[Discuss] [PSL] Open Source GPS Tracker?

Andrew Malcolm Stanley a.malcolm.stanley at gmail.com
Sun Dec 14 01:20:53 UTC 2014


I’m trying to help some members of the Philadelphia Startup Leaders list. As you will see below, they are looking for a partner to help them with some custom hardware. Specifically, they are looking for a cellular-ly connected GPS-location data logger that can send the current location over network to a remote server somewhere else. They are looking for a completely packaged physical solution, not sure about the software but they will probably need some help with that as well.

I have not worked with cellular, so its a hair beyond me, but I know some of you could whip this off in no time. Please feel free to contact Matthew Odner, copied here, directly, if this is of interest to you as a work for hire opportunity.

malcolm stanley
wireless: 267 251 9479
email: a.malcolm.stanley at gmail.com
Twitter/Linkedin: amstanley

PGP Fingerprint: 7F8C 2B46 549A D3EA 3270  F3BF 25D1 18B8 D892 3C0F

On Dec 13, 2014, at 15:31, Matthew Odhner <modhner at gmail.com> wrote:

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for the thorough response - that was very enlightening!

While that's disappointing to see the HW gap is a result of incumbents defending their turf, it's nice to hear we didn't miss something obvious.

I think my partners (CC'd) and I would love to connect with anyone who may have the ability to  make this bespoke and see if there's an opportunity to work together on this. It could be a great opportunity for someone  - who knows. Do you think we ought to first try to OSHWA list or try specific contacts of yours?

Thanks again for the thorough response.

On Fri, Dec 12, 2014 at 9:33 AM, Andrew Malcolm Stanley <a.malcolm.stanley at gmail.com <mailto:a.malcolm.stanley at gmail.com>> wrote:
I’m a member of the open source hardware association, who are the guys who promote open-ness in hardware to drive the same benefits that we have all realized from having open-ness in SW. You can see the open hardware principles and more at their web site at OSHW.org <http://oshw.org/>, if this resonates with you.

There are a LOT of small companies and hardware incubators that do this sort of thing, for data logging and the like. The best example I can think of is the guys in Tokyo who created the radiation monitor network in Japan after Fukushima. Here is a link to a blog by Bunnie, who was instrumental in getting that up: http://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=2218 <http://www.bunniestudios.com/blog/?p=2218>

What I have seen in this space is mostly use of either wifi/mesh or other small network protocols, or naked RF transmitters in the ISM band. This is because it has historically been somewhat expensive to purchase cellular modules that will work on north american cell networks, and the north american cellular operators don’t make it very easy to subscribe to their networks using these modules for data only applications.  I’m sure that if you are a larger company and can swing bulk deal with them for many thousands of subscriptions, its different, but for a one-off type of small business offering the business arrangements needed to provision the devices to an end user customer and get them working can seem very daunting. Also, in the places these sorts of things tend to get used, network coverage can be … inconsistent, which is also a consideration.

The IoT trend now is to put connectivity in everything, but you will notice that with the few exceptions where people like samsung are putting cellular modems in watches, most of the connectivity is low power bluetooth to existing cell phones. This model is not accidental: it reinforces the existing revenue stream associated with the high margin voice and data services on the phones instead of disrupting it, and avoids having to set up new provisioning systems and methods for a plethora of non-standard hardware.

So this is a long winded way of saying you are not missing anything, there is a gap, and its likely to stay that way. If you want to buy something like what you describe, I can think of a few OSHWA people who can make that for you bespoke. The easiest way to get some interest in it is to make your requirements known though the OSHWA mailing list, which you can find on their web site. I could also provide a few contacts, primarily through twitter, to people who could do that. Let me know if you would like me to hook you up.

malcolm stanley
wireless: 267 251 9479 <tel:267%20251%209479>
email: a.malcolm.stanley at gmail.com <mailto:a.malcolm.stanley at gmail.com>
Twitter/Linkedin: amstanley

PGP Fingerprint: 7F8C 2B46 549A D3EA 3270  F3BF 25D1 18B8 D892 3C0F

On Dec 12, 2014, at 08:23, Matthew Odhner <modhner at gmail.com <mailto:modhner at gmail.com>> wrote:

Hello all:

I'm searching for an open source Cellular GPS tracking device.  I have found a few but they don't seem to fit the bill for what I want.  They were shields that fit on an Arduino board.  While I am sure these do actually work, I am looking for more of a purpose built and finished product.  I have found a couple but they were from companies over seas and availability is questionable.  I have also found a bunch of inexpensive "Chinese" trackers but they are not open source and have limited configuration options.

Here are a few requirements:

GPS & Cellular capability for real time tracking
Ability to save location info and upload to server later if cellular service is lost for a period
Purpose built enclosure for protection and to make mounting easy
Remote mount antennas are a bonus
Programming that sends geo info to a server as an HTTP POST message

It would be great if the device was Arduino compatible.  My partner has some experience programming Arduinos so I could make adjustments to suite my needs but we’re not good enough yet to write the entire code.  Having a good functional program provided with the tracker is a must.

This has been difficult to the point that I believe I'm either missing something here or there's a big opportunity here in making the hardware if someone’s looking for a good hardware startup idea – we would consider if not for limited time and capital!



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Matt Odhner

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