Saturday, August 23, 2014

Daemon's Car(duino) Tracker

Daemon by Daniel Suarez is an excellent book for most people who are interested in microcontrollers (MCUs), and I'm currently in the middle of re-reading it. The MCU project in today's post, OpenTracker v2, is something that would have been right at home in Daemon.

OpenTracker (we'll drop the v2 suffix for the rest of this post) is an Arduino-based GPS / GLONASS vehicle tracker. The August 21 article in Electronics Weekly gives an overview of OpenTracker and mentions a couple use cases.
"This one could of interest to a Gadget Master looking to track moving objects, such as a vehicle. Want to monitor your elderly parent, perhaps, or keep an eye on your son or daughter’s first driving adventures...The people behind it, Tigal, are raising funds on the Indiegogo crowd-funding’s actually the second version of the firm’s open source GPS/GLONASS vehicle tracking system...As well as tracking single or multiple vehicles, it also monitors the speed and altitude of the objects...The Arduino Due compatible module has an Atmel SAM3A8C ARM controller, a Quectel M95 GSM/GPRS modem and a Quectel L76 GPS/GLONASS module..."
OpenTracker v1
TIGAL just completed their Indiegogo effort to fund the development and launch of the second version of this moving object tracking device. Their Indiegogo campaign raised only €3,319 toward their funding goal of €50,000, so the new version of OpenTracker didn't get quick or strong uptake in the maker community or the general public. Because the Indiegogo effort was a flexible funding project, TIGAL, the developer of OpenTracker, keeps the money pledged. Also, TIGAL is an established Austrian company that sells the first version of OpenTracker online, as well as other products. The first version can be found online for €118.80 including 20% VAT.

Based on the online description of their company, TIGAL will likely continue development of the tracker's second version in spite of not reaching their crowdfunding goal. It will likely take longer for the second version to become available, so if you're interested in this 'open source'  moving object tracker, you should probably just buy the first version to learn on while waiting for the second one to appear. If you do interesting hacks with v1, TIGAL might want to have you be a beta tester for v2. Their website describes the company this way:
"TIGAL is distributor and manufacturer of...innovative technological products.  TIGAL’s product line includes embedded Linux/Windows CE devices, M2M solutions, wireless devices, CAE/CAD, development systems and compilers, professional programmers, measurement tools, LCD and OLED displays and display modules with and without touch screen functionality, and speech recognition development tools and systems. TIGAL is also leading several OEM projects with its international the fields of SMS and MMS messaging, Voice Recognition and Linux-based development tools and embedded hardware."
If you're considering buying or building a GPS tracker, you might also want to look at a few of the
other open source trackers. I didn't do in-depth research to find out which have the best reputation, but here are a few links to get you started:
GeogramONE board
  1. GeogramONE (originally released as DSS Open Source Tracking Device on Kickstarter) -- $120.00 -- "The Geogram ONE is an open source tracking device based off the Arduino platform.  After a successful Kickstarter campaign, several hiccups in the manufacturing and assembly process, we're proud to announce the Geogram ONE is finally available for sale. We're selling the bare bones board here for development, however to take full advantage of it's capabilites you'll still need...accessories...The board also comes preloaded with firmware to use as a tracking device.  Communication is handled simply by send an SMS from your smart phone."
  2. RuuviTracker -- " open-source, electronic global positioning device as well as free
    RuuviTracker Rev C PCBs
    software. Our GSM- and GPS/GLONASS/Galileo-enabled tracking system can be used for various different can be used to track your hunting dog, it can become your vehicle's alarm system, a portable weather station, a security system for your children...The device itself will be an affordable, water-proof, robust, high-quality and state-of-the-art product...We have, for example: 168MHz ARM Cortex-M4, GSM, GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, accelerometer, microSD, microphone, speaker etc. The device draws only few microamps during sleep, so even a small battery might last for several years. Additionally, our accelerometer is able to wake-up the device when it's touched
    ." Here's a link to the project status page on their wiki. They appear to have completed a Rev C PCB (printed circuit board) for their tracker in June 2014. 
  3. GPS Cookie (funded with a Kickstarter project in 2013) -- $89.00 -- Overview from
    GPS Cookie
    : "The GPS Cookie runs on two AAA batteries and records data onto a microSD card you supply. It records data, time, and location to track your routes, letting you build up a history of your movements. That data can then be imported into Google Earth so you can visualize your travels. The idea behind the gadget is that you just carry it around and not worry about it until you upload the data to Google Earth and see your information. This could come in handy for travel abroad so you'll be able to locate that out-of-the-way Parisian cafe later. It can also be used to track bike routes, commutes, or just about any travel adventure."
  4. Adafruit Ultimate GPS on the Raspberry Pi -- From Martin O'Hanlon's blog post about this Adafruit GPS tracker: "I got myself one of adafruit's ultimate GPS breakout boards as I want to experiment with capturing GPS data in my car projects.  Its a seriously good bit of
    Adafruit Ultimate GPS on Raspberry Pi
    kit and if you looking for a GPS module you could do a lot worse than this.  They also have an excellent tutorial on setting it up with the raspberry pi...I used the raspberry pi's on board UART to connect to the GPS module, Adafruit advocate using a USB to serial device but that didn't suit my needs (I need the USB for other things). I also create a GPSController class in python to allow me to communicate with the module easily
I've never done a maker project with GPS tracking, but it appears there are a number of options for doing that with open source designs. If you want to track your child, your parent or a potentially wayward or nefarious client (I have no idea as to the legalities of any of those activities and IANAL) or if you want to clearly understand how someone might be tracking you, this post should at least point you in the right direction...


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