Location Tracking With Twitter And Google Maps

[Ryan O’Hara] built a location tracker he could use on motorcycle trips. Ostensibly this is to give his wife piece of mind be we think that was an excuse to play with GPS and SMS. To stand up to the trials of the road [Ryan] took his breadboarded prototype to the next level, using a manufactured board and a SparkFun enclosure. Tucked safely away is a PIC 18F25K20 gathering longitude and latitude from a GM862, formatting the info into a Google Maps link, and sending it to the Twitter feed via an SMS message. If you’re not familiar with the GM862, in addition to being a GPS module it can send and receive cellular data on a GSM network.

This is a nice solid hardware platform from which we can envision a couple of other hacks. The feed could be parsed to make a nice map graphic like the webpage for that Twittering Road Bike. It also might be nice to have a d-pad and character LCD to post your own tweets to the feed at the end of the day.

19 thoughts on “Location Tracking With Twitter And Google Maps

  1. My uncle has something almost exactly like this, I don’t know where he bought it. It has this panic mode/button, where he can summon emergency assistance with it. Apparently the service comes with insurance that will cover an emergency airlift if he claims to be severely injured. Pretty cool.

  2. My immediate thought is, nice work. However, why this isn’t just implemented easily with a mobile phone, along with Google maps running the latitude function is beyond me. I took long bike rides running this application, allowing friends and family to track me and it’s free as long as you’re already paying for a data connection.

  3. Jake, your uncle probably has the Spot satellite messenger. It’s very popular among motorcyclists and other adventurers. The downside to this hack is that if you happen to get into trouble outside of GSM coverage, you’re out of luck. The advantage to the commercial products is the ability to send messages anywhere you can get a GPS signal. Nevertheless, it looks like a quality hack.

  4. I use GPSed on my Blackberry for similar functionality, but this running separately makes worrying about battery charge and other things go away. I’d like to see a camera attached for auto photo upload as well. Add an accelerometer and a heart rate monitor and you might be able to detect a collision or accident. There are certainly even more possibilities for this.


  5. Why not just raise homing pigeons and then determine your latitude and longitude using a sextant and then attach a note with the information to the birds leg and let it fly home?

  6. I was thinking of some of the downsides.
    1 do you really want everybody to know where you are all the time?
    But saying that their some neat features that could be added.
    How about an ignition cut out and alarm functions. If someone steals your bike then just cut the ignition. You could trigger it with an SMS.
    Of course it could also have other sensors and do data logging.
    Also you could use an SMS to turn the tweets on and off.

  7. Thanks for all the great feedback. I was prepping for a big trip to Colorado and had to get everything together so some of the features are pretty light.

    The big reason for this was that Latitude, sucks batteries like nobody’s business, from my iphone. I wanted something simple and easy. Tying this to the ignition was a good start.

    Future versions will probably include a lithium batter, vibration sensor (sleep mode and alarm), and remote configuration and tuning via sms.

  8. @John Smith

    Actually APRS coverage is better than cell service throughout the country.

    100W Aprs setup vs 500mW cell phone….

    I have driven throughout the US and my APRS tracker worked almost everywhere and certainly better than my cell phone.

    Just my .02 cents.

  9. @nate
    Yes but APRS means becoming a HAM and 100W is might be a bit of a load for a motorcycle’s electrical system.
    I mean if you are running GPS, extra lights, and heated clothing that may just be too much.

  10. @Brent

    That’s exactly what it is! Thanks. I knew it had the word “spot” in it but didn’t know that was all that was in the name. He’s a jackass on the trail with his KLR650, he will probably need to use that thing at some point!


    Absolutely. I know this guy who makes his own “heated clothing” by weaving wire into an outer layer of clothing. Then, he bitches when he has to replace his magneto xD

    I guess he should have used a flux capacitor…

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