These days, there’s plenty of options if you want to get a GPS tracker for your vehicle. Unfortunately, they come with the sort of baggage that’s becoming increasingly common with consumer tech: subscription fees, third-party snooping, and a sneaking suspicion that you’re more commodity than customer. So [Viktor Takacs] decided to take things into his own hands and create an open GPS tracker designed for privacy minded hackers.
As [Viktor] didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, his design leverages several off-the-shelf modules. The core of the tracker is the ESP32, which gives him plenty of computational power while still keeping energy consumption within reasonable levels. There’s also a NEO-6M GPS receiver which works at the same 3.3 V level as the ESP32, allowing the microcontroller to read the NMEA sentences without a level shifter. He decided to go with the low-cost SIM800L GSM modem, but as it only works on 2G networks, provisions have been made in the board design to swap it out for a more modern module should you desire.
For the code to glue it all together, [Viktor] pulled in nearly a dozen open source libraries to create a feature-complete firmware that uses MQTT to create a database of location data on his personal server. From there the data is plugged into Home Assistant and visualized with Grafana. This is enough to deliver core functionality, but he says that more custom software components as well as a deep-dive into the security implications of the system is coming in the near future.
We’ve seen custom built GPS trackers before, as generally speaking, it doesn’t take a whole lot to spin up your own solution. But we think the polish that [Viktor] has put on this project takes it to the next level, and ranks it up there among some of the most impressive bespoke tracking solutions we’ve seen over the years.
Racing is certainly exciting for the person rocketing around the track fast enough to get the speedometer into the triple digits, and tends to be a decent thrill for the spectators if they’ve got good seats. But if you’re just watching raw race videos on YouTube from the comfort of your office chair it can be a bit difficult to appreciate. There’s a lack of context for the viewer, and it can be hard to get the same sense of speed and position that you’d have if you saw the event first hand.
In an effort to give his father’s racing videos a bit more punch, [DusteD] came up with a clever way of adding video game style overlays to the recordings. The system provides real-time speed, lap times, and even a miniature representation of the track complete with a marker to show where the action is taking place. The end result is that recordings of Dad’s exploits on the track could pass as gameplay footage from Gran Turismo (we know GT doesn’t have motorcycles, but you get the idea).
The first part of the system is the tracker itself, which consists of a GPS receiver, an Arduino Pro Micro, and an SD card module. [DusteD] powers the device with two 18650 cells in parallel, and a DC-DC boost converter to step it up to 5V. Everything is contained in a 3D printed enclosure that he designed in OpenSCAD, with the only external elements being a toggle switch, a momentary switch, and most critically, a set of LEDs.
These LEDs play into the second part of the system, the software. The blinking LEDs are positioned so they’ll get picked up by the camera, which is then used to help synchronize the data stored on the SD card with the video. [DusteD] came up with some software that will take the speed and position information from the card, and turn it into PNG files with transparent backgrounds. These are then placed on top of the video with the help of FFmpeg. It takes a little adjustment to get everything lined up properly, but as the video after the break shows the end result is very impressive.
This build reminds us of the Raspberry Pi powered GPS helmet camera we featured a few years back, and it’s interesting to see how the two projects achieved what’s essentially the same goal in different ways.
Continue reading “GPS Overlays Give Real Life Racing A Video Game Feel”
Where the Hackaday Cat goes when she steps over the threshold into the wider world is a mystery, she reveals her whereabouts strictly on her terms and would we suspect be very cagey were we able to ask her about it. [Andy C] however has a need to know where his cat is spending her time, so he’s made a GPS collar for a bit of feline spying.
There are commercial GPS collars for pets, but they all share the flaw of extremely limited battery life. His challenge then was to create a collar that delivered the required pinpoint fix alongside a battery life measured in months. The solution was a combination of a low-power miniature GPS receiver and a low-power PC microcontroller hooked up to an FSK radio whose frequency he doesn’t give but which we suspect is probably the usual 433 MHz. The collar remains in low power mode until it receives a call on the FSK, at which point it wakes up, gets a GPS fix, transmits it, and returns to sleep.
The summary links to a series of posts which provide an extremely detailed look at all aspects of the project, and go well beyond mere GPS trackers for a cat. If you have an interest in low power devices or antenna matching for example, you’ll find a lot of interesting stuff in these pages. Of course, if all you need is a GPS tracker though, you may prefer a simpler option.
SpaceX just concluded 2017 by launching 10 Iridium NEXT satellites. A footnote on the launch was the “hosted payload” on board each of the satellites: a small box of equipment from Aireon. They will track every aircraft around the world in real-time, something that has been technically possible but nobody claimed they could do it economically until now.
Challenge one: avoid adding cost to aircraft. Instead of using expensive satcom or adding dedicated gear, Aireon listen to ADS-B equipment already installed as part of international air traffic control modernization. But since ADS-B was designed for aircraft-to-aircraft and aircraft-to-ground, Aireon had some challenges to overcome. Like the fact ADS-B antenna is commonly mounted on the belly of an aircraft blocking direct path to satellite.
Challenge two: hear ADS-B everywhere and do it for less. Today we can track aircraft when they are flying over land, but out in the middle of the ocean, there are no receivers in range except possibly other aircraft. Aireon needed a lot of low-orbit satellites to ensure you are in range no matter where you are. Piggybacking on Iridium gives them coverage at a fraction of the cost of building their own satellites.
Continue reading “Aireon Hitchhikes On Iridium To Track Airplanes”
The 2015 Midwest RepRap Festival, a.k.a. the MRRF (pronounced murf) was just announced a few hours ago. It will be held in beautiful Goshen, Indiana. Yes, that’s in the middle of nowhere and you’ll learn to dodge Amish buggies when driving around Goshen, but surprisingly there were 1000 people when we attended last year. We’ll be there again.
A few activists in St. Petersburg flushed GPS trackers down the toilet. These trackers were equipped with radios that would send out their position, and surprise, surprise, they ended up in the ocean.
[Stacy] has been tinkering around with Unity2D and decided to make a DDR-style game. She needed a DDR mat, and force sensitive resistors are expensive. What did she end up using? Velostat, conductive thread, and alligator clips.
The Open Source RC is a beautiful RC transmitter with buttons and switches everywhere, a real display, and force feedback sticks. It was a Hackaday Prize entry, and has had a few crowdfunding campaigns. Now its hit Indiegogo again.
Speaking of crowdfunding campaigns, The Mooltipass, the designed-on-Hackaday offline password keeper, only has a little less than two weeks until its crowdfunding campaign ends. [Mathieu] and the rest of the team are about two-thirds there, with a little more than half of the campaign already over.
Someone just stole your car. They took it right underneath your nose, and you have no idea where it is. Luckily, you have a GPS tracker installed and can pinpoint the exact location of the vehicle that thief drove away with.
Having a GPS tracker in your vehicle becomes extremely useful when something unexpected happens. Taking the necessary precautions to ensure a secure tracking system can save a lot of time and money if the car suddenly disappears.
Helping to solve the vanishing vehicle problem is the bright, young team at Cooking Hacks who created a step-by-step tutorial showing how to create a homemade GPS tracker. Their design is Arduino based and has a GPS+GPRS shield with an antenna attached to continuously pick up the location of the vehicle. Making a call to the Arduino inside triggers an SMS message to be sent back with the specific GPS data of where the tracker is stationed at. Information is then set to a server and inserted into a database, which can be accessed by opening up a specialized Android app.
We’ve seen similar ideas before, like this GPS tracker for stolen bikes, but this project by Cooking Hacks is unique because of its mobile phone integration with Google Maps. Not to mention, their video for the project is fantastically awesome.
If you have developed a system like this, be sure to let us know in the comments; and don’t forget to check out their video after the break.
Continue reading “Dude, Where’s My Car?”
Bikes are great for cruising through congested cities but there is a serious downside to pedaling your two-wheeler around… bike theft. It’s a big deal, for example, yearly estimates for stolen bikes in NYC are in the 60,000 – 100,000 range. Only an extremely small percentage of those are ever recovered. [stbennett] just got himself a halfway decent bike and is not too interested in having it stolen, and if it is stolen, he wants a way to find it so he built himself a GPS tracker for his bike.
The entire project is Arduino-based. It uses a GSM Shield and a GPS module along with a few other small odds and ends. A 2-cell LiPo battery provides the required power for all of the components. It’s pretty neat how this device maintains an extremely long battery life. The metal cable of the bike lock is used as a conductor in the circuit. When the cable is inserted and locked into the lock housing a circuit is completed that prevents electricity from passing through a transistor to the Arduino. In other words, the Arduino is off unless the bike cable is cut or disengaged. That way it is not running 24/7 and draining the battery.
The entire system works like this, once the bike lock cable is cut, the Arduino wakes up and gives a 15 second delay before doing anything, allowing the legitimate user to reconnect the bike lock and shut down the alarm system. If the bike lock is not re-engaged, the unit starts looking for a GPS signal. At that time it will send out SMS messages with the GPS location coordinates. Punching those numbers into Google Maps will show you exactly where the bike is.
Of course your other option is to park your bike where nobody else can access it, like at the top of a lamp pole.