Using GPS Data from the RadioReference Database

From The RadioReference Wiki

In addition to being familiar with your scanner and an understanding of programming locations (described above) you should have a general understanding of where RadioReference stores location data with its radio data that can be downloaded by third party software.

While it is not necessary to know the specific names of all data fields, currently the RadioReference database stores location data in several database fields that are not used for Location-based scanning, such as: ZIP Code info and FCC location, etc. For example, when you review any agency info in the database if you click on the FCC license call sign the GPS coordinates registered with the FCC will sometimes be shown. This data is not what is used for location based scanning.

It is very helpful to be aware of the RadioReference database fields that match up to what can be used in the scanners. Each description below is followed by a sample link where RadioReference users can view specific types of data online in report format. The following fields correspond directly to the data used in the scanners.

Trunked System site – a trunking site can have specific location data assigned to it. If none is specified, then it inherits the location data based on the county that it is located in. If no county is defined for the site, the site inherits the trunked system default location data. The name of the field used by the third party software is called TrsSite

Trunked System Talkgroup category – a talkgroup category can have specific location data assigned to it. If none is specified, it inherits the trunked system default location data. The name of the field used by the third party software is called TalkgroupCat

Frequency Subcategory - a conventional frequency subcategory can have specific location data assigned to it. If no location data is specified for the frequency subcategory, then it inherits location data from the parent agency or county. The name of the field used by the third party software is called subcat

Related Wiki-Templates - To place any of the above links into an article, please use the corresponding Wiki-templates:


RadioReference members can submit data for any of these fields where there is none or where there are errors. (Remember, if you are submitting data, that the coordinates and range should be entered for the intended useable area, not the coverage area. For example, if Agency XYZ has a 300 watt repeater that you can hear for miles away from the city, the intended usable area is more likely to be the agency boundary of the city or county. When submitting data to the database you would enter the radius necessary to cover the city or county, not a larger radius to cover the capable listening area of the transmitter.) Users who desire to add Location_Based_Info should become very familiar with RR_Database_Submission_Guidelines before submitting changes to the RadioReference database.

The descriptions of the fields described above make reference to ‘inheriting’ data from higher levels of the database. There are multiple fields that the RadioReference User cannot see by looking at the database online. The key fields relevant to location-based scanning that you cannot see are as follows:

  1. State – a state can have location data assigned to it that serves as a default set of location data for the state or for state agencies.
  2. County – a county can have location data assigned to it that serves as a default set of location data for the county.
  3. Agency – an agency can have location data assigned to it that serves as a default set of location data for the agency.
  4. Trunk System – a trunked system can have location data assigned to it that serves as a default set of location data for the entire system.

The RadioReference database does not currently show the RR user GPS data for State, County, Agency, or System in any of the online user reports. For example, if you were to review the online report for any conventional frequency subcategory data, if there is no data entered for that subcategory you will see absolutely no data (inherited data is not shown online.) All data values are processed and provided to third party applications using the RadioReference Web Service API with an indication if it is an inherited or native value. The inherit feature/function will appear to the end user as if it can only be seen by third party applications.

The RadioReference database is by no means complete, but it has the capability to store all of the info necessary for Location-based Scanning. You can cut and paste the info from the database for free, but to download this information directly into your scanner you will need a third party software that is capable of connecting to RadioReference and you will need a paid subscription to website for access.

Using third party software with the GPS features

Most importantly you will simply want to understand the capabilities of the scanners ability to store GPS data compared to the fields that are used by the RadioReference Web Service to interface with third party software that connects to the database and extracts useable data.

For HP series scanner users, it is not required to interface or access RadioReference directly. While you can download data and GPS coordinates, Uniden provides HP series owners with weekly updates for no charge via the Sentinel software. For all other scanners, some of the DMA supported applications are Location-Based scanning capable.

It is important to make sure the software you have selected uses the ‘inherit’ feature capability if you expect to download accurate GPS data. Each time RadioReference changes the structure of its database they release a set of code or instructions, Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), to third party vendors so they can utilize any new features. The “inherit” capabilities were released in version 8 of the SOAP RadioReference Web Service. The current release is version 9 and many third party software vendors are using release 9 or in the process of upgrading their programs to be compatible. If you are not sure, or you are downloading unexpected GPS data that doesn’t match what you expect or what is in the RadioReference database, ask the vendor of the software product you have selected.

Third party software using older versions of the Radio Reference Web Service can cause missing and/or erroneous location-based data to be downloaded. In addition, programs that are designed to program a variety of scanners may be misleading you as to where the data is being stored or used; it is possible that the program is downloading data in one location that would be used with XT models and data in another location that would be used with other models, etc. Without a good knowledge of the scanners and data explained above, even the experienced user can easily be confused.

The XT model scanners are capable of storing coordinates with each Trunked Radio Site within a system (this can be single site systems or multi-site systems) and within each set or “GROUP” of Talk Group ID’s (TGID) within a system. The XT models also can store coordinates for a set or “GROUP” of frequencies within a conventional system. The non-XT models handle coordinates differently and do not store GPS coordinates at the TGID level, you can only segment by trunk site. For the conventional entries on the non-XT models the GPS data is stored at the conventional system level, not the group level – which may or may not be the same depending on what you have programmed. In either cases data is retrieved from RadioReference the same for both scanner types. (For the HP series scanners, this is transparent to the user since it is translated to the Home Patrol database by Uniden on a weekly basis.)

Someday, ‘seamless’ GPS scanning may be a reality. For now, the data in the RadioReference database is only as good as what scanner enthusiasts populate into the database and the capabilities of the software/hardware using the data. The completeness of the database is evolving only as fast as users are adding data. To this accord, there may be cases where you want to enter your own data directly into the third party software before uploading to your scanner. However, where possible you should update the database if you can.

Most of the third party programs that handle location-based scanning have some sort of tools for viewing maps and searching locations necessary for programming locations. While the focus of this article has been how to understand the data that is downloaded from RadioReference automatically, there are some advantages to programming locations on your own.