So, there has been various discussions on here in the past about GPS trackers for Boats (or Cars or anything really). There seemed to be a lot of scepticism about the delights available from various Chinese suppliers on Evil Bay. My investigations found three or four devices of which there appear to be a few re-badged efforts about. None were perfect for my needs, nor I suspect most boaters needs.
Runs off a USB Mini?Micro supply so you need a USB power supply installing from your 12V supply. Not a deal breaker but an extra hassle.
Unconvinced it actually uses GPS tracking, rather using cell tower positioning. Now if someone nicks a £50k RIB Iíd expect the police to put in the effort of trying to find it using a position that is not perfect.
Does have its own internal power source so that if the thieving scoundrels cut the power will still work, but cant see that it will tell you if its been cut so the scoundrels can cut it 1 day and come back a few days later to nick it.
Not sure it can tell me the asset has been nicked which for me where an asset may sit for a month on occasions without being checked is useless as even if I sent it a text every day to check position thats 24 hours a thief could have taken it someplace and then started stripping it including the tracker.
GPS Vehicle Tracker
No battery backup. Thief can kill the battery and is sorted. Nicking a car thats tricky (but not impossible as some cars get nicked by towing away) as they canít just disconnect the whole battery, but on a boat, caravan etc where power is not integral in towing it away you can do as you like.
Appears to use GPS rather than cell tower
Still not sure it knows vehicle is on the move in an unauthorised way
Has what it is plastered all over it! Nothing like making it easy for the thief to know what to disconnect!
USB Powered. Comes with 240V supply which is not much use in a vehicle / boat
Does offer some form of fencing so can presumably alert if it moves outside a defined area
Has GPS plastered all over it.
GPS Vehicle Tracker
Claims to be waterproof on ebay, the instruction booklet claims IPX6 - wouldnít want to test that but probably better than some of the other offerings, it still needs to be inside a dry area of a boat
Battery Backed Up
No GPS text on the case. It looks very generic as a fairly rugged black box. There is an IMEI sticker on it which a discerning thief should know means it contains a phone.
Can detect vibration based movement (has to use less power than GPS Fencing?)
Can be activated by ignition switching on
Can be set to have a speed limit alert. If your RIB does max on the water speed of 40kts set the limit at 60MPH and if your thief is trundling down the motorway youíll get a textÖ?
Can be linked to a relay to cut power or fuel. Havenít investigated that, but option existsÖ.
Power failure (supply cut) alarm
Mountable with zip tie or supplied sticky backed velcro
4 lead power cable supplied
Youíve probably gathered I think the one above probably ticks all the boxes for me and most people on here. So I picked one up from China for about £15. Took a while to get here - nothing new if youíve ever but electronics from China! This is my little reviewÖ
I got a GiffGaff SIM which comes free but needs £10 first top up to activate it (they then give you £5 free). Provided I then call the SIM at least once every 90 days the number remains active and the credit remains usable. If I do use £15 of credit up minimum replacement top-up is £5. Can be set to automatically top up when reaches £3 credit if you are concerned that you might run out of credit at a critical moment.
The unboxing is rather unremarkable. It came in a little brown cardboard box with the tracker, the lead including an inline 10A Spade Fuse (manual says 2A) and a Manual. The Manual is one of the finest pieces of Chinglish Iíve read in the last 2 hours! A double sided velcro pad is provided.
The manual claims to be IPX6 waterproof which is splash proof but not immersible. It has a rubber cover over the SIM card slot but Iíd have some uncertainty at how good it would be - but its certainly more likely to be water resistant than some of the other offerings above. Behind the rubber cover is a SIM slot (standard full sized SIM) and a USB Micro Port. (Not 100% sure what the USB Port does certainly it can charge the battery if not connected to 12VÖ the Chinglish Manual isnít too precise). There is also a small LED which will give diagnostics (Yellow for the GSM SIM Card, Blue the GPS). This is conveniently covered by the rubber cover so a thief seeing the box in a hatch etc will not instantly be drawn to a flashing light.
Wiring it up is pretty simple. Red and Black wires to 12V power supply as per normal convention. Yellow wire would be the +ve side of a relay for oil/electrical isolation. For a boat this would only be of any use if the concern is the boat will be stolen afloat. I may add one of these to my new car, but still not sure Iíd want to mess with the electrics / fuel supply! Orange wire comes from the ignition feed - you can prompt an alarm to be triggered from the engine being started.
Configuration is by means of a text message to the SIM. You can configure:
Password to stop others from hacking your device (a discerning thief can try reconfiguring using the tracking website with the IMEI # and the default password hence change it!)
A Mobile number to send alarms to (i.e. your own mobile #)
Armed or Unarmed. Or Armed if stationary for 10 minutes (I think that would annoy me on something that moves around a lot!)
Vibration sensitivity (you can choose how long to vibrate before alarmingÖ)
How does it work? Either the system alerts you to movement depending on your configuration or you ask it where it is by simply texting it the message ďwhereĒ It should reply with a date, time and link which will open in google maps. Alternatively you can use your smart phone to track it with a free ap (Android and iPhone, sorry donít know about Blackberry or WinPhone but suspect someone will have an ap and you can change servers).
All in all, for £25 (£15 device, £10 credit on SIM) you can have a GPS Tracker that will do the job of some of the far more expensive trackers and will have no additional running costs provided you donít send it more than 1500 commands / position requests. Certainly cheaper than £150 for the Garmin!
The unit needed some commands sent to get it to connect to GPRS, but despite this I couldnít get it to play with its official website tk666gps.com. I suspect it was connecting but I couldnít login to the website to see the tracks. So instead I reconfigured the device to use a different server instead. Details of the configuration Iíve used are over hereSoggy Sailor: Configuring the LK206 / LK210 GPS Tracker
- as I may update them over time (obviously I havenít used real IMEI, Passwords or the like!).
I plan on putting mine in my caravan which sits in a (relatively insecure!) field most of the year - as the field isnít secure enough its uninsurable against theft but its a cheap tatty van, used as a base rather than a luxury holiday home. It will use the 12V battery in the van which has Solar Panel to keep it topped up. Ignition sensor will serve no purpose. Movement detection: will be the main way for it to work (i.e. moving from its current GPS location). Initial testing seems to indicate that if I do that with the default 300m setting then when it sends the movement message by SMS, it hasnít yet detected the speed and the marker on the map is hard to spot its moved. So I have increased that to 500m, thats a compromise that means I get less warning of movement - but even at 100m its too far gone to disturb them and make them leave empty handed. Itíll be better to get a message that is convincingly a genuine alarm than a false alarm as by van is 30 miles away so I canít just look out the window and checks its there. I havenít found a setting to stop it phoning me when it alarms so I get an SMS with location then the device phones me - I think so you can hear the thieves talkingÖ
Vibration detection: so far testing suggests it needs a lot of vibration. Just being in a car with the engine on/moving doesnít seem to trigger it. I would suspect for those who keep a boat afloat this needs to be disabled. For those who keep it ashore - it would need a lot of vibration to activate itÖ ...maybe stealing an engine!
Ignition on detection: not something I expect to use in the caravan, and if I fit it to my car as well I donít think I will actually arm and disarm it routinely unless leaving it somewhere dodgy. (There are posher models that can be linked into central locking to arm). So Iíd just expect to use it to find the car when I come back and find an empty space where I left it - although there will be the risk that Iíll find the tracker in a layby having been found and ripped out. On a boat if you leave it afloat Iíd wire it in. If you leave it ashore Iíd be less fussed as the other sensors would alert first. You could use the ignition on line for anything you want such as a switch on a door/hatch sensor etc.
Oil off: Not 100% sure Iíd bring myself to do this - for fear it disables me when I donít want it to! No reason to think it would! Anyway while they suggest Fuel Pump off or Electrical Supply Off I could see uses for Alarm Siren On too...
If its on GPRS mode it doesnít seem to send a text except for power failure alert. Although I may be wrong, I may not have done enough testing. If you wanted to track your boating for the day you could flip it in and out of GPRS Mode for the cost of two texts. (Total 12p on GiffGaff, plus 20p for the day of data).
Signal Jamming - Iíve read online that professional thieves are using signal jammers. Pretty much nothing you can do about that. People online are claiming the expensive units arenít affected - I canít see how thats possible - if you can signal jam the SMS / GPRS frequency - job done. It can identify the cell tower its on so if the jamming was for GPS it is still traceable by people who know what they are doing.
Value for money - I suspect if you have £50k+ RIB you may be prepared to pay more and would only be spending 0.4% of boat value on tracking if you spend £200 a year on a dedicated monitored solution. If you have a £2k project RIB spending 10% of the boat value per year on tracking feels excessive, if my solution works for 2 years you are in the same ballpark expenditure by percentage value. But if a thief is dedicated enough to steal my £1k van with a signal jammer etc he can have it! If he gets caught I expect the courts to throw the book at him for being professionally tooled up. If some joyrider nicks it for kicks I can hopefully find it..
Its probably worth pointing out that some of the other systems that I dismissed above may have some fairly useful functions on board a boat though. Particularly the SOS button which could send you a text with a position if they were in difficulty (provided they were in reach of a cell tower on the right provider).
Some of the alerts send and SMS and call you (I couldnít actually hear anything and Iím not sure where the microphone would be - so I suspect this is a redundant feature from software from other models). That voice call is a mobile to mobile voice call which on a PAYG SIM is not cheap. From what I understand it lasts 5 minutes. If you donít want to hear it donít do what I did and hit the red button on your mobile when it calls (I was testing - I knew there were no baddies stealing my car/boat/caravan). Doing so redirects to voicemail. Doing that gets you and expensive 5 minute voicemail with nothing to hear! In the event of a real theft that might be the right thing to do as then if anything was heard it would be recorded ;-)