GPS Tracker Gets SMS Upgrade

In May of 2000, then-President Bill Clinton signed a directive that would improve the accuracy of GPS for anyone. Before this switch was flipped, this ability was only available to the military. What followed was an onslaught of GPS devices most noticeable in everyday navigation systems. The large amount of new devices on the market also drove the price down to the point where almost anyone can build their own GPS tracking device from scratch.

The GPS tracker that [Vadim] created makes use not just of GPS, but of the GSM network as well. He uses a Neoway M590 GSM module for access to the cellular network and a NEO-6 GPS module. The cell network is used to send SMS messages that detail the location of the unit itself. Everything is controlled with an ATmega328P, and a lithium-ion battery and some capacitors round out the fully integrated build.

[Vadim] goes into great detail about how all of the modules operate, and has step-by-step instructions on their use that go beyond what one would typically find in a mundane datasheet. The pairing of the GSM and GPS modules seems to go match up well together, much like we have seen GPS and APRS pair for a similar purpose: tracking weather balloons.

20 thoughts on “GPS Tracker Gets SMS Upgrade

      1. I’ve got one in the back of the drawer, “Trackstar” or something like that.
        Needs a sim on a data/text plan. Can be remotely configured, so if someone couldn’t find it but knew the phone number then they can sabbotage the thing!
        Oh, it is 2G by the looks of the innards: No good in this day, hence it found itself at the back of the drawer.

  1. I had a eBay tracker, biggest PITA was the text used some obscure website for maps, not google. Open source ftw?

    Have been wanting to build a Bluetooth, gsm, GPS tracker that alerts when either my phone or a Bluetooth dongle isn’t in the vehicle and it moves.

    Have debated just hardwiring in an old phone, but then the tempting features of cameras, storage etc kills it with scope creep.

  2. “uses GSM network” = it’s a friggin’ cellphone that you have to pay to use !!! If you’re going to do that, forget the damn ‘hack’ and just throw a smart-phone on there with a ‘tracking app’…. none of these builds involving access to the cellular network are free. YOU PAY MONEY to use the cellular infrastructure belonging to Verizon, AT&, whomever….

    1. The only viable alternative to GSM is satellite (e.g. Iridium), but that’s even more expensive and requires a locked-down proprietary modem instead of a $2 chinese module. Also, companies like Ting offer “IoT” data-only plans for very cheap so the price is not a big issue. Finally, this “hack” is much cheaper and more reliable than a full-blown smartphone, and uses no data when idle (both iPhones and Androids constantly ping their servers for updates, notifications and spying the user).

  3. I just wrote an Android app that when you send a configurable certain text it replies with the GPS coords. get a burner tracfone with a $10 sim and you have a tracker. Had plans to expand it to take a picture or maybe even bring up a vpn, but google play said it was “malicious” so it’s shelved for now.

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