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"Catch a thief" app

use your phone as a tracking device to catch a thief
  (+6, -1)
(+6, -1)
  [vote for,

The basic idea is to hide a cell phone on something valuable (e.g. bike, vehicle) that is left in a vulnerable-to-theft location. If/when the valuable item is stolen the cell phone transmits its location, leading you to the thief. This might be useful to catch a thief who has been targeting an area.

The phone application would transmit a message to an internet site or phone with its coordinates (using the phone's GPS) when activated by motion (using the phone's accelerometer). The phone would continue to send frequent SMSs while the phone is moving, and then stop when the phone is stationary.

The phone would have to be hidden somewhere that will still receive a GPS signal and be able to transmit cell phone signals. For example, a phone could be hidden in the seat of a bike.

I realize there are devices that use a cell phone signal to transmit a GPS coordinate for tracking purposes; however these are dedicated devices. The (small) idea here is integrate the elements present in newer mobile phones (GPS, accelerometer) with a simple software application.

xaviergisz, Aug 27 2009

This should be a start http://www.gadget.p...rld-from-venezuela/
Adding GPS and an accelerometer won't add too much to the BOM [coprocephalous, Aug 27 2009]

Astro 220 https://buy.garmin....do?pID=8576&ra=true
Track with these babies instead. Poor man's lo-jack. [Custardguts, Aug 27 2009]

BikeSpike http://www.wired.co...espike-gps-tracker/
kickstarter idea [xaviergisz, Mar 16 2013]


       re: wasteful - only if you don't catch the thief.   

       Also, I would guess cell phones are cheap compared to the dedicated devices because they are made in such large quantities.
xaviergisz, Aug 27 2009

       I'm actually doing this with my bike - phone (with prepaid card) cost 6€, with 2€ pre-charge. Online tracking service had to be OKed with 45c text message, now i can track the bike whenever i want. For a phone this cheap, there is no GPS and acc sensors, of course, just the normal phone tracking via phone signal. Reloading the phone is a pain, but i'm working on it...
loonquawl, Aug 27 2009

       See linky on Astro 220. Why reinvent the wheel using mobile phones?   

       Just put one of the DC30 collars on your bike somewhere (they cost maybe $200). You then use the fully featured handheld GPS to track your stolen item.   

       Just stay within about 5km of the item to keep signal.
Custardguts, Aug 27 2009

       good idea custard. I'll just leave a note on the bike/car and advise the thief not to travel more than 5km away from my present location ;)
xaviergisz, Aug 27 2009

       Sounds like a good use for an old pager.
RayfordSteele, Aug 27 2009

       I think people who steal cell phones know how to turn them off.
bungston, Mar 16 2013

       It's not about stealing cell phones, it's about hiding cell phone tech to catch other-stuff thieves. (+) A sort of a Macgyver meets Mcgruff the crime dog thing.
Macgruffer if you will.

       At first I was thinking of a hybrid of some sort - an actual product of procreation - but then realized this was more "Simon & Simon" duo crime fighting mystery solving 80s TV type of thing. I like this concept mostly because I so like the soundtrack I imagine and the witty reparte between McGruff and McGyver.
bungston, Mar 17 2013

       + Good idea, especially since a new phones with GPS can often be added to a rate plan for around a $10 purchase and one-time fee, and around $5 monthly.   

       The trick of the app is that it needs to do all it can to extend battery life – keep the screen off, power up the cellular transceiver for short bursts only, etc – while of course keeping the handset from giving itself away with any sounds. Otherwise, you’re likely to neglect charging the phone when the valuable it’s secreted in is in your possession, and be in a race to get it back before the phone goes dead when the package goes missing – especially since lots of ordinary places where one might stash stolen loot, like truck lockers, cartrunks, or basement rooms are either signal blockers or outright Faraday cages, so you might have to wait a while for you stolen goods to “surface”. Space permitting, adding a cheap add-on disposable battery powered charger might be a good idea, too.   

       Build and store certify the app (Android only, I’d guess, though iOS to might be worth it), figure out the right price, and ad strategy, and I think some money could be made with this idea. The market is crowded with various “catch the thief who stole my phone, tablet, or laptop” app, but a quick search didn’t find an app like this idea’s
CraigD, Mar 19 2013


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