Barely-There GSM GPS Tracker

What’s the most un-intrusive GPS you’ve ever seen? How about for a bike? Redditor [Fyodel] has built a Teensy-based GPS/GSM tracker that slides into your bike’s handlebars and really is out of sight.

The tracker operates on T-Mobile’s 2G service band — which will enable the device to work until about 2020 — since AT/T is phasing out their service come January. Since each positioning message averages 60 bytes, an IoT data plan is sufficient for moderate usage, with plans to switch over to a narrow-band LTE service when it becomes more affordable. [Fyodel] admits that battery life isn’t ideal at the moment, but plans to make it more efficient by using a motion sensor to ensure it’s only on when it needs to be.

GSM GPS Tracker ThumbThis isn’t [Fyodel’s] first rodeo, he has a previous revision of the tracker up on his Tindie store. But there are some real challenges with the new concept. The rounded PCB handlebar mounts look great, giving an almost futuristic design profile that you won’t really see. The board fits inside the metal handlebar tube, and signal issues haven’t been completely cleared up — an antenna will likely be the primary resolution. Otherwise, replacing the handlebars with carbon fiber is a safe bet.

Combine this tracker with a heads-down display and you’ll have a tidy little setup for your next cycling adventure.

57 thoughts on “Barely-There GSM GPS Tracker

        1. My assumption would be that there are two reasons:

          1: an average bike is worth like 50 bucks, but it’ll take two policemen a few hours to retrieve it. It’s a net loss.

          2: Millions of bikes are stolen every year. There aren’t enough police resources to find them. If you want the police to go after stolen bikes, you’ll have to pay for it in taxes; few people are willing to do that.

          1. Yeah johnywoo I’m not sure how you understand the separation of economics and law enforcement. Sure its not a 100% separation, but yeah nothing like your comments suggest…

      1. Just write down the license number from the GSM chip before you install the device into your bike.
        You know, the exact same thing you do to prove the cell phone in your pocket is FCC licensed, for all the times you are asked to provide that…

    1. What dilbert reads hackaday and thinks they’ll see professional products which are finished and ready to ship? It’s a work in progress FFS! There are possible solutions and as the design goes throw more iterations I’m sure more elegant iterations will come along. Rome was not built in a day.

        1. Mesopotamia is a geographic region rather than a city: “Mesopotamia is a name for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in modern days roughly corresponding to most of Iraq plus Kuwait” (Wikipedia).

          While a lot of things have been built there (and more than a few blown up recently) we’d be talking more about hydrology than human effort so it’s a poor metaphor.

    2. I see this all the time. Even “professionals” will install an RF gateway inside a metal enclosure and seal it up. then bitch about how shitty the RF device is.

      Just recently had to tell a “dilbert” that he really needs to go back to school and not be allowed to install things for customers on this exact issue. his response was “but it has vent slots in the metal can so the RF can leak out”…

      But this design looks like it might take into consideration the metal tube. But he does not take into consideration that bike handlebars are NOT watertight.

    3. Wild suggestion: microstrip antennae wrapped atound the frame, then painted on? Kapton PCB isn’t hard to find but you might need to test a non conductive paint and compensate for it.

  1. Different approach:
    – Gobi2000 mini-pciE umts card GPS(AUX) + UMTS(MAIN) – can do GSM too
    – raspi zero
    – usb power pack
    – sheet metal antennas

    Those minipciE UMTS-cards utilize the usb-lines, so connecting those to your raszero is easy (now you have GPS)
    Those minipciE UMTS-cards have certain pins reserved for sim cards connect these to a sim-card reader (now you have GSM/UMTS)

    Sheet metal antenna cable can be attached on the outside or within the lights and so on ..

          1. That is where I got the idea from, competitive cycling is one of the most corrupt sports in the world. You would also need a small circuit to manage voltage and battery protection but it would be easy done.

      1. An old style 60’s~70’s era hub dynamo with a modern ‘power conditioning’ circuit, i.e. switch mode charger or similar, seems like an almost ideal solution for these sort of scenarios. The problem would be finding one nowadays.

  2. I’d love to see this with a timer function, once switched on it only tracks if not reset after a certain period as a battery saver. Also SMS updates to a cell phone or email. You know, to catch those thieves.
    Couldn’t an antennae be worked into a lockable bar end cap or clamp style grip such as odi/lizardskinz?
    And yes bike motion for charging, perhaps a sliding weight also inside the bar at the other end.

    1. And probably to the theft problem.
      Bikes don’t have to look nice to be fast. I was friends at uni with an international time trials rider. His ‘normal’ bike wasn’t stupid expensive but still very nice. But with a naff, dirty, old-looking but not heavy frame, and the other (new, race-quality) components scuffed and smeared in dark grease to hide them, it didn’t get stolen even if barely locked.

        1. 1. Use a shitty lock
          2. Lock the bike to something flimsy like a small tree (this actually happened to my friend in San Francisco – came outside to see someone had hacked down this poor sidewalk tree to steal his bike.
          3. Lock the bike to itself, so it cannot be ridden off but can still be carried away.

          But please continue with the semantics, such an immense contribution to this community…

  3. clean and proper design. Only bad thing is the chosen band it needs 3G. Actually.. I don’t think there are any GPS-3G or GPS-4G trackers out there even to buy except those over-priced bricks on spook sites.. The next best thing is putting one together out of protoboards using shields.

    It’s too bad this guy probably doesn’t realize he could make money off a relatively un-tapped market.. I’d pay forty bucks for one of these and I’m pretty conservative..

    1. Hi! I designed the above tracker.
      The only reason I’m not using 3G is that the smallest chips are slightly larger than the Teensy footprint. I expect smaller 3G modules next year. Cheers, Paul

  4. Carbon fiber makes a pretty effective Faraday cage. It’s actually quite conductive. I measured 60 ohms about an inch apart on a random carbon fiber rod. That was without sanding to expose the fibers or anything.

      1. +1, came here to point out the error in thinking CF is less of a problem than metal tubes for RF. Anyone who builds drones or RC planes knows that.

        I wonder, couldn’t an antenna magician come up with small modifications to the handlebar geometry so it could all become a wideband antenna or a ground (non) plane for the antenna? It might need to be somehow isolated from the rest of the frame.

  5. Where is the actual link to the project ?
    I´d like to know more about those magnetic power couplers/plugs
    All I found was a reddit discussion with a photo, where do the details in the article come from ?

  6. I think these antenna ideas in the comments are a little silly. Just drill in the handlebars around the U shaped bend, run a rubber/plastic brake cable from one side to the other, antenna goes inside that.

  7. Hi guys, I designed the tracker.
    I have found flexible GPS antennas that I’ll be testing in a few days. The antenna has a sticky side that will go on the outside of the handlebar and lead inside. Thanks for all the comments, many of which have been constructive and given me ideas, both here and on reddit.
    Cheers, Paul

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.