Vehicle Tracker using old iPhone

Discussion in 'Motorhome Security' started by Shaggy, Nov 19, 2015.

  1. Shaggy

    Shaggy Read Only Funster

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    Not sure what to do with that old iPhone?
    Well actually mine was forgotten about sitting in a cupboard gathering dust, which is where it was likely to remain...but, while scouring the internet for a tracking device for our MoHo I came across a forum where somebody suggested using an old iPhone?!
    So, a little more research and now I'm up and running with my DIY vehicle tracker. Here's the deal:
    1. You obviously need an old iPhone, with or without cracked screen, but you must be able to at least see the screen content vaguely. Complete with USB charging lead. (mine is iPhone 4 8GB) IMG_4909.JPG
    2. A 12v permanent live supply. IMG_4916.JPG
    3. A 5v USB charger. IMG_4914.JPG
    4. A Pay n Go sim (not for calls)
    5. A data provision (not much 1-2mb / month)
    6. 'Find Friends' App IMG_0001.jpg IMG_4910.JPG
    7. A concealed location to mount the iPhone. IMG_4912.JPG
    This is what I did and the pictures hopefully explain better than I can:
    1. Reset and erase the phone to make sure everything personal on it is removed, and then setup a brand new iTunes account. Store all the details somewhere safe.
    2. Download 'Find Friends' app from app store. It needed to be built into iOS, and that really only leaves Find Friends. Yes Find My iPhone would work too, but that isn’t quite as convenient and also doesn’t include the Notify capability of FF.
    3. I used my existing iTunes account login during setup of the tracking phone, which means that you will not be able to use Find Friends on your day to day phone a t the same time, but switching is easy.
    4. I had already fitted a 12v-5v USB module with 2 USB sockets. But this was on one of the switched circuits and needed to be fitted to a permanent live to allow the iPhone Tracker to maintain a charge at all times.
    5. The USB socket was already mounted near the euro lounge seat back and by virtue of a hinged worktop in the kitchen I was able to fit the iPhone Tracker concealed, but accessible. IMG_4917.JPG IMG_4918.JPG
    6. In terms of data and cellular network I'm on O2 and ordered a new free sim. I will associate this new number with my existing day to day phone account and share my monthly data allowance with the Tracker phone. I anticipate not need to use data routinely, but in the event of needing to interrogate it for it's location it should use no more than 1-2MB. An alternative is to buy a pay and go sim with data provision, but this data allowance usually expires each month.
    A bit of a whistle stop explanation, but happy to elaborate or even listen to criticism if you have any?

    Andy

    1. Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 17.15.13.png
     

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  2. Gromett

    Gromett Funster

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    Does it pick up a GPS signal from inside the van? It may tell you the stored location from last time it saw a signal. Have you tried moving the van and testing? Just curious..
     
  3. Shaggy

    Shaggy Read Only Funster

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    Unfortunately I haven't done any testing myself, in terms of location accuracy, but in terms of GPS signal the iPhone Tracker (Find Friends App) is sending all of the information about the vehicle location over cellular data. You're not connecting to GPS satellites to see where your vehicle is, you're getting the information from Apple's servers. Your iPhone Tracker can pinpoint its own location using WiFi/Cellular/GPS but, to transmit that information, it needs cellular data.
     
  4. tonyidle

    tonyidle Funster

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    You can do this with any phone that has GPS - Android phones work as well. Each access for location info will only require a few Kb of data. If you set the phone to auto answer you can listen in should you wish to do so.
     
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  5. Gromett

    Gromett Funster

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    I think perhaps I better explain. The phone needs to see the GPS satellites to be able to get it's exact location. It then reports this location to the Apple servers. Getting a 3G signal inside the van is doable, however my doubt is that it could get a GPS signal from where the phone is.

    What I think would happen is that the phone would used cached location data. So say you move 100 Miles down the road it would not have the updated GPS data so wouldn't know where it was. It may be able to get some idea of it's location based on 3G towers but not accurate enough for tracking your van if it was nicked?

    You can test this on your own phone. Next time you are at the shops, turn off the GPS/Location feature in your phone. When you go to another shop at least a mile away turn it back on and see where it's location data says you are.

    Don't test this at home as your home wifi will also be used as a location device. As soon as it sees that it knows where it is.
     
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  6. funflair

    funflair Funster Life Member

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    I just tried my iPhone inside the van and TomTom pick up the position OK without either WiFi or 3G data switched on.

    Martin
     
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  7. Shaggy

    Shaggy Read Only Funster

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    I'm no master of all this tech, but Apple are pretty clear that this uses fairly old fashioned but tried and tested locating methods using cellular data to triangulate the phones position using masts and towers in the absence of gps and wifi. Will keep the thread updated with progress
     
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  8. John Laidler

    John Laidler Funster

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    I have one of the cheap nano 102 trackers and it has no problem picking up a GPS signal below the metal roof of the PVC.

    But thanks to the OP, this is a neat idea.

    Anyone who knows how to write phone apps could write one which included movement detection as well, sending an SMS message if it was disturbed.
     
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  9. SandT

    SandT Funster

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  10. NickNic

    NickNic Funster Life Member

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    Yes, it does. All phones, actually all devices that use mobile data, do that. It's not new or exclusive to Apple.

    @Gromett's point is that triangulation by this method only provides an approximate location and the accuracy can vary massively depending on where the device is and how many towers it can ping.

    This is an old article but it explains the theory quite well. http://searchengineland.com/cell-phone-triangulation-accuracy-is-all-over-the-map-14790
     
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  11. Don Quixote

    Don Quixote Funster

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    Firstly what a great recycling idea, "pat on the back" @Shaggy. Just walked back from MH to test as ours is locked in a garage with poor phone and GPS signal. Very surprised to find it works (iPhone 4) in locker above the sink with only 1 bar signal for phone. I'm sure there is an app that allows you to monitor a young person's iPhone, which would work a treat with this.
     
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  12. keith

    keith Funster

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    Life 360 is an app that will track any phone, with their permission of course. We as a family use it to see where each of us is, a phone in your van will do the same.
    The family track us while we are abroad and we can of course see what they are up to. :LOL:
     
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  13. SuperMike

    SuperMike Read Only Funster

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    No.1 sons wife is a community nurse and works nights, trundling around her patch to help those who are not to be with us much longer. I am in awe of her resilience to depression. Anyway, he uses that app to track her phone so that he knows her whereabouts. It gives them both piece of mind.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
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  14. chaser

    chaser Funster

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  15. Shaggy

    Shaggy Read Only Funster

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    Great comments, all noted. It won't suit everybody, if anybody else, but for me it is a no cost option without subscription. Yes, I have to share my data plan, but with myself, that's it though. The app is specifically designed for tracking people and presumably anything with a phone in it, so we'll see how it goes. Best of luck if you give it a go!
     
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  16. Gromett

    Gromett Funster

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    I can see a few of you have tested. But my question is. Did you move to a location a long way from your van. Turn the GPS off, return to your van and then turn the GPS back on. Also you phone can pick it's location up via the wifi nodes it can see. If you have a wifi node in range of your van then it could be that, that is giving your location away not the GPS.

    The previous known location can be cached. If you have the GPS switched on when you walk to your van, or had it switched on near your house it may be a cached value that is being used not live data. Sorry I can't test on my phone at the moment.

    GPS is notorious for losing signal. For instance in areas with high rise buildings it can fail. My Satnav needs to be right in teh windows when in the back of the van. However it works fine on the dash.

    the assisted GPS also called aGPS will only work as I understand it if there is some GPS signal not if it is switched off.

    Without a clear GPS lock then accurate tracking isn't possible.

    I would be interested in the results of your tests.

    I have just bought a £21 tracker with alarm and engine disabler with remote tracking via txt so I don't need to know but am very interested.
     
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  17. pappajohn

    pappajohn Funster Life Member

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    A giffgaff payg sim used to buy airtime credit only would be ideal.
    Credit only expires once it's been used.
    Giffgaff runs on the O2 network and if used in a mifi dongle tethering is allowed on all plans Inc payg.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
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  18. Shaggy

    Shaggy Read Only Funster

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    Just to reiterate Gromett, this technology doesn't need GPS (it can use it, along with wifi and cellular data, but it is not reliant on it) which in my opinion is its major plus point...its just a simple concept for tracking that could be used in a van?
     
  19. NickNic

    NickNic Funster Life Member

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    But the major downside is that if it only has cellular data to work with there's every chance it will only locate your van to a very approximate location. You will be fine in a major town or city where it could ping half a dozen towers, it might be reasonably accurate in that situation.

    If the vehicle is in a more rural or remote location and it only manages to find one tower then using the 4 mile radius suggested in my previous link it would only be able to tell you that your van is somewhere in an area covering 50 square miles. That is pretty much useless for tracking purposes. Two towers might only cut that in half which is still no use.
     
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  20. Gromett

    Gromett Funster

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    Apple location technology is impressive but it is a crowd sourced database of geo tagged wifi hotspots and cell towers.

    If your phone is not near a previously tagged wifi hotspot then the cell tower location will only give you a region you are in probably measure in square miles. Not much use if your van has been nicked and hidden in a barn. However if you had GPS available you would have a track of where your phone lost the GPS signal.

    I am sorry but it is no substitute for GPS especially if you are going to be relying on it to track your stolen vehicle.

    My question still stands. Does your GPS work in the van where your phone is located. Is it a live GPS track or is it based on you local wifi point or cached value.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
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