In Part 1 of this article we compared GPS tracking system options for scooters. In this episode we learn more about Eden Bakewell’s experiences with budget self-fit trackers and what you can use them for…
For the 2013 Lambretta Euro in France I decided to try a tracker device on my lambretta, not for security so much but as my mrs wasn’t coming on the trip she would at least know where I was. I needed a tracker that could do a few things, mainly being able to link to a web server and upload positions.
After trawling the internet I decided to try one from China, it was small enough and had all the functions I wanted to try out. The chosen tracker was a version of the TK102B.
I eagerly opened the packaging and started reading the manual. When I say reading I mean deciphering as the text looked like it had been translated from Chinese to English using Google translator. It was horrendous, but as my English isn’t all that brilliant either I found it just possible to get the idea.
First thing needed was a phone SIM card. The SIM card is used for both GSM (mobile data) for uploading positions to web server and SMS for texting. The reason you can send and receive SMS texts is not only for the initial set up but also because you can send command texts to the unit for various reasons, the obvious one is to ask it where it is. When you do this it replies with a text, which has a link to a Google map with the position of the unit along with the trackers velocity and the date. Another reason it may send a text to you is when it’s in standby mode and the setting is turned on to alert if it detects motion or vibration. It has an internal accelerometer which detects movement, if it detects movement it sends an alert text to your phone telling you and again gives its position and velocity, the sensitivity of this can be set.
It also supports Geofence; which is a virtual geographic boundary which you can set. Let’s say you have the scooter parked in your garage, you can set a boundary line around the garage of say 10 meters, if the tracker unit crosses that boundary it will alert you via text message giving the alert along with position and velocity.
Text features include:
- Low battery alert
- Overspeed alert (great if you have loaned your scooter to your mate)
- Confirmation of setting changes
- Vibration alert
- Movement alert
- Unit status
Up to 5 mobile phone numbers can be entered into the unit, it will send alerts and accept position requests for each number entered. We used this feature during the Avignon Euro so that anyone in our party who got lost or split up could text the tracker to find out where we were, or where I was!
We didn’t use this feature again due to me forgetting to remove the other people’s numbers from the memory after the Euro causing them to receive unwanted alerts from the tracker for a few months!
This year there was no need for anyone’s number to be entered into the tracker because it auto-updated the website live, meaning anyone could just go to the website to see where we were if they got lost or split up from the main party..
The mobile data function was the thing that attracted me to the unit, it can be set so that if the unit detects it is moving it comes out of standby mode and sends updates to a given web-server of its position and velocity, the time interval can be set to whatever you like. This function means that you can set up a website which uses this data and supplies a track on a map, each track update data package contains speed, altitude and position, each data package can be clicked on to see this data. I used a modified version of this during this year’s Euro trip to Italy to display our groups position live each day on our clubs website, which was created just for this purpose: Lambretta Tracker
Not easy to set up
I registered the URL at the time I ordered the first demo unit a few years ago but decided not to import these units for a couple of reasons.
They work well enough and as long as you have a battery fitted to your scooter and the unit hard wired to it, it will stay alive. It will also stay alive for over a week if the scooter battery is disconnected by a potential thief. However setting the unit up isn’t straightforward, especially using the manual supplied. Even if I had created a new manual which made more sense, the setup is still not for the faint-hearted. The other main reason was because they need to be supplied with the correct SIM card from a network that includes data in the plan and that you can find out what the networks APN is, because with out that the unit will not work over GPRS so will not be able to upload data via the SIM card. These two points are quite easily overcome but its messing around that an end user can do without and if I supplied them with the settings and SIM card installed I would be spending a fair amount of time on each unit which would increase the cost considerably.
Getting a TK102B
However, for those that would like to use this system, they are easy to get hold of and quite cheap. Singularly they are available for around $10. For your money you get the unit which is 64mm x 46mm x 17mm, small enough to hide in many places on a scooter. You also get a recharge unit with a spare rechargeable battery, a USB cable, waterproof holder, magnetic cover, a CD with some useless software and of course the unreadable user manual. All this comes in a very posh box. To hard-wire the unit you will have to buy a car charging kit also. However, there are some units available that use the TK102B hardware/software that are aimed at cars which have the cables included, these are generally more expensive.
The unit has a USB port which can be used for charging and for connecting the unit to your computer to transfer the files it saves to SD card that fits into the Micro SD slot of the unit. It saves data to card when it looses GPRS and can’t connect to the network, when in a tunnel for example; it then uploads this data to the server once it re-establishes a data connection. If your scooter was stolen and hidden in a tunnel or cave while they took it apart to find the tracker you would know where it was from the last position it would have uploaded to the server which would be at the tunnel/caves entrance.
Another funny feature of these units is they have an internal microphone, you can phone the unit up and listen to what’s going on near it. Very useful if your scooter has been stolen and the thieves are gloating about there ill-gotten gains. Useful too for eaves dropping on someone standing close to your scooter 😉
The specs of the units are:
Size: 64mm x 46mm x 17mm
GSM chip MT6260
GPS chip Ublox 7020
GPS sensitivity -159dBm
GPS accuracy 5m
Time to first fix cold status45s
Warm status 35s
Hot status 1s
Car charger 12 – 24v input
Wall charger 110- 220v input
Battery chargeable changeable 3.7V 800mAh Li-ion battery
Storage temp. -40°C to +85°C
Operation temp. -20°C to +55°C
Humidity 5%- 95% non-condensing
The tracker does come with a link to the manufacturer’s server so you can track it there but it’s not very good and also means your movements are stored on a foreign server leaving you no control over what they do with that data. I have my own server and the ability to programme the server to communicate with the tracker, not many will have this option easily open to them. I had planned if I imported them to make it possible for end users to be able to use my server, but again market research revealed many people are not keen on their travel movements and speeds being recorded and stored.
It is possible to create your own server on your PC at home and use that to track your own tracker but again unless you’re a geek that’s not easy to set up.
Eden Bakewell (geek) Lambrettaimages.com
VIDEO: UK Setup guide for TK102 clone trackers
Where can I buy a tracking device?
- For the cheap TK102-based devices, you can search eBay. If you pay a little more (around £40) you can get a tracker that comes with a UK SIM card and is pre-configured.
- For a fully monitored system, you can use this link to find out more about Datatool’s TrakKING system.
- For an autonomous system you’ll have to hunt around. The UK distributors chose not to support this article.
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