Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

GPS Trackers Find Novel Applications 185

Posted by Zonk
from the where-did-i-put-that-eggo dept.
Pickens writes "Inexpensive GPS devices like the Zoombak (which costs just $200 plus $10 a month) have becomes so prevalent that some people are using them routinely to keep tabs on their most precious possessions. Kathy Besa has a Zoombak attached to the collar of her 5-year-old beagle, Buddy. If Buddy wanders more than 20 feet from the house, she gets a text message on her phone that says, 'Buddy has left the premises.' The small size made possible by chip advances over the last two or three years is enabling many novel uses of GPS tracking. An art collector in New York uses one when he transports million-dollar pieces, a home builder is putting them on expensive appliances to track them if they disappear from construction sites, a drug company is using them after millions of dollars in inventory turned up missing, and a mobile phone company is hiding them in some cellphone boxes to catch thieves."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

GPS Trackers Find Novel Applications

Comments Filter:
  • GPS bug detector? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:10PM (#23027538) Journal
    Ok, say I'm paranoid. Is there anything on the market that can detect these devices?
    • Re:GPS bug detector? (Score:5, Informative)

      by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:13PM (#23027606)
      GPS is passive so probably not. You might be able to detect it sending but if it uses GSM or the old pager network you'd be flooded with noise.

      You could (if you are that paranoid) block GPS traffic.

      http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.3623 [dealextreme.com]
      http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.8758 [dealextreme.com]
      • You could (if you are that paranoid) block GPS traffic.
        Why not block cell traffic too?

        http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.4355 [dealextreme.com]
      • by Cyberax (705495)
        Though GPS as a system is passive, GPS receivers themselves are NOT completely passive. They use superheterodyne receivers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superheterodyne) which produce a detectable radio frequency radiation (and at a fixed frequency).

        You'll need a fairly sensitive radio to detect it from more than several centimeters, but it's certainly possible.
        • Re:GPS bug detector? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by JWSmythe (446288) * <jwsmytheNO@SPAMjwsmythe.com> on Thursday April 10, 2008 @03:51PM (#23028768) Homepage Journal
          ... which is how radar detector detectors worked. :)

              I haven't used a radar detector in a long time, because in my area they were using switched radar units. I had a better chance of visually spotting a speed trap than detecting it first. One thing I had observed though was, some of my radar detectors would have false alarms because of other radar detectors. Some of my friends and I had tested it, where we'd turn our units on and off to see who's would set off false alarms based on who's units. We concluded that yes, some units would make other units beep that there was a radar source present.

              The same applied to some home alarms, and automatic doors. I had more false alarms than real detection, which was another good reason to stop using them.

              Building a GPS receiver detector would be a bit trickier, because the designs are so varied. I would think the best way to detect one would be a wide radio spectrum analyzer, and a very careful examination of the object you think may have a tracker on it. I believe you'd be looking for the same or similar frequency as the GPS signal is, and you'd always have some signal from the satellites. A very directional antenna may help.

              It was my understanding that every cell phone sold in the last few years had GPS capability for e911 service, although they may disable the GPS service for any user interfaces.

              I found this page [vzw.com] which says Verizon Wireless has GPS service in all wireless voice devices, to assist 911 operators in finding a victim. I know this isn't exactly true though. My stepson had a medical emergency about a year ago in the car (see my journal). I called 911 from my Verizon Wireless phone. I knew what road I was on, but since I was in the middle of my trip, I wasn't absolutely sure what the last exit I passed was. I gave the road, direction of travel, side of the road I stopped on, and a close reference to the nearby exits. I gave it to them within a couple miles. I was on the side of an interstate, with clear view of the sky in all directions, and there hadn't been any clouds in the sky all day. You can't ask for better reception for GPS.

              We waited 15 minutes, with no callback and no emergency vehicles showing up. I gave up, decided he was stable enough to transport, strapped him back in the car, and drove as fast as I could for help. There was one of the radar speed signs on the side of the road, which flashed 99 as I passed it. I was going for help, and would have been satisfied to get pulled over.

              I found a deputy with a DUI pulled over, and he helped us. He called for an ambulance, and apparently emergency ops didn't know where we were. No one had been dispatched.

      • Just put yer tin foil hat on it.
    • Re:GPS bug detector? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Technician (215283) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:45PM (#23027984)
      Ok, say I'm paranoid. Is there anything on the market that can detect these devices?

      Use anything that can detect a nearby cell signal. If you think your car is bugged, take it through a few tunnels or parking structures so it re-connects to a cell tower. (turn off you phone first) You can only detect these either by the GPS Local Oscillator (if you know the frequency) or detect them while they re-connect to a cell tower. Detecting the local oscillator of the GPS isn't easy as it isn't strong and is often well shielded. The cell module on the other hand is designed to transmit a signal to a cell tower, but it isn't on all the time. The trick is to make it turn on so you can find it. Causing a signal loss and then returning to cell tower range is a way to get these to announce to a tower, I am here. That's how you find them.
    • by shawn443 (882648)
      Only RMS can detect this. You can find one here [stallman.org].
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by BForrester (946915)
      I'm going to take a stab in the dark and say "what is a global positioning satellite?"

      I'll take "ridiculously easy questions" for 400, Alex.
  • $200 + $10/mo!?!? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Isn't this the goal of RFID, to be able to track all your things.. but much much much cheaper than the zoombak's nutty price.
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) * on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:14PM (#23027622) Homepage Journal
      An RFID tag can't be used to track something very far from the RFID tag reader, let alone globally.
      • satellite mounted high power rfid readers

        i am of course joking but i just scared myself thinking about the spy agency/ military bureaucrats who would actually sign off on this concept
    • Only if there are RFID detectors within close proximity to the 'package'. RFID would work great in a factory tracking a pallet of parts that goes along a routine path.

      If someone steals that pallet then you're SOL. Even if it does pass near another RFID detector that person won't know immediately that it is yours and full of Widget A.

      • by Firethorn (177587)
        One of the ideas might be that you have a RFID detector of sufficient power at the exits, so when your pallet of Widget A hits the gate when it's supposed to be heading for storage area C you know something is up.

        At $200+$10/month fee, it's definitely cellular in nature and only worth it for *expensive* items, or at least when you know you have a theft problem and catching a relatively few number of thieves would stop a lot of theft.

        Like the appliances at job sites problem - Figure $400-800+ each per applia
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jandrese (485)
      You've been reading too many nutty conspiracy types about those RFID chips. They're basically just a slightly better barcode, not a movie style locater where someone with a box can pinpoint where you are from halfway across the city.

      The box listed above is pretty much the minimum you need for a global tracking system for your stuff. A GPS receiver, battery, and one way pager (the one-way in this case is out! Probably is actually a stripped down cell phone sending SMS messages). It also won't work if t
      • by torkus (1133985)
        In a perfect world...but they DO want to make their money somehow, eh?

        Besides, each SIM card (each unit has one) represents a phone line which means an open, active cell line. 10 bucks a month honestly seems pretty fair given the current cellular market in the USA.

  • Inexpensive? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by g_adams27 (581237) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:11PM (#23027566)

    Inexpensive GPS devices like the Zoombak (which costs just $200 plus $10 a month)

    $200 + $120/year? Not "inexpensive" enough for me to stick onto my dog!

    • by TRS80NT (695421) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:27PM (#23027770)
      Yeah, and that's dog dollars. So that's like what, over $800 a year?


    • Re:Inexpensive? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fm6 (162816) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:37PM (#23027894) Homepage Journal
      Everybody is not you. And jeez, $120 year is not that much when you consider the other costs of keeping a pet: vet bills, cleaning, paying for boarding or sitting when you're on vacation... And that's if you have some mongrel that you just keep for company.

      I had this cat I was very fond of. Disappeared one day, and I never found out what happened to him. That was years ago, and I still miss the dude. That experience makes the Zoombak sound pretty cheap.

    • by edmicman (830206)
      Just another thought relating to using it for pets....

      I'm all for gadgets and whatnot, but getting a text message saying your dog is more than 20ft away from the house isn't going to do much if he runs into the road and gets hit. There's just not enough time to react. Owners *really* need to monitor their pets, and ideally have them on a leash or enclosed in some area when their outside to keep them safe.
      • Re:Inexpensive? (Score:5, Informative)

        by legojenn (462946) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:57PM (#23028116) Homepage

        Owners *really* need to monitor their pets, and ideally have them on a leash or enclosed in some area when their outside to keep them safe.
        Spoken like a person with no experience with a beagle or other scent hound. I recently lost a beagle because a window in my house was open an inch. He managed to open the window and vanish. Some dogs are clever and quick. A GPS device might not stop a dog from running into the street, but it might make it easy to track him down instead of walking, biking or driving up and down every bloody street in the neighbourhood screaming the dogs name those rare ocasions he does a runner.
      • by Blimey85 (609949) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @03:05PM (#23028216)
        Dog has left the premisses.

        Dog is traveling north bound on Cedar Street.

        Dog crossing st##$#$@@$$%

        Dog no longer moving.
      • by LWATCDR (28044)
        Okay I have a dog and a fenced yard. Guess what. That dog has dug under my fence more than once. I would love to have one of these. It would be I would rather have it tell me when she is under ground level so I could catch her digging.
        • I would rather have it tell me when she is under ground level so I could catch her digging.

          GPS is not designed to provide an accurate measure of altitude. [gpsinformation.net] There are altimeters you could use to see if your animal got under a fence or up a tree, but GPS wouldn't be ideal for that purpose.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by edmicman (830206)
        Just a follow up reply. Yes, I have a dog, and I still don't buy the excuses. Ehhhh, maybe it's because the wife is a vet and we're more cautious/overprotective of the dog or something.....but even with a fenced in yard we're pretty much monitoring her while she's out there. Dog digs under the fence? Bury the fence. I'd bet 90% of the troubles dogs can get into can be prevented by owners paying attention to whats going on. Just my $.02 :-P
        • by arb phd slp (1144717) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @03:59PM (#23028876) Homepage Journal

          I'd bet 90% of the troubles dogs can get into can be prevented by owners paying attention to whats going on.
          90% of the troubles that dogs get into can be avoided by the owner having chosen something other than a beagle.
        • by sconeu (64226)
          That's nice. What do you do during the day when you're both at work?

          I'm lucky. One day the gardener left the gate open. When I came home, I found the dog on the front lawn, waiting for me to let him into the house. He could have gone wandering around and gotten lost or hit.
    • Re:Inexpensive? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by value_added (719364) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @03:04PM (#23028202)
      Not "inexpensive" enough for me to stick onto my dog!

      Seems like a fair comment, but if the dog gets lost, you'll need to figure in the cost of a reward and/or the time and resources required for putting up all those flyers. Then there's those emergency vet bills (if the dog gets into an accident), lawyer and court costs (if the dog bites the good samaritan trying to catch it for you), the loss of mail delivery to your home and cancellation of homeowner's insurance and a lawsuit (if the dog bites the mailman), or, if all goes well and the city finds your dog for you, the animal shelter fees. And this is all assuming it's not your wife's dog, or that you have kids whose questions you need to answer.

      Beagles, incidentally, are notorious (bred, actually) for running off to hunt something down they find interesting, and then expecting you to catch up.

      GPS sounds like an ideal solution for pet owners.
      • Beagles, incidentally, are notorious (bred, actually) for running off to hunt something down they find interesting, and then expecting you to catch up.

        It's even better when you have a dog like the one I grew up with. He was half beagle and half border collie. He'd run off, track and chase down whatever it was he was after and then herd the damn thing(s) until you got there.

        It didn't even seem to matter what it was - cows, chickens, my little cousin...
        • by Firethorn (177587)
          my little cousin...

          Not necessarily a bad thing...

          My mom told me that when I was little I'd encourage the dog to dig under the fence. Then I'd use the hole to get out of the fence, at which point the dog would start barking at me. She was perfectly willing to dig for me, but knew we weren't supposed to be out of the yard... ;)
          • Indeed. It was actually quite nice because we knew the kid was perfectly safe as long as my dog was there. Very friendly dog (and extremely intelligent), but you better feel sorry for anyone other than me or my family who tried to mess with what he was herding (or anyone raising their voice at me for that matter).

            However, it was absolutely hilarious to watch him herd chickens and the cows just kind of looked at him like "WTF??" as he moved them to where he wanted them.
      • by geekoid (135745)
        "
        Beagles, incidentally, are notorious (bred, actually) for running off to hunt something down they find interesting, and then expecting you to catch up."

        yes, and as such the owner should take proper precautions.
        The GPS doesn't stop any of those things from happening. Or am I supposed to believe the person that can't secure the pet will be consistently and reliable waiting for an email about said pet?

        "GPS sounds like an ideal solution for unprepared pet owners."

        • by torkus (1133985)
          Does anyone understand that accidents happen? Seriously...there are irresponsible people who 'watch' children by turning on the TV and go smoke crack...and then there are careful pet owners that have something unexpected happen.

          Heck, your house should be properly secured against fire right? So I guess you don't need smoke alarms then.
      • by bugnuts (94678)

        Beagles, incidentally, are notorious (bred, actually) for running off to hunt something down they find interesting, and then expecting you to catch up.

        Screw the text message to the phone....
        Instead have the thing attached to a shock collar which sounds a tone, then starts zapping the farther from the house it is. You won't even need fences after a while. ... and hope that the government doesn't reactivate selective availability!

        Dog: "No, I don't want to go for a walk!"

    • by starm_ (573321)
      DriveOk makes similar units that are a bit less expensive and more mature in their functionality: http://www.driveoktracking.com/products.php [driveoktracking.com]
    • by torkus (1133985)
      Erm, you've any idea how much purebred dogs cost? Heck, even a small mutt probably EATS more than 10 bucks a month in food.

      Taking it a step further, if you LOST a pet...$10 per month doesn't seem like much to *greatly* increase the chance of getting it back.
  • For civilians (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Voltan42 (219415)
    They have had tracking devices around for a while now. Are these just the first designed for non-police or non-military?
  • Insurance (Score:2, Interesting)

    by e03179 (578506)
    $10 a month? I wonder if I put one in my car if I will get a $10 a month break in my car insurance bill.
    • by catch23 (97972)
      It would be great for motorcycles! Back in Atlanta, motorcycle theft is pretty rampant. LoJack for motorcycles is pretty expensive, so this is a great solution for inexpensive scooters & mopeds. Also great if you happen to own a moderately expensive carbon fiber bicycle too.
  • by suparjerk (784861) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:13PM (#23027594)
    ... no potential for abuse whatsoever!
  • by katterjohn (726348) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:13PM (#23027604)
    to their employees. If any of them get to close to things like OSCON, Ballmer comes after them with a chair.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:16PM (#23027634)
    How come there is no first post? I'm confused.
  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:19PM (#23027686)
    Mahalik: She told me that she heard a zombie going through her trash the other day. The next morning, she turned up missing.

    C. J.: What? Okay, back up. How in the hell do you "turn up missing"?

    Mahalik: 'Cause nobody knows where you are when they realize you ain't there!

    C. J.: So you telling me that you can appear and disappear at the same time.

    Mahalik: No, man. You can't appear and disappear at the same time. The bitch ain't David Copperfield!

    C. J.: Mmm. No, no. But you can't be gone from one place and show up somewhere else entirely. So when you turn up, you're never missing. And when you're missing, you never turn up.

    Mahalik: Unless... you a zombie.

    C. J.: Damn! Hey, that's some plausible shit right there. You should blog about that.

    Mahalik: I'm gonna put that on MySpace.

    C. J.: You do that!
  • by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:24PM (#23027736)

    I work for what's left of a company that actually managed to go bust developing this stuff.

    We faced several challenges with the technology. Power consumption gave us ulcers, as did mobile network coverage. This is a non-issue in the city, but just wait until you're out of town.

    GPS wanders around enough from fix to fix, even with WAAS, that it can be tricky to compare fixes to detect movement, or to track movement of less than 50 meters. Oh, and the GPS needs to be able to hear satellite signals. Good luck on that.

    Finally, once you have a fix back at your server, you need to make it meaningful to the user. They do not generally want a bare latitude and longitude. They want to know what street their car is on. When the parents want to know if the kids take the car too far from home, they want to enter a street address, not a latitude and longitude. This is harder to get right than it looks.

    Favourite application: tracking sub-prime used cars so repo men can find them.

    ...laura

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Thanks to Google maps half the work is done.
      It does take bare latitude and longitude coordinates and displays you a map.
      • by Jaqenn (996058)
        Dude, you just made the former owner of that busted startup cry. You should feel ashamed.

        While the rest of us laugh.
    • Very cool. I do this right now. We track races with the stuff. Presenting nice data for the user is definitely the hardest part of the equation. Oddly enough all of our custom hardware is likely to be replaced by your average cell phone in a few years.

      If you ever feel like chatting about things im me and say hi!

      From another GPS data slave... ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Technician (215283)
      GPS wanders around enough from fix to fix, even with WAAS, that it can be tricky to compare fixes to detect movement, or to track movement of less than 50 meters. Oh, and the GPS needs to be able to hear satellite signals. Good luck on that.

      Check out the demo of how it works. They only give a location to the nearest intersection. This isn't very useful if your kid was abducted and whisked away into a large apartment complex. You know he is around somewhere, but out of sight. These would be much more use
    • Finally, once you have a fix back at your server, you need to make it meaningful to the user. They do not generally want a bare latitude and longitude. They want to know what street their car is on.

      Actually a good map with the real coordinates is much more useful than just an intersection. Interfacing with Google maps for example can pinpoint the stolen car in that 2 car garage, instead of just letting you know it's at 119th and Maple. Frustrated users who can't tell which backyard their pet is in will de
  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:26PM (#23027758)
    and a mobile phone company is hiding them in some cellphone boxes to catch thieves

    Am I missing something here? Don't mobile phones already have GPS (at least here in the USA)? And unique ID numbers burnt into them? Sure, another always-on GPS device could be handy for as long as the battery lasts (which begs the question of why can the battery last longer in the tiny GPS bug than it lasts in a consumer targeted GPS unit), but it would seem that most mobile phone thefts that could be caught with this GPS bug would be caught and tracked down as soon as the thief or buyer of the stolen property tried to use the phone anyway, and the phone could either be made useless (greatly reducing the incentive for theft) or let working (to help track down whoever has it, just as the GPS bug would do).

    This sounds like something that was invented by the Department of Redundancy Department.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by daranz (914716)
      I'm assuming they're shipping cellphones that haven't been sold yet, and don't have any numbers tied to them (and so, they cannot send data over the network). Even if they had GPS receivers, they would have to be configured for the network, and then reset at destination. Even if this only involved inserting a sim card, it'd still be a bother, especially if you had to recharge the phones before putting them up for sale

      Having a device that you can move between boxes as you ship them might be easier to do.
    • by hguorbray (967940)
      2 things:

      1. the GPS trackers are probably "always on" whereas phones in the box are turned off -this allows tracking of things like a case or pallet of cellphones that go missing from a truck or warehouse.....and end up in a flea market somewhere.

      2. cellphone 'gps-like location service' is done by tower triangulation and won't work where there is no reception -this is why GPS on cell is still more useful -if you are lost in the backwoods cell triangulation will probably do you no good whereas GPS could save
      • by Blimey85 (609949)
        The problem with this is that if you are going to have access to a pallet of cellphones to steal, you're probably also going to have a truck to move them in. Then if you are smart, you've prepped said truck to block any and all signals from within the trailer which means this thing won't work.

        Similar to how expensive cars get stolen and can't be easily tracked with things like LoJack. It's very easy to convert a trailer into a mobile Faraday (sp?) cage. Would probably even easier just to use cheap radio t
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmail. c o m> on Thursday April 10, 2008 @03:10PM (#23028284) Homepage

      and a mobile phone company is hiding them in some cellphone boxes to catch thieves

      Am I missing something here? Don't mobile phones already have GPS (at least here in the USA)? And unique ID numbers burnt into them?

      Yes, mobile phones (some of them) have GPS. Yes, mobile phones have unique ID numbers. What you are missing is that "mobile phones" are not the same as "mobile phones in boxes" - as the former (generally) have their battery charged and installed and are powered up, while the latter are inert and those fancy functions don't work.
       
       

      it would seem that most mobile phone thefts that could be caught with this GPS bug would be caught and tracked down as soon as the thief or buyer of the stolen property tried to use the phone anyway

      Using the phones built in features allows you to catch a single end user - once the phone has trickled from thief to fence to dealer to end user. Using a GPS bug you can track the phone through the entire chain and catch the guys at the start of the chain rather than catching the guys at the end and working up. From a LEO and a Loss Prevention point of view, this is much more efficient and effective.
  • by Sensi (64510)
    For $200 I will sell you a really nice leash. That will stop that pesky beagle from getting away.

    • by AdamTrace (255409)
      I'm selling mine for $180!
    • While I appreciate the funny in your post, I immediately thought "gee, I'd love one of these for MY dog" when I saw the article. My dog's a relaxed quiet animal until she gets a chance at an open door, like when a visitor comes over and one of us isn't there. Lily can clear a 6' fence without slowing down, and can run just under 30 miles an hour for an amazingly long time (until she's distracted by a cat or a garbage can.) If I see her escape I have a chance, if I can get on my road bike, because then I
      • by peragrin (659227)
        exactly. My brothers Husky had the habit of opening the Sliding door and running out. Most of the time he just wanted to run but a couple of times we did have to chase him down.

        The worst was when he bolted one night during deer hunting season. He chewed through his choker collar that night. part of it was still on his chain. a GPS locater that night would have made us all a bit happier.

  • W.T.F. ? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kartoffel (30238) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:31PM (#23027820)
    It's funny how the Times' editors felt it necessary to punctuate each letter in "G.P.S.". What is this, the Man from U.N.C.L.E.? Maybe some year they'll realize that GPS is regular everyday stuff. You know, like A.T.M. machines and D.V.D. players.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by tomtomtom777 (1148633)

      You know, like A.T.M. machines and D.V.D. players.

      A.T.M. machines? What are they? Machines that make Automated Teller Machines or something? Not so regular where I come from...

    • De-acronym-ization? (is that a cromulent word?)

      Any grammar nerds/nazis know how a word stops being an acronym? I've always wondered how S.C.U.B.A became scuba and L.A.S.E.R. became laser.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Yeah, when will the time catch up with your lazy ass way of writing? L.o.L

  • APRS leading the way (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Average (648) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:43PM (#23027954)
    I've been wondering how long this would take to get into a more public role. I've had ham radio based APRS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_Position_Reporting_System [wikipedia.org]) installed in my cars for a while. When I show people a publicly available map of my travels, reaction ranges from salivating impressed (it's probably been ham radio's last "killer app"), to absolute horror ("you mean, you don't care if people know where you are?").

    But, I think a lot of people would willingly turn on such a feature (say, on a mobile phone with a GPS chip and a GPRS connection.
    • by tomtomtom777 (1148633) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:56PM (#23028108) Homepage
      We're developing a system which makes this very easy and free (except phone bill) on bliin.com (or m.bliin.com on your mobile), and we've noticed that people are rarely bothered by the privacy issue. The coolness of seeing yourself and your friends live on the map tends to outweigh paranoia.
    • But, I think a lot of people would willingly turn on such a feature (say, on a mobile phone with a GPS chip and a GPRS connection.

      Sadly, that's the problem. Once 'most people' already use self-tracking, it becomes suspicious not to. I don't have anything to hide (honest), but I want to make sure some people have the option of not being tracked. Some of them want to steal cars. Others want to make political protests. I think it's worth putting up with the former to allow the latter.

      It's still a neat gadget t
  • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @02:44PM (#23027964)
    According to the article. I am a little surprised by this, because steel is quite good at blocking RF, and those satellites are up there, not down in the gutter. I am sufficiently nerdish sometimes to check the accuracy of my own GPS, and it can degrade very badly in cities. It's also a fact that the kind of places that get the best GPS reception are often the least good for cell phone reception, and vice versa. The benefits of using it for long distance tracking like stolen paintings are obvious - except that they probably travel in a windowless van - but tracking a beagle to a few metres seems a little unreliable.

    Anyway, I read the article to our beagle and asked her opinion. She points out that beagles do not run away, they are called away on urgent tracking business. She feels that any human that hangs out with beagles and wants to attach tracking boxes to them is a distrustful person who possibly lacks the right spiritual qualities. She also reminds me that she can detect a beagle treat coming out of the bag across three fields, and that in any case anyone who has trouble with beagles taking off is simply not taking them for sufficiently long walks. She thinks I should notify the ASPCA before relations completely break down between this unfortunate beagle and its lazy, distrustful owner.

  • I got a GPS unit that connects to my camera. I use it to keep track of my photos by embedding the location inside the EXIF information in the photo. That way if I lose it, I know where to go to find it again. Oh, wait. Nevermind. Though it is useful for geocaching.
  • Does anyone know of a tiny GPS logger that could be used for tracking cats?

    I have a co-worker who has a couple of outdoor cats, and one often goes on trips for a day or longer, not coming home. When he comes back she wonders where he has been (and the rest of us are a little curious as this seems to happen relatively often).

    I would be great to have a little GPS logger that would just keep track of where he had been so we could try to see what he's been up to. The device mentioned in the article is interes

    • While it is not GPS, you can attach a Cat Cam [mr-lee-catcam.de] to a cat to get a time lapse record of where the cat has been.
    • by ObjetDart (700355)
      I don't think these exist (yet), because the GPS + cellular hardware necessary is still too big and heavy for a typical cat to carry around on its neck.

      There is a radio-based cat tracker called the CatLocator [thecatlocator.com], but it won't keep a real time log of where your cat has been. It's only good when you need to find the cat...and then you have to walk around like a dork with big attenna and a box that goes "doot...doot...doot... doot doot doot doot"

    • by mobby_6kl (668092)
      This is pretty much exactly what I've been looking for my parent's dog. Being a beagle, sometimes she'd just drop whatever toy she was playing with and run off after a scent. The area might be perfectly safe for her, but she can still be gone for over an hour at a time.

      Real-time tracking would be even more fun, but these devices tend to be too bulky and/or expensive, like the Garmin Astro or the thing from the article. The GPS logger, as you suggested, is the next step down and I think it could still be ver
  • by Rorschach1 (174480) on Thursday April 10, 2008 @03:10PM (#23028280) Homepage
    People have been doing this stuff in the ham radio world for years - it's called APRS [aprs.net] for Automated Packet Reporting System. I run a small business (www.argentdata.com [argentdata.com]) developing low-cost hardware for it.

    The advantage of using dumb old radios is that you can operate independent of any fixed infrastructure, so it's usable even where you don't have cell coverage.

    Tracking something small like a dog (I've had inquiries about kangaroos, too) introduces the problem of antenna placement, though. APRS is typically used on the 2-meter band, which means a quarter-wave vertical antenna is half a meter long. I did once put a passive data logger on my cat [blogspot.com], and found that she roams a little more widely than I thought, but that doesn't really count.

    The advantage of relatively low frequencies and high transmit power is that you can cover a radius of 20 miles from one mountaintop digipeater (equivalent to a cell site), and they're not difficult to make solar powered.

    There's a nationwide digipeater network in the US, and most of Europe is covered as well, along with much of New Zealand, Australia, and many other countries. I think there are at least two APRS-capable satellites on orbit too, though PCSAT-1 is dying. Internet gateways are all over the place, so you can map APRS stations online [aprs.fi], and not have to maintain any receive-side hardware of your own.

    I'm constantly surprised by the applications people come up with for this stuff. The most recent I heard was someone with a cable TV company who found that he could drive around and transmit at low power every couple of seconds and use a receiver back at the headend to plot ingress leaks in the cable system.

    Add to that the fact that you can do two-way text messaging, weather, and telemetry, and it's more than worth the hassle of taking a simple multiple-choice license exam. It's this sort of thing that's going to save ham radio (if anything can) - talking to people around the world just doesn't interest people as much these days, when it's so easy to do on the Internet or the phone.

  • These applications aren't that interesting for geeks, even if the basic tech is. This story is just an ad for Zoombak.
  • He's going to rack up a helluva SMS bill considering they love to roam.
  • The more mature and somewhat cheaper DriveOk http://www.driveoktracking.com/products.php [driveoktracking.com] devices have been available for a while now.
  • The signals from the Galileo Positioning System are supposed to be able to penetrate buildings and that would be a vast improvement over GPS. It's not ready yet of course.
  • They make this little device sound so cute and fluffy; how could you not like something that lets you find your lost dog?

    But what they've actually developed is a small, inexpensive GPS tracking device. Small enough and cheap enough so that almost anyone can track almost anything. As production ramps up they'll get even smaller and cheaper.

    I can imagine all the fun and thrills: track your kids, your spouse, your employees - what fun! This isn't some cheap RFID solution; this little beauty will find them ac

  • How do these devices work? I know the GPS part is free, but how is the tracking communications done?

    Can I do this without paying someone $10/month?
    • Two ways: APRS, as already mentioned, or look for open WiFi and use it.

      We tried the latter. It almost worked.

      ...laura

  • My GPS Tracker sent me this, about Buddy:

    "Buddy has left the preferences"
    "Buddy is in the neighbor's trash"
    "Buddy is running into the street"
    "Buddy is in the same position as a Chevy Suburban"
    "Buddy is stopped on the street"
    "A google satellite photo is attached with a picture of Buddy"
    "Google Adwords has selected "Shovel" as something that you might need with Buddy."
  • Is it just me, or do all these applications sound like the same thing, namely "tracking items."

    I feel a raft of very bad patents coming on...

"You know, we've won awards for this crap." -- David Letterman

Working...