GPS trackers are always interesting because they’re so versatile. Location-based services have exploded in the last couple of years, and are poised for more growth as we get further into the 2010’s. At the heart of all of these services is a GPS tracker, and a method of transmitting position data to a server, where a provider (or hacker) can do something useful with it.
A new Kickstarter project aims to provide a low-cost, open source platform for building a GPS tracking device. The author, Wayne Truchsess of DSS Circuits, explains that a few years back, his brother in law had a PS3 stolen during a long power outage in the depths of winter. Not wanting to repeat history, Wayne bought a fake PS3 case on eBay and developed his own prototype position tracker to put inside it.
The tracker consists of a GSM cellular modem, a GPS unit, and an accelerometer, all tied to an Arduino and a LiPo battery to provide brains and power, respectively. Normally, the device lies in wait, asleep to save power. If it detects motion, it turns on the modem and alerts a preconfigured phone number via SMS. The owner can then respond with various commands to turn position tracking on or put the device back to sleep.
HC Gilje has posted an excellent guide to serial communications with external devices using the iPhone. There are lots of resources out there for setting up serial devices, but the landscape is fragmented. And as always, Apple is not exactly falling all over themselves to let you hook up peripherals. As Gilje succinctly puts it:
Apple has not made it easy to let the iphone communicate with external devices. Basically, you need a jailbroken phone to do anything.
Building on our theme of cellular hackery, Dave has a three part series on his blog dedicated to the creation of a remote start system for his car. What’s the catch, you say? Oh, no catch, no catch at all… except that he wired his remote start to work via cellphone input, so he can give his whip a call before he leaves work and climb into a warm car immediately upon arrival at the parking lot.
Compton the official Arduino labs, the GPRS/GSM shield and associated library have been developed for your communications pleasure. There is a lot of scattered work out there on cellular communications, but this project was developed by a three-person team that includes two Arduino co-founders, so you know you’re getting a level of professionalism. Like some of our other cellular posts, the library relies on standard AT commands, so you may be able to adapt it to a range of other hardware. Check out their detailed documentation and see if it will work for your project.