PS3 ClosedSo a couple of years ago we had a pretty bad ice storm here on the east coast and there were thousands of homes left without power for a week or more.  As with any disaster one can expect the criminals to come out of the woodwork and make a bad situation worse.  Well as luck would have it my brother in law was one of the people that had their homes robbed while they “seeking shelter” elsewhere.  Among the items stolen was their sons’ Sony PlayStation 3.  Of course the requisite police report was filed and as is usually the case, none of his property was ever recovered.

Now someone can easily have an alarm system installed in their home which can deter some burglars, but let’s be honest, even the best alarm systems have “holes” in them.  So I got to thinking, why spend the money on a home security system that might deter a burglar when we can catch the burglar instead and possibly get him off the streets.

I spoke with several law enforcement personnel and sure enough, video game consoles are one of the most popular items stolen from home break ins.  So a quick search on Ebay showed several empty Sony PlayStation 3 cases in the $20 range that would work for my project.

PS3 Open

 

What’s Inside

The tracking device is an Arduino based system, using the I2C GPS Shield and is interfaced to a SIM900 GSM board, using a T-Mobile Prepaid SIM card, to allow communication via SMS and/or email.  The device is powered by a single cell lithium polymer battery.  The charging circuit consists of an off the shelf AC to USB adapter connected to Sparkfun single cell lipoly charger.  The rest of the circuit consists of a Lipo Fuel Gauge, to let me monitor the battery voltage, a BMA180 accelerometer, to let me monitor movement of the device, a couple of level shifters and a boost converter.

How it Works

Upon initial power up, the Arduino turns the GSM modem on and checks to see if any SMS or email instructions were received while the unit was powered down.  If there are no stored instructions the Arduino powers down the GSM modem to conserve power.  It then monitors the interrupt pin on the accelerometer which is set to detect any motion of the unit.  If it senses motion (indicative of the unit being pulled from it’s storage location) it powers up the GSM modem and sends a Security Alert text message to a preprogrammed number (my cell phone) with a text formatted as an HTML Google Maps link.  The link contains the time, date, latitude, longitude and optionally, if the unit is moving over a certain speed, the direction and speed it’s moving.

MenuOnce the unit transmits the initial Security Alert message it keeps the GSM at full power because it assumes the unit has been stolen and it is waiting for additional SMS/email instructions.

Communication works via SMS/email using a preformatted instruction string comprised of a personalized 4 digit security code and a one digit option setting.  Most of the options available are used to tell the unit where to send the tracking information too such as a default email address, default SMS address or simply reply back to the number or email address where the instruction was sent from.  There are other functions such as returning the unit back to it’s power on motion detect mode and requesting the state of charge of the Li-poly battery.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m using a prepaid T-Mobile SIM card for the GSM.  T-Mobile seems to have the cheapest price out there (at least in the US) for SIM cards.  For $10 you get 30 minutes which expires after three months.  Sending and receiving texts is $0.10 each way so you can get 50 tracking requests per $10.  Another benefit to T-Mobile is they have a pager number setup so you can send a numeric page to the unit instead of sending an SMS or email.  The benefit to this is you get charged $0.10 each way on an SMS and only one way when sending a page to the unit.  Basically you can double the amount of tracking requests.  Another benefit to using a prepaid SIM card is that you don’t need to renew your account after the three month expiration to retain the phone number.  Once you refill the account with another $10, the number is reactivated immediately…this is key.  Let’s say you have several tracking devices in your home and cars and you don’t want to have to keep paying monthly subscription fees to keep the accounts active.  Just let the accounts expire and when and if you get robbed/car jacked just log onto your T-Mobile account online and refill the SIM with your credit card.  Once you hit confirm on the payment screen, the SIM card is immediately reactivated and you can track the unit.  It’s a great way around monthly service charges.

Some other modifications I hope to make to the system, in the near future, are adding a microphone and speaker to the GSM modem so I can listen in on the unit if needed.  I also need to look into ways of minimizing power usage to get a longer life out of the battery. I have a piezoelectric speaker that I pulled from my mother-in-law’s broken carbon monoxide detector (thanks Nana) that I want to install so I can set off an audible alarm if needed. Nothin’ says lovin’ like setting off an ear piercing siren at a burglar’s home just as the police show up!

In Action

Since the GPS has a very high sensitivity (-165 dBm), I wanted to put it to the test and make sure I could maintain a good signal lock.  Remember the GPS is already enclosed inside a plastic case so the signal quality will get knocked down some.  Since my SUV has an under floor storage area, I decided to put the device down there and head to the post office.  Once I got to the post office, I dialed up the device, requested the coordinates, waited the 30 seconds or so it takes to respond and sure enough no problems whatsoever.

 

Arduino sketch available here

 

Trunk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Office SMS

 

Post Office Map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments   

+1 # Dave Miller 2011-09-29 13:53
awesome
# Greg Laverty 2011-09-30 23:27
Could you tell me where you got the SIM900 GSM board?
# Wayne Truchsess 2011-10-01 00:06
Quoting Greg Laverty:
Could you tell me where you got the SIM900 GSM board?

Actually I made that board also. It's not something I am selling at the moment because I'm having trouble locating a distributor for the SIM900 IC. There are several places out there that are selling similar products though.
# Roy Wood 2011-10-01 00:21
I blog for Wired Magazine's GeekDad blog and would like to do a short post about your stolen-PS3 tracker project. Could I re-use the photos from the posting here on DSSCircuits? My posting would pretty much just direct people over here to DSSCircuits, of course.

Email me if interested....
+1 # mikemontreal 2011-10-01 00:47
:-) Wow, you have to share this in more detail,code, wiring... I would love to build this. Please drop me an email if you build the SIM900 GSM board.

If you need to test it more you can mail it to me and see if you can get my coordinates ;)
+1 # Jasper 2011-10-01 02:58
although i would recommend weighting the device so it feels like the correct weight so that its no so light it doesnt feel real.
# Oscar 2011-10-01 06:42
This is a very cool idea. I would love to hear that this ingenuous hack actually catches a thief. And I can see many other ways to incorporate this into other valuables in the home.
# Israel 2011-10-01 08:03
Would also love to have full details, I have an arduino, pic programmers, and a pc, all that I have left after my house was robbed 2 months ago: ps3, wii, 3 laptops, portable HD... T.T
# Wayne Truchsess 2011-10-01 11:34
Quoting Jasper:
although i would recommend weighting the device so it feels like the correct weight so that its no so light it doesnt feel real.

I actually have several weights I'm going to attach. I might also switch to using a laptop battery which brings the weight closer to where it needs to be. The biggest thing I need to work on is "filling" the empty port holes (LAN, USB, etc) on the back to make it look more realistic looking.
+2 # Wayne Truchsess 2011-10-01 11:36
Quoting Israel:
Would also love to have full details, I have an arduino, pic programmers, and a pc, all that I have left after my house was robbed 2 months ago: ps3, wii, 3 laptops, portable HD... T.T

I have to clean up the code a little, but I'll post all the details some time next week.
# Andrew 2011-10-01 15:56
Awesome! I recently had a second bike stolen along with a garden tiller. I'm considering doing something like this but in a tubular form factor to put in the seat post of a bike.
# Ivan 2011-10-01 21:02
Hello, can you tell me what gas gauge are you using for the (cool) device, please? And is source code for it available? Thanks!
# Wayne Truchsess 2011-10-01 21:13
Quoting Ivan:
Hello, can you tell me what gas gauge are you using for the (cool) device, please? And is source code for it available? Thanks!

Sure, it's a MAX17043 IC single cell lipo fuel gauge. If you look to the left under the Products section and click Lipo Fuel Gauge there is a link to a sample Arduino sketch at the bottom.
# Ivan 2011-10-01 21:39
Quoting Wayne Truchsess:

Sure, it's a MAX17043 IC single cell lipo fuel gauge. If you look to the left under the Products section and click Lipo Fuel Gauge there is a link to a sample Arduino sketch at the bottom.

Thanks! I have been looking for battery fuel gauges and I think I have seen this one before. Thanks!

P.S.: This think look extremely hard to get: they have a 5 week lead time from Avenet Express. Also Digi-Key wants me to order 10,000 of these. I was looking forward to creating a board with this (around 100 units). They seem quite cheap compared to the alternatives I was evaluating.

Can these be soldered by hand (you know, some QFN/DFN have pads that extend to the outer side of the package).

Again, thanks for your time and congratulations for being featured on Hack-a-Day!
# Wayne Truchsess 2011-10-01 21:53
Quoting Ivan:
Quoting Wayne Truchsess:

Sure, it's a MAX17043 IC single cell lipo fuel gauge. If you look to the left under the Products section and click Lipo Fuel Gauge there is a link to a sample Arduino sketch at the bottom.

Thanks! I have been looking for battery fuel gauges and I think I have seen this one before. Thanks!

P.S.: This think look extremely hard to get: they have a 5 week lead time from Avenet Express. Also Digi-Key wants me to order 10,000 of these. I was looking forward to creating a board with this (around 100 units). They seem quite cheap compared to the alternatives I was evaluating.

Can these be soldered by hand (you know, some QFN/DFN have pads that extend to the outer side of the package).

Again, thanks for your time and congratulations for being featured on Hack-a-Day!

Thanks! Actually Mouser sells them in single quantity. Another option is just order them directly from Maxim (that's what I did). Unfortunately the exposed pad on the TDFN package does not extend out. I know some people have tried using large vias under the pads to feed solder through but I don't have any experience with it as I reflow most ICs instead.
# Aleksander Thuesen 2011-10-02 10:19
Quoting Andrew:
Awesome! I recently had a second bike stolen along with a garden tiller. I'm considering doing something like this but in a tubular form factor to put in the seat post of a bike.


http://www.integratedtrackers.com/GPSTrack/
# David Adams 2011-10-04 15:01
Wonderful idea. Thanks for the info
# Andrew Waite 2011-10-07 17:34
Awesome concept, need to play with hardware honeypots in addition to my usual server side 'pots. Thanks for sharing
# n1kt0 2011-10-23 18:24
What GPS engine is on your Arduino GPS shield? I'm trying to create a similar tracking device, but I'm having trouble finding a GPS engine that will get a signal fix indoors inside a case.
# Wayne Truchsess 2011-10-23 18:29
Quoting n1kt0:
What GPS engine is on your Arduino GPS shield? I'm trying to create a similar tracking device, but I'm having trouble finding a GPS engine that will get a signal fix indoors inside a case.

It's a GlobalTop GPS. The datasheet for the engine is on the webpage for the shield at the bottom if you want to read the specs.
-1 # n1kt0 2011-10-30 19:54
Did you use an external antenna for the GPS? If so, what kind did you use?
# Wayne Truchsess 2011-10-30 21:07
Quoting n1kt0:
Did you use an external antenna for the GPS? If so, what kind did you use?

Didn't need an external antenna, the patch antenna was sufficient.
# Aleksander Thuesen 2011-10-31 19:23
Quoting Wayne Truchsess:
Quoting Israel:
Would also love to have full details, I have an arduino, pic programmers, and a pc, all that I have left after my house was robbed 2 months ago: ps3, wii, 3 laptops, portable HD... T.T

I have to clean up the code a little, but I'll post all the details some time next week.


I would really love this, and maybe som schematics.
Thx
# Matt 2011-11-20 21:09
I would like full details as well, if available. This is better than an alarm.
+1 # Wayne Truchsess 2011-11-20 21:32
Well I've been inundated with requests on how to make one of these so here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to put together a video tutorial on how to put one together from scratch. I've been meaning to incorporate some videos on my site and I guess this is as good as any to start with.

Unfortunately with the holidays this week, I won't be able to get started on this until next week so keep an eye on the site for details.
-1 # mikemontreal 2011-11-20 22:20
Quoting Wayne Truchsess:
Well I've been inundated with requests on how to make one of these so here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to put together a video tutorial on how to put one together from scratch. I've been meaning to incorporate some videos on my site and I guess this is as good as any to start with.

Unfortunately with the holidays this week, I won't be able to get started on this until next week so keep an eye on the site for details.


Very Cool! :)
# mung 2012-04-02 04:34
can u email me the full curcuit design for this device..
i have to finish my final year prjecy..and it is related to this system
# garreb 2012-10-12 12:05
Can u please email the code or put it on line .

thanks
+1 # Wayne Truchsess 2012-10-12 12:15
Quoting garreb:
Can u please email the code or put it on line .

thanks

There is a link at the end of the article for the code.
# Allen Simpson 2012-10-16 19:22
Wicked. How are things progressing with the GeoGram ONE order fulfillment? I just discovered your Kickstarter page yesterday and would totally love to get in on ordering a couple of them if they're still available. What's funny is, my motorcycle was stolen a few weeks ago, which got me to thinking about why there wasn't a cheap tracking device available using the seemingly common prepaid cellphone technology. I was actually looking into how to design one myself when, low and behold, I found your Kickstarter project. Awesome! Let me know when you'll be getting the initial shipment and if you have any extra to sell. If I were choosing from the Kickstarter menu I'd choose the $291 option that includes two tracking devices and a programming cable. Let me know, as I'm holding off on purchasing a new motorcycle until this device becomes available so I can have multiple back-up tracking devices lest the theives try to strike the same target twice. Thanks! Allen

AllenESimpson.as@gmail.com
# Salvatore 2012-10-24 11:15
Greatins for the projects.

I was trying to find the sources of this board. Is there any available?
# Neil 2013-01-21 14:07
Will you be posting the schematics and or the wiring diagram as I would love to build it, Best tracker out there so far.

neil@trac-tech.co.za
# Wayne Truchsess 2013-01-23 01:08
Quoting Neil:
Will you be posting the schematics and or the wiring diagram as I would love to build it, Best tracker out there so far.

neil@trac-tech.co.za

I never did formalize the schematics but the schematic for the Geogram ONE http://dsscircuits.com/images/schematic/GeogramONEschematic.pdfis almost identical with the exception of BMA250 accelerometer in place of the BMA180.
# john 2013-01-23 04:38
Hi Wayne, i try to open code link,it not open up. can u pls put code or send to tdr_g@hotmail.com. thx u
# CHIMED 2013-10-06 11:46
how to buy this board and where is microcontroller code?