If you think you are looking to buy a GPS jammer you need to think again. According to the FCC and Federal law it is illegal to use, sell or even market these devices in the United States. For some people who suspect that they are the subject of illegal GPS tracking activity, this leaves them with one less option to fight against a stalker or other criminal activity. But in the interest of public safety the complete prohibition of these devices has been deemed necessary by the powers that be. Whether or not you agree with this, it is the law and you should probably look for another solution to take care of your illegal GPS tracking problem.
Why Is Owning a GPS Jammer Illegal?
A person looking to buy a GPS tracking jammer to help thwart illegal activity by the US government or by a private citizen could feel as though a law preventing them from doing so is stupid. They are just trying to protect themselves; isn’t that okay? The powers that be, however, have deemed the use, sale and marketing of such jamming devices illegal (except by the US government – a little ironic, don’t you think). The Department of Homeland Security is ramping up efforts to identify sources of jamming activity and prosecute those who are using these devices. Just take a look at these statements by government officials and laws:
Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 301, 302a(b), 333.
Section 301 of the Communications Act: “No person shall use or operate any apparatus for the transmission of energy or communications or signals by radio…except under and in accordance with [the Communications] Act and with a license in that behalf granted under the provisions of this Act.” 47 U.S.C. § 301.
Section 302(b) of the Communications Act: “No person shall manufacture, import, sell, offer for sale, or ship devices or home electronic equipment and systems, or use devices, which fail to comply with regulations promulgated pursuant to this section.” 47 U.S.C. § 302a(b).
Section 333 of the Communications Act: “No person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications of any station licensed or authorized by or under [the Communications] Act or operated by the United States Government.” 47 U.S.C. § 333.
“Jamming devices create serious safety risks. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be intensifying our efforts through partnerships with law enforcement agencies to crack down on those who continue to violate the law. Through education, outreach, and aggressive enforcement, we’re tackling this problem head on.”
— P. Michele Ellison, Chief, Enforcement Bureau
Jammers are definitely illegal and the government is taking an increasing interest in suppressing their use.
The main reason cited by the government is that jammers of all kinds pose a risk to public safety. The rational goes something like this:
Jammers are indiscriminate blockers. Since jammers are unable to determine if a phone call or GPS device is being used for emergency purpose or for a social one, they pose a risk to all citizens. The key here is that they are indiscriminate. Just imagine if you have a jammer set up in your store, home or car. You might have the jammer there for perfectly legitimate reasons, like preventing someone from tracking you while at work, at home or on the road. But these jammers have no way of blocking just your device. Someone in the store could have a heart attack, or your next door neighbor might cut themselves with a knife, or your vehicle could get in an accident. If the jammer is powerful enough you run the risk of preventing the legitimate use of communication signals for emergency purposes. You are now posing a risk to the world around you.
Jammers can also wreak havoc on important national infrastructure. The DHS is beginning to take this very seriously. Just take a look at the slides of their presentation (.pdf) at the 2012 Telcordia-NIST-ATIS Workshop on Synchronization in Telecommunication Systems (WSTS ’12), held March 20-22, 2012, in Broomfield, Colorado. While some of the jamming equipment outline in this presentation offer a significant leap over most GPS jamming equipment found through a simple Google search, the risk to financial, power, telecommunications and transportation infrastructure is significant.
With that being said, you really should think twice about getting a jammer.
What about those who have already bought a device marketed as a GPS jammer? How does a person tell if the jammer is legal or illegal?
The easiest way to tell is to identify FCC ID label your device. If it does not have the important FCC ID then you should stop using your device because it is probably illegal to use.
If you need help finding the FCC ID on your device you might find this helpful: FCC ID Number Help
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself From Illegal GPS Tracking
If you have gotten this far and are wondering what you can do to help protect yourself from unlawful GPS tracking then you might want to consider these tips:
Check your cell phone periodically from apps or file folders that you don’t recognize. If you find something that you didn’t install then Google the name to find out more about the app or file folder. If the app is malicious, take the necessary steps to remove the app.
Do a routine inspection of your wheel wells and vehicle under carriage.
Most GPS trackers will attach to your vehicle via a magnet, so look for anything that appears out of place. Once you find a device contact the police right away so they can take a look. Another option would be to remove the device and attach it to a random car (!), but its probably better just to call the police.
If you have any additional questions feel free to leave a comment below.
This post is brought to you by real life, my life. Its a story about what happens when a blogger who writes about GPS tracking ends up losing his phone, and how sometimes there is nothing you can do about finding it.
Recently, my family and I were vacationing in America’s Finest City. We were having a great time enjoying the 70 degree weather, the sunny skies, wonderful food, and sandy beaches. The weather was fantastic and a nice break from the frigid January we would have had to spend in the Midwest where we live. We went outside all the time and took several trips to the beach to enjoy the surf, smell the salty air, skip rocks, and get sand everywhere.
We really had a grand ole time.
Then it came time to get back to the car, get the kids clean, and get home. It was clearly nap time. We had to walk a good bit to get back to the car and upon arrival we quickly set about getting the kids ready for departure. While my wife changed one I was cleaning the other – a task made difficult by tiredness and sand’s ability to stick to anything. Frustrated and done it was finally time to get the kids in the car. As I was taking our youngest to his seat I took out my phone to see if I had any messages from friends who I would hang out with later that night. I had none and as I was transferring our child to his car seat I placed my phone on the roof of the car. Big mistake.
Our other child distracted me by wanting me to get him in buckled in too so I went over to his side of the car, got him in, and then got in the car myself. My phone, a Droid X, was still sitting on the top of the car.
We got in the car, popped a U-turn and started heading home. 10 minutes later as the car accelerates up the on ramp to get on the free way we hear a thud and look around the inside of the car to see what had happened. We think its just my son throwing one of his sticks against the side of the car. We continue driving and I think little of the thud and what it could mean.
It wasn’t until we get home, get inside, and lay the napping kids down that I realize I don’t have my phone on me. I panic, but stay calm because I know I have Lookout Mobile Security downloaded to my phone.
I get on the laptop, log into my account, and do a phone locate through their website. It was a long three minutes waiting for the app to tell me where my phone is and at the end of three minutes I still had nothing. So I did it again, hoping that there was just a minor glitch and the phone would figure it out. It didn’t.
Then I downloaded Plan B to my phone, not so much for the location of the phone but to see if it was on and had a network connection. In a lot of our tests in the review of Plan B the app downloaded within a minute to our phone and our GMail account received a message from Lookout telling us it would have a position on our phone soon. This didn’t happen this time.
I found myself in the worst case scenario for loosing your cell phone. My phone was either off, out of batteries, destroyed, or taken over by someone else who knew what to do as soon as they found my phone. At this point there was no technological solution to my problem. All I could do was go back, retrace my steps, and see if I could find my phone. GPS tracking would be of no help to me.
So I got in the car, drove the 20 minutes back to where we parked and surveyed the scene. After looking for a few minutes I faintly remember placing the phone on the roof and then I hear it, the thud as we accelerated onto the freeway. Its at that moment that I realize my phone is not stolen, its not off, and its not out of batteries. My phone is smashed into a confetti of plastic and silicon.
Here are some of my takeaways from this experience:
Sometimes being prepared doesn’t matter. I was certainly prepared in the eventuality that my cell phone might become lost or stolen. I had the necessary apps installed and had done my homework on how to use them. But there are some things that you just can’t control.
GPS tracking apps have their limits. This is really just a restatement of my first takeaway, but needs to be said. Tracking apps ARE NOT the solution for finding every lost phone. Good ole fashioned skills such as retracing your steps and remembering cannot be bypassed.
Don’t be an idiot. I was an idiot and did not properly secure my phone. I should have put it back into my pocket. Or better yet, gotten a magnetic case so it would have stuck to my car. 🙂
I think we’ve all been there before. You have this vehicle that you just wish that you could track. You might be a business owner, or a concerned parent, or a victim of grand theft auto. It doesn’t matter. Whatever your reasoning, GPS vehicle tracking is something that is accessible to individuals at all levels of technological familiarity. Anyone can track a vehicle if they are equipped with a little understanding and the right hardware for the job.
What we hope to do here with this post is give anyone all the knowledge they need use a GPS tracking system for their vehicle. We will go step by step through the whole process and by the end any person should be able to understand what this powerful technology allows them to accomplish as well as some steps for them to take to get their car, van, or truck tracked with GPS.
What Is GPS Vehicle Tracking?
Its always good to start at the very beginning. I hear its a very good place to start. When we begin, we start with GPS. This acronym stands for the Global Positioning System. It is a constellation (fancy word for group) of satellites operated by the United States Air Force. These satellites float around in outer space beaming a special signal down to earth. These signals are used by a whole bunch of devices and can be heard using a special receiver, or chip.
This GPS tracking chip will “hear” the signal and learn several different things from it. The most important things that it is going to learn is the satellite that sent the signal and how long ago it sent the signal. The GPS chip will then do some fancy math and determine where on earth it could be in relation to that one satellite.
Now I want you to imagine that you are a man floating out in space looking down on the earth. You have the black expanse of space ominously looming behind you as you gaze at that beautiful blue ball that we call home. Looking down (you have super eyesight) you notice some interesting things about points on the earth in relation to yourself. First, there is one point just below that is the closest point on the earth to you. The second thing is that all the points that are not right below you have other points that share their distance with that point. All the points that share the same distance from you can be connected together and they will make an “o” (circle) shape on the ground. Having more than one point as the distance from you is the norm when looking down on the earth from space.
Now back to our GPS vehicle tracking – specifically our understanding of how many satellites are needed for a tracking chip to know where it is in the world. Just one satellite message is probably not going to give you your exact location. Unless you are directly under a satellite (only around 32 points on earth exists just like this) your GPS chip is going to need to get some help from other satellites to determine where it is. The magic number is 4 total satellites are needed to get a really solid position.
What has been described above is the standard way all GPS devices work. They all require access to the signals from these satellites to figure out its position. If it cannot get these signals (i.e. it is in a cave, an underground parking structure, at the bottom of a lake, river, or ocean, or it is being jammed by a GPS blocker) then it will not be able to be tracked. This is important for those thinking about how they want to use their vehicle tracking device.
The next thing that we should understand about any tracking system is that is needs a way to communicate the location information that the tracking chip calculates to you, the person who is using the vehicle tracker. This is something that standard GPS devices simply do not do. For example, you cannot take your standard GPS navigation device, say a Garmin nüvi 265WT, stick it in a car, and expect to be able to track it. It just doesn’t work that way because these devices have no way to communicate information to people outside the vehicle they are in.
Instead, you are going to need a device that is specifically made for tracking purposes. Car tracking devices generally have both a GPS chip built into it as well as some sort of communication hardware. In most cases this is going to be a cell phone modem for communication over the wireless networks that paint themselves across America, but there are a few instances where the tracker could communicate via commercial communication satellites. Chances are though any tracker you are going to use will use a cell phone network, so we will focus on how that works.
Your vehicle tracking system will now take the information that the tracking chip has calculated and send this out over the cell phone network much like a person would send a text message (SMS) or email. This data is sent from the device to the tracking provider. The tracking provider will make this information available to their users – in this case you and whomever you decide to share it with – through a clean web interface that will either be Google Maps or at least closely resemble it.
That, in a nutshell, is what GPS vehicle tracking is – it is the seamless combination of GPS location technology and wireless communication technology into one powerful device.
GPS Vehicle Tracking Devices
There are many different devices out there from a wide range of manufacturers and distributors. We cannot go through each of them and talk about the different vehicle tracking devices that they offer and how you can use them. That would take up too much time and would probably be pretty boring to read. Instead, what we want to do here is briefly describe the two main categories of devices and discuss some of the various pros and cons for each of them. The two types of GPS vehicle trackers out there are built-in device and standalone device.
Built-in GPS Vehicle Tracking Devices
These are the most commonly used devices for fleet vehicle tracking. Being built in to the vehicle gives them extreme flexibility and power, enabling almost constant tracking for vital performance metrics for businesses. Also, by being well tied into the internal workings of the vehicle also has its advantages. For example, some GPS vehicle trackers allow remote control of certain functions of the car.
Is your driver idling the car for too long at a service call? Simply cut his engine for him! Did your delivery person accidentally lock the keys in the ignition of the delivery van? Unlock the doors remotely for her! You can many of these things with fleet tracking devices built specifically for the purpose. And these features are not just limited to commercial applications, many consumer oriented trackers also offer these feature to their customers as well.
Most built in trackers do require a professional install since theses devices do become integral part of the vehicles electrical and computer systems. Some trackers just plug into a special port under the steering wheel (called an OBD-II port) and don’t require any special attention from a professional installer, which means that you can install it yourself once you get the piece of equipment in the mail.
I did want to clear up on point of possible confusion before going on to talk about standalone trackers. By using the phrasse “built-in” I might have given the wrong impression. I do not necessarily mean something like OnStar. It does not have to be built into the car when it is made or even shortly after it is made. It just needs to get its power from the vehicle. Another phrase I could have used was hard-wired.
Other possible applications:
Teen driver tracking
Catching a cheater
Business mileage calculator
Standalone GPS Vehicle Tracking Devices
Standalone trackers are usually versatile GPS tracking devices that are not necessarily bound to a single function. Take the Zoombak line of products. There are two main trackers that they sell. The Advanced GPS Car & Family Locator and the Advanced GPS Universal Locator. These devices are essentially the same, the only difference being the branding that they’ve done. This is pretty much going to be the standard for all portable, standalone trackers.
One thing that you have to be aware of is that standalone trackers cannot really compete with the built-in vehicle tracking systems because they are not set up for real time GPS tracking in the same way. While a built in tracker can produce an avalanche of data and never run out of batteries a standalone tracker can only track as long as the battery has a charge. The Zoombak can give 150 locates before it runs out of battery. This is a pitiful number when compared with fleet tracking devices.
But what they lack in longevity these devices make up in versatility. A built in car tracker isn’t going to be much good once you take it out of the car. In fact, you can’t really take it out of the car to be used on your teenage daughter as she goes through Central Park. Devices like the Zoombak provide comprehensive tracking support for most personal tracking needs.
Another feature of the portable trackers is that they are often easily concealable. If you are trying to track a vehicle incognito then something small is definitely going to be what you want to go with. While it still isn’t the very best money can buy for this type of application, you will still get a lot of bang for you buck.
Other possible applications:
Most non-vehicle GPS tracking functions, including:
Covert tracking of cars
The Cell Phone As Vehicle Tracker
A word here needs to be said about the ubiquitous cell phone. Did you know that these devices are the most common GPS trackers on the planet? They can easily be utilized to become full fledged vehicle trackers. Even if you don’t have a cell phone to spare you can install some sweet (and free) cell phone tracking software for your phone. If you are looking for a good program for your phone then you should check our list: free GPS cell phone trackers.
Do I Need A Vehicle Tracking System?
Now that you have gotten a little bit more information about the devices that are going to make up your vehicle tracking system you have a decision to make. Is GPS vehicle tracking something that you actually need? The costs associated with this type of real time tracking is certainly not cheap. The cheaper devices start at around $100 and they only go up from there. Then there is the monthly subscription fee that all tracking providers require to operate correctly. In the first year alone you can reasonably expect to spend around $500.
Businesses obviously have the most to gain by implementing these devices as part of a fleet management system. Private individuals may save some money on insurance premiums by having a tracker, but the real offset is the value that you receive from having one of these devices. Is it enough to justify purchasing a vehicle tracker?
When most people think of tracking someone they think of real time GPS tracking. They want to know exactly where a person or object is at any given moment of time. They want to sit at their computer and be able to follow the tracker’s movements on a Google Maps like interface. In essence, people want to be a little like God – knowing where someone is at any given moment in the day.
If you haven’t tried it, you should.
What follows is a look at some of the common questions people might have about real time GPS tracking. Its not a definitive list, its just a start.
What Is Real Time GPS Tracking?
Real time GPS tracking is the process where a device communicates its position over a wireless communication network to a 3rd party. This third party then makes the information available on the Internet for the user to access.
Essentially the device is a combination of a GPS and a cell phone. Once the GPS figures out where you are the cell part of the tracker sends that information to the tracking provider. The provider takes the raw data, puts it on a map, and then lets you look at the map online in a slick interface that often uses Google Maps.
Like I said before, if you haven’t tried it yet you should.
How Does Real Time GPS Tracking Work?
The process is called trilateration and it involves some math. Some fancy math at that. But what you need to know is that there are dozens of satellites in orbit around the wolrd right now put up there by the folks in the United States Airforce. These satellites put out a constant stream of low energy radio signals that have data encoded in them.
Your GPS tracking device receives these signals and is able to calculate how far it is away from each of the satellites it receives the message from. Once it has 4 of these distances calculated it can determine its location on the surface of the earth to within just a few meters.
Now that it has calculated its position it will now try and broadcast the information to the tracking provider. Some real time trackers use cell phone networks to do this transmission while others use communication satellites. Both have their place, but most tracking devices that work in real time are going to work off of a cell phone network.
Once this information is calculated and transmitted the tracking provider gives you access to the information through a website. Sometimes they will let you share the info in a widget on a personal blog or Facebook, or they might let you send secure text messages or emails with your location to a select group of people.
Can You Block A Real Time Tracker?
Yes. And blocking is actually much easier than you think. Let’s say that you think you are being tracked by someone against your will and in an illegal way. Perhaps an estranged ex-boyfriend is showing up in strange places. Definitely call the police and have them do a once over of your vehicle, but then go out and buy a GPS blocker. (Update 4/16/2012:GPS jammers are illegal and should not be used. After several events in recent years the US government has really began to crack down on GPS jammers since they pose a significant risk to public safety and national infrastructure. Consumers should not buy these devices unless they are approved by the FCC. Any jammer in use should be retired and an alternative method to ensure location privacy should be employed since penalties for jammer use could exceed $100,000 and include jail time.)
This small device will scramble the incoming GPS signals so that they can’t get to the device. The tracker will be unable to tell where it is and the tracking will stop. These devices generally have to be plugged into your car and have an effective sphere of several yards. They are illegal in some places, so be sure to check to see if you are allowed to own and operate them in your car.
There are other ways to stop real time tracking that don’t involve owning a potentially illegal device. If the device is your cell phone then turn the phone completely off (and take out the battery if needed). This will prevent anyone from using your phone as a tracking device.
Types Of Real Time GPS Tracking:
There are a few different types of real time tracking. Here is a brief synopsis of each of them to give you an idea of what exactly they are.
Car tracking devices
Real time car tracking devices come in two main varieties: hardwired and stand alone. There are benefits to each of them, but in most applications a hardwired device is going to be the way that you want to go. Hardwired real time trackers benefit from getting their power from the vehicle itself, making nearly continuous, long term tracking a possibility.
This is incredibly important for tracking a teen driver, recovering a stolen vehicle, or improving fleet performance. Some hardwired trackers do require a professional installation or some familiarity with vehicle electronics. Others are so easy to install you can do it yourself. Just slide it into the OBD-II port and you are good to go.
Stand alone real time trackers will work just like the hardwired variety and have the same costs but will need to constantly have their battery recharged. Let’s use the popular stand alone tracker, the Zoombak, to get some sort of bearing on the difference between the two. According to the Zoombak website, the tracker can perform 150 locates (determining the device’s position via GPS and then transmitting that information over a wireless network to Zoombak) before the battery runs out. If you only do 1 locate every 3 minutes you only have 7.5 hours of constant, real time tracking with the Zoombak. You will need to recharge the device a lot if you want to use it for certain applications.
Don’t get me wrong, it will still work and may even work better in certain applications. You just want to make sure you know what you are getting into.
Cell phone tracking software
Did you know that cell phones are the most widely used real time GPS tracking devices in the world? Its true. It was on CNN:
Pretty much any cell phone can be located in real time just by being turned on. Not all cell phones can be located by YOU, but they can be located by your cell phone carrier who can then give that information to the police or some other government agency. Some cell phones have the capability to contact third parties if special software is installed on them. It is this software than can turn a cell phone into a real time tracking device for normal people like you and me.
There are two types of software out there that let you track a phone in real time. The first is free GPS cell phone tracking software. Some of these free tracking programs are actually incredibly powerful and let you do tons of things with them. Most free trackers are designed to be used by willful participants and are not necessarily going to work as secret real time GPS trackers. Things like Google Latitude, InstaMapper’s GPS Tracker, and Lookout Mobile Security can give you pinpoint locations for the cell phone – they just all require account creation and are easily accessed from any smartphone.
Paid real time GPS tracking programs are also available, but these only should be purchased if you are trying to do something very specific that a free tracker will not allow you to do. One thing that a lot of paid services provide is cell phone monitoring in addition to the real time tracking. These services let you see incoming and outgoing calls, read text messages, and see Internet usage. These programs are extremely powerful and can be set up to run “silently” so the user of the phone doesn’t know that they are there.
Personal GPS trackers
Personal real time GPS tracking devices are generally about one thing – safety. If you can imagine a group or community that might benefit from having their position readily accessible by concerned loved ones then you can rest assured that there is probably already a tracking devices for that market. There are real time trackers for kids, for teenagers, for Alzheimer’s patients, and for outdoor adventurers– just to name a few.
None of these trackers can hold a candle to the sheer amount of data that they can collect when compared to a built in GPS tracker in a car, but in a pinch these devices can save a life. They suffer from short battery life since they try to be small and concealable. Some only have a real time battery life of a few hours. However, most of these devices are better when used on demand. You simply find there device when you actually want to.
The Future of Real Time GPS Tracking
Everyone is going to be using this technology in the future. If not for themselves then in some other way that benefits them. Governments are becoming increasingly aware that providing real time data on public transportation improves user’s experience. Companies are realizing that tracking data is fun and interactive. And privacy barriers are being increasingly eroded by childhoods saturated in Internet culture. The question that still remains for use to determine is how we will own this new technology and make it integral parts of our lives in the future. Real time GPS tracking is the future. Is that a future you are looking forward to?
Car tracking devices are anything but cheap. If you are going to buy one of these high tech, expensive products there are several things that you should know about them before committing your finances (and in some cases, your security) on a device that you know will work in theory, but have no experience in practice.
The first area that this article is going to examine is the different ways that people often use car trackers. After a brief examination we will examine some of the tracker characteristics that any potential customer should evaluate before making their final decision.
Ways To Use a Car Tracking Device
There seem to be four main reasons to use a GPS tracking device inside a car. They are to track inexperienced, immature drivers, verify suspicions of infidelity, improve business operations, and recover property.
We have gone into great detail about the different reasons why a parent would install a tracking device in their teen’s car. We have even discussed some of the ways that a tracking device for cars can be leveraged to help make teens safer drivers. Needless to say we won’t go into a lot of that stuff here. You just need to know that more teens die each year from automobile accidents than any other cause. These are all preventable deaths and are often the fault of the teens themselves.
If you knew that a tracking device would save your teens life, would you spend the $400 for it?
Cheaters suck. They often lie. They also need to be caught. Most of the time the person being cheated on needs help in pinning the cheater into a corner so that they have to admit their infidelity. GPS tracking can often help them in this endeavor. Simply install a tracker in the vehicle of the suspected cheater (but only if you own that vehicle – tracking another person’s property without their consent is illegal) and you can know for certain if they are staying at work late or doing something a little more suspect.
Fleet Vehicle Tracking
Car GPS tracking has a long and proven track record in commercial applications. It has been shown to improve worker productivity, reduce costs, enhance the customer experience, and improve vehicle maintenance. What more could a business owner want?
Theft happens. Having a device that will tell you where your car is in real time when you wake up in the morning and your car isn’t out front can be invaluable. It is also nice to know that the crooks that stole your car are going to prison rather than profiting off of your property.
Considerations For Choosing A GPS Car Tracking Devices
If you come to the conclusion that you need a device to track a car then you have to take several things into consideration when making your decision. These devices are anything but cheap, so making sure you pick something that is going to meet your needs is very important. Here is a list of some of the main things you will want to think through:
Hardwired Vs. Stand Alone
This may not sound like that big of a decision, but it is probably one of the most important decisions that you need to make. The main reason for this is battery life. Tracking devices, especially real time tracking devices, run through battery power very quickly. Some GPS car tracking devices, like the Zoombak, only have an active tracking life of several hours. That is extremely low if you need to track the vehicle for longer than that.
Hardwired car tracking devices have the benefit of getting their power directly from the vehicle itself. As long as your battery is live your tracker will be able to give you the position of the car. Some hardwired trackers can be installed covertly so that they are not easily seen or accessible. Others are installed under the steering wheel in the OBD-II port and can be easily seen if you know what to look for.
Stand alone devices do not benefit from the car’s power source and must rely on their own battery. This means that you can have an active tracking life of several weeks to just a few hours depending on the type and size of the tracker you are using. This can be fine – it just depends on what you are using the tracker for and how much money you want to spend on it all.
Real Time Vs. Data Loggers
Probably the next most important thing for people to think about when going with a car tracker is whether or not they want to see the position information in real time or if they are alright with recording the data and looking at it later, after the device has been retrieved from the vehicle. Most people want to do the tracking in real time. There is just something special about being able to watch your asset move from location to location.
The price tag on real time car tracking devices is nothing to sniff at. They are often much more expensive, two to three times as expensive, than their data logging counter parts – and that doesn’t even take into consideration the monthly subscription fee required by most tracking providers. When that is taken into consideration it can cost four times as much just in the first year alone!
But if your need is for a real time tracker then you are going to fork out the cash.
Web-Based Vs. Software Based
Many people looking for GPS tracking want something that they can access from any web enabled computer. This is most often available with real time GPS tracking devices. This is because the tracking device will transmit the position and vector data over a wireless network to your tracking provider. The provider will then make this data available to you on a secure website available on the internet. Only you are going to be able to access the information since you are the only one with the user name and password for the tracker.
Here is a graphic of how this all works:
Software based car tracking devices are generally data loggers. Most of the time the data logger comes with a CD that contains some sort of tracking software that you need to install on your computer to make sense of the data the device records. For example, the i-Got U GT-600 comes with this type of software on a small mini-CD. The software works with the device to display your trip data on pretty Google-based maps and helps you integrate photos into your journey. The software then lets you post this information out on to the web if you want to share the data with friends or family.
While most car tracking devices don’t need some of the features available on the i-GotU (that device is designed to help people share vacations, hikes, or other fun excursions), they will have some sort of software that will help you make sense of the data on the tracker. This is helpful for users because it means you don’t need to know a ton about telemetry in order to make sense of your tracking information.
Covert Vs. Open
You are wanting a car tracking device for a certain reason, and that reason is going to determine whether or not you want to use a covert tracker or something that is a little more easily seen and accessed. Above we mentioned 4 different applications where are GPS car tracker would be useful. Here are some of the defining characteristics of a covert vs. open deployment in each category:
Engaged in or suspected of illegal activity
Extremely rebellious and likely to destroy or bypass car tracker
Acts also as a good theft recover device
Parents have a relationship of trust and mutual respect
Teen sees tracker as safety device and is clearly aware of consequences of bad driving
Cheater is suspicious of you knowing
Cheater could turn violent and abusive if your search for truth is discovered
Cheater is observant or tech savvy
Fleet Vehicle Tracking
Acts as an excellent theft recovery device
Catches wasteful employees in the act
Reminds employees to work their best all the time
Allows for integration with dispatchers, increasing efficiency in workforce
Promotes healthy employer/employee relationships
Hidden trackers will be overlooked by less accomplished criminals
Ability to work as long as the battery is still giving power to the car
As you can see, there are some applications where having an easily accessible car tracking device is not really in your best interest. You can still use it in these instances, you just run the risk of wasting your money.
Should You Use A Car Tracking Device?
Not everything labeled as a car tracking device is going to be what you are looking for for your particular needs. Be sure to carefully consider the purchase you are making. Ask questions of yourself and the potential supplier. The more questions you ask, the better informed you are going to be and the more successful you are going to be in your desire to track a car with GPS.
If you are thinking about putting cell phone tracking software on your phone you might have several questions before you get started. Probably the very first thing you want to know is which program you should download. There are several great places to find some lists of tracking apps. We recommend this one: Free GPS Cell Phone Tracking
If you follow the link you will find a long list of tracking applications that can be downloaded on many different types of smartphones. All the major brands are represented – iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Mobile. If you don’t have a smart phone then you might want to take a look at some of the other tracking apps that we covered in our post about free GPS tracking applications and software. There is plenty there that can be used on many different types of cell phones.
What you will find in these links is free cell phone tracking software. There is a lot of paid software out there. These can cost you anywhere between $5 from your app store to $60 for full fledged cell phone spy software. Some of these are worth the money and then some. Others are not worth the crap the monkeys who coded the software evacuated from their bowels while mashing away at the keyboard. This might be because they are worthless programs or because you can do the same exact thing with free apps that cost you nothing (the unnecessary reiteration is intentional!). Choosing the right software for your needs is obviously important, so take your time in determining exactly what you need the cell phone tracking software for and educate yourself on what some of the different free options are going to be able to do for you. They are often extremely powerful and capable of doing exactly what you want without having to fork out any more cash.
Once you have picked your app then the next question is going to be how to download the cell phone tracking software. This really depends on what type of cell phone you have. Here is a breakdown of what you can expect for each type of phone:
How to Download Tracking Software To A Smartphone
Smartphones benefit from being better than other, normal cell phones. They are, after all, smart. Almost every major brand of cell phone has an app store that you can go to and download the software to your phone automatically. The best part is, once it is downloaded, all the installation is taken care of for you. You don’t need to know a ton of stuff to get it work. Just choose what you want, tell it to download, and you are done.
Here is an example from an Android cell phone. There are two main ways that you can download the ever popular InstaMapper cell phone tracking software. You can go to the Android market and then search for “GPS Tracker.” Then look for the result withe InstaMapper, LLC as the publisher. Click on install and you will download and install the app seamlessly.
If you have a QR code reader just scan this:
It really is that easy to download software with a smart phone.
How to Download Tracking Software To A Regular Cell Phone
GPS tracking software becomes a little more difficult when you are not working with the easy, breezy smartphones. Don’t take my word for it. Here is what the folks at InstaMapper recommend for downloading their software when using one of the Motorola iDen phones that you can get on the cheap:
The easiest way to Install InstaMapper on your phone is by loading it over-the-air using this tool provided by Sprint:
The tool will ask you for a .zip file, which you can get here.
Then go to Menu -> Games & Apps -> Download Apps. Click on “New Purchases”. If you don’t see the app there, navigate to Menu -> My Info on your phone and hit “Edit”. If Line 1 is empty, enter your full phone number there (starting with the area code). Then try downloading the app again.
Alternatively, you can install the app from your PC using a regular USB cable and Motorola’s iDEN Java Application Loader (JAL) software. The latter can be downloaded directly from Motorola here (free registration required; click “join MotoDev” when they ask you for your login information). After JAL is installed, connect your phone to the PC with a USB cable, start JAL, and hit “Connect to phone”. Unzip InstaMapper tracking software to a folder on your PC, then hit “Download” and select “GPSTracker.jad” from that folder. Hit “Disconnect” when the transfer completes.
Now start the app you just downloaded — it will be under “Java Apps”, possibly on the second screen (hit “More”). The app is called “GPS Tracker” and has an icon that looks like a satellite. Enter the device id from your InstaMapper account. Click “Save”. The phone will ask for your permission to access the GPS chip. Say “yes”. When the status message changes from “Locating…” to “Tracking…” your should be able to see the location of your phone on InstaMapper.
Note: the app will pop into foreground during the first few days of operation (the intention here is to discourage covert tracking). Unfortunately, on Motorola phones a notification sound is played whenever an application requests to be run in the foreground. We recommend leaving the app in the foreground during the first few days that it’s running, or muting notification sounds in the phone’s settings.
This is certainly doable, but it does break down significantly for someone who really is not too certain what they are doing.
Special Note On “Cell Phone Spy” Software
Unfortunately, the experience users have to go through to install cell phone spy software is a lot like installing something on a regular cell phone. This is because a lot of the publishers out there for this type of software don’t go through app stores and just sell them directly to customers. This makes these things notoriously difficult to install and get running. To me, this is their greatest failing. How can you use this type of spy software if you can’t even get it loaded on a phone?
If you are going to go this route I would urge extreme caution. Only buy something with a solid money back guarantee so you can recoup your money if you can’t get it installed correctly or if your phone isn’t supported.
How To Download Cell Phone Tracking Software
If you are trying to download and install mobile phone tracking software then you should hope that you have a smartphone. 🙂 In reality, it is very easy to download most trackers to your cell – even if you just have a regular old phone. If all else fails, follow the instructions on the website for the software you are trying to download.
Finding that your cell phone was been stolen can be a gut-wrenching experience. It is your connection to the world and all of a sudden it is ripped from your life, falling into the hands of a complete stranger. Questions have to be racing through your mind at this point. Can I get it back? Can I keep my data private? What will happen to all my pictures?
Thankfully, we live in a world that has more to it than those who seek to steal mobile phones. We also have innovators who create applications for cell phones that keep our personal data safe and track down a stolen phone. A group of these good guys have created an app called Lookout Mobile Security and it is currently free to download on BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Mobile smartphones. It does more than just use GPS tracking to find a stolen cell phone. It is a full ledge smartphone security suite that will let you protect your phone from physical and virtual threats.
How can I track my stolen cell phone?
Smartphones are an investment. If you buy one without a free upgrade deal or sign-up promotion it can cost hundreds of dollars. High end phones range between $500-$600 before the contracts and promotions bring the price down to (just) $200. Quite frankly, it does not matter what price you buy at – any smartphone is going to be a really expensive phone. Until the cell phone boom it was not normal for people to carry such an expensive piece of hardware with them everywhere, especially one that is so easily lost or stolen. When it gets stolen you want to find a way to get it back, now.
GPS tracking provides the solution for a lot of people who want to get their stolen cell phone back. By leveraging the smartphone’s location finding capabilities and the data plan that is almost assuredly included with the phone, users of the Lookout Mobile Security app will be able to find the location of their cell phone (provided that it is on, of course).
Now this brings up one of the three HUGE caveats that need to be understood about tracking a stolen cell phone. The first is that you must have already downloaded the GPS tracking app before the phone is stolen. In other words, the cell phone must still be in your possession when you put the app on it. You cannot download any apps that will let you track your stolen mobile remotely. Sorry, but that is just the way that it is.UPDATE: Android phones CAN install certain apps remotely that will let you track down a lost or stolen phone. You can find a write up we did here: How To Install GPS Tracking Apps Remotely To Find A Lost Or Stolen Android Cell Phone
The second caveat is that the cell phone must be turned on for the Lookout Mobile Security app or any other stolen phone recovery app to work. The phone needs to be on for several reasons. The first is that it needs to be able to receive the message from the Lookout servers to get the phone to use its GPS chip to determine the cell phone’s location. This is the same with all stolen cell phone recovery programs. Mobile Me, Lookout, et al work this way.
The second reason the phone must be on is that it power is required to use the cell phone towers and/or GPS chip to figure out where the phone is. A phone that is unable to find its own location is of no use to someone trying to find out where it is!
The third caveat is that the phone must be in range of a cell tower. In order to track the phone, it must in contact with the network to receive messages and to communicate with you, the owner. Both reception and transmission of messages is hindered if the phone is outside the boundary of its network or has some physical impediment to cell signals. Without the network you are screwed.
But given that the phone is on, it is in network range, and you have already downloaded the tracking app, how helpful will one of these apps truly be? Can it provide an exact location for a lost phone?
Precision depends on several important factors. Sometimes a location will be very good, reliably providing an exact address for the location of your phone. Other times it simply be a reasonable guess, one just good enough to give you a general idea where the phone might be.
Here is picture taken from the web interface of a GPS tracking app that will be illustrative of just how exact tracking can be:
If you have good eyes you will see that the circle around the phone is fairly large. It says it has an accuracy of 1,870 meters, or a little over 1 mile. The center of the circle, represented by a cell phone icon, is a pretty accurate representation of where my phone is, being off my perhaps several hundred feet.
This underscores the point that with GPS tracking apps you have little knowledge beforehand about how accurate the location is going to be. There are too many factors that can cause GPS errors. For example, my home is of an older, more solid construction than newer homes might be. I have had great difficulty getting a solid GPS fix for my location on several different devices. I may measure my location one day and get one set of coordinates only to measure it again the next day and get coordinates hundreds of feet away from previous measurements. While this is not good for tracking down a lost cell phone with GPS, it is reality.
In addition to the make up of the place where the cell phone has been taken you also have to consider other aspects of location that may come into play. Large surrounding buildings, lots of trees, canyon walls, and other inhospitable terrain features can cause GPS tracking equipment to give inaccurate readings. These can skew the position information just as wildly as the composition of the home.
You should not let these factors prevent you from downloading an app that will help you recover your stolen cell phone. You have no way of knowing who is going to steal it or where they are going to take it. For all you know, you could get an almost exact location for the cell phone, like in this picture:
My phone was in the same exact place when I used Lookout to find its location previously (see pic above this one to see the difference). I went from getting a location somewhere within a mile of the place they put my phone to being within 26 feet. That is a very great difference and it just goes to show how tricky GPS tracking can be for any device – let alone a cell phone.
But this location is really spot on. I live exactly where the tracking app puts me. Checking the location of a lost or stolen phone more than once is a good idea!
How can I get back my stolen cell phone?
Now that you have figured out the location of your phone there are a couple of things that you can do to get your cell phone back. The first, wisest and easiest is to call the police. If you were the victim of a mugging or other assault the police will probably be more than happy to use your information to find the criminal. They will want to get the crook off the street, especially since they were willing to be violent over something as simple as a cell phone. They also have an eye witness (you!) that can place the suspect at the scene, sealing the case for them and getting another criminal off the streets. There are several news stories circulating the press that confirm this.
Another thing that you could do to get your cell phone back is confront the thief and get them to give you your cell phone back. Just don’t pull an OJ and do it at gun point. You’ll probably go to prison yourself for being a total idiot. Instead, make it safe and do it in a public place. This also only really works if it is stolen by somebody that you know. Using shame and public confrontation is a great way to get the phone back once you know who stole it.
How can I wipe the data on my stolen cell phone?
Let’s say that you have tried to recover your phone but the thief is refusing to hand over the good. Maybe it was taken over the border by a drug runner and now lies in drug-cartel-infested territory and your value your life more than your cell phone. Fine, be a wuss. You still don’t have to let the thief know who are your emergency contacts. You can still stop them from seeing all those awesome photos you took last night at the bar. You can still keep your personal data personal.
Applications like Lookout Mobile Security allow users to wipe cell phone data clean. All personal information will be discretely thrown overboard with concrete shoes on, never to be seen again. Bad guys can’t steal your contact information or learn how to target you for future crimes from your cell phone. The wipe feature does cost a monthly subscription fee – but I can imagine only using it for one month, the month your cell phone was stolen in.
If you can’t get your stolen cell phone back with GPS tracking then at least you can wipe it clean.
Can I mess with the person who stole my cell phone?
One of the really cool things about the Lookout app is that you can make your phone scream. It is a great way to prove that you are the owner of the phone in those public confrontations or to help the police find the phone after they raid the location where your phone is.
A simple command from the app’s web interface and you can turn your phone into a screaming, vibrating, and flashing nightmare for the unsuspecting crook. This was originally designed to help users find a lost cell phone, but it really would be a great trick to play on a crook.
Stolen Cell Phone GPS Tracking Apps
Here is a list of some tracking apps that are designed to help you recover your lost or stolen cell phone:
If you found this post useful, feel free to share it with your friends so that they don’t have to worry about their cell phone if it gets stolen. Always having a tracking app on hand is a good way to make sure they can retrieve their phone. You can help them by:
If you have a cell phone then there is a good chance that you can find some way to track it for free. There are dozens of apps across all sorts of platforms that are going to enable you to either track your own cell phone remotely or give you the opportunity to share your location with friends and family in a social way. Some of these apps will have built in lost cell phone detection while others will not. Still more will make it easy for you to view the location of your cell phone or your friend’s phone through some sort of online interface. All this has made free GPS cell phone tracking a reality that more and more people are taking advantage of as they seek to get the most out of their mobile devices. Are you one of them?
In this article we hope to outline how this technology works by giving a brief overview of GPS tracking technology, cell phones, and how they work together. Then we will go into some of the various free GPS cell phone trackers that are available for some of the major cell phone platforms. These will include the Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Windows cell phone operating systems. This will be followed by a discussion of the various multi-platform trackers. Finally, we will look at the future of free cell phone tracking and see what the future will hold for us.
The essentials of GPS cell phone tracking are really quite simple. There is a built in GPS receiver in the cell phone which is able to get the phones exact location from the satellites that orbit the globe. Through a simple mathematical principle called trilateration the computer on the cell phone is able to take the data gathered from the signals of three different Global Positioning System Satellites (GPS) and turn that into information that includes the latitude and longitude of the phone.
In order for this data to be used to be able to track the cell phone there has to be some way for the cell phone to tell other people – other devices, really – where it is. This is where the cell phone comes into play. It is obvious that cell phones transmit data, though we probably never really think about it like that very much. They send out the digital signal that encases your voice when making a phone call. Now 3G networks can transmit lots of other digital data as well. This data can include text (SMS) messages, emails, videos, webpages, files, and a whole lot more. Most free trackers essentially use SMS messaging to transmit the latitude and longitude data that the GPS has calculated over the cell phone network to turn these devices into GPS tracking machines. The cell phone can now act as either a real time GPS tracker or just a simple data logger depending on the specific app and what the person wants to do with the information.
A cell phone has arguably become the most powerful GPS tracking device on in the world.
This is certainly a valid question. For the privilege of having a data plan that enables the cell phone to act as a GPS tracker you generally have to pay some sort of fee to your cell phone carrier. In my case (Verizon unlimited plan) this is going to cost you an extra $30 a month. For AT&T it will run you an extra $25 a month, but this plan in not unlimited any more. Sprint’s unlimited data plan costs you $20. T-Mobile has an unlimited data plan that also runs $30 a month.
These are definitely not free – but when you are already using these data plans for other things like streaming Youtube videos, checking Twitter, or surfing the web then adding a GPS tracking app to the mix is not really increasing your cost more for something you are already paying for. So in this way it really is free, but only if you are spending a good chunk of change on your cell phone already. Here is a really cool graphic from Billshrink.com that says it all:
Now lets take a look at exactly what free GPS cell phone trackers are out there for you depending on what operating system you use.
Free Android Cell Phone Trackers
Android is one of the main players in the smart phone wars that are raging right now. The child of Google, Android is an OS that is making it into many of the best phones on the market right now. It is powerful, open source operating system that often comes with free and powerful GPS apps on it when you buy it. These include Google Maps, Google Latitude, and Google Navigate – all of which are great uses of GPS by themselves. For some people, they don’t even need to get another free GPS cell phone tracker. But for those that do, here are some of the best trackers for everything from recording a sporting activity to recovering a lost cell phone to tracking a boyfriend:
Lookout Mobile Security
More than just a GPS cell phone tracker tracker, Lookout Mobile Security is a multi-platform security system for your mobile phone. It features a malware and spyware detection system that will help you determine what apps you should be downloading to your phone and what apps you are going to be leaving on the way side. It even helps you manage your various apps so that you can make sure that your private data remains private.
This feature by itself is incredibly useful, but when it is combined with GPS tracking, data backup, remote log in, and data wipe you really do have a complete security system for your phone. What is most interesting is the way that all the systems work together in sync. For example, imagine that you have lost your cell phone. Big bummer. But never fear, Look Out Mobile Security is here. Simply go to the website and find out exactly where your phone is using the GPS built into your phone. Is it in your house somewhere? Great – you’ve already looked everywhere but can’t find it. Use Lookout Mobile Security to make your cell phone scream! Even in silent mode, activating this command will turn your cell phone into a loud siren that will definitely uncover your cell phone.
This is a great app with lots of visibility. You might have even seen the commercial:
Pintail is a very interesting app. Download it to your phone an you automatically have a GPS tracker for a cell phone that you can use to pinpoint the location of a lost or stolen cell phone. Simply send a text message (SMS) to your cell phone and you will be sent a message that will require you to enter a pin code to view the location information of phone. Once you have entered this data you can know where your cell phone is. Simple and easy.
It can also be used as a way to stay in touch with family or friends. Just give them your pin code and they can text the phone to find out where you are too. This can be a great way for friends to meet up or for a loved one to check in and see where you are at if you are on a really long drive traveling by truck across country.
Everything is pin protected so you can change who has access to your location simply by changing your pin. Did you give your pin to a girl that you are now broken up with? Fear that she is stalking you? Simply change your pin and she will not be able to stalk you anymore. Like I said, simple and easy.
Billed as a family tracking app for Android cell phones, the Eye app is another one of those GPS tracking apps that uses the GPS in your phone to turn it into a mobile tracking device that will make your position known to all your friends – much like Google Latitude and other social tracking applications.
The app uses Google Maps technology to give you the position of your contacts in real time on maps that utilize images taken from satellites in order to give you a graphic understanding of where they are. You can also use the basic map interface too if all that green makes you go bonkers.
They also claim that adding contacts is easy and will work off of your existing contact list. If you want your latest BFF to know where you are at all times just them then an invitation to join the Eye App and you will be well on your way to sharing your location with your friend. They can even use Street View to get a better grip on the house where the party is at!
The Eye app also features bread crumbing, allowing watchful parents to track the movements of their children over the course of the day – something that a lot of other social GPS tracking apps fail to do. Bread crumbing is important because it helps you verify the story of a troubled teen or locate a missing child. Either way, its a useful feature and kudos for the people at the The Eye for including it in this tracking app.
Free iPhone Cell Phone Trackers
iPhones are cool. iPhones are hip. Let’s be honest – iPhones are some of the coolest, most user friendly phones on the market. They appeal to almost every age range and almost every demographic. Often simple to use and surprising versatile these phones have made a huge splash on the cell phone market. Once they introduced a GPS tracking chip, the iPhone became a useful tracking device for those savvy enough to take advantage of this excellent addition to this mobile device. Several generations later, the iPhone is definitely a competitive choice for anyone trying to find a smart cell phone that is going to fit into their lifestyle. Here are some of the free tracking apps available for the iPhone:
Are you self employed or a business owner? Do you use your car regularly for work related activity in a capacity that would enable you to deduct this expense from your tax return? If you answered yes to both these questions then you should seriously consider getting automilez. This free cell phone tracker is designed to help people such as these easily track their mileage so that they can maximize every deduction possible come tax time.
Apparently, even regular Joe’s like you and me can use an app like this to log our mileage for deductions at the end of the year. Medical and moving trips we can deduct $0.165 a mile. For charitable trips we can deduct $0.14 a mile. I guess you learn something new everyday.
While it is obvious that this app has a limited roll as a free tracker it is useful. Just be warned that you are not going to be able to share your current position with anyone or recover a lost cell phone with this app.
GPS-Logger is simple GPS tracker created by iMasterofDesaster that is designed for travelers that have a digital camera in tow that does not currently have a GPS built in to it. The way it works is simple. The iPhone acts as the GPS by going through the process of trilateration and stores the position data with a time stamp on it. During the trip the digital camera takes photos and then time stamps those photos. The GPS-Logger software then does some fancy code work and places a GPS stamp on the photos by taking the nearest time stamped location from the GPS and slapping it on the photo.
This seems to be pretty standard fare for travel GPS data loggers. Another example of this type of technology is the i-Gotu GT-600. But that device is not a mobile phone, it is just a stand alone personal GPS tracker.
GPS Tracker from Instamapper
Instamapper is one of the most powerful and free GPS cell phone tracking apps out on the market. They only ask that your register an account using a valid email address. For this pittance, you get to turn your cell phone into a real-time GPS tracking device at no extra cost to you. The phone will periodically send its position to the Instamapper services which makes 30 days worth of tracking information available to its users. This amount of tracking is equivalent to nearly 100,000 specific locations for a single device.
User’s can share their data with a loved one by sending out a link to a map of their data hosted on the Instamapper website. This link can go either to a computer or to another mobile device. If users feel really safe about sharing their position information with the world, they can even embed a map on a website, a blog, or even Facebook.
An embedded map looks something like this (from Facebook):
While it probably is not the best idea in the world to share your position on Facebook – especially if you are a teenage girl – it is pretty cool that you could do this if you wanted/needed to.
This tracking app even has position buffering so if you hit a dead zone in your coverage the phone can store up to 100 waypoints so that the track log can be brought up to speed once you get back inside your cell phone carrier’s network. Of course 100 way points is not very long (over 8 minutes at one waypoint every 5 seconds), but it will help in those odd dead zones that line urban, semi-urban, and semi-country areas.
Overall, this is a very powerful real time GPS tracking app that can be used in a wide variety of applications by many different people.
Waze is a tracking application built for the iPhone with a very specific purpose. Let’s just say it isn’t for tracking your girlfriend. 🙂 The folks at Waze have done an excellent job of creating a video that explains exactly what this product is all about. Instead of talking about it too much, here is the video:
For those that could not see the video, Waze is essentially a real time tracking community with a purpose. That purpose is to provide the very best real time traffic data for Waze users. This is not a sport tracker. It is not a data logger. It is not even a social tracking app. Its only purpose is to get people around in as little time as possible.
With that being said, it relies solely on the efforts of its users to make the app work. Users build the map, report traffic congestion, and share traffic related material with other users. If you have a small or nonexistent community in your local this free GPS cell phone tracking app is probably not going to do you much good no matter how cool it looks.
Free BlackBerry Cell Phone Trackers
BlackBerry has been the name in work cell phone for the past several years. Their physical keyboard and secure email have made them a household name in the world of business. You almost never hear a business person ask, “Where is my cell phone?” They talk about their BlackBerry like it was the only type of cell phone that exists in the world. As a result of this business customer base, free GPS tracking applications for the BlackBerry are much harder to come by. After all, isn’t it easier to justify spending a little of the business’ money to buy a tracking app than it is to justify spending some your own money to buy it? Despite this, there is an impressive number of free apps designed for BlackBerry users:
BlipPlus is an application created for use on BlackBerry smartphones and is designed as a social tracking application for those with GPS enabled phones.
They have a feature on the app called Share Your Where that enables you to broadcast your location to anyone within your social network as defined by the app. There are all sorts of benefits that can be gleaned by using this sort of application. You can meet with your friends with greater ease. You don’t even have to tell them where you are, just say look up my location using Google Maps or something like that. It can even be used to stay in sync with work associates who need to know when you are speaking with a certain client, etc. Families also benefit because knowing where the whole family is can increase safety, make things more efficient, and give everyone some peace of mind.
BlipPlus offer assistance by letting others choose how and when to contact you based upon you location data that you share with them. Efficiency is key when it comes to location information and this free cell phone tracker will help friends, family, and co-workers be exactly that.
GPSLogger is a essentially just that – a GPS logging application for the BlackBerry. It will record such information as your elevation, speed, and location over time. All of these are essential components to all personal tracking devices and applications, making ideal for people who like to record hikes, adventures, or trips in the car (for business or pleasure).
This free app will also let you use previously recorded or manually entered way-points as a way to remember where a parked car is or to point out an interesting Geocache. They call it the “Guide Me Home” feature and this is pretty standard fare for almost every data logging GPS tracker that has an interface on the tracking device itself. You can even use it to remember where a sweat restaurant is or the place you meet a beautiful woman.
Because all GPS loggers can be used as a sports tracker as well, the developers of this app have added a lap timer element to it as well, making this a full featured, if predictable, position logging app.
GPS Trackdown is a social tracking app that with a slight twist. If you choose to share your location with your Trackdown compatriots then you also have the ability to find get directions to their exact location. Did they move form the spot they were at five minutes ago? Just update their location and the turn-by-turn directions update as well. Pretty cool.
Other than that it is pretty standard location based search with ads that make the developers some nice coin. You can search for pizza, ATMs, hotels, and more with no real need to tell a search engine where you are since all searches already know your current location. This is generally useful, but can get pretty annoying sometimes if you ask me.
Another interesting thing about this is that you can only share your location by text, email, or tweet. No link posting on websites like Facebook or MySpace. This is certainly okay, but some people may find this a little off setting.
And, of course, this GPS cell phone tracking is free – which makes it way better than if you had to pay to use it.
WhereAreYou GPS Tracking
WhereAreYou is the tracking app for all those people who want to secretly track the cell phone of a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, or child. It runs “silently” in the background with no way for the person being tracking to tell that something is on their phone broadcasting the location to the person that set it up.
The app is really easy to install and get going. Simply:
Download Silent GPS from BlackBerry App World to the mobile phone that you are trying to secretly track
The app will automatically install itself, asking you to create an account that you can log in on the web and see the phone’s location
The app will run silently in the background, tracking the cell phone and telling you where it is when you log into the web account
The app will track things silently – this means that no user interaction or application icon is going to visible at all on the BlackBerry. This means that you can track secretly without them knowing. You just have to get the phone and do the installation for them.
Tracking is also very easy with this app. Just:
Go to p46.qitlabs.com and enter user/password that you created when installing the program on the phone
There you will see a map with the mobile’s location clearly marked for you to see
There you can also set up tracking intervals to keep the life of the battery so the person you are tracking doesn’t know what is going on – conserving their battery life is key hereY
This app certainly has applications in the business world, but it also can be used by private citizens to track a teenager or to catch a cheating spouse. Before you start tracking someone, please check to make sure that it would be legal in your area to do so.
GPS Fox Hunt
GPS Fox Hunt is definitely an interesting take on the free GPS cell phone tracking app. It takes a cell phone’s ability to track itself and share that information with other cell phones and turns it into a game where each phone becomes a piece in a game. Social tracking has simply been taken to one of the many different possibilities available to it.
The game essentially is a version of hide and seek. There is one phone that is it – this is the fox. All other players in the game are trying to find the one phone that is it. They get to see how far away from you they are which can be useful because they can tell if they are heading in the right direction or not.
This game would be fun to play inside a shopping mall or some other public place with lots of people to “hide” among. It could also be fun out in the wilderness somewhere too – but you have to have connection with your cell phone tower for that.
Here is a video from the game creator that explains the game well enough:
While the idea is interesting and exciting this particular app doesn’t seem to have the favor of users on the BlackBerry Appworld website. It only has a few reviews and has only been around for a few months, so this is likely to change given that new releases of free products and have some kinks that need to be ironed out. But in all this is a pretty cool idea for an app and I hope that things work out for the developer and it makes it big.
Free Windows Cell Phone Trackers
It seems really strange to be including Windows Mobile phones in this list of free cell phone tracking apps, but here it is. Windows Mobile is certainly trying to keep pace with the likes of iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry. With the release of Windows Mobile 7 they may be on the right track to getting back into the fray, but it could also be too little too late to be a major player. I doubt that Windows will ever go away completely, they just probably won’t be the market giants that they are on PC. That will almost certainly go to either Android or iPhone – but perhaps I am too young to see the usefulness of Windows.
Unfortunately, we could not use the Windows App Store to find any free GPS cell phone tracking apps. If you have any suggestions please use the contact form linked to at the bottom of this post to alert us to some of the Windows Mobile apps available.
Free Multi-Platform Cell Phone Trackers
Multi-platform cell phone trackers recognize that the best way to reach the most customers is to have a product that can be used by the most people, irregardless of the cell phone that they use on a day to day basis. This makes these free trackers particularly interesting because they open up the world of social tracking to users of all stripes and styles. The iPhone user can track their BlackBerry business friend just as easily as they can other iPhone users. They bring everyone together and make tracking everyone can engage in. While these multi-platform trackers are often anything but perfect and often favor social aspects of tracking over secret or covert tracking they are still extremely powerful in any number of functions not specifically endorsed by the programs creators. Here are some of the best free multi-platform GPS cell phone trackers:
GPS Tracker from Instamapper
This is a powerful GPS tracking application for cell phones that is available on lots of platforms. Right now, it is available on Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry phones (we talked about it under the iPhone section). There are some restrictions for BlackBerry phones – like it doesn’t work on Verizon, lame.
But by far the coolest thing about the Instamapper software is that it works on Boost Mobile phones. You can buy a really cheap iDen phone for under $50 and then get a data plan that could run you around $0.35 a day. Hard wire the sucker to the battery of your car and you have a real time GPS cell phone tracking system for your car. This works great for teen drivers, cheating spouses, and theft prevention. They even have instructions on how to do it all on their website.
Instamapper is definitely the way to go for a DIY, free GPS cell phone tracking solution.
We talked about this one under the iPhone heading, but it is another one of those apps that is designed to be used by lots of other cell phone operating system. It works on iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile, and Symbian mobile phones. They have even made an effort to get this application on the BlackBerry by just releasing an app for this cell phone brand that is still in Beta. As a result it really on works on the Bold 9700, Curve 8900, Bold 9000, and Tour 9360.
You won’t get the world with this app as it really is only designed to use GPS tracking to create excellent, real time traffic data and it relies exclusively on the efforts of its users to make the app work. But it really is a great concept and it might just work as planned if not overshadowed by Google Navigate which tries to do the same thing. Who knows, maybe Waze will get bought out by the internet giant before all is said and done.
Google Latitude is one of the premier social tracking apps available right now. There are a few different reasons for this. The first is that it is created by Google. Google already has a huge user base for everything that it does. Maps and Navigate a huge apps that work of the same framework as Latitude and already have a huge buy in from lots of mobile phone users. Their free cell phone tracker is certainly going to benefit from this market position.
The app is also available on a huge number of platforms. We didn’t even include it in one of the mobile phone operating system categories because it is available on Android, iPhone (and iPad), BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Symbian S60, and most Sony Ericsson devices. Because it is available on so many different platforms it is widely used – boasting 9 million users. That is more than any other GPS tracking app by far.
There are some significant weaknesses to the whole Latitude idea. For example, all tracking is constant and done in the background. While this is great for families or other close knit groups it really doesn’t work to well with friends, work buddies, or acquaintances. There is also not much to actually DO with Latitude other than broadcast your location and see where other people are at. Great for families and possibly for business, but not that fun otherwise.
This app has a strong base and could be something great. Possibly.
Lookout Mobile Security
We learned about Lookout Mobile Security with the rest of the free Android GPS cell phone trackers, but it is available on Windows phones and the BlackBerry. This is a very powerful app for the security conscious and should be downloaded without the slightest bit of hesitation. There is a difference between the free app and the pay app, so don’t expect the moon. You still get a lot with the free app, its just not the whole shooting match.
This make sense because the company has to make some money on it, but with 2 million users in 170 countries you have to expect that at least some of them are paying the 2.99 for the premium service. If just 30% are paying customer then the folks behind the app are making nearly $2 million a month. Wowza. That is a lot of money.
A run of the mill social tracking application I am not sure why you would use this app unless you have lots of friends who are already using it. It was mentioned under our BlackBerry section but it is also available on the iPhone.
The Future of Free GPS Cell Phone Tracking
Where are all these free cell phone trackers pointing? I think that what all this is leading up to is a world where location based information is going to be widely available and consumed by consumer and business alike. People are already beginning to share their location more with each other and businesses are starting to use location based targeting in ads they deliver to customers. Companies like Google, Palm, and others are poised to make lots of money if this type of advertising is going to be as effective as some think it will be. Coarse location based targeting is already available on the web and seems to be fairly effective at reaching the intended audience. It is only a matter of time before it becomes the main way to deliver ads to consumers.
There are also increasing concerns about cell phone tracking in the legal world. Who can track whom? In what contexts is this tracking legal and in what contexts is it illegal? When does tracking become stalking? All these questions are beginning to be answered in the courts and this will have an impact on how this technology is going to be used going forward. I can imagine one case making mobile phone tracking too dangerous for any company to touch is a ten foot pole, but we shall see how all this plays out.
For now anyway, GPS cell phone trackers are going to on the rise as more and more people realize that these can be extremely useful applications that will enhance the usefulness of their phones and make their lives more interesting. They can also let their users know information that would have otherwise not have been available to them. Cell phone tracking is too powerful a technology for people to ignore.
Have a free GPS cell phone tracker or know of a great one that we didn’t include? Let us know about it through our suggestion form. We’d love to hear about more free content for our users.
The i-GotU is a GPS tracking data logger created by Mobile Action. There are two main models under the i-GotU brand, the GT-120 and the GT-600. This review deals specifically with the i-GotU GT-600 and will discuss the main features listed by Mobile Action for this personal tracking device. After that, we will take a look at some of the various applications of this device – several of which will stray from the applications proposed by Mobile Action in their promotional material. This device is not a real time GPS tracking device, so it will only be tested in in data logging activities. Finally, we will take a look at the overall rating given to the device.
i-GotU Review Highlights
GPS sensor works great outdoors but looses signal indoors
Reading instructions on product operation is a must and does take some time to get used to
Sport tracking feature is useful and accurate, but could be better
Serves multiple purposes, making it more useful than some devices because of the software package included
The i-GotU comes with the following list of features (taken from the i-GotU website):
The i-GotU is relatively easy to use, once you get a basic understanding of what it is you have to do to get it working. As an example, I figured out how to get the basic tracking down after one or two uses but have yet to figure out how to use the motion sensor capability of the device. To turn the device on, simply press and hold the one button on the device until the blue light comes on in the top left hand corner. To turn off the device, press the same button and hold it until the red light appears in the top left hand corner. Simple enough.
But when I follow the instructions printed on the back of the i-GotU packaging for the motion activated tracking feature I was unable to get the device to activate no matter how fast I would go. Here is the picture of the instructions on the packaging:
There must be a setting in the @Trip software that I have to turn on for the device to power on automatically when it senses motion, I just haven’t had the time to search for and figure out exactly what I have to do for it. At the very least, the instructions on how to do this could be improved.
Since I have not been able to activate the motion sensor I am unsure of just how battery saving the device is. I have been able to run the device for 5+ hours without having to charge it while I have been capturing my location at the most frequent rate permitted. Even after running it for 5+ hours I would only plug the device into my computer long enough to download the data to the @Trip software for analysis. I continued this behavior for 3 weeks and have not run out of battery yet, bringing the total amount of tracking to over 16 hours with very little charge time during that 3 week period. Overall the battery life has been pretty impressive.
The @trip service is an online community where you can share your travels, photos, and insights with other iGotU users. I created a profile in all of 1 minute and shared my first trip in less than 20 seconds after that. It is seamlessly integrated with the software that downloads onto your PC and works like a charm. When you share a link with your friends they can view your trip in 3D using a Google Earth plugin – a neat feature if you ask me. The appearance of the trip pages could look better, but it they definitely are a lot nicer than anything I could put together myself. Overall, the @trip service is a nice addition for the traveler who likes to share his adventures with family and friends over the internet.
The @trip Software, which includes the @Trip PC, Sports Analyzer, and Where I Am application, is both useful and feature rich. @Trip PC allows you to log your travels and integrate picture that you took from a digital camera into the journey. It also uploads your trips to the internet very easily. Here is a trip my family took to the zoo where we had the GPS tracking device attached to the stroller: Trip to the Zoo . Most of the pictures were taking at the beginning of the trip since the phone we took them on, an HTC Incredible running the Android OS, was running low on battery.
The Sports Analyzer is also very simple to use and easy to understand. The interface is pretty intuitive and the graphs are pretty interesting/helpful for not very serious sports people to understand and analyze. Here is a screen shot of the service:
Geotagging photos with the iGotU’s software was a breeze. All I had to do was open the trip and import the folder that had all the photos that I took with my camera. It really was that simple. There is a pretty easy to follow online demo of the process that Mobile Action put together. It can be found here: Photo Locator: Locating my photos easily
The only thing that you want to be sure of is that your digital camera is actually set to the correct time. If you don’t know how to do this on your digital camera I recommend that you pull out your manual and figure it out. I was able to find it pretty easily on my camera, but I know not everyone has the same camera. If you can’t do this, the geotagging feature won’t work because it uses the time stamp on the photo to sync it up with the location that was gathered from the iGotU.
I have never been able to detect where I am in real time with the iGotU. This is probably because I have always been indoors when trying to use this feature – and the iGotU did not have very good GPS results when indoors. This may service may work great when outside at a cafe or park or some other historic or beautiful destination, but when I was in my home or in class I was not able to find my location.
The iGotU definitely does let you record and analyze detailed routes. In fact, over the course of 3-4 weeks I got to use the device to record my bike commute to and from work in the efforts to see just how detailed and useful the GPS tracking function on this device can be. Overall, I was very impressed with the accuracy of the device and how the information is presented to the user. There were, however, a few drawbacks to the device.
First, lets deal with the short comings. The first is that GPS tracking does not begin immediately upon turning on the device. This is not that big of a deal since all GPS devices have this drawback, but what did make it particularly annoying in this case is that the process could take several minutes. There area few ways to make the cold start less annoying, like holding the device parallel to the open sky, but getting a GPS fix could take anywhere from fifteen seconds to two and a half minutes.
If you do not realize that the device needs to get a fix from the GPS satellites before you start moving you can come to the conclusion that the iGotU personal GPS tracking device is not very accurate. This is a false conclusion, but that is what it will seem like when you analyze your data and get results like this when traveling the same exact route:
As you can see, for taking the same exact route each day the difference between the distances is pretty extreme. There is almost a mile difference between the shortest and the longest time! This would make any GPS tracking device very innacurate, but in this case there was user error that created the large discrepancy. I simply did not wait for the iGotU to get a fix before starting my journey and got this bad data as a result.
When I waited until the GPS got a fix I got the following results:
The results of this data represents a much closer grouping of distances given that I take the same route home from work each night. When you take away the reading from 9/24 (6.989 miles) the largest deviation from the average between the various distances in only 141 feet. That seems very accurate to me.
So what about the reading on 9/24? Why is this so different from all the rest?
Here is a picture that explains it all:
I did not take my bike on this route when I started the night of the 25th. This is an error in the GPS personal data logger. To me, its not that big of a deal, but to a seriously hardcore mutli-sport lunatic this might make them a little upset.
In my opinion, the iGotU GT-600 is very accurate – it is just prone to wander a little bit.
I mentioned this above when talking about the @Trip service, but you can share trips and photos on 3D maps using the service provided by Mobile Action. It is pretty cool and uses Google Earth to display the 3D images for the end user. I think its cool, but each person is going to get their own mileage out of it. You can check out my demo trip here:
The iGotU is branded as a personal GP tracking data logger. As such, it has two main functions – to record the places you go on trips and to record the places you go during sporting activities. As a travel logger and personal fitness GPS the iGotU does a decent job, but it is obviously a trip tracker first and a personal fitness GPS second. I still like using if for both, but the sport side of it could use a little beefing up if it is to hold a candle to GPS tracking watches and other sport specific GPSs. But for an all-in-one device the iGotU is pretty solid for both activities. Over the next couple of weeks I plan on putting together some posts highlighting the iGotU’s strengths and weaknesses in the following areas:
Personal GPS Tracking
Travel Logger (Full Post Coming Soon)
Sports Tracker (Full Post Coming Soon)
Besides the uses discussed by Mobile Action, I wanted to see if I could use the iGotU as a covert GPS tracking device. It is relatively small and could easily be concealed inside a car. Since there is a lot of interest in tracking down a spouse or a teen driver I thought I would put that to the test and see if the iGotU can pass muster. I plan on testing this personal GPS tracker in the following capacity and posting my results here.
Covert GPS Tracking Device
Teen Driver Tracking (Full Post Coming Soon)
Spouse Tracking (Full Post Coming Soon)
Check back soon for more ways on how to use the iGotU.
I would recommend the iGotU to anyone who is interested in a GPS tracking device that allows you to do more than one activity with the same device. The GPS tracking capabilities are solid and the trip sharing software is simple, easy to use, and practically idiot proof. I wish that some of the operations of the device and software were a little more intuitive, but you can get by with some trial and error, looking over the instructions, or watching some of the walk-throughs online. Overall, I think the iGotU is great way to get into the world of personal GPS tracking.
For being someone who blogs about technology I have a confession to make – I have never owned a cell phone. I know this is incredibly strange and does not make sense but it is the honest truth. It just never seemed necessary to be able to be contacted at any time by any person so I just never wanted to fork out the money to get one.
However, the steady prodding of my wife, the fact that I have this blog about GPS tracking, and the super cool Android cell phones that are coming out have all pushed me towards a decision to get into the market.
Going From Nothing To A GPS Smartphone
Now that I am pretty certain that I am going to get a phone I had a decision to make – do I just get any old phone or do I go big and bold and get some top of the line cell phone. Being the type of guy that I am I had to go with the biggest, best phone that I could find. If I am going to cave and a mobile phone I might as well get something that is going to be both fun and useful.
Naturally, it would have to be a cell phone with GPS so that I could use it test out cool and fun GPS tracking programs on it as well as have some pretty sweet features that could be interesting to use in a whole host of other applications. A good camera would be nice. The same holds true for a super fast processor. However, the absolute must is going to have to be the ability to work all over the country.
The immediate front runners for my phone of choice are the iPhone, the HTC Incredible, and the Droid X. I am sure that there are some other phones that fit the above criteria on other networks like Sprint or T-Mobile, but Verizon and AT&T are really the only ones I am considering. Verizon has the lead because my wife is already on that network, but AT&T is also a consideration because they are the only one with currently carry an iPhone.
Verizon vs. AT&T
When it comes to quality of network I think Verizon is beating AT&T, especially since now AT&T has decided to drop its unlimited data plan. Here is just a simple graphic stolen from Verizon advertising to show some of the difference:
To be fair, AT&T claims to cover 97% of all Americans, as the video below demonstrates:
I think when it comes down to it, Verizon beats AT&T in this department – at least from an advertising perspective. Add to this the fact that I have not heard one good thing about AT&Ts service from anyone I know and you have a clear case for Verizon in the carrier department.
Apple vs. Android
Now that I’ve talked about the carrier situation a little I should turn my attention to the actual devices I am thinking of making my phone. The most obvious distinction between the two are that one runs an Apple OS and the other two run the Android OS. I have to be honest again, I don’t know jack squat about operating systems. I am not a technonerd. I just like things to run fast and run smoothly. Besides that I don’t care. And as far as I know both OSs work great.
But there is something that I kind of do think is important that separates the two sides: one is open source while the other is proprietary. To me, this is a huge deal. Giving users the ability to create programs for the phone that can increase its functionality and improve user experience for free is a huge benefit in my opinion. To me, this makes the Android OS better.
What follows now is a brief discussion of each of the phones:
The HTC Incredible
The HTC Incredible has been out for a few months now and is looking to be a very solid cell phone. It definitely has some GPS features built in to it so it can be used for my GPS tracking tests if I were to get it. It is also a fast phone with a 1 GHz processor which means that it is already a better computer than my first desktop that my family owned 10+ years ago. With 8 GB of physical memory it also vast outshines that old machine that ushered me into the computer age.
The phone is also appealing to the eye – or at least so say I – and it looks like it has a host of other features for those who like to look at things. The 3.7″ screen is a decent size and seems large enough to view webpages and such with ease. I also like the 8 Megapixel camera that it sports and think that being able to take pictures at night is a plus – yay for flash!
From what I can tell, it looks like the HTC Incredible looks like it should run for 5 hours under constant use, 146 hours in standby mode.
I also think HTC has some cool things included in it like their social networking mashup program or something. It makes my wife excited about the phone. For me, it doesn’t really matter.
Overall, it looks like a great phone worthy of my consideration.
The Droid X
Compared to the HTC Incredible, the Droid X is pretty much the same phone in the sense that you are going to be getting the Android OS on Verizon. It also sports an 8 Megapixel camera with night flash. It has a 1 GHz processor two, but of a different variety (I think). In general, you are going to be getting the same phone with the same features, just different.
The main difference is that the screen is going to be bigger on the Droid X. It comes in at 4.3″. It also is going to let you shoot video in 720p, which isn’t too bad. It’s not 1080p, but it definitely is better than the standard 480p that comes through your TV. Another difference is that the Droid X comes with 24 GB of memory out of the box, which is probably more than I will ever use.
I guess I should also note that both the Droid X and the the HTC Incredible come with Google Latitude and Google Maps Navigation standard. The former is a free GPS tracking application for cell phones and the later is a free navigation application for cell phones. Both rock.
The iPhone 4
The iPhone is a different breed of phone. Coming from Apple you are going to get a completely feel and different operating system. They even market their product differently, which means that it is going to be appealing to a different type of person. Just take a look:
And this one:
Let’s be honest here, the iPhone is definitely outside of my demographic when it comes to the marketing campaigns. But that is neither here nor there. The iPhone 4 is a serious phone with a host of things to offer its user. Built in GPS, a video phone feature, tons of apps, a slick design and intuitive operation – some think that the iPhone has it all.
The phone definitely seems fun to have, but I don’t think its for me. Its just too cool to have an iPhone and I am not very cool. Sorry Apple.
I think that when it comes down to it I am going to be getting the Droid X. But I think I am going to cheat and actually get both the Droid X and the HTC Incredible. The former is going to be for me. The later for my wife. That way I can test the GPS tracking applications for each phone. It will also help use test things out and see exactly what our Android GPS cell phones can actually do. If you have any questions or things you would love to see us take a look at with the phones just leave a comment below and we will be sure to get around to testing it out for you. It might take us a few weeks/months to get both phones since they are nowhere to be found – but once we get them we will let you know everything we find out.
Update 4/16/2012:GPS jammers are illegal and should not be used. After several events in recent years the US government has really began to crack down on GPS jammers since they pose a significant risk to public safety and national infrastructure. Consumers should not buy these devices unless they are approved by the FCC. Any jammer in use should be retired and an alternative method to ensure location privacy should be employed since penalties for jammer use could exceed $100,000 and include jail time.
To anyone familiar with GPS technology, it is no surprise that GPS tracking jammers can cause all sorts of havoc to tracking systems irregardless of their use. Anti-theft devices, fleet tracking systems, personal navigation devices, and airline navigation systems will all fall victim to small, low power GPS blockers. That is just the nature of the whole tracking system.
Because of this inherent flaw, there are some good uses for GPS tracking blockers, but there are also some rather nefarious uses as well. But before we get into all that, let’s first see how and why tracking systems can be so easily tampered with.
Why GPS Is So Easy To Block
When you rely on satellites that are thousands of miles away (around 12,500 miles to be exact) it becomes very easy to interfere with the signals that the satellites emit. Bob Cockshott, a conference speaker and leader of a government funded technology program in the UK, puts it this way, “The problem is that the signal from the satellites is extremely weak – it’s the equivalent of picking up the light output of a 25-watt bulb on the satellite.” The problem seems to be that the signal from the satellites are so weak that disrupting them would be as easy as preventing someone from seeing a 25-watt light bulb from thousands of miles away.
In other words, the task is a simple one. There are GPS tracking blockers that can be powered by the cigarette lighter in a car that have enough power the not only jam the tracking or navigation in your car but also of a car that is very close to you. According to Wired Magazine, 2 watts of power is enough to disable a car-based GPS device while a blocker powered at 20 watts will be enough to cover the area of an entire airport. In other words, that is not very much effort to bring down a very large amount of GPS relates systems.
The Problem With GPS Tracking Jammers
The potential abuse of this flaw in the system could be used for purposes that do not have the greater good of humanity in mind. While it would be best if no one every took advantage of the flaws in the GPS tracking infrastructure, it is already happening on some level all over the world. Here are some of the more common instances:
When GPS tracking for cars is installed in a vehicle it can be a very formidable way for the police to catch criminals and drastically reduce auto theft. But when a GPS tracking jammer is also installed in the car as it is being stolen, the criminal is able to get away without anyone knowing that the vehicle has been stolen. The owner won’t get an alert letting them know that their vehicle has left their geofence. Even when they wake up to find their car missing, they will not be able to track it because the jammer will have essentially taken the vehicle off the grid in terms of the person’s tracking capabilities.
Another serious concern is the use of GPS blockers by organized crime to boost cargo carriers without being able to be tracked. Most fleets have some sort of GPS monitoring system installed in their vehicles in order to help with fleet administration and improve customer service. These systems also help companies recover stolen vehicles.
But if criminals are using blockers, then no amount of fleet tracking capability is going to help the company figure out where its vehicle is. It will also prevent the police from quickly tracking down the stolen vehicle. The goods will be stolen and that will probably be the end of it.
Attacks Against Humanity
If someone was sick enough, they could also do serious damage to the infrastructure of various public and private services, causing widespread destruction and mayhem. I won’t go into to much detail about this point for fear of somehow encouraging evil, but there are serious risks for certain systems that only use GPS for timing and routing information.
The (Legal) Uses of GPS Tracking Jammers
Despite the many different negative uses of a jammer, there are also some very useful applications for this technology. It is important to note that all technology is essentially amoral. It is neither good nor bad in and of itself. Instead, it is the use of the technology that is either good or bad. This is no different for GPS tracking in general or for GPS tracking blockers specifically.
One of the common themes that you will find below is that the best uses for a GPS jammer is to combat an improper use of a GPS tracker. But this should be expected given the nature of what a jammer/blocker is!
If you are being stalked by someone who is using GPS to do so you should feel completely within your “rights” to purchase a jamming device and install it in your car. No one should be able to find out exactly where you are so that they can watch your every move so that they can plan some sort of wickedness against your person. Such violations should be blocked. If you are particularly paranoid, think about getting a blocker to place inside your car in addition to occasionally searching the wheel wells of your car.
Escape Illegal Government Tracking
You might be surprised how often a government official has secretly and illegally placed a tracking device on your vehicle. For example, there is currently a case going on right now in Louisiana where police illegally installed a GPS tracking device for a friend. The victim did not buy a jammer, but if he did he would have been able to put an immediate nix on the illegal activity until he eventually found the tracking device. Now I don’t want to imply that there is a great government conspiracy going on where the government is in the business of tracking private citizens without warrant or reason, because I just don’t think that this is the case. But there is some truth to government employees abusing their powers and using GPS tracking for their own ends. This type of thing should be blocked by using GPS tracking jammers.
Prank our Friends
Sometimes there is nothing quite like a good laugh, especially when it is at the expense of a good friend in good fun. To pull off this prank successfully, all you need to do is install a GPS jammer in their car while you travel with them to a destination using GPS navigation to get there. Be sure that you look up how to get to the place and commit them to memory. Then make your friend a bet the you can given them better directions than their GPS can. Make it a big bet, like $100 or more. Once they agree, just turn on your jammer and direct them to your destination like their GPS would have if you weren’t blocking it. When they get ready to pay you for your knowledge, reveal the prank and have a great laugh.
GPS Jammer and Blockers In Review
It is clear that these devices are amoral in nature, but that they can be used for both great evil and great good. Some governments, like that in England, have decided to make them illegal to sell or use. While this may help cut down the trafficking of these device, it will not ultimately end their use – especially by the criminal element. But I guess that is the English way. I hope America keeps GPS tracking jammers legal, but just educates the public about their proper use.