data is the easy part, being able to use the data in a meaningful way is where things become tricky, that’s where FME comes in.

There are three main ways FME can interact with GPS data. The first way is to directly read in the GPS data using brand-specific format readers like Trimble, Garmin or ArcPad. The second way is to export the data from your GPS device in a generic GPX, KML, XML or CSV format and then read it into FME. The third way is to connect to your device’s API. This article will discuss all three methods and provide additional resources to learn more.


Brand-Specific Data Formats

Depending on which brand of GPS device you are trying to read data from, a free plugin called GPSBabel may need to be installed first. GPSBabel is a free, open-source plugin that works with any operating system. Once it is installed, after FME is restarted, the formats will be available to use. If you are having issues with FME and GPSBabel, contact Safe Software Support. Consult the documentation for your specific brand of GPS to determine how to export the data. FME can also write out to all the formats listed below unless otherwise indicated.


Formats that can be read directly into FME:


Formats that require GPSBabel:


Some GPS devices or mobile apps can export GPX, KML or XML data, which can then be read into FME using the corresponding readers. FME can also write out to these formats which can then be imported into your device (if available on the device). For more information on how to do this see the following tutorials:



Reading GPX Data

Writing GPX Data



Tutorial: Getting Started with KML

How to Convert KML to Shapefile | How to Convert Shapefile to KML



Tutorial: Getting Started with XML



Tutorial: Getting Started with CSV

Build Road Lines from GPS Points (CSV to Shape)


Using an API to retrieve GPS data

Besides being able to export the data to a file, some GPS’s have an API that allows you to retrieve the data via an internet connected device. Using FME and the HTTPCaller transformer, these API’s can be read in and manipulated. To learn how to use an API in FME, see the following tutorials:


The following is the list of API enabled GPS devices that our customers have used, please your device’s documentation to learn the specifics about how to use their specific API:


John Deere:




If you have successfully used another GPS device with FME, please comment below, and we will add it to this list.


Additional Resources

[Question] Snapping GPS Trails to Road Centreline

[Question] Cleaning GPS Line Work

[Blog] GPS Meets Video. Do We Need a Standard for Geotagging Videos?

[Blog] CAT to GIS: Tracking Cats via GPS on Google Earth

[Blog] FME 2010 Use Case: Geo-tracking with FME

[Video] iOS ARKit and FME - GPS hike and OBJ model

[Video] Episode 7: Coders on Couches Drinking Coffee - Georeferenced Video

[Template] Vessel Tracking & Navigation Data

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