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Live tracking devices while touring.

Old 12-29-16, 11:57 PM
  #1  
gpsblake
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Live tracking devices while touring.

It's almost 2017 and I was wondering if there are any phone apps that allow loved ones (or anyone if you want) to track your live progress while touring on a map. I know Spot devices will do this but you have to buy the device then a yearly plan. I understand that a data plan with cell tower access would be required.

Free is best but willing to pay a nominal monthly fee for this ability.

Thanks.
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Old 12-30-16, 12:27 AM
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Apple's "Find My Friends" app (and the functionality built into Messages) allows optional instantaneous reporting of your location. However, it doesn't track your location history, per se.
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Old 12-30-16, 01:03 AM
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Originally Posted by gpsblake View Post
It's almost 2017 and I was wondering if there are any phone apps that allow loved ones (or anyone if you want) to track your live progress while touring on a map.
Yes. An internet search for "live tracking app" shows several options.
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Old 12-30-16, 05:19 AM
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My wife and I use Life360 on our Android (Samsung S6) phones. It's free and does provide history. They recently introduced a beta test update to record maximum speed during a trip. Handy, I expect, to those with driving teenagers.
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Old 12-30-16, 10:57 AM
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I've used Map My Ride, but in the end without using a battery pack it kills my battery pretty quickly. I'm not sure if it's still free or not because I decided to get a Spot. Mostly because some of my rides took me through stretches of 20-30 miles without any cell phone service.
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Old 12-30-16, 11:25 AM
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They used transponders on each competitors Bike for the Trans America Tour-race, that runs between here and the other coast, (self contained, no support vehicles)

there was a website to watch the placement.. daily . from 1st weekend in June.

Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling - Bike Forums





...
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Old 12-30-16, 11:50 AM
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- Glympse on the iPhone and Android works well. It's the most real time with frequent position updates but also the most battery intensive. Free.
- If you have a Garmin they have a Livetrack option which generally works well and provides updates every 30 seconds or so. Much easier on the battery than Glympse. Free other than the Garmin cost.
- Strava has a 'Beacon' app. Used this once but don't normally have Strava running on my phone. Believe this comes with the paid premium Strava service - $10.99/mo.

None of the above apps are 100% reliable so you'll want to set that expectation ahead of time to avoid unnecessary worrying.
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Old 12-30-16, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
None of the above apps are 100% reliable so you'll want to set that expectation ahead of time to avoid unnecessary worrying.

Glad you brought up expectations. Anyone tracking someone should be well counseled that a loss of contact doesn't necessarily mean something bad has happened.


Several years ago a family member of a young man riding across the country turned to this forum and ACA's forum in a panic because the guy hadn't checked in for a couple of days. He was, according to the family member, "missing." In reality, he was fine. IIRC, what happened was that he left his phone on, the battery died and it was a few days before he had the opportunity to charge it again.


Also...If all of a sudden you are tracked travelling at auto speed, it doesn't necessarily mean someone has abducted you. Maybe you broke down and are getting a ride, or you are getting a ride through a construction zone. While not everyone thinks the worst first, some people do.
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Old 12-30-16, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Also...If all of a sudden you are tracked travelling at auto speed, it doesn't necessarily mean someone has abducted you. Maybe you broke down and are getting a ride, or you are getting a ride through a construction zone. While not everyone thinks the worst first, some people do.
Good point. In general, I suspect none of these apps will be worth the trouble for touring. I use them when commuting on a one hour commute but for longer trips, like a couple weeks in Spain, I just check-in once a day or so.
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Old 12-30-16, 01:16 PM
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........

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Old 12-30-16, 04:07 PM
  #11  
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Glad you brought up expectations. Anyone tracking someone should be well counseled that a loss of contact doesn't necessarily mean something bad has happened.


Several years ago a family member of a young man riding across the country turned to this forum and ACA's forum in a panic because the guy hadn't checked in for a couple of days. He was, according to the family member, "missing." In reality, he was fine. IIRC, what happened was that he left his phone on, the battery died and it was a few days before he had the opportunity to charge it again.


Also...If all of a sudden you are tracked travelling at auto speed, it doesn't necessarily mean someone has abducted you. Maybe you broke down and are getting a ride, or you are getting a ride through a construction zone. While not everyone thinks the worst first, some people do.
Yeah, I remember that. The guy's family seemed to be overreacting to the point of absurdity. I kind of recall they had contacted law enforcement because they were convinced a crime had been committed, etc and really made the poor guy a center of embarrassing attention....all because of a dead battery. I guess that's to be expected in this age of instant information at the fingertips.

Call me a retrogrouch, but I'd prefer not to be tagged and tracked like an animal when I'm touring. But to each his own.
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Old 12-30-16, 05:02 PM
  #12  
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Check your coverage maps for your cell plan before your trip so you can warn people that you will look like you fell off the edge of the earth in some areas. WHen I did Pacific Coast trip from Astoria to San Fransisco, I had cell coverage maybe 50 percent of the time, my traveling partner might have had coverage 60 percent of the time on a better plan. But there were times that neither of us had cell coverage.

I have a very low cost cell plan, there are entire states where I have zero coverage.
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Old 12-30-16, 06:59 PM
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Live tracking while touring... Yea, not practical, for many reasons... No coverage, no Wi-Fi, no regular phone charging, huge use of bandwidth/cellular data limit, roaming...
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Old 12-30-16, 07:56 PM
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I use GPS-Motion-X for gps map following and it has a live-tracking that does periodic updates has options for Facebook, Twitter, and a live map option. You can also email updates. I've never used that option but the app is pretty good.

The app was $5 when I purchased it a few years ago.

Last edited by BigAura; 12-30-16 at 08:02 PM.
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Old 12-30-16, 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by 350htrr View Post
Live tracking while touring... Yea, not practical, for many reasons... No coverage, no Wi-Fi, no regular phone charging, huge use of bandwidth/cellular data limit, roaming...
Depends on your definition of "live". I haven't ever really wanted to have things tracked hour by hour in that sense of live. However, here is what I used to inexpensively post a short location update every day or two in remote parts of Russia in 2007:

1. Used a Russia SIM card with a basic unlocked phone (this was before smart phones).
2. Every day or two send a SMS text message to the twitter international # in UK. The SMS included encoded GPS coordinates along with the date and very brief note (this was also in early days of twitter).

We didn't have cell coverage every day, but the road we traveled paralleled the trans-Siberian railroad and some of the larger villages would have cell towers.

My father took those tweets and turned them into a short Wordpress blog post with GPS coordinates. A Google Maps plugin was used to plot those on a map. Sometimes my father would wait a day or two before posting the location for security reasons.

By 2013, riding Africa with TDA, technology had advanced that I was able to use a Smart phone along with local SIM cards for each country and an Wordpress for Android application to post these more directly. Again, we didn't have cell service every day, but surprising amount of places we'd pass in these countries with some cell service. The Android app would encode the latitude/longitude with the posts and a plugin put these on a map.

So if your goal is to reliably give a much more fine-grained hour-by-hour type progress tracking, then probably a spot type device is what you want.

If instead you want to have a brief location update every day or sometimes every two or three days, then either an Android wordpress app or lower tech, SMS messages sent to twitter - might be able to serve that purpose.
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Old 12-31-16, 12:34 AM
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It isn't exactly "live tracking," but PackJournal (intended for keeping a blog while bike touring/backpacking) does a decent job of updating with your most recent location. Your photos and journals show up on a map, even if you were offline while writing or snapping photos, and your home page will display the most recent location from which you logged in or wrote a journal entry. So if your family sees you haven't moved in the last few days, they know something might be amiss. And you can customize the privacy of everything.

The app is free, the website is free, and maybe you were thinking of keeping a blog anyway. And since you can also add a fundraiser to your page and even keep a small amount of donations for yourself, you can essentially get paid to use it.
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Old 12-31-16, 08:46 AM
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It kinda boils down

to whether you want a fiddly curiosity or actual tracking. If you want the latter then go with something like SPOT GPS Messenger. From a five week canoe trip up north to the Arrowhead Ultra in deep winter it has worked flawlessly for me.
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Old 12-31-16, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
Depends on your definition of "live". I haven't ever really wanted to have things tracked hour by hour in that sense of live. However, here is what I used to inexpensively post a short location update every day or two in remote parts of Russia in 2007:

1. Used a Russia SIM card with a basic unlocked phone (this was before smart phones).
2. Every day or two send a SMS text message to the twitter international # in UK. The SMS included encoded GPS coordinates along with the date and very brief note (this was also in early days of twitter).

We didn't have cell coverage every day, but the road we traveled paralleled the trans-Siberian railroad and some of the larger villages would have cell towers.

My father took those tweets and turned them into a short Wordpress blog post with GPS coordinates. A Google Maps plugin was used to plot those on a map. Sometimes my father would wait a day or two before posting the location for security reasons.

By 2013, riding Africa with TDA, technology had advanced that I was able to use a Smart phone along with local SIM cards for each country and an Wordpress for Android application to post these more directly. Again, we didn't have cell service every day, but surprising amount of places we'd pass in these countries with some cell service. The Android app would encode the latitude/longitude with the posts and a plugin put these on a map.

So if your goal is to reliably give a much more fine-grained hour-by-hour type progress tracking, then probably a spot type device is what you want.

If instead you want to have a brief location update every day or sometimes every two or three days, then either an Android wordpress app or lower tech, SMS messages sent to twitter - might be able to serve that purpose.
That is true, "Live" to me, means any time someone wants to see where you are, they can... But tracking daily, every couple of days, or weekly is way more doable... I too have kept track of my travels in the Yukon/Alaska by ride with GPS no problem. I just kept the phone in airplane mode and it lasted 3 days without charging and when you get to somewhere you can charge it you can also/usually download the past few days of info... Worked great.

Last edited by 350htrr; 12-31-16 at 01:38 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 12-31-16, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by redbagsrambler View Post
Yeah, I remember that. The guy's family seemed to be overreacting to the point of absurdity. I kind of recall they had contacted law enforcement because they were convinced a crime had been committed, etc and really made the poor guy a center of embarrassing attention....all because of a dead battery. I guess that's to be expected in this age of instant information at the fingertips.

Call me a retrogrouch, but I'd prefer not to be tagged and tracked like an animal when I'm touring. But to each his own.
+1.

I'd like to blend the days of "I'll mail a postcard every week" with the convenience of being able to make a call without a roll of quarters. Sigh.
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Old 12-31-16, 02:01 PM
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Old 01-03-17, 07:44 PM
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I guess the battery life on a cellphone would be the killer in not using those apps. Recharging portable battery bricks as I found out with last years tour can be an annoying process, especially when one is stealth camping 90% of the time. If Spot didn't lock you into a year long contract, that would be a very good option.

I guess the old fashioned way of just updating facebook via location check-ins (did I just say old fashioned??) will have to suffice.
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Old 01-04-17, 07:19 AM
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Originally Posted by gpsblake View Post
I guess the battery life on a cellphone would be the killer in not using those apps. Recharging portable battery bricks as I found out with last years tour can be an annoying process, especially when one is stealth camping 90% of the time. If Spot didn't lock you into a year long contract, that would be a very good option.

I guess the old fashioned way of just updating facebook via location check-ins (did I just say old fashioned??) will have to suffice.
If satellite is an option, you should consider a Delorme Inreach - they have freedom plans where you can turn the service on/off, or upgrade/downgrade service, for whatever months you want. It also has the huge advantage over the SPOT of being a 2-way text messenger so you can be reached anytime/anywhere in case of an emergency at home, and you can make calls for help that are of lesser urgency (ie, not life threatening S&R situations... "honey, please send me a taxi"). Most of the adventure motorcycling community I follow (Advrider) is converting over. I've had one for almost a year... it's great.

Note: I primarily got mine for off-grid solo backpacking and motorcycling (where an accident can send you off unseen and unconscious into the woods).

Last edited by reppans; 01-04-17 at 07:25 AM.
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Old 01-04-17, 07:34 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
+1.

I'd like to blend the days of "I'll mail a postcard every week" with the convenience of being able to make a call without a roll of quarters. Sigh.
You can. During my Montana tour in June I mailed a friend of mine several post cards, despite them being harder to find than they used to be. I also used texts message and a few phone calls to keep two people informed of my location at the end of the day and general status.
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Old 01-04-17, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
You can. During my Montana tour in June I mailed a friend of mine several post cards, despite them being harder to find than they used to be. I also used texts message and a few phone calls to keep two people informed of my location at the end of the day and general status.


Ah, but did you notice the expectations have changed? Daily check-in (text, phone call, or blog post); if your family and friends are like mine, they expect to be notified on days when you may be out of reach of electronics. The previously referenced mother of a cyclist with a dead cell phone battery? That seems to be the norm, as opposed to weekly updates delayed by postal delivery.
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Old 01-04-17, 10:38 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by revcp View Post
to whether you want a fiddly curiosity or actual tracking. If you want the latter then go with something like SPOT GPS Messenger. From a five week canoe trip up north to the Arrowhead Ultra in deep winter it has worked flawlessly for me.
Exactly why I ended up with my spot. Yea, I could make my cell phone work. But with only needing a GPS signal, and emergency rescue it was the choice for me.
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