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On-Demand Car Tracker via Android Phone?

Discussion in 'Android Apps & Games' started by PeteCress, Aug 3, 2016.

  1. PeteCress

    PeteCress Android Enthusiast
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    There are many dedicated car trackers out there... typically $100-200 purchase price plus $20-30 per month for the network subscription.

    The task at hand, though, is quite modest compared to the scenarios that dedicated trackers seem to be designed for.

    The task at hand being being able to locate an automobile if/when it becomes overdue for return from a trip.

    Specifically, this is for somebody in the early stages of dementia. Right now, they're a-ok with local trips..... but the day will come when it's getting late and they have not returned home. Seems like being able to locate the vehicle would be a big plus.

    FWIW, there is no hope of getting this person to carry a turned-on cell phone....

    But what about a dedicated Android phone permanently/covertly installed in the car to fufill this function?

    To Wit:
    • The phone knows where it is by virtue of it's GPS

    • Seems like an app can be written that will answer the phone and respond by texting the Lat/Lon of the phone to the calling number

    • The parasitic load on the vehicle's battery would seem to be quite modest.... even for a vehicle that only gets used a couple times per week.
    That being the case, it would seem like the pieces are in place for on-demand tracking for the price of a low-end Android phone plus whatever it costs for pre-paid cell phone service.

    i.e. The tracking functionality is dormant until somebody calls that cell phone for a report on the vehicle's position. At that time, the Android application answers the phone and texts the vehicle's location to the calling number..... - as opposed to something that is constantly reporting it's position to some remote system.

    Can anybody shed some light?
     

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  2. AZgl1500

    AZgl1500 Android Expert
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    for me,

    I would install a macro in the phone to just simply do an SMS report at a prescribed schedule to a target phone or email service.

    MacroDroid can do that with the stock macros....
    It also has Cell Tower reporting as you go around the country, it reports all cell tower changes to the phone calendar. and if that is sync'd to the caregiver's calendar, they will see roughly where that person is.

    However, a full GPS/WiFi enabled report would be much better with roughly 30 meter accuracy "most of the time"

    MacroDroid also has a template for monitoring SMS and it listens for the phrase 'whereareyou'...
    I have that installed on ALL of my family's phones, and my daughter can send a simple text "whereareyou" and in a few seconds, the phone replies back to ANY cellphone where the lost phone is (me of course, or my wife)...

    I am 73 and have had 3 concussions from a traffic accident... I am a candidate for getting lost "some day", so I just installed the macro and it does nothing, until it hears that phrase... then it wakes up the GPS, finds out where the phone is, and it reports back to the cellphone that texted my phone. Accurate to 30 meters or less, usually 9 meters.

    you can't get any simpler than that, and no special hardware needed....
    you want a high quality phone though, and provide it with permanent power...
    and it needs to be mounted in a reasonably clear area so it can always see the cell towers.
    and "out of the sunlight" or it will bake and destroy itself.

    * MacroDroid - Device Automation - Android Apps on Google Play

    5 macros are free, $9.99 gets you the full package, well worth it, I have 13 macros running.

    The "standby current" to a car's battery is so slight as to not be noticed at all...
    It could set for several months and the car still start w/o any problems.
    and at any time, the phone can report back where it is.............

    AS LONG AS the GPS receiver can see the sky....

    if the vehicle pulls into a garage, or under a bridge, or etc..... all bets are off.

    For that, I would want to have the GPS monitored full time, and then send an email plus text message with the "last known" location. I will have to think on that macro, never occurred to me to need it until now.
     
    #2 AZgl1500, Aug 3, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
  3. AZgl1500

    AZgl1500 Android Expert
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    Now, there is another service that can very extremely valuable for you.

    I have SPOT tracking service on my motorcycle. In addition to telling the whole world where I am, it can be used to push a button and call 911.

    http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0gqTg56QDrd6CDbZa9PvVAoyo4CbCZmdR
    that link will find me, IF the tracker has been turned on in the last 7 days...
    I'm not going to do that here on a public forum, but it works. all it shows now is a blank page.... temps over 100* have kept my bike in the garage.

    I have the Full Package, about $250/year for that, but if I need a helicopter to fly me to a hospital from the backwoods somewhere, it is all free.... a terrific insurance package for me.

    http://www.findmespot.com/en/

    There is a very simple tracker that can give 5 minute reports, look for their Tracker Only device.... it does NOT have any of the 911 features, and is made with your concerns in mind.

    It can be programmed for from 2½, 5, 10, 30 or 60 minute tracking intervals

    http://www.findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=128

    THE NEAT THING ABOUT SPOT IS: the patient (targeted person) doesn't need a cellphone period!!!!!

    As all you want to know is "where is he now", who cares if it scrolls off the page every couple of hours???

    it also must have a clear view of the sky, but it is more able to ignore the sun's rays.
     
  4. PattiCakeUS

    PattiCakeUS Android Expert
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    Minneapolis, Minnesota
    One of my coworkers was just talking about this today. It might be something you could use, just stick a disk somewhere out of place in the car & track its location on your phone. It looks like the only cost is for you to be a little chip/thingy, $30 for one.

    https://www.thetrackr.com/?ref_code=sr93a
     
  5. AZgl1500

    AZgl1500 Android Expert
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    SPOT:

    in the web setup page, you can specify up to about 10 SMS phones to report to,
    or 10 email addresses for it to report to....

    I have 7 on my phone, and they all get emails and Text messages as I move around the world.
    For me though, I have the Gen II model, and the only message folks receive is:
    • Start of Day, going on tour
    • End of Day, I am just fine,
     
  6. AZgl1500

    AZgl1500 Android Expert
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    There is a HUGE advantage to use the SPOT Tracker with 2.5 minute reporting....

    You will know within 2-1/2 minutes of where the car was last seen, EVEN IF it is parked underground....

    that would be a terrific asset for letting the LEOs help you find your lost parent/family member.

    I looked at
    https://www.thetrackr.com/?ref_code=sr93a

    and I find it has severe shortcomings for the OP's intended purpose.
     
  7. PattiCakeUS

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    Oh really? I just looked briefly at their page & it seems like it would do what he's asking. What severe shortcomings did you see?
     
  8. AZgl1500

    AZgl1500 Android Expert
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    requires cellphone coverage for one... also requires the phone to see the sky to get a GPS reading....

    no cell service, they are lost.... ( inside a parking garage?? ) in a tunnel??? buried deep down into a crevasse ??

    SPOT knows where they were, and which direction they are going, all the time... to within 2.5 minutes at each report.

    no harm in providing both methods, but if one is all that is needed, I go with SPOT.
     
  9. PeteCress

    PeteCress Android Enthusiast
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    It seems like trying AZgl1500's macro app is a no-brainer - since I have an old gen 1 Samsung Note available....

    If that does not work out, I think I need to look into SPOT. At twenty bucks a month, the price is right.... and the functionality seems more appropriate than the dedicated fleet vehicle type devices.

    TrackR looks like a knockoff on Tile, which is a BlueTooth device that communicates with one's smartphone as long as it is not more than about 150' away.
     
  10. PattiCakeUS

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    I couldn't tell you if it's a knockoff or not, since I haven't used anything like this. I just thought it might be helpful info., & I just heard about it this morning. One of my coworkers has a lot of guitars, & he said he was buying some of these to hide inside of them in case they would ever get stolen.

    In any case, it's great to see that technology is offering us so many options now, it's pretty darned cool :cool:
     
  11. PeteCress

    PeteCress Android Enthusiast
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    I might go for one or two Tiles or TrackRs for other purposes. Car keys, for one....
     
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  12. PeteCress

    PeteCress Android Enthusiast
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    I'm looking at the SPOT web site and their "Basic" service is even less: only ten bucks a month or $100/year:
    http://www.findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=129. ...... $120 for the Trace device plus thirty bucks for a bulletproof DC power cord..... $150 and I'm in business...... I guess that leaves locating the spot in/on the vehicle in such a way as to allow it's radio to work.

    Just spent a little time fooling around with MacroDroid and it is *really* neat stuff.... But I fell right into the dreaded "..Service not available...." gotcha. ..... Given my perception of the universe being a hostile place, I would tend to expect "Service not available" when the device was actually needed.
     
  13. PeteCress

    PeteCress Android Enthusiast
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    Can you clarify the "Underground" part? ..... i.e. is it specific to the Extreme Tracking Upgrade, or is it inherant in the Basic service? ..... Just off the top of my head, I'm not so enthusiastic about the 2 1/2 minutes vs 5 minutes.... but "Underground" suggest to me a more robust signal delivery....

    Edit: Ok... now I found the place to drill down into the services...... and it looks to me like Gen3 and Unlimited Tracking are the minimum - since Basic Tracking requires me to do a manual reset every 24 hours.... So now I have arrived at your $200 per year figure (Basic at $150 plus Enhanced at $50)
     
    #13 PeteCress, Aug 3, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
  14. AZgl1500

    AZgl1500 Android Expert
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    It is NOT the cheapest method in the industry, but it is extremely reliable, and it works.

    What pushed me over the edge was a motorcycle forum member left Yellowstone, WY heading home to Atlanta, GA.
    He told folks he was going to use I-70 and head east for a while. Then he just disappeared off the map.

    He was found during the following Elk Hunting season by some guys trampling down in some very deep canyons.
    He was on a smaller state route that he took for the Famous Scenery and he missed a curve and went flying off out into nothingness, landing 350 feet down below into a snow bank.

    It was debatable about him living thru that, but, he was in a snow bank and no broken bones. His family of course, went thru a lot of sad days wondering where their father/husband/grandpa disappeared to.

    Had he been using SPOT, at a minimum there would have been a track 10 minutes away from where he went off the road. This would have shown the route he is on, and the direction and speed he is traveling. From that they can deduce where he is.


    Next best case, it would have continued to report his location even if he had not been able to activate 911.
    that would have put rescuers right on top of his location, to within 100 feet... even in snow banks, they can find you when they know you are that close.

    Best case? He possibly could have activated the 911 button:
    that starts up a whole scenario of things:

    1. SPOT dispatchers calls his phone
    2. SPOT dispatchers calls his family contacts listed in his profile
    3. SPOT dispatchers calls the nearest and Most Appropriate 1st Responders based up on the location reported.
    in this case, off the road, and elevation being reported at 350 below the road, would tell the responders "this guy went off the road, we need a Helicopter, and we need it now!"

    4. His profile should contain, as mine does, a detailed Medical Alert with all details concerning my age, condition, meds, and prior concussions relating to my accident in 2008. It also contains my BP and allergy info.... they give you enough space there to write a book about your health....

    For the 1st Responders to be provided all of that up front, is a Huge Asset because they will know how to best handle this call.

    I am retired Fire Department IT 911 service tech, and I know how important it is for our guys to get that kind of info.

    .
     
    #14 AZgl1500, Aug 3, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2016
  15. AZgl1500

    AZgl1500 Android Expert
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    By "underground", just a simple parking garage in the basement of any building. Once you enter that, bye bye cell phone service, and bye bye Satellite Reception.... even for SPOT.

    but, SPOT has a huge asset in that it shows route, direction and speed of travel.
    and if it misses reports after that, LEOs have a "much smaller circle to search" to find the patient.

    No cell phone can provide that kind of info, I have looked at all the apps, and they just can't do it.... they all require continuous cellphone service, and in the Real World, it just isn't there.


    when you call up and report your family member as missing, you give them the link to SPOT's tracking page.... they will know exactly where to look immediately.
     
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  16. PeteCress

    PeteCress Android Enthusiast
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    I had not thought of that aspect: just supplying a link vs having to convey a bunch of numbers and/or descriptive text that may or may not suffer from Whisper-Down-The-Lane syndrome.

    I think you are building a compelling case for SPOT.

    FWIW, the dedicated vehicle tracking services I have priced so far - besides being celltower-dependent - are also pricier at $30 per month.

    Dunno how their mapping/tracking stacks up, but I have followed people on SPOT and even the likes of myself (not the brightest bulb on the tree) found it intuitive and easy.
     
  17. AZgl1500

    AZgl1500 Android Expert
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    for your purposes, you would ignore the insurance aspect that I purchased....
    All you want is the superior tracking ability as your 'patient' is not going to be aware that it is there anyway.

    I highly suggest you select the 2.5 minute reporting schedule, as that will tighten up the circle in case he/she gets lost.

    their mapping is quite accurate. You can download the daily logs in a couple of different formats and reconstruct any route you want.

    The default "storage" is 7 days, which is why my tracking page is empty.
    The last time I moved my bike was on the trip home from Sioux Falls, SD on July 15th...

    The heat wave has been in the 98-102 degree range since then, and my condition won't tolerate that for more than about 90 minutes... I have to wear a Cool Vest to even do that.

    www.coolvest.com
     
  18. PeteCress

    PeteCress Android Enthusiast
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    That makes sense... and that is how I will go if/when...

    Two more questions:
    • You must have looked into InReach.... What did you come away with? ..... For me it seemed like vast overkill featurewise except for one thing: Pingability. i.e. the ability to initiate contact with the remote device and have it tell you where it is at that moment..... kind of back to the MacroDroid SMS scenario, but more reliable.

    • How well do you think Gen3 tolerates extreme heat? .... Given that it needs to see the sky, I am thinking it will have to live atop the dashboard or on the shelf under the rear window - exposed to the summer sun day-after-day.
     
    #18 PeteCress, Aug 4, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2016
  19. AZgl1500

    AZgl1500 Android Expert
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    A link would have helped, so I will go with the very first thing Google came up with.

    The Delorme InReach two-way Satellite transponder/radios.
    Terribly expensive for what you will get......... but, if your life is important to you, indispensable.
    but, keep in mind, that device is meant for two or more people who are technologically capable, and that does not include your 'patient'.

    It will be useless if it is the only device in the car, and the 'patient' is unaware of it being there, and he drives into an underground garage, into a tunnel and has a wreck, falls into a ravine and no one knows where he is.... Simply because it cannot see the sky anymore and you will NOT be able to Ping it.

    This is why a constant Tracking device like the SPOT tracker is better, it is always on, and it will leave a cookie crumb trail right up exactly to where they are ( if the sky is visible ), or to within that 2.5 minute circle radius.

    All of the SPOT devices will withstand full sun out in the open, mine sets on the rear trunk of my Goldwing motorcycle.

    Here are the environmental specs:

    • Waterproof to a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.

    • Operating temperatures: -22°F to +140°F (-30°C to 60°C)
    a Car's dashboard can reach 250*F so it must be protected from direct sunlight/heat in a closed situation, no A/C running. I would try to find a way to place it so that it can "see thru" a covering that is non-metallic. Cloth preferably, or a fiber type product. If you opened the glove compartment and cut a hole in the dashboard to place it underneath that hole, and there was a dashmat there to keep the dashboard "protected from sun exposure" ( call it a birthday gift )... it will survive just fine. On the Rear Dash panel, which usually has a lot of sun exposure, check the temps when the car is closed up in full sun... the rear dash is easier to perforate, get a kid to cut a hole there for some Stereo Speakers, and have the "Tweeter" non-existent.... leaves you a lot of room to attach the SPOT and puts it in the "clear view of the sky".​

    I have an IR Temperature gun, they can be purchased very reasonably at Harbor Freight or other place on the internet. You just point that thing at any object, pull the trigger, and get a temperature reading. I would be using that to verify that my location for the SPOT is okay.

    • Operating altitude: -328 ft to 21,320 ft (-100m to 6,500m)
    • Humidity and Salt Fog rated.
    • Visit www.findmeSPOT.com for the latest information on certification to OSHA Intrinsically Safe to Class 1, Division 1, Group A-D standards.
    • If you exceed 700 mph (Mach 1) GPS accuracy degrades.

    I have carried my hand held GPS with me and measure airliner speeds of ~450 mph. My Samsung S5 cellphone also reported about the same speeds... you must realize that you only get to see part of the sky.... try to sit on the side of the aircraft that is to the "south" if in the USA.
     
  20. PeteCress

    PeteCress Android Enthusiast
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    My bad... I figured you had been there already

    Between the heat issue (somebody else reported their device temporarily going inop due to heat) and visibility/clutter considrations and your observation that less time between updates is better, I have begun gravitating towards a dedicated vehicular device: http://www.brickhousesecurity.com/product/trackport+gps+tracker+international.do

    That one gives 10-second updates - albeit via a GSM cell phone connection instead of Iridium or whatever satellites.

    $150/year for the maker's database/web presentation service plus whatever a SIMM card will cost me.

    Right now, the SIMM card is looking like $36/month for an H2O prepaid with automatic renewal. viz: https://www.h2owirelessnow.com/mainControl.php?page=planMin (you have to MouseOver the dollar values to see the reduced "Auto Recharge" rates).

    If the tracker maker's tech support signs off on the H2O card, and the data usage numbers work that would be (($150+$36)/13) = $186/year or $15.50/month.

    OTOH, if H2O does not work out, worst case would seem to be $150/year+$30/month = $510/year or $42.50/month..... a little over twice what SPOT costs.

    The three main attractions for me are
    • 10-Second Updates: Cars move fast compared to somebody on foot or in a sailboat and your observation about reducing the radius of the search circle hits home with me

    • Bulletproof: no connections to come loose, no wires to route.

    • Inconspicuous: just a little wart plugged into the vehicle's troubleshooting port - so the driver will not be reminded that somebody is tracking them
     
    #20 PeteCress, Aug 5, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2016
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  21. PeteCress

    PeteCress Android Enthusiast
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    Oops... that one fell through. Maker's support says that it will not work in the USA.... frankly the whole phone conversation sounded flaky to me... but I take them at their word.

    Just pulled the trigger on these guys: https://automile.com/ - again, an ODB port device.

    Their web page sucks canal water.... but the offer seems like a no-brainer: I sign up, they send me a device, if I like it I pay $15/mo for 2-minute updates... period.... no extra charge for the device....

    If I don't like it, I tell them within sixty days....

    They did not ask for a credit card number.... I am guessing that will be build in to the startup procedure once the device arrives in "A couple of days".

    Maybe it will turn out that they want a contract on the life of my first-born child or something.... maybe not....

    Stay tuned....
     
  22. AZgl1500

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    I will definitely be watching to see how this works out for you.

    My Father-in-law developed Alzheimer's and it is a serious, terribly debilitating thing for the family. The patient is totally unaware of their impact on family, and they do not care if things change, because they can't remember what was before.

    My wife's dad was a farmer, and a retired GE machinist.... he used his hands all his life, and he was God's Command at work for 20 of his 35 years working with GE.... he did not take well to being told 'NO'.....

    he would sneak the keys to the car, and just take off.... 'going to see my brother' who died 25 years ago, but never mind, he is going to go see him anyway, as they have not talked today, and he needs to find out why. The LEOs have been involved numerous times, and he would be found 150 miles in the opposite direction to where his brother used to live.... as long as the gas tank had gas, he just kept driving.... ( he did not have a credit card, ID only )

    My wife quit work to go take care of him.... then our daughter did the same to help mom....... and then they just brought him home from Indiana to Arizona where we lived, to be with us..... well, that lasted about six months, and he went into the Belligerent Phase were he would attack me..... I had to install double side key locks on all the house doors.... you had to have a key to get OUT of the house... talk about Fire Escape rules violations!!!! and talk about making life miserable for the families involved....

    Finally, he attacked me so hard, that I could not prevent him from damaging something, me, or him..... he was 22 years senior to me, and just as strong as I was then.... both of us grew up on farms and worked hard.

    It was a sad day, when we finally had to admit him to a locked facility where they had security and nurses 24/7.... he was madder than a wet hen and made life rough on everyone around him.... for about six months, then he passed on due to a urinary tract infection.... ( those are the deadliest killers for those committed to institutions. )

    I wish you the best, and I hope that you find a viable solution to tracking your dear one.
     
  23. PeteCress

    PeteCress Android Enthusiast
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    Paoli PA, USA
    That's roughly the scenario I am planning for. .... This person has always been constitutionally incapable of asking for directions or consulting a map..... with some "Interesting" consequences even in the best of times. ..... They just keep driving on the assumption that eventually they will see something familiar. ..... Actually, that used to work for me when I lived in Hawaii.... but that was an island 30 miles across......

    I am hoping to avoid that part. .... We went through my mother's dementia for a period of about 8 years and that part never happened. ..... Maybe a man/woman thing..... maybe the type of dementia..... hopefully....

    Thanks for sharing and thanks for the kind thoughts.

    I will report back on the device's effectiveness and the plan's features once I have had time to shake it down.
     
    PattiCakeUS and AZgl1500 like this.

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