Ever since I travelled into Iraq during the war in 2005 I’ve had a use for location tracking. Back then I used my Geocaching GPS receiver, the Garmin Gecko 101. I would manually log my location then send the coordinates back to the UK in an SMS. I thought, that should I go missing, at least my last location would be known. Satellite or SIM card tracking back then was not available to the likes of me i.e. someone with little to no budget.
Things are very different now. Anything with a SIM card is trackable and I was reminded of this when visiting a field hospital in Syria in 2013. Just having a phone with me endangered me, and all those around me. Any government good or bad could pinpoint my location.
That level of tracking was once only available to governments and big industry. Nowadays if you have an iPhone there is ‘Find my iPhone’ and ‘Find my Friends’ as standard. For a while I used a spare iPhone wired into my dashboard as a vehicle tracker. Slight overkill as now you can pick up waterproof, magnetic tracking devices for less than £40. In fact the internet is awash with small electronic devices promising to track your property or loved ones.
Originally marketed as a pet tracker, the Alcatel is now aimed towards tracking all kinds of assets. Fleshy or inanimate. Kids, cars, bags, you name it. At 22 grams their ‘V-Bag’ is light, compact and can be attached to clips or straps. It costs £59 for the device and then £3/month after that. You can track the device in and out of geo-fenced safe zones for up to 4 days on a single charge. I found that when I was constantly on the move it was closer to 2 days.
Dust and water resistant it’s really well made and simple to set up. Coverage is good as Vodafone seem to be everywhere in the UK and as I used it inland there were no issues. If you are travelling further afield you are covered in: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. If you need long term tracking the device needs hardwiring via the micro USB connector.
The most interesting thing for me though is the V-Sim. Pricing for some of these tracking devices can be confusing but it looks like Vodafone are going with a simple flat rate. In this case the sim costs £5 and then you pay £3-4 a month.
The iTraq Plus is light, thin and can be concealed anywhere. It has an integral hole for attaching it to a keyring or bag that also lights up when charging. With no external ports it’s charged wirelessly with a standard IQ compatible charger. With no indicators or screen you have to use the app to ensure all is working correctly. Luckily the app is well designed and simple to use.
I have had the iTraq+ for over 2 years and in that time it’s been superseded twice. For a chunk of that time it was sat in a drawer as the SIM stopped working. They recently sent me a replacement SIM card FOC and after a bit of DIY it was back up and running again.
As my older version of the device only supports a 2G SIM the battery lasts months. Quite a feat with it being so slim (a newer model brags a battery life of 4 months). Coverage is global on all iTraq’s but some countries have stopped supporting 2G.
I have set mine to ping me sporadically to save power but have paid for unlimited credits at $59/year (around £42). The app is a pleasure to use. But if I would like all the features (like motion detection and a temperature sensor) I’ll need to upgrade to the iTraq3 or the brand new iTraq Nano.
My tracker is currently sat on my canal boat. I have set the iTraq to alert me should the boat move more than a few hundred yards. Canal boat theft is rare but does happen. This though is for peace of mind should the boat slip it’s moorings while unattended.
It used to be that only large corporations and governments could follow our every move. Now for good or ill we can too. These networked devices and data are getting cheaper all the while. And I can think of many less nefarious, even fun uses for this kind of technology.
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