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Real Time Vehicle Tracking Made Easy 207

Makarand writes "The Washington Post has an article about a vehicle tracking system built by a start-up The system uses low orbit satellites for exchanging location information making it available anywhere in the US. The tracking device, the size of a paperback, can be installed in any vehicle and powered by a battery. A small antenna installed on top sends signals to satellites marking its position on a web-based map. The equipment costs around $1000 and monthly fees range from $20 to $65. The service plan will determine how often your position will be updated by the system. The tracking system FAQ on the company website is pretty detailed."
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Real Time Vehicle Tracking Made Easy

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  • this could be good (Score:1, Interesting)

    by neo8750 ( 566137 )
    this could be good for tracking down stolen cars if the theifs don't know how to shut the ystem off or remove it...FP
    • Until the design no longer uses "A small antenna installed on top", it's going to be pretty easy to spot and disarm.

      Of course, if it's your employers truck, you might not easily be able to explain the second time your antenna goes missing.

      • There are "stealth" antennas made for automobiles that are almost invisible. The top of the antenna is flush with the outer surface of the body of the automobile.
    • But isn't that the whole point of this hardware system? To keep track of where you are and to know where your car is if it happens to get stolen?

      That was my impression.
    • Most car dealerships or car security dealers already have a system which can be used to track down theif if they steal your car. It called LoJack, which was unpopular because by the time they found the police found the car the only thing left was the frame of the car and the lojack box.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @11:42PM (#4720891)
    Fortunately, it costs far less than $1000 to cover your entire car in tinfoil, just in case. Though depending upon your climate and average driving speed, you may still have to spring for the monthly upkeep of $20-65...
    • I don't have a car, so on top of saving heaps of money and getting exercise from riding my bike, I'll also be untrackable!

      Ooh yeah. I have a stealth bike, uh huh.
    • by troc ( 3606 ) <> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @04:56AM (#4721423) Homepage Journal
      We have a system in the UK called Tracker [] that works extremely well and was recently tested by the police and others - they tried every trick in the book from covering a car in tin foil (for real) to hiding it in the deepest pits of a concrete underground car park and the car was still tracked without any problems whatsoever.

      Tracker is also cheaper than this US system.


    • when people give you crap about "Hey, jackass, why's your car covered in tinfoil?" you can say "fuck you, man, I'm locking in the juices!" which should satisfy them for all of two seconds.

      When they say, "Huh, what juices!?", you point behind them and say, "Oh, my god!!! A roquefort monster!!!!" As nobody knows what roquefort is ("let's see now, we got your yellow cheese, your white cheese, your swiss cheese, and your american cheese, that covers it") they will have to turn and look to see what this thing is. Take this opportunity to punch them in the back of the head and then run away in your tinfoil covered car. They won't be able to track you!

      Except by following the shiny reflection.
  • Car Rentals (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Talennor ( 612270 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @11:43PM (#4720898) Journal
    Something I remember from a while ago is that car rental companies might use something like this. At that price car rental companies can fine you a couple of times for driving too fast, which they can now find out about, and it's already payed for, earning them money while they watch your every move. As if the internet wasn't good enough to track you everywhere.
    • I think the courts decided that car rental companies could not fine the drivers as the rental companies do not have police or judicial powers. I'm just going on memory here though and could be wrong.
      • Possibly ... but they could certainly refuse to rent to you again.
      • Re:Car Rentals (Score:3, Informative)

        by ffoiii ( 226358 )
        I believe the court responded in the first case that the car rental company could not fine the driver because it was not clear in the contract that the car rental company could do so using GPS technology.

        The contract stated that the driver could be penalized for not obeying local traffic laws, but it was not clear in the contract that the car rental company could institute the fine without corrobration from the local police.

        I'm sure that the car rental company has changed the relevant language in the contract.
        • IIRC, the other sticky part of that was, corporations were not allowed to collect fees or fines for law enforcement. In other words, it clearly was not their domain to enforce or track.
      • I believe the decision spoke to not stating the fess up front, and not the ability of the rental agencies to charge the fees.

        In other words, it did not affect the ability of car rental companies to monitor the customers, but only the ability to charge credit cards without disclosure.

  • Antenna on top? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Original Yama ( 454111 ) <> on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @11:43PM (#4720902) Homepage
    If the antenna is installed on top, can't a thief break it off (to disrupt communications with the satellites) before stealing a car?
    • I don't think that this is supposed to serve as a theft deterrent, think of the value of having frequent updates of exact position of each vehicle in a fleet, of say... taxi's, law enforcement or other emergency personnel, or trucks for companies that do a lot of over the road shipping. This has "dispatch manager's best friend" written all over it

      LoJack does well enough for theft deterrence/recovery, I don't think they are trying to compete in that market...
  • by I Am The Owl ( 531076 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @11:44PM (#4720904) Homepage Journal
    Of course, now the CIA wants to track your vehicle movements so that they can send a drone to firebomb your car on your way to work, you know, if they think you're pirating MP3s. But that is only the first step!

    The logical conclusion I have arrived at after reading Slashdot for 1 week straight without sleep is thus: your organs will be tagged and stolen by radioactive agents of the CIA who use their penises to transmit secret recipies for Swedish meatballs. Just look at the latest article on embeddable tagging and tracking devices. They are out to violate your privacy! Before long, all your Constitutionally-protected privacy information will be in linked up in a big government database so that deranged mechanicals can encase you in concrete and have their way with you before torturing you to death!

    I can't stress enough the importance of stopping this technology now. You will not be able to sleep until this insidious global conspiracy is stopped.

    • The logical conclusion I have arrived at after reading Slashdot for 1 week straight without sleep is thus

      Surgeon General's warning: This kind of behaviour could land you dead in a toilet somewhere... cyber-cafe style.
  • Credit Card? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kaosrain ( 543532 ) <root@kaosra i n . c om> on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @11:44PM (#4720906) Homepage
    From the company's FAQ:

    Can I pay via a credit card?
    Not at this time. We accept PayPal, corporate checks, and certified funds for payment at this time. We are currently working on accepting credit cards.

    I don't know how safe I would feel doing business with a professional company that requires PayPal to accept credit cards.
    • Re:Credit Card? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by duncf ( 628065 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @01:57AM (#4721065)
      No kidding!

      PayPal is unprofessional, and definitely unacceptable for such a large payment (One-Time Equipment Fee: $700) to a professional company.

      $700?!? for what? It's not even theft protection (a thief can break the antenna). Really, a cell phone (or even a sattelite phone) provides essentially all the same functionality (and almost certainly for less money).

      I'd say they go bankrupt within 3 years, making that lovely equipment you bought useless to you.
    • Incidentally, I'm reminded of a certain web-based discussion forum [] that started its subscription system with PayPal only.

      Gosh, how fast people can forget.

    • Well, I'd suggest that they don't communicate with satellites at all. Other than receiving GPS signals, that is.

      Look at it this way: at BG Micro [] you can now buy a GPS module, with serial output, for less than $20. A minor microcontroller circuit and a cellphone or cellphone module later, and you have your little tracking device.

      The monthly fees are about right for cellphone access, and the large equipment cost certainly leaves enough room for a profit.

      I could certainly build such a device, order cellphone service for my customers' areas, and provide a server to phone home to. And I would also have to be paid some way other than by credit card.

      By the way, someone was selling a strikingly similar service on eBay, for the same price. There were a bunch of those auctions with all the huge all-caps text and yellow backgrounds, etc.,.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is what I've been waiting for... Something to easily help me track my Time Vehicle. No, it's not a fake, it's the real thing. Don't worry, you'll be seeing it in the future... or maybe the past ;-) I'd show it to you now, but I keep losing track of it... *shrug*
  • commercials featuring ALF [] and Emmitt Smith []?

    Never mind... that's 10-10-220 [].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @11:44PM (#4720909)
    How long before Congress decides that all new cars manufactured in or imported into the US come with one of these puppies installed, and that removing or damaging the unit is a felony?
  • by soulctcher ( 581951 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @11:44PM (#4720910) [] Satellite tracking and all...
  • by NotAnotherReboot ( 262125 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @11:45PM (#4720913)
    "Families can stay in silent contact with loved ones during long or uncertain trips - a beacon that works anywhere. Our unique "peek-proof" system allows parents to obtain emergency location information while giving young drivers the comfort of knowing they are not being constantly watched."

    Sure, they're loved ones until they get this and the spouse figures out where they're really going on those "business trips."

    har har.
  • New Economy (Score:5, Funny)

    by KFury ( 19522 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @11:45PM (#4720914) Homepage
    Gotta love a business high tech enough to rely on two-way satellite communications for realtime position tracking, but asks you to pay via Paypal because they don't take credit cards.
  • Yea dad... (Score:5, Funny)

    by sdo1 ( 213835 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @11:46PM (#4720919) Journal
    "We just went to the movie theater and then the coffee shop. Honest."

    It's as if millions of hormonal boys suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.

  • wow (Score:3, Funny)

    by lingqi ( 577227 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @11:47PM (#4720928) Journal
    so if i wrap this in double-side tape and shape it like a bat, i can go and throw it around on cars and track their location in the name of fighting crime?

    (speaking of which, since this stuff was in superhero books for the longest time - was there anything remotely similar before this?)
  • thank Gawd (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    now I'll be able to find my car (burp)
  • OnStar (Score:5, Interesting)

    by andyring ( 100627 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @11:49PM (#4720932) Homepage
    This doesn't seem to be really any different than OnStar [], with the exception being it seems easier to install in about any vehicle (OnStar tends to work best when installed at the factory, I believe). And, I think OnStar is cheaper (for the most part) at about $30 a month. Not to mention they can do things like call the police if you're in trouble, diagnose car problems remotely, etc. etc. etc.

    I could see it beneficial, however, for company vehicles or the 16-year-old kid busting at the seams with testosterone.

  • newsworthy? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mossmann ( 25539 )
    This stuff has been around for a while. A guy I know works for a company [] that does this at sea.
  • Accord [], a company that I know has been doing it [] for ages, in more than one country. So whats new?

  • Serial Ports (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sharph ( 171971 ) <> on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @11:56PM (#4720956) Homepage
    Is it just me or are there serial ports on this thing?

    look []

    What are those for and are we allowed to play with them?

  • by CodePyro ( 627236 ) on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @11:58PM (#4720963)
    This device since it is based on satellite technology rather than cellular technologies will have draw backs related with satellite technologies. On of the worst draw backs is that no signal if your not in open space.(meaning something isn't obstructing your signal such as going through a tunnel even tall buildings or a cloudy day can block the signal) Maybe a Combination of cellular, radio, and satellite could be the ultimate solution.
    • "On of the worst draw backs is that no signal if your not in open space.(meaning something isn't obstructing your signal such as going through a tunnel even tall buildings or a cloudy day can block the signal)"

      As someone who's been through Baltimore's Harbor and Ft. McHenry Tunnels more times than I care to think about, I can tell you that those don't work in tunnels either. At least not until they build repeaters into the tunnel.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 20, 2002 @11:59PM (#4720971)
    Why the hell aren't cellular service providers jumping all over this? They should package a small gps device with a cell phone that I can put in my car to track should it ever get stolen. It should be part of my service plan, and should only carry a small charge (if any) to call the device. I would pay a couple hundred of dollars for this, i wouldn't pay $1,000 dollars for something that also has a monthly fee. Oh, and small cylindrical devices should also be made to go inside my bicycle frame....

    • The sprint PCS phones have built in GPS.
    • by eyegor ( 148503 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @01:50AM (#4721044)
      because it has nothing to do with cell phones?

      There are many different cell phone tracking technologies being developed for E911 purposes. They can also be used for other purposes (stolen car tracking/shipment tracking/finding bad guys/traffic probes):

      1. GPS-enabled. The only problem is getting the satellites when you're under cover (trees/tall buildings/indoors) and it takes a while to sync up. You also MUST have a GPS on every phone you wish to track. I'll bet the cell phone manufacturers like this one the best.

      2. Time difference of arrival (TDOA) is an infrastructure-based method that measures what time a particular signal hits different sets of antennas. Not especially resistant to multi-path and requires very accurate timing.

      3. Phase angle of arrival. Measures the phase angle of incoming signals between the phone and different receiving sites. Triangulates and find the phone within 100 yards or so. Works pretty well in a multipath environment. Also infrastructure based.
    • Done. The FCC [] has some information about the E911 [] system that carriers like Verizon [] and Sprint [] are already rolling out. Basically, it gives the 911 operator your GPS location. This could easily be expanded to other things as well, but many of the higher end and newer cell phones come with it built in. E911 is currently being tested in select areas, but eventually it should become nationwide.
  • TruckSecure (Score:2, Informative)

    by lunartik ( 94926 )
    This is like Delphi's TruckSecure [] (Detroit News), a product that expands on LoJack and OnStar technologies.

    It can be used to track hazardous materials shipments, plus provide access and security controls to the vehicles.

    Pretty cool actually.
  • by Spazholio ( 314843 ) <{slashdot} {at} {}> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @01:26AM (#4720986) Homepage
    I, for one, was getting quite sick of tracking all those "fake" time vehicles...=)
  • uh... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 21, 2002 @01:27AM (#4720988)
    dude, where's my car?
  • How parents could interpret the prices for the service-

    $20- puts a dot on a map showing where Johnny is at the moment

    $65- shows who Johnny is making out with on the lookout point outside of town
  • by nizcolas ( 597301 )
    is this just a pumped up version of GPS? It uses the same satellites as GPS. [according to the FAQ]

  • Lojack on crack (Score:5, Interesting)

    by n1ywb ( 555767 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @01:30AM (#4720992) Homepage Journal
    This is pretty cool, but nothing really new. I'm actively involved with radio location systems. I'm currently working on a project to build cheap automatic radio location devices. The innovative thing here is that it's designed for the mass market.

    My primary experience has been with APRS, the Automatic Position Reporting System. It's in many ways similar to this system. It's used quite extensively by ham radio operators to coordinate public service activities, track storms out in tornado ally, etc.

    The neat thing about APRS is that it isn't just a position tracking system, but it's a distributed network of repeating stations linked via radio and landlines. Here are some neat links you might find interesting:

  • Already exists (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cheese Cracker ( 615402 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @01:36AM (#4721001)
    There was this story [] 1 1/2 month ago about the bank robbers who killed five people and got tracked down by the satellite navigation system installed in the car they stole.

  • by fatboy ( 6851 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @01:38AM (#4721005)
    I have been doing APRS since 1996 or 1997. []

    But I guess it's nice to know that there is a commercial version avaliable.

  • APRS (Score:5, Informative)

    by djward ( 251728 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @01:39AM (#4721010)
    Automatic Position Reporting System

    HAM radio operators have been doing this for a while, but cheaper (with slightly more effort):

    License: ~$10 testing fee
    Basic GPS: ~$100
    APRS packet-capable radio: ~$300 (US)
    A couple of cables: ~$20

    The GPS sends location data to the radio, which broadcasts digital packets to a "digipeater," which is wired to the internet...

    A trip to and you're tracking. No monthly fees, plus you can use all the equipment for other stuff.
    • Re:APRS (Score:3, Informative)

      by fatboy ( 6851 )
      The GPS sends location data to the radio, which broadcasts digital packets to a "digipeater," which is wired to the internet...

      Close but not quite. Most digipeaters are NOT connected to the net. They simply digipeat the packet to a much wider area than the original. The device that sends the data to the internet network is called an "IGate". My friend Sean has created a floppy based linux distro that has IGate software on it. Here it is, if you would like to check it out. []

    • Re:APRS (Score:5, Funny)

      by nurightshu ( 517038 ) <> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:02AM (#4721080) Homepage Journal

      License: ~$10 testing fee
      Basic GPS: ~$100
      APRS packet-capable radio: ~$300 (US)
      A couple of cables: ~$20

      Realizing you're never going to get laid again: Priceless.

  • by DrunkenTerror ( 561616 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @01:42AM (#4721019) Homepage Journal
    ...and easy to disable without breaking the antenna. Might take a couple of tries, but I doubt it would take long for you to find a suitable cover for the antenna that blocked/disrupted the signal.

    I know it's not the same thing, but simply covering the antenna of a GPS unit with your hand almost always renders it useless. (I'm not suggesting you ride down the road with your hand on top of the car. My point is it should be relative simple to "break".)

    "Geeze. I dunno, boss. I didn't notice it was malfunctioning when I was out on the road."

    Of course bossman would probably get suspicious if it was ALWAYS not working when a particular employee was using said vehicle.

    (Please be kind with your modding. I tried to submit this an hour ago but submissions were broken.)
    • This is why you just create a clever hack that sits in your house reporting your position falsely while you drive around. Shouldn't be too hard to do since they don't mention any encryption on the data stream or anything.
  • Fines (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Evil Adrian ( 253301 )
    Any chance of them using this to fine you for speeding (like that rental car case a year or two back) or is that still illegal?
    • It just happens that in that one case, the company's contract didn't explicitly mention fines for GPS-based tracking.

      While some might want to point out that the rental car company has no right to act as the police: It's called Terms of Service. Lots of ISPs use this to enforce rules of theirs that have nothing to do with the law.

      All the rental car company has to do is say in legalese, "We reserve the right to charge you $n if our GPS tracking system indicates that you drive over x miles per hour."
  • by chaeron ( 128155 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @01:45AM (#4721028) Homepage
    My partner and I built a similar system using off the shelf parts (consumer GPS device, cell phone, embedded Java processor all mounted on a Radio Shack R/C truck) and open source software. We're currently working on adding Bluetooth to the platform for both cable replacement and remote configuration over short distances.

    Our solution used XML and Web Services from end to end, doing XML/SOAP parsing on the embedded processor to a back end J2EE system and also to a .NET server (the MS Terraserver for the aerial satellite photos we used for moving map display of position).

    Our J2EE server was a Linux box, running Tomcat, JBoss and lots of other open source stuff, including my own open source, Java, GPS Library code [].

    All this in our spare time, with very little expense. We blew away a lot of people when we demo'ed it at JavaOne this past Spring (the big boys like Sun/IBM/BEA et were just talking about the interoperability promise of Web Services...while were were demoing it an embedded processor no less).

    There's a white paper [] available that describes (in detail) what we did and the software/hardware that we used, for those that are interested.

    And being mounted on an R/C truck gave it serious geek coolosity factor too!

    So what's the big deal? ;-)
    • by Andy Dodd ( 701 )
      See other posts in this article about APRS.

      Been there, done that, none of this J2EE, Tomcat, JBoss (read simply: Java bloat) BS. Just some small applications that can fit in an 8-bit microcontroller such as a PIC or an AVR (Tracker side) and a single floppy on the server/gateway side.
  • bummer (Score:5, Funny)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @01:54AM (#4721055)
    I was tracking my car...on the PC...and it was like....


    And my car was...gone.

    And I was like....(wait...).... ghnuhhhuh?

    It car...

    And it was a really good car.

    And then I had to track it again, and I had to do it fast, so it wasn't as good...

    It's kind of ...(long wait, stay with me...)

    ...a bummer.

    Credit to E.F.. student :)
  • by vrassoc ( 581619 )

    In South Africa where vehicle theft and vehicle hijackings are at record breaking levels, there have been vehicle tracking systems for private vehicle owners and also fleet operators for a number of years.

    Look at [] and [].

    Both of these companies have a good track record. No excuse for the pun.

  • by wackybrit ( 321117 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:28AM (#4721129) Homepage Journal
    $1000 and $50 a month is NOT cheap. I couldn't afford that to keep track of my car.

    The thing is, most people don't need to keep track of their cars. Even fleet managers don't NEED to keep track of their cars. You can get remote immobilisers that use pagers so you can call them up and the car is immobilised.

    If someone steals you car, call the immobiliser and stop them in their tracks rather than chase them across the state on your map.
  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:29AM (#4721132) Homepage Journal
    Does any one take this service seriously. For instance

    What is the time delay between a point being logged by the tracking device and that point appearing on the web page?
    Usually it is less than 12 minutes.

    Lets assume that in town the average speed is 30 mph. That means a car can go about 6 miles in any direction, or like 100 mile^2 area to be searched for the car. The antennae can easily be broken off.

    or this
    Does the tracking system work indoors or underground?
    I wonder if chop shops are out in the open with line of sight to satellites or in enclosed warehouses.

    I want my child to have this in their vehicle for emergency situations, but they object to my tracking their every move. What is the solution?
    I understand how this sort of thing is useful in the consequences/rewards sequences of parenting, but parents making decisions because their offspring object, and not because thier offspring has earned the right to certain freedoms is just scary. It's like giving a child an Expedition not becuase the child knows how to drive it without killing other people but because thier peers(or the parents peers) will not respect them if they have anything less.

  • by Judg3 ( 88435 ) <jeremy.pavleck@com> on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:35AM (#4721142) Homepage Journal
    At least to us professional truck drivers.
    We use OmniTracs [] and virtually almost every fleet owner does the same.
    It does much more then positioning tracking, allowing us 2way communications and email anywhere in the world, but it does the same thing.

    It's a love-hate relationship. On one hand you hate it because they know where you are at all times, at other times I love it, as the computer guesstimates when I'm going to get somewhere and dispatches me a new load before I even deliver this one.

    It's not very accurate (sometimes it tracks me 250 miles away from where I am) and a tree, bridge, or other obstruction will render it inoperable for a good minute or 2 whilst it attempts to find the satellite, but overall it's not to bad.
  • What is old is new (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kbuckham ( 29440 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @02:50AM (#4721174)
    There are several very worthwhile and well-funded competitors in this area, and the use of satellite technology is not new. In addition I expect much more major players to jump into this area in next while with cheaper communications mediums and really shake the market up. But then again, I have suspected that for 5 years now. :)

    When my team and I built our first company we developed a web location based application service provider (ASP). We provided solutions to a wide array of customers and their vehicles (delivery trucks, long haul trucking, cars, yachts, ferries, tug boats, & emergency services). In addition we built the system to allow for numerous mechanisms of data collection (digital cellular, analog cellular, Orbcomm satellite, GlobalWave satellite, and trials with Iridium).

    For our server and client technologies we adopted Java, Linux and open source database solutions (MySQL) to cut costs. Often we were burned by these technologies as we started with good ol' JDK 1.1, first incarnations of servlets, poor, poor JDBC drivers, and waded through the issues of on and off support of Java in Internet Explorer. (Most of our clients used IE on Windows.)

    We offered services including automated collection of road taxes, automated driver's logs, enhanced driver safety, and monthly and weekly reports and logs. (Among a ton of other custom services.)

    Basically all of these systems have some means of positioning determination. This is commonly via GPS (Global Positioning System satellites) since good receivers are now relatively cheap and readily available. However, other positioning methodologies exist using things like radio triangulation, time and direction of arrival (TDOA), angle of arrival, and simple cell sector for ground based wireless communication networks. Contrary to what some seem to think, GPS satellites only provide *you* with *your* location, and you must use a secondary communication medium to transmit that information to somewhere useful.

    We found when we competed in this market the choice of hardware technology really limited your target market. If what you want located (Found) was mostly in urban areas you could take advantage of much higher data rates and lower communication expenses. This allows you to send regular positioning updates with things like two-way text messaging to consoles in the vehicle, and other onboard vehicle sensors. In other instances (marine and aviation) you may be forced to use satellite technology. In general satellite communication is an order of magnitude lower bandwidth, higher delay, and more expensive. When it is the only means of data connectivity it is amazing, but to cut costs and deliver the larger value added services higher data rates and lower costs of cellular systems usually make more sense.

    Of course there are hybrid solutions like simply storing the logged data and forward it on when you picked up the next cellular network along the vehicles travels. Or better is a true hybrid of sending small positioning and important packets infrequently in satellite coverage, and providing the richer detail on reconnection with the cellular network.

    While interesting, as others have stated this idea is not new. We had this ASP up and running in 1998. And we had previous incarnations years before. :) Alas we sold the company in 2000.
  • Buses (Score:3, Interesting)

    by h3 ( 27424 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @05:02AM (#4721441) Homepage Journal
    Something I've been hoping for for years is that bus systems would utilize something like this to deliver real-time position information for their buses.

    I would love to be able to load up a page and see where my bus currently is so that I can better gauge when I have to leave to catch it.

    Even better, something that delivers to portable devices as well (cell phones/pdas) so that when I do arrive at the bus stop, I can check to see if I just missed it and I should hop on an alternate or if it's a couple blocks away.

    Seems like all the technology is in place - anyone seen a bus system doing something like this?

  • Wouldn't one of those kid locator things that have a gps in them work just the same? Just attach it to the car somewhere where it gets a signal.

    They are only $400 too.
  • Real Time? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Captain Large Face ( 559804 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @06:16AM (#4721576) Homepage

    What is the time delay between a point being logged by the tracking device and that point appearing on the web page?
    Usually it is less than 12 minutes.

    How is this real time? There is no mention [] of real time at all on the web site, so where did the article submitter get this from?

  • Rather Obsolete (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    In Short: It's been done already and much better and cheaper too!

    Have a look at this place [], excuse the clipart website but it's a MUCH better and though through product (less greedy too, no subscription fees). Uses common GPS and will call you up *on voice* (or SMS) to tell you your car is on the move (or the alarm has been set off or anything). You can even phone it up and forcibly talk to the driver, perhaps as they say to tell them that the police are following them :) Other features via phone control include remote immobilisation and all the usual GPS location/speed/heading info.

    It seemed to me just such a smart product and far superior to the greedy other systems some companies have. And of course as it uses GPS it won't be useless if the manufacturer goes out of business.

    I hate to sound like a bit of an add but it really irked me to see attention given to another product that just seemed to be a source of revenue through silly monthly subscription fees.

    • 10-20's 2-way sat solution means you can be in the middle of nowhere and still get your location tracked.

      Often there is no cellphone coverage in rural areas, and sometimes it is even sketchy in some parts of cities...
  • While the current units are expensive, these units have just been approved for land use (marine search and rescue is their prime purpose). When triggered, then send out an ID on the 406MHz emergency frequency, and various satellites will let search and rescue know your position. The ones with GPS can give a precise location. From a privacy perspective, they can only be used for emergencies, limiting abuse.
    For hobby use, APRS, mentioned above works well, and even the Space Station is equipped. APRS is beginning to show up in consumer walkie-talkies as well.
    OnStar and various private services use GPS and the cellphone and/or pager networks, and GPS in cellphones will soon become obiquious. I expect these folks won't sell many at that pricepoint for a single-purpose system.
  • 10-20 origins... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Rinikusu ( 28164 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @08:57AM (#4721937)
    For reference for anyone who really cares, the "name" 10-20 comes from trucker-speak. 10-20 (or just "twenty") is basically a synonym for "location", used like:
    "Driver 4, what's your 20?"
    It's in the same vein as 10-4 for "acknowledged, affirmitive" (etc), which I'm sure you all have heard of.

    (Until last week, I was a dispatcher for a courier company).

    • Thanks, I didn't realize truckers used it. It's also part of the APCO standard ten-codes used by police departments around the United States, where it means pretty much the same thing.
  • you just wait. It wont be long before this device (and others like it...onstar, etc) are MANDATORY in vehicles. This will be tied into the felon Poindexter's Information Awareness computer system so that he and the government can get even tighter spying and tracking of the movements and lives of all Americans.

    As useful as something like this can be, it can also be abused (and already has been, ie, ticketing rental car users for speeding as a result of tracking their movements via GPS). These services/devices will be perverted into another spying/privacy violating tool for Poindexter, the Republicans, and any two-bit dictator wannabe that they put into official positions of power.

  • If you're going to spend a grand to install this in your SUV, and then pay the monthly fee, wouldn't it be easier to not park your truck in the 'hood!?!

    I mean, come on, it's got to be easier to keep someone from stealing it in the first place, than to track it after it's been stolen. And how hard do you think it's going to be for the thieves to disconnet this once they've stolen it?

  • by BurKaZoiD ( 611246 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @10:08AM (#4722287)
    This'll make it much easier for people to catch their cheating spouses in the act. Gotta be pretty upsetting to catch yer old lady humping her brains out in the back of your Durango high atop Makeout Point.
    • Funny story...

      A person that I know of has a tracking device in a vehicle that she purchased for her boyfriend (his credit sucked, so the loan is in her name). She installed the tracking device to make sure he wasn't doing anything stupid with the car. They end up breaking up and he keeps the car, but he's still making payments to her since the loan is in her name.

      She comes to find out that said boyfriend had been cheating on her with someone she knows. Said boyfriend knows nothing about the tracking device (it's tucked away in the dashboard, so you wouldn't find it unless you tore everything apart).

      Now the fun part...she keeps tabs on said boyfriend and waits for him to visit said woman. If she's feeling particulary mean that day, she disables the car's ignition while he's in the house. I can only imagine how pissed off this guy must do you explain that to a mechanic?

      Boyfriend: "Well, every time I make a booty call, my car doesn't start."
      Mechanic: "Does it happen any other time?"
      Boyfriend: "Nope, only when I go to her house."
      Mechanic: *gives boyfriend the "you must be retarded" look*

      Who said playing Big Brother isn't fun? :)
  • You can get a cheap GPS module for around $100 now. Coupled to a cheap cell phone ($30), and a decent plan from something like Sprint, you're already there. No need to spend an extra $1000 dollars per vehicle, if your cheap GPS/phone can dial a number automagically every few minutes, transmit it's vehicle ID and position, and disconnect. I'm willing to bet that this can easily be done, at a profit, for under $50/unit.

    * Intellectual property is encoded in this message. Reading it is a violation of the DMCA. I will exercise this right should anyone run with the idea and not send me a nice check.
  • by morcheeba ( 260908 ) on Thursday November 21, 2002 @11:20AM (#4722859) Journal
    In other news, startups and offer much more needed services. []
  • Hi! I'm the founder of, and also a regular /. reader, so I suppose I'll stick my head out of my shell and address some of the good points many of you have brought up, and risk the [flame,crackpot,possible customer] replies. :)

    - "It already exists": Yes, there are competitors to the system, but most of them use the cell phone network to move their data. One of our main selling points is that this works anywhere in North America, not just areas that have cell phone or 2-way pager coverage. Our market is the long-range traveler: small businesses with large geographic ranges, field service vehicles (oil, forestry, land management), RV's, off-road vehicles, etc. I will readily admit that cell phone transmission strategies make more sense in dense urban environments; that's not who we're after. Most of North America does not have cell phone coverage; we cover those spaces, and provide an easy-to-install solution for those huge areas.

    - "How is this different than OnStar or LoJack?": OnStar uses cell phone data. As far as I know, OnStar does not allow you to access maps or history of your vehicle's position, and it is a "poll" based system, meaning that there is no information of where your vehicle is until there is an event (crash/panic/call outbound) or a poll by the central office. LoJack simply is a theft recovery system that is available to _some_ police departments in _some_ states, and is completely unaccessible by the customer - they don't even tell you where it's installed. With either of these two systems, you have no idea where your vehicle is, or was, unless there is an extraordinary circumstance.

    - "You can do this with APRS": Yep, you can, and I applaud anyone getting their license and spending the time to put a system together. Most companies, though, don't want to go through this exercise. Plus, then you'll also need a back-end system to store the points, a mapping server to map them on street and topological maps, redundant servers to catch failures, etc. etc. To duplicate everything we have put together is a large effort, but if all you want is a subset, then perhaps there are less expensive ways to do it, but what's your time worth? (PS: APRS and/or wardriving users can contact me about possible very-small-fee use of our reverse geocode XML interface that takes USA-based lat/lon and spits out addresses over an HTTP query - a pretty neat service that we developed which isn't available for a reasonable price anywhere else, at least that we were able to find.)

    - "This won't prevent criminals from stealing/stripping my car": No, the system really isn't designed as a theft prevention or theft recovery system, and we'll never probably advertise it as such. The antenna is fairly obvious, and easily decommissioned. This is a vehicle tracking system, which as a side benefit could possibly be used as a theft recovery system. If you have a driver who decommissions the antenna, that is detectable by the lack of updates to the system, which can then trigger an alert to one or many users.

    - "This is an invasion of privacy.": So don't buy it. If your employer wants to buy it and put it on their vehicle, that's their right. We at are pretty fanatical privacy advocates, but we also recognize that if someone is paying you for your time, and is paying for their vehicle, it's their right to monitor the use of those resources. If this is a parent/child relationship, that is something that has to be worked out between the parent and child, and is a discussion between them and does not involve us. Note that we have an interesting system called "Peek-Proof" that notifies the child (if it's configured properly) via email every time a parent views their location on the system. This permission level removes the uncertainty of how often someone is accessing your position, putting the discussion back at the political level instead of the technological level.

    - "Proprietary systems are bad": We're looking at how to deliver exported data for those of you who want to build your own tools. We like our offered tools, but it's nice to be able to support queries from outside. We also allow for incorporation of your maps (if you toggle that option) into your own web pages, at different map sizes and zoom levels.

    Thanks for all your comments. There have been a few ideas in the above items which have made me consider different options for our next revision of the software.

    - John Todd, founder (

  • 12 pack of beer - $8.95(plus deposit)

    folding paper map of countryside - $2.75

    Paying attention to driving and where the hell you are - PRICELESS

  • Wow hadn't heard someone use the phrase start-up to describe a company for a little while now.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin