See where Socks has been using a GPS tracking collar

[Buxtronix] wanted to know where his cat (named Ash, but we thought Socks sounded much more cliché) was going when on the loose. He designed a GPS tracking collar and a way to map the data it collects.

The hardware actually turns out to be very simple. He needed a GPS module to gather location data, and a way to store that information having decided that live broadcast was not feasible. He hit SparkFun because they have a GPS module that is small enough for a cat collar, and outputs data with one serial pin. Unfortunately this module is no longer available, but if you have a similarly sized replacement let us know in the comments. Data capture is made easy by this device, you just need to record the serial data as it comes down the pipeline. [Buxtronix] used an OpenLog board as it dumps the data onto an SD card. When [Ash] returns from his roaming, [Buxtronix] grabs the SD card, and uses a Python script to convert the NMEA data to KML format which can be overlaid on Google Earth and Google Maps.

32 thoughts on “See where Socks has been using a GPS tracking collar

  1. All it needs is a “Licking Myself” recording option! But seriously I saw a documentary where they tracked racoons in the city with huge radio collars, this set up would be far easier on the racoon and could be collected after if was retraped (or run over).

  2. I think some USB-GPS mice can be modified to work as trackers. All you need to do is to strip them down, fit them in a collar or whatever and supply the required 5v.
    Friend of mine did this to track his motorcycle tours.

  3. Great project.

    Re small GPS receivers, probably hacking up a USB or Bluetooth receiver would be the way to go: crack the case open and probe the test points until you find a serial bitstream carrying the NMEA data. Bluetooth ones have the advantage of an on board battery and power supply for powering your own stuff.

  4. I built a similar (actually, much smaller) setup using the locosys LS20126. Sparkfun actually stocks the M0 flavor. Its about 1cm x 1xm x 3 cm, and most of the 1×1 comes from its patch antenna which I moved and made it 1cmx0.6cmx3cm It also has a simple 3 axis accelerometer and magnetic sensor/compass. I mated this to an MSP430, a bluetooth radio, a flash chip and a very tiny lipo pack with charger.

  5. I don’t need a GPS to know where my cat is at all times — she’s either eating grass, or puking grass up on my new carpet!

  6. would be kinda neat to actually see a map over a couple weeks to see what kind of patterns the cat actually has..

    though for security reasons I could see not posting that.

    my cats pattern would be garage.. couch, bed.

  7. Has anyone managed a live feed one?.. I have a beagle and I want to let him run rabbits etc. however the in market ones I have seen are upwards of 600 USD.. There has to be a way to DIY one

    1. If you’ve got a GPS module that outputs serial and a battery, you could look at pairing it with a couple of Synapse radios from Solarbotics. Range is suppose to be 2.5 miles outdoors(line of sight) with just the standard radio w/ pcb antenna. The best part is that they run a version of Python on an onboard micro, so no extra parts to get it transmitting.

      1. @nikescar..

        problem is cell reception is needed.. I am looking for something that does not rely on infrastructure to do the tracking (besides the GPS satellites obviously :)

  8. This can’t be the best way to build trust with your cat. How is he gonna learn how to handle his catnap as an adult if he can’t as a kit? Next thing you know, you’ll be wanting to know when he comes home, and with whom…. I’m sorry, are we still talking about cats?

  9. They need to add a camera too…that way when the cat gets back you know not only where they went, but also what they did.

    Oh wait…it is a cat…it slept, it ate what it found on the ground, it slept, it licked itself, it slept, it threw up, it slept, and it came back…and slept.

  10. As well as all the usual sleeping and eating, Ash also has a habit of bringing in mice. So the next project is a mouse detector on the cat flap…

    The smallest live-feed ones are available about the size of a matchbox – look for TK-102. But I was really surprised how small it really needed to be for a cat. Even this collar required careful planning to get it as small as needed.

    I considered the venus, but the combination of that and antenna would have been a bit too big, plus I still preferred the size of openlog + minimod.

    I have attached it to him a few times, and there are a couple of routes he seems to take, pretty consistently…

  11. I’d include some kind of RF beacon, so I’d be able to find my cat if he stayed out long enough to be concerned. Also, a cat’s collar should have some kind of release mechanism, in case the collar gets caught on something, otherwise it could choke to death. In that case, it would be nice to recover the collar.

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