Creating your very own GPS system for cars is really a lot easier than you think. In days long past you would to have had a hell of a lot of technical experience, a great understanding of how to create software, and a lot of money to get something like real-time GPS tracking to work for yourself. You would have had to buy a ton of equipment that you would never normally use and spend countless hours coding software and making firmaware so that your devices could interact with your software. This process would be both time and money intensive and very few of us would be able to get through it.
Today, it is a totally different story. All you need to create an awesome, real-time GPS tracking system for your car is a navigational GPS that has bluetooth capabilities and a cell phone that can run a free GPS tracking application called 3dtracking. It will also help to have a good cell phone plan with your provider that has plenty of data sending capabilities. That is it.
The Equipment Needed
The very first thing that you are going to need is going to be a GPS navigation unit. This is because the 3dtracking software must have access to coordinates generated by a GPS device in order to provide real-time GPS tracking information. Without some form of GPS information to feed your cell phone that is loaded up with this free GPS tracking software you are not going to be able to get yoru desired results.
While I don’t personally have a navigational GPS, I have heard some good things about the following devices that have Bluetooth capabilities:
If these prices are still to high for you personally then you might want to consider trying to find a refurbished GPS. A refurbished device can sometimes come at a very steep discount (from 20%-50% in some cases) and it should work just as well as a ‘new’ device.
In some cases you won’t even need to own a stand alone car navigation GPS for this system to work. If you own a phone with GPS tracking capabilities already installed into the phone then you don’t need to connect to an external GPS device via Bluetooth. Everything that you are going to need is going to be inside the case of that cell phone.
The Cell Phone
3dtracking published a list of compatible cell phones for their system. If you do not own one of these phones then you will not be able to use this system as I am describing it. Here is a list of the cell phones that is currently compatible with this software:
Some of these phones are rather inexpensive (some can be found for under $20) while others will cost over $200. Which phone you choose will depend largely on your needs for the cell phone and whether or not you want to use it for more than just GPS tracking.
Once you have one of these phones you are going to want to make sure that you have a good data plan for your phone. This way you can send data to the 3dtracking servers without incurring exorbitant fees. Right now, AT&T wireless is offering a unlimited data plan for its phones for $35 a month. This would put your access to real-time GPS tracking information for your car at roughly $1.17 per day.
In order to download the free 3dtracking software simply go here. There are onpage instructions for what to do depending on whether or not you have a Windows-based PDA or a smart phone. Once you have downloaded the application and installed it on your phone or PDA you will do a brief 3 step application process and will be ready to begin tracking with your cell phone right away.
Total Cost to You
The startup cost of this GPS tracking system for cars can be pretty steep, coming in at over $400 if you buy some of the higher end equipment. With a $35 unlimited data plan that would bring the first year total out of pocket expense to somewhere between $800 and $900. The second year of operation would be $420. While this certainly isn’t cheap, if you already have the GPS navigation unit and the compatible cell phone you won’t need to spend any money out of pocket so your expense will probably be $0 unless you have to upgrade the data plan on your phone to handle the load. Free GPS tracking is certainly better than not free GPS tracking.
What Will You Track?
From where I sit there are two main applications for this type of GPS tracking system for cars. They are tracking a teen driver and snooping on a spouse suspected of cheating. For the former you should be completely up front and honest with your teen about what you are doing to their phone and why you are doing it. They should know that you are concerned about their safety and that you want to make their driving experience as safe as possible. Then you should work on some sensible rewards and punishments for your teen drivers. Making sure they they buy into your GPS tracking system is key if it is going to be useful to them and to you.
IF you are tracking a spouse that you suspect of cheating you should not let them know that you are tracking them. To do this, you might have to buy a special phone that you put in their car for them so that they don’t realize what is going on. You will have to leave the phone on and recharge the battery often, but the ability to know if they are cheating or not can certainly be worth the price.
But this set-up, especially one where your phone has GPS capabilities built in, can be used in many more applicaitons. A few of them are to:
There are practically as many things that you can do with this technology as you can dream up, so sit down, grab a beer, and dream. This GPS tracking system for cars is definitely going to blow your mind if you let it.
Before we jump into the ins and outs, ups and downs of GPS tracking for cars let’s take a second to put this type of GPS application into perspective. Let’s look at a real life example of how this technology is actually being used with great effectiveness today. This will help us better understand how we can use GPS tracking to better monitor the activity of our teen driver, our cheating spouse, a company vehicle, an employee, or even our own activity. This technology is here and is only going to become more pervasive as it continues to tumble in price and more and more companies get in on the car tracking action. The following is a brief excerpt from a news article that ran in the Washington Post:
Someone was attacking women in Fairfax County and Alexandria, grabbing them from behind and sometimes punching and molesting them before running away. After logging 11 cases in six months, police finally identified a suspect.
David Lee Foltz Jr., who had served 17 years in prison for rape, lived near the crime scenes. To figure out if Foltz was the assailant, police pulled out their secret weapon: They put a Global Positioning System device on Foltz’s van, which allowed them to track his movements.
Police said they soon caught Foltz dragging a woman into a wooded area in Falls Church. After his arrest on Feb. 6, the string of assaults suddenly stopped. The break in the case relied largely on a crime-fighting tool they would rather not discuss.
If GPS tracking can help the police get a felon off the streets, making them safer, what do you think it can do for you?
Teens are notoriously bad drivers. They speed; the perform jack rabbit starts and sudden stops; they take turns too quickly; they change lanes without signaling; they text while driving – this is all dangerous activity that could end up getting them and their fellow drivers killed.
The strange part about all this is that this is generally not how they drive when you are with them. When you are sitting in the car right next to them the last thing on their mind is answering a friends text message. Instead, they drive with both hands on the steering wheel, eyes are fixed on the road, and they are well within the speed limit. Teens drive recklessly and dangerously when parents are not around.
So how can parents concerned about their teen’s driving habits be with a teen, watching their driving habits, even when they are not in the vehicle with them – through GPS tracking for cars.
I am a firm proponent of telling your teen that you are tracking there car if you do decide to do so. My reasons for feeling this way are three fold: 1) the device will not act as a deterrent of bad driving practices if they don’t know it is there, 2) it is much easier and most effective to discipline your child when they are fully aware of the consequences of their actions, and 3) you won’t be violating the trust of your teen by doing something “sneaky” to them.
Tracking As Deterrent
Your teen won’t act like you are in the car with them if they think that you don’t know how they are driving. The whole point of the tracking device is to prevent your teen from getting into a car wreck because they were doing something stupid behind the wheel. The reasoning behind this will go something like this:
Premise 1: Your teen drives safely when you are in the car with them.
Premise 2: Your teen, at times, drives unsafely when you are not in the car with them.
Premise 3: Having GPS tracking for cars in your teen’s vehicle is like having you in the car.
Conclusion: Your teen will drive like you are in the car with them if they know that the GPS tracking device for cars in the vehicle.
This is a rather simple logic expression where the premises seem to be mostly true. The only one that will have any difficulty being true is Premise 3. Just because the teen knows that you are tracking their every move in the car does not mean that they are always going to act like you are tracking them in the car. They will forget about it, or get caught up in a moment, or take a risk that you won’t check the logs for that specific moment. It is in these instances where we as concerned parents must use discipline in conjunction with the car tracking device.
Tracking and Discipline
One hallmark of good parenting is laying an effective foundation for discipline by making sensible, enforceable, and fair rules. This one of the most important components of using GPS tracking to effectively monitor your teen’s driving behaviors.
Here’s why: you have installed your GPS tracking device in the car, set up good rules that are sensible and fair – the punishment is commensurate with the specific bad driving behavior, but your teen still ends up going 85 mph in a 65 mph zone. You see, they simply forgot that you know what they do when they drive. The music they were listening too or the conversation they were having on the phone overwhelmed their developing brain and they were unable to remember to keep the speed in check.
Luckily, nothing terrible happened to them or to another driver – but how can a teen realize that they are being tracked? One way to do so is to punish bad behavior. Because they broke the speed limit rules that your family put in place they are required to pay the penalty for doing so. Get creative in the rules that you have for certain offenses and only use the suspension of driving privileges for especially grievous offenses.
I think we all pretty much understand how to punish poor driving, but have you considered the other side of the coin? How are you rewarding your teen for safe driving? Rewards are often much better at motivating a teen toward right action than punishment, since punishment is primarily backward looking while reward is forward thinking.
In almost all cases, a mixture of reward and punishment is most effective at training a person to behave a certain way while driving. You can get creative with what you pick and be sure to spend time thinking about what is going to work best for you, your teen, and the safety of other drivers on the road.
Tracking and Trust
Here is a quick video about how the use of secret GPS tracking on your teens car can lead to bad reactions from teens (it is one of our the featured GPS tracking videos):
In my opinion, these parents were well within their responsibilities to attach a secret GPS tracking to their teen’s truck – it is their property (the truck, not the teen) and they do have a responsibility to raise their teen in a safe way – but I just don’t think it is a very effective way to be a responsible parent.
The reactions of this teenage boy are classic. He denies wrong doing, shows signs of anger, and generally feels that his parents violated his rights. They didn’t violate them, but he sure feels like they did. It is my opinion that he is really just upset that his parents tracked him without his knowledge. He was surprised when he found out that they knew his secret (driving over 95 mph!) when he didn’t know they had a way of knowing that. His expectations were wrong and he responded with anger.
Now imagine this situation if the parents had told their teenage son that they were going to track his car to ensure his safety, recover their vehicle if it was stolen, and help them enforce some of the family’s expected driving habits. Sure, he might have put up a fuss at having that conversation and expressed his desire not to have the device installed, but once it was installed he would have know that any unsafe driving practices would be recorded.
He probably would not have driven 95 mph in the first place, and if he did he would have know that his parents were going to find out and punish him according to the rules of the family. This might have been unpleasant, but at least he would have know it was coming!
Devices to Track A Teens Car
One device that will could be considered top of the line for this type of tracking is the LiveWire Unlimited™ Fleet/Car GPS Tracker. It is a permanent solution that is installed inside your car and can be customized to fit you needs.
Another avenue that you could try is tracking your teen’s cell phone. Since most teens carry their cell phone with them everywhere this can be a cheap and cost effective way to get a grasp on your teen’s driving habits.
Both of these option can be very effective at monitor your teens driving habits.
It is never okay to cheat on a significant other, never. So when you suspect your lover of cheating I am of the opinion that the one who is being cheated on has a lot of leverage when it comes to being able to verify if their suspicions are true or not. They can monitor all electronic communications (including cell phone call logs, text messages, emails, and instant messages), track their car with GPS, talk with their friends, make unannounced visits, inspect their clothes, and even install cameras around the house or in a vehicle to help monitor their activity.
Knowing where there car is is particularly important in catching a cheating spouse, but only if the cheating goes on at locations where the individual does not normally attend. If, for example, they are cheating at work while they should be at work then a spouse who is GPS tracking their car will have no way of using this information to catch them cheating.
But if they are going to a hotel, or their lover’s apartment, or they say that they are going one place to hang out with their buddies and then they go somewhere else and you have a GPS device installed in their car then you are going to know about their indiscretion and be able to catch them in their lying, cheating ways. And, since GPS technology is becoming even more reliable than it already was, you will have a very solid case when you go to confront them with the issue, divorce them or go to the location of their trysts.
With GPS tracking for cars you get back into the driver seat of your relationship and take back the power and the trust that your partner tried to steal from you by cheating on you.
A good way to improve the performance of a fleet of vehicles is to install some GPS tracking devices in them. This will have a positive impact on several of your fleet’s performance metrics over the course of 2 years, according to an Aberdeen group study on the impact of GPS fleet tracking on small businesses. Among the most impressive metrics to increase over the two year test period was the number of service calls logged by company employees and a marked increase in a drivers ability to make on time service calls and deliveries.
According to the study, small business (defined as vehicle fleets that consisted of 1 to 10 cars, trucks, or vans) increased the number of work orders that they were able to complete by an astonishing 25%. How would you like to make a $500 initial investment with some reoccurring fees to get 25% more out your work force? I think most employers would love this arrangement.
But how does GPS tracking for cars improve this critical fleet performance metric so drastically? I think the main two reasons that it works so well is that it keeps workers honest and it helps streamline transit times.
It should be obvious to everyone that workers do not really work for 8 full hours even when they punch that in on their time card. Sometimes they take breaks when they aren’t supposed to, push lunch 15 minutes longer than they should, or end work early because they “won’t” be able to finish a job before their shift is over. When all is said and done, most workers (according to a 2007 survey at Salary.com) waste around 20% of their day doing no work related activities while they are on the clock. That is a staggering statistic and seems to explain a lot of the increased productivity that GPS tracking devices engender in small fleets. Workers simply stop wasting time when they know that the boss is watching.
The additional 5% increase in worker productivity is probably related to the fact that workers are able to find the most efficient, time-effective route when traveling to work locations or delivery destinations.
Another use of GPS tracking for cars is for personal efficiency. This is probably not the most cost-effective thing for an individual to do, but if you want real-time GPS tracking of your own movement there are probably devices that will work out great for you.
One subset of people that might find this interesting are off-roaders and street racers – people whose activities take them off beaten paths or who want to be able to relive past experiences that they have had out on the road or off in the middle of nowhere. Real-time tracking is also useful for these individuals if something where to happen to them on a ride and they needed immediate medical attention – all it would take is a quick look at the GPS information provided by the tracking device and help would be on the way.
Again, this isn’t going to be a cost effective way of getting this information – but for some it might be appealing.
Update May 2009: It appears that the T Trac XS GPS Car Tracking System is not longer available from Brickhouse Security.
This GPS tracking system is very popular – with over 200,000 devices in use in 18 countries being serviced by Brickhouse security. The reason for this is because it is the #1 GPS tracking system utilized by the police and private investigators all over the country. Some of the reasons for its popularity with these individuals is the device has a 3 months battery life when you have 4 AA batteries installed. Another key feature is its small size – 5.78″ x 2.99″ x 1.44″ – and light weight – 7 ounces with 4 AA Alkaline Batteries – making it highly concealable on the outside or inside of a car. This device is excellent for covert GPS tracking, keeping tabs on a spouse suspected of cheating, or secretly monitoring an employees activity.
The service provided by Brickhouse Security is top notch and the device comes with a 1 year warranty. You can find out more about this device or make a purchase here: T-Trac XS Internet GPS Car Tracking System
LiveWire Unlimited™ Fleet/Car GPS Tracker
Unlike the T-Trac, the LiveWire tracker hooks directly into the vehicle. This means that as long as the car has power – so does your GPS tracking unit. You will never need to change the devices batteries, which is a great plus for long-term tracking applications like teen driver monitoring and company car tracking.
One particularly useful feature of the LiveWire is that it comes with Skype integration. This means that on the tracking interface on your web browser that lets you see vehicle activity all you need to do to call the driver of the vehicle through your Skype account is click on their vehicle – you will automatically be patched in to the driver’s cell phone. This is a very powerful for those who would use this device for business purposes.
To learn more about the LiveWire tracker or to make an inquiry about a purchase of the device, you should contact the manufacturer of the LiveWire Unlimited™ Fleet/Car GPS Tracker.
In May of 2009, two very important cases came before appellate courts in Wisconsin and New York that had a direct effect on the use of this type of GPS tracking by law enforcement officials. The first ruling to be issued came from Wisconsin where judges ruled unanimously that police could use GPS tracking on cars without a warrant.
The difference in the rulings by the two courts points to the fact that this new technology is making waves in the legal world and the courts and legislatures must create new guidelines to help protect the right of citizens while allowing police to make use of technology in a way that saves money and helps them put more criminals behind bars.
The use of GPS tracking for cars has a lot of potential both infringe on perceived rights and improve law enforcement – but making sure that later is accomplished while the former is avoided is a pretty tough task.
Teen’s are terrible drivers. Their unique combination of inexperience and raging hormones make them them the most likely among all age ranges to get into fatal car crashes. As concerned parents we want to get our teens to drive safely and to obey the rules of the road, especially when driving home at night or when their friends are with them in the car. These are the times that we wish that the beneficial effect that we have on our teen’s driving would be felt the most, but these are often the times when our child is the least likely to drive like we are right there with them.
I have already talked extensively about how GPS tracking can put you in the car with your teen, so I am not going to rehash that discussion here in full. Instead, I thought it might be a good idea to discuss some of the different parenting techniques that we can employ once we have installed the GPS tracking device inside out teen’s car. We will begin with a discussion of the teen’s rewards and follow that up with a discussion of the punishments associated with bad driving practices.
But before we do, we should look at some of these important teen tracking tips:
Tell your teen about the tracker – You cannot make the punishment and reward system for safe driving work for your family if your teen is unaware that the GPS tracking device exists. Tell them about your plan in such a way that they will get on board with your desire to monitor their driving activity. Even if they don’t like the idea at first, they will warm up to it after you lay out some effective rewards and punishment.
Be very clear about the rewards – Communicating clear and worthwhile rewards to your teen is going to make this whole process a lot easy. They need to know the answer to the question “What’s in it for me?” question right away. If you can’t communicate that to the in 5 minutes then you need to rethink your reward system communication.
Be even clearer about the punishments – You are probably going to need to punish your teen driver at one point in time. The best way to do so is to communicate the consequences of their actions very, very clearly. They need to know exactly what is going to happen to them when they do something wrong so that there is no room for them wiggle out of the consequences of the action that the GPS tracker caught them doing.
Make it fun and safe – Teen’s love the idea of “fun” and, as a parent, if you can make something that you want them do be fun then you are well on your way to getting them to successfully accomplish that which you want them to. It can be very satisfying as a parent to watch your teen act safely because they value it and think it is “fun” – you know that all your hard work is really paying off!
How To Reward Your Teen
Rewarding your teen should be more about character than about materialistic things. What I mean by this is that you want to reward your teen with added responsibility and freedom than with cool toys and nice clothes. You want your teen to grow up and experience what life is like for themselves, not treat them like a little child who is motivated by empty and shallow things. So in order to do that you need to sit down and think about what ways you can reward your child’s good driving habits that will enable them to mature and grow into the full person that they are meant to be.
An example reward might be something like an extended curfew or additional car use privledges. By extending their curfew you are communicating to your teen that their driving habits are safe and that they are worthy to be trusted. The more personal freedom that you give your teen, the more that you teach them being wise and safe is a good thing to do, the more you will teach your teen to be an upstanding member of society and a good person.
Another similar example of this is by giving your teen additional car use privledges. You could let them drive the car to a friends house or to the mall. You might even begin to trust them with driving their siblings to after school activities or sporting events. Either way, your teen will learn that their behavior is being rewarded by giving them greater access to the family vehicle.
So that covers the actual rewards that one might think of giving their teen, but what about the things that the teen will be rewarded for? You obviously want to reward them for good driving habits, but what exactly are the habits that you most want to reward?
Here is a list of some of the more important driving practices:
Obeying the speed limit – This is very easy to monitor using a GPS tracking device for cars. Since they take constant measurements of the vehicles position all they need to do to calucluate speed is take the distance traveled and divide it by the time elapsed. Most GPS devices can monitor speed even if they aren’t a GPS tracking device, so it is pretty easy for parents to monitor this aspect of their teen’s driving. (This is also very important for saving money on gas costs!)
Taking turns at appropriate speeds – Because you can monitor their speed it is easy enough to find their speed when taking turns. Taking a turn too fast can signify inexperience on the part of your teen or that they pulled out in front of oncoming traffic, both things that you want to try and avoid if possible.
Making smooth starts and stops – Brakes are expensive and engines like to opperate under gradual increases of speed. A smart, safe driver will treat their car right and reduce the need for preventable maintenance on their vehicle.
No erratic driving patterns – Tracking units are very percise, with some models being able to tell which lane a vehicle is in! If your teen is switching lanes wildly then you will know that they are not driving safely. You can also be able to see that their vehicle changes lanes well or makes turns in an appropriate fashion.
If your teen meets your safe driving requirement then it is time to reward them, but if they don’t you need to dole out punishments.
How To Punish Your Teen
When punishing your teen for poor driving I would recommend going with character punishments. A teenager must know that the consequences of bad driving are very real and very, very serious. Lives are on the line every time you step behind the wheel and a teen should be able to feel that when they do something stupid with a car.
A character punish could be something as sever as a suspension of car driving privileges, but it can also be something not necessarily car related. In my opinion, taking away a teen’s driving privileges should only be done in the most dire conditions. This is mainly because a teen cannot learn to drive safely if they are not driving at all, but also because it can be very convenient for a family to have an additional driver in the house – especially if they help with some of the driving responsibilities that the family has.
Some more modest character punishment that you might consider could be:
Suspension of computer privileges
Limits on cell phone usage
Making them stay home when normally they would allowed to go out
Limiting their TV watching
Ending access to video game systems or computer games
Making their curfew earlier in the evening
Having them do some sort of task as “punishment” – like clear brush, pick up trash on the side of the highway, or visit accident victims in the hospital
All of these consequences for bad driving won’t work for every teen, but if you can find the right combination for your teen then you stand a good chance of getting them to drive safely with a solid combination of rewards and punishments.
How To Set Up The System
If your teen meets your driving requirements then it is time to give them some rewards. I recommend that you set some type of quota based on the number of hours driven rather on a number of days or just deciding to reward your teen whenever you feel like it. The more experience your teen gets behind the wheel the more likely they are to drive safely when they are out of the house and out on their own.
I definitely recommend starting small. If they can last the first 100 hours of driving and drive in such a way that they honor your family’s good driving practices then they can get one of the minor character rewards set up in your system. Maybe you grant them some additional free time for them to do with what they will or you begin asking them to drive a younger sibling to one of their practices once a week.
100 hours certainly isn’t a hard and fast rule, but when you think about 100 hours can add up really fast, especially if you live far away from a lot of things in your life. A 15 minute drive to school in the morning and then another 15 minutes home turns into 100 hours in 200 days. That is approximately one school year – and that is only if they drive to school. With all the time they spend heading out to the movies or over to a friends house the time is really going to add up fast. Before you know, after 3 months they are going to be ready for their first reward if they have driven well.
I also recommend that when you punish a teen it is because of repeat offenses. So you might knock their curfew back 15 minutes if they perform 3 sudden stops over a 3 month period. Or you might suspend their cell phone use for violating the speed limit two times over a 6 month period. Feel free to get creative with your own set of rules – just make sure that you live up to the same standard as your teen!
With GPS, Teen Drivers Can Be Safe Drivers
If you work your system correctly and you know your teen driver then you can get them to drive safely even if you aren’t in the car with them. By installing GPS tracking device in their car and by setting up a quality, well-communicated reward and punishment system you can make safe driving something that everyone in your family is able to do – even if they are inexperienced and raging with hormones. It is important to note that is not going to be the solution for every family. Some GPS tracking systems can cost hundreds of dollars on the outset and still have a reoccuring subscription fee equivalent to a cell phone plan. But for those families that can afford something like this it can empower you as a parent to help make your teen a safe driver.
Cell phone GPS tracking is a little tricky to talk about because mobile phones have GPS-like capabilities without having to be GPS devices. So, in some cases, a cell phone is able to be tracked even when it doesn’t have a GPS receiver installed in it. The reason behind this is rather simple and has everything to do with a principle I have already covered on this site: trilateration.
Once you understand the basics behind this principle you will see that is is obvious that a cell phone could be tracked whether or not it was GPS enable. Simply put, trilateration takes the know distance of an entity from 3 or more objects to calculate the exact location of that entity. I know, that sounds confusing – but it really isn’t.
Imagine that you are sitting somewhere in a room. The room is a 10×10 square and you are somewhere in it and you want to find out exactly where you are in the room. There is a desk in the middle of one of the walls that you are 5 feet from. On the exact opposite wall there is another table in the middle of the wall that you are exactly 5 feet from as well. Then there is a mirror on the third wall that you are looking at yourself from 5 feet away. Where are you in the room?
If you answered, “In the center.” Then you already know everything you need about trilateration to completely understand how a cell phone can work without actually having a GPS tracking device installed in it.
Let’s use the example of the two table and the mirrors from above to help us understand this. The tables and the mirrors here represent cell phone towers that are dotted across urban landscapes all over the country. In my city, they are dressed up to look like palm trees or other pleasant things but you still know what it is, a cell tower.
These cell towers transmit cellular signals out to mobile phones. The signals travel at a constant speed which makes finding out the distance between cell phones and cell towers very easy. All one must do is record the amount of time it takes between the time that the signal was transmitted by the tower and when it arrived at the cell phone. You then take the time that it took and multiply it by the speed at which the signal traveled. This looks something like this:
Distance Traveled = Speed x Time
This will give you the cell phone’s distance from the cell tower. Since the cell phone provider (a cell phone provider is a company like Nextel, AT&T, Verizon, TMobile, etc.) knows exactly where they cell tower is, they know that the cell phone is within x number of feet from that tower. Imagine a big circle surrounding the cell tower in the map in your mind.
Now imagine a second cell tower that also transmits a signal that is picked up by the cell phone. This is a certain distance from this second cell tower so imagine another circle around this second tower. Where the two circles intersect are the potential locations of the cell phone as far as the cell phone provider is concerned.
Once you add a third tower in the mix you should have a pretty darn good fix on the location of the cell phone – all without the use of GPS tracking devices.
It is important to understand that this is also exactly how GPS works, but instead of cellular towers on the urban landscape you have satellites in the heavenly firmament and instead of circles you have spheres around each satellite. This is pretty amazing stuff if you ask me.
Now that we have learned that cell phones can have GPS tracking without actually having a GPS device installed in it, let’s take a look at what can be done with GPS cell phone tracking.
There are several different applications that should be considered, but we will only take a look at three to give us a flavor of just how awesome this type of technology can be. Cellphone GPS tracking can be used for navigation purposes, to monitor a loved ones activity, and to learn useful things about your current location.
Cell Phone Tracking and Navigation
There is little doubt that the use of GPS for navigation purposes is a huge industry. That was, after all, one of the initial impetus behind the Department of Defense creating the satellite system. They wanted a way to know where they assets were but they also wanted to us it to tell where there assets were going.
GPS navigation has become the norm in many families across America with Garmins or TomToms or Magellans replacing the friendly AAA triptiks of two decades ago. I still remember as a child going into the AAA office with my mother to get a triptik ready for a family vacation. Now, you just enter your trip into the GPS and it does all the routing for you.
Cell phone companies realized that this was a huge market and that their technology could easily break into it. They could either us GPS technology to do the mapping just like a Garmin can, or they could leverage the cellular signals they were already broadcasting to create new navigation systems. Some companies decided to go with GPS and other stuck with the cell signal.
Either way you look at, cell phones now use GPS or a GPS-like technology to give turn-by-turn directions to drivers all over the country. While this isn’t GPS tracking as most would think of it, it still is using a cellular phone to track and record position information. It can tell people how to fast you are traveling, an ETA (estimated time of arrival), and it can actively tell you your current location. This is GPS tracking if you ask me.
As we will see this information can be used for other purposes other than navigation.
Cell Phone GPS Tracking And Location Monitoring
Location monitoring is another useful application of GPS in cell phones. Unlike the type of tracking that goes on for navigation purposes, the information used to track the location of a cell phone is actually transmitted from the cell phone back to the cell company. This process is often referred to as “tracing a cell phone.”
We hear about it all the time if we watch any crime show drama. They are always putting “a trace on the cell phone” or “triangulating the cell’s position” – especially when a kidnapper or other bad person decides to call up our favorite detectives for a to have a chat. Essentially what is happening in these instances is that a third party, in the case the police, are using information gathered by a cell phone provider to find the location of a caller.
The police obviously find this information particularly useful, especially when responding to a 911 call made from a cell phone. But there are other interesting applications for this as well. One of them is to GPS track a teen in order to monitor their driving habits or to make sure that they are not lying to you about where they are. All teens use cell phones these days so this service is relatively painless for you and for them. It is also relatively cheap and can be as little as $6 a month for 4 phones.
Another application of cell phone tracking is for getting fitness performance metrics. Just take your phone with you on a run or bike ride when you have a certain application installed and you will automatically get information like the average speed of your run and the distance traveled. You will even be able to see your entire course on a mapping application like Google Maps.
Another bit of information that cell phones have been regularly used to monitor is the activity of a spouse or lover suspected of cheating. In situations where this could be going on it is imperative that the suspecting spouse snoops around the other’s activities. This can involved GPS tracking or it can be through other methods, it just has to get done. Cell phone GPS tracking can be a good solution for individuals that find themselves in this situation so you might want to consider using it. It might be difficult if you have separate cell phone plans or they regularly pay the cell phone bill since any tracking charges will undoubtedly show up on your bill. But if you are in charge of this you might be able to set up GPS tracking without them even knowing it.
Finally, cell phones can be a great way to introduce GPS into a kids life. You could use the phone for GPS tracking for kids or you could just use it to help your child learn about the world around them. Kids do great with mapping applications and it can really help them get a better understanding of the world around them. They can also be used to keep kids safe in case of an emergency or other terrible occurance.
These types of location monitoring and tracking applications are going to become more prevalent over the next decade as we experiment with this relatively new technology. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out.
GPS Tracking Cell Phones and Random Data
The last way that I wanted to talk about was the use of cell phones to communicate random data based upon the location of the user. What I have in mind for this are apps (like those found on the iPhone) that tell you something specific that you can take action on or find interesting about your location.
If you are on a street and are feeling like Chinese food but don’t know the area you can type “Chinese” into this cell phone tracking app and it will give the location of the 5 closest Chinese restaurants along with some customer reviews and relative price points for the meals.
This idea can have many different applications in areas as diverse as real estate and movie theaters; fishing and ball room dance classes; or finding a replacement part on a car and finding a nanny. Whatever someone is willing to write an app for the GPS tracking cell phone is going to be able to provide laser-like access to position information that can be used to make life simpler and finding the closest solution to a problem easier.
All of these applications of cell phone GPS tracking have current uses today, but can only be expected to be improved upon with time and advances in personal tracking technology. You simply cannot underestimate the power of GPS tracking in a cell phone package – it is, in my opinion the future of all things GPS.
Free GPS Cell Phone Tracking
I have compiled a short list of free GPS tracking software and applications, with the majority of the applications working on mobile phones. Feel free to check out this list and see if your cell phone is already compatible with one of the systems. If it isn’t, you could always buy a new phone, right?
I also have made some comments on how free free GPS tracking really is – if you are interested in reading those as well. To sum up I said that if you already have everything that you need (i.e. GPS smartphone and a robust data plan) then it will truly be free. If you don’t have either of these things then getting free GPS cell phone tracking is going to be anything but free. You will have to pay the costs associated with getting the new phone and subscribing to the data plan.
For some reason, once our children hit their teenage years they can become rebellious and obstinate, rejecting the care and oversight of their parents. Not all teens fall into this trap of our culture, but even the most well behaved teen is going to get into some trouble now and then as they experiment with their new found freedom and grow into mature adults. We all make mistakes on our road to maturity.
GPS tracking can be a useful tool in the hands of a concerned or watchful parent – and it doesn’t have to be used only to monitor the behavioral issues a teenager may be expressing. These devices can help empower parents to give their teens even more freedom once they become aware of how careful, law abiding, and respectful their teenagers are. The information gathered by a device could also aid a parent in making an informed decision about about dangers presented by poor driving habits, skipping school, or the neighborhoods that life can take their kids into. Despite their larger size, high mental capabilities, and maturing bodies, teenagers are still children in many respects and parents still feel a degree of responsibility to keep their child safe.
If you have a teen with behavioral problems or you just like to know where your child is for safety’s sake then there are some real solutions for you and your family that can included GPS tracking. A solution’s success for your situation will undoubtedly depend on your own specific needs and desires, so be sure that you think about your solution carefully before purchasing a device. These things can be expensive and you don’t want to waste money on something when other relational steps could be taken to solve the problem.
Learning to drive has long been a “coming of age” event for teens and driving represents a significant portion of their travel time. If your teen is anything like the one’s I’ve met then as soon as they are able they are hounding their parents for the keys at every opportunity. They want to drive to and from school; to drive to their friends house; to go out to the movies. They want to go out on dates. They even want you to pay for gas!
What they are essentially after is the freedom to do what they want when they want to. This is a pretty normal thing for teenagers to experience since they are just at the beginning stages of becoming an adult and will try to emulate many of the things adults can do with their freedoms.
Many teens even have their own car these days; given to them by parents who enjoy the freedom that having a driving, mobile teen provides. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it can create some challenges in keeping tabs on your kid if they are (secretly) rebellious. In some ways, when a teen has a car it becomes much harder to know where they are, even if they are obedient and well behaved, and can create a safety nightmare for parents prone to worry.
How Does GPS Tracking A Car Work?
Tracking a car is fundamentally no different from tracking anything else with GPS, except that there are devices that have been manufactured and marketed specifically for this purpose. These devices are sometimes referred to as data pushers or real-time tracking devices. They work by gathering and calculating location data from the Global Positioning Satellites orbiting the earth and transmitting that data via radio or cellular frequencies. Your tracking provider takes this data, makes it look pretty, and makes it available to you from a (generally) web-based interface.
Your GPS device will be able to report the vector of the vehicle (both speed and direction). Many companies will also keep the data sent to it by the tracker and organize it into a useful “history” report. A driving “history” can be very helpful to a parent trying to verify a teen’s story about their whereabouts or driving practices. They won’t be able to so much as speed without you knowing it! And that is a big deal when it comes to keeping them safe.
What Are The Limitations On Tracking A Teen By Car?
There are some limitations to this method of tracking. The first is that it only works on teenagers who are legally eligible to drive. In most states this is at the age of 16 1/2 while in others it can be as old as 18. By the time they are 18 most teens should be sufficiently mature to make good decisions about how fast they drive, who they hang out with, and what activities they participate in without their parent’s watchful eye hanging over them.
However, that does not mean that a GPS tracking device installed in the car is not going to be useful – it just might be less of a parenting tool and more and an emergency tool. It can still help you locate a stolen car. It can still help you find the location of the car in case of a medical emergency. It will still help you find the scene of a crash or a lost vehicle. It just might not be used to make sure your teen isn’t speeding.
The second limitation is that it only works when your teen is using the car. This is probably a much bigger limitation than most people realize. Cars can easily be ditched by savvy teens or sinister assailants, negating the effectiveness of the tracker for the purpose that you intended.
Imagine for a second that the teen you want to track is aware that their car has a GPS unit installed in it. They tell you that they are going over to a friend’s to hang out and watch some teen flick like Epic Movie. However, what they tell you is not really what they are going to do. They have really planned on going to a drinking party with this friend in the friend’s automobile, leaving the car with the GPS tracking unit safely at the friend’s house.
When you check up on your teen in your web-based account that provides real-time data on their whereabouts you find that the car is at the friend’s house. You breathe a sigh of relief, but your teen is out making some bad peer-to-teen choice behaviors at the drinking party and you will be none the wiser. That is where the next teen tracking device comes into play – the cell phone.
Tracking Your Teen’s Cell Phone
This is probably going to be the most useful and the most widely used method of using tracking a position of a teenager with GPS. Unlike cars, cell phones appear to be in the hands of 99% of teenagers. This is an unprecedented proliferation, but is not surprising given how useful they are for communicating between family members and for entertaining their users.
Most teens will use their phones to text friends, others will use it to take pictures, others to chat, and still others to browse the internet or update their Facebook page. But now parents can use the same cell phones that are already in their teen’s hands to track their whereabouts and keep them safe.
Tapping Into To The Power of Cell Phones To Track Your Teen
Because cellar phones are everywhere, big wigs in the telecommunications industry decided that they wanted to compete with GPS companies like Garmin, TomTom, and Magellan in the navigation market with their cell phones. They have since made some pretty significant inroads here because GPS technology and the radio positioning technology that cell phones use works off the same basic mathematical principle – trilateration.
Once that market was penetrated, cell phone providers realized that they could leverage the technology that they produced for GPS navigation for GPS tracking. This birthed specialized phones designed specifically for kids that would enable parents and law enforcement to recover missing children by tracking their cell phone.
Many cell phone providers now offer plans that let you begin to track your child’s position information. These planes also record vector information (speed and location), fulfilling one of the most important features of a car tracking device discussed above. Cell phones are generally going to be with your child at all times, thus avoiding some of the limitations of car based tracking. Cell phones have the added feature of allowing parents to verify that your child is with their phone simply by calling them up – their voice on the other end of the line is the proof.
Another great benefit is that your teen has every incentive to keep their cell phone charged and ready for use – they want to use it to talk to their friends! This means you won’t have to change the tracking device’s battery because your teenager has a very large incentive to do it for you. Its a win-win for both of you.
Cell Phone Tracking Limitations
Despite cell phone tracking’s relative superiority over car based tracking there are still some serious limitations to tracking your child in this fashion. The first is that in some circumstances – like abduction – your child is probably going to get their cell phone taken away by their abductor. This is probably the most dire of situations where you would want the tracking device to work perfectly, but because of the knowledge that cell phones can be used by the authorities to locate individuals it is probably going to be the first thing searched for and gotten ride of by an assailant.
The other limitation is that cell phones do not always receive signals from cell towers. This is particularly problematic in remote areas where cell phone penetration is less established. If a phone is unable to make a connection to its network then any location data gathered by the phone cannot be communicated to you, the parent. The data may be still be stored on the phone, but it does not do you any good until you can get your hands on it.
In the end though, the cell phone is probably the cheapest, easiest, and most reliable of all the tracking options available to parents on the market today. It should definitely be a strong contender in your quest to use GPS tracking for your teen.
Tracking Your Teen With Covert GPS
The last method I am aware of is using more covert methods of tracking your teen. This is different than tracking the car they use or utilizing their cell phone to keep tabs on them. While you may track them in these ways without them knowing (i.e. in a covert way) I like to think of covert tracking as something rather different.
It is more spy-like in my mind and has more to do with sticking a GPS tracker in a shoe, or a bag, or an iPod. These types of trackers are designed specifically to avoid detection – by the person who the device is tracking or by someone who would steal the asset or abduct the assets bearer.
Covert GPS devices are small, compact, battery operated, and extremely powerful.
What Types of Covert GPS Are Available?
You’d be surprised at the large number of GPS tracking devices that fall into this category. They can range from stuffed animals to watches to shoes to jackets. Almost anything a teenager carries can be turned into a set of watchful eyes.
When thinking about where you want to install a covert device it is important that you pick items that your teen uses every day, like shoes or a winter jacket, since these devices will have the highest probability of staying on your child no matter what happens to them.
Why Choose Covert GPS Tracking For Teens?
The only reason to go with covert devices is if your teenager they are at high risk for abduction and you want to be able to locate them quickly and efficiently. This is the situation when cell phones simply won’t do since they will be quickly destroyed by attackers.
Another good reason to use covert devices is that they can go without detection for longer periods of time – but they do suffer from battery life limitations so be careful how you use them. The last thing you want to do it so get caught while you change the tracker’s battery!
Should I Be Secret Or Open About Tracking My Teen?
Now that we have discussed some of the options that can help you keep track of your teen it is really important that we evaluate any moral problems with using GPS tracking on a teenager. Is it wrong to track them at all? If I think it is right, do I need to tell them that I am doing it or can I ‘keep it secret?’
I think that each person is going to end up answering this question differently, but my take on it is this – it is okay to track a teen without their knowledge. This is also my answer when thinking about tracking a child. It is an okay and acceptable practice given certain circumstances.
My reasons for this is threefold:
Parents have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their child. It is even my opinion that parents are supposed to protect their children even if the child expresses a desire not to be protected. If a teen is going to engage in activity that directly affects their safety – such as speeding, drinking, doing drugs, having sex before marriage – then it is a parents obligation to take measures that help them ensure their teenager’s safety.
Teens are still under the care of their parents. The main source of the parents obligation to their teen is that the teen still lives under the care and provision of the parent. If the teen was self-sufficient I could definitely see an argument for restricting a parents right to know the location of a child at all times. However, this is often not the case for children between the ages of 13 and 18 – and is often not even the case for kids between 18 and 22. They often still rely heavily on their parents for financial and moral support.
Many teens do not own their cell phones and cars. At the very least you have to give parents the right to track their assets, right? The car is the property of the parents so they should know where it is and how it is being driven. The cell phone is paid for and provided by the parents, so they have a stake in where it is and how it is treated. The fact that they are also able to track their teen’s location is merely a consequence of the teen using something that the parent owns. If they want to avoid this type of tracking then they should buy their own phone and car.
With all that said, I don’t think it is always in the parent’s or the teen’s best interest to keep the GPS tracking a secret. In many, many instances it will work out much better for both parties if the device is clearly explained and accounted for. Tracking teen with GPS is just a tool in the hands of parents and teenagers to make life safer for everyone – communication should always be clear and honest where appropriate. Without that, no amount of GPS tracking is going to do teens or parents any good.