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Wannabe Geek


# 32061 9-Apr-2009 22:42
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Hey guys/gals,


I'm looking into GPS tracking of vehicles - I'm trying to see what the cheapest solution would be to tracking a vehicle either on demand (by sending a command for example) or at a time interval (say every 30 minutes).


After having a look around, I could see that devices that have GPS, as well as GSM or GPRS are likely to cost around $400.


I thought, why not just buy a mobile phone for this price?


I found that vodafone has a phone at $400 ( http://www.vodafone.co.nz/shop/mobileDetails.jsp?skuId=sku2370129&hardwareSkuId=&menuKey=&selectedPlanSkuId=sku80020&selectedView=&selectedTab=overview)


There's some Java software that looks like it'll run on it too - http://www.trakkcor.ch/ 


Of course there'll be fees for the mobile service, and I'll have to set up a server for the phone to send its locations to, but that's all part of the fun :)


A problem with this though, is that the phone needs to be powered somehow.  I was thinking that I might be able to hook the cellphone up to the car battery somehow, and duct tape it under the dashboard.  I don't know if this would work - it could just make my car battery flat?  


Does anyone have any experience with this sort of thing?

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  # 206306 10-Apr-2009 09:22
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Google latitude

Free application (pay for the mobile data though)

John

 
 
 
 


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  # 206307 10-Apr-2009 09:25
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If you want a system that wotrks then you're going to have to buy decent hardware. Simple as that.

The most obvious issue with a phone you'll potentially be continually having to cycle the power if the phone turns itself off - ie you have it running on a charger which will keep it powered but if the phone then runs on battery for say 24 hours and then shuts down it won't auto power back up. This makes it totally unusable.




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Wannabe Geek


  # 206308 10-Apr-2009 09:35
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Ok - so I have some more direct questions now:


1. Is a $400 phone not going to be decent enough hardware? i.e. is the Phone's GPS not going to work under the dashboard?


2. Is it impractical to run a phone off the car battery? - so it wont go flat.


I'm not concerned with the tracking of the vehicle on a map (on a server) etc - that bit I know I can do.

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  # 206311 10-Apr-2009 10:05
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I've used an 8310 Blackberry with google maps as passenger using the "your location" function and it was VERY accurate... this was costlier though as it was using data (google maps) and positioning using network help. It didn't work as well (not as precise) on the train probably no clear online on site ...- also tried iphone 3G with google maps but the GPS wasn't as good
I've also used the n95 8GB with built in GPS.. using Nokia Maps it was reliable and only using the built in GPS device and no network assistance... needs good line on site though...

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  # 206314 10-Apr-2009 10:47
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To be completely honest if you're wanting this for a commercial application then trying to build a DIY system is IMHO a waste of time.

There are plenty of companies out there who offer this service and have the hardware and software to do it which means you won't run into all the problems associated with your current ideas.


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  # 206344 10-Apr-2009 13:49
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LouisSayers: Does anyone have any experience with this sort of thing?


As someone who has worked on a client's GPS tracking system, it's not as easy as you would think.

You need to think about the tracking unit, how it will be installed, and how it will communicate back to your server.  On the server side you need to think about how it will receive the GPS point, what happens if the unit goes out of coverage, and what happens if the internet link to the server goes down.

Even once you have all the data, you then need to make it useful and represent it on a map, with reports, alerts etc.

If this is just a pet project, it will be a lot of work (should be fun though), however if you want something more reliable, I would go with an expert.


side note: I have a GPS tracking unit installed in my car, and they are a fantastic piece of technology.  Mine is also hooked into my alarm, so I get a SMS message if it goes off.




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  # 206363 10-Apr-2009 16:05
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I'm seeing this as being more like a project at the moment, so that's why I'm thinking of the DIY approach.

The server side doesn't seem like an issue to me i.e. I don't see why putting a GPS point on a map or getting an address from a point would be all that difficult (http://code.google.com/apis/maps/documentation/services.html#ReverseGeocoding), and I don't see why receiving a GPS point should be difficult either if going over GPRS (just post to the web server url, giving a unique id and GPS point).  I'd probably just use google app engine as I'm developing with that at the moment, which means I've got free web hosting.

I'm a bit more cautious about the Java software running on the phone - and configuring it, and also with the GPS reception of the phone under the dashboard, and power getting to the phone.

Canterbury - you said the Iphone wasn't as good with the GPS - I'm curious to know how accurate it was?  That could definitely be a downside with the phone if the GPS isn't very accurate.


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# 206373 10-Apr-2009 17:02
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If you're a developer, and interested in tinkering - then by all means it would be a fun little project for you.

If, however you're interested in this for commercial purposes or you need real reliability and accuracy - then you should seriously consider just buying hardware + service from an established provider of vehicle tracking.




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  # 206464 11-Apr-2009 14:43
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I've been thinking about this a little lately too.

I'd say scrap the phone idea and run with something like this or one of the many similar devices on ebay. Probably won't be as reliable as the professional options above but for under $400 + monthly GPRS data bill and your ability to do the bits on the other end it will come in far far cheaper.



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  # 206465 11-Apr-2009 15:04
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Thanks Scott - that is pretty much what I was looking for :)

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  # 206467 11-Apr-2009 15:12
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LouisSayers: Thanks Scott - that is pretty much what I was looking for :)


Heaps on Ebay too, though 70% appear to be the same model (the guts could of course be different).

You are lucky that you have the skills to write the server side stuff :-) When you get it going flick me a PM with a link to have a look see.

What I would be interested in is the ability to see a breadcrumb trail of the past 1,3,5,10 days of switchable "layers". This would be cool to look at after a road trip etc in addition to just the current location which is what you would be after if your vehicle was stolen.

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  # 206472 11-Apr-2009 17:00
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scottjpalmer: I'd say scrap the phone idea and run with something like this or one of the many similar devices on ebay. Probably won't be as reliable as the professional options above but for under $400 +
monthly GPRS data bill and your ability to do the bits on the other end it will come in far far cheaper.


Just make sure you keep the prepay card topped up with credit, Murphy's Law says the one time your bike/car/unimog/tank gets stolen your card is out of $$$ Cool

edit: Read the reviews on the link Scott posted, one guy is tracking his two cats!

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  # 206476 11-Apr-2009 17:27
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Other option is to use a microcontroller, a Siemens TC35i, or MC39 and a serial "gps mouse" and write up your own code. Then it becomes a real geek product and you know exactly what it does.

I should do something similar as I want a unit that can poll me it's co-ords every 10 minutes. remotely enabled/disabled. Hopefully WCDMA850 modules are not too far off.


I have seen modules that do what you are asking with built-in GPS, geofences and polling setups on Webuy and Ebay and a couple on Trademe, one of those even managed it using a PIC16! then there are the professional services like Snitch and Blackhawk.

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  # 206484 11-Apr-2009 18:13
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Just make sure the hardware you buy takes a SIM card and enables at least SMS communication, preferably GPRS communication. There are some out there that only log the data for uploading to a PC later via cable (ie the webuy one above)

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