I need to build 100 coach tracking devices. I am a web/mobile programmer, not an engineer, so I'm going to be looking at outsourcing for this. To outsource this work however I should know the components I'm going to need in the device (I am able to program the device). As I'm outsourcing I need to consider the price/quality of the components, ideally I need to pay as little as possible (to state the obvious).

I need the device to send its current latitude and longitude coordinates to our servers along with the registration of the vehicle the device is inside.

1) Cheapest way to transmit the vehicles position/registration?
From my current knowledge, I think the three channels to do this are a 3G/4G network, SMS or radio. If I'm transmitting the vehicles position and registration every 30 seconds, which would be the best compromise between accuracy and price?

2) The microcontroller
At the moment I only know of the Raspberry Pi and the Arduino. Are there any other perhaps cheaper computers more commonly known for wholesale? I simply need a cheap component that sends the vehicle's registration and its location.

I can't comment on power just yet as I don't know what power is available in the coaches.

I would really appreciate any advice/ideas. Thanks


These are already being used in fleet vehicles and even walmart sells them. Don't know the actual device name, tracking phones or something similar. They can be used for example to track where your hostile 17 year old really drives off to when they say their only going to the movies. Best bet for low cost would be to buy second hand devices, likely loads of them available by now.

The received caller ID would tell you the specific device (and you then look up the vehicle ID that has that phone number - you could use an automated lookup device of course). The setup of the tracking function gives you the phone's location, and I assume the GSP Lat/Long is also an option, (so from that you can track down your teen and read him/her the riot act..... and how many days they will be grounded....)

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    \$\begingroup\$ This. There's no need to reinvent the wheel here. \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Young Jan 9 '15 at 17:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MattYoung I'm not quite sure I fully understand the solution (I live in the UK so no Walmart, lol). Could you try and find one? I can't seem to find any, is it essentially a phone then? I have no plants to reinvent the wheel if unnecessary and this looks like a smart option. Provided I can buy them in bulk of course \$\endgroup\$ – jskidd3 Jan 9 '15 at 19:04

If it were me I would use SMS as its not particularly expensive to implement although it would require one sim card per device so for 100 coaches could become expensive. The issue with SMS or 3G/4G is that you will inevitably find coverage disappears in certain places which would mean the position would not be updated.

Perhaps a solution may just be an app for the drivers phones if you are designing something for a company (or even just buy a cheap android phone and use that as the tracker as it has GPS and data connectivity ready out the box).

A solution that I have used for a simple tracker before is to use WiFi. As i didnt need to know the position of the item in real time, the microcontroller simply stored the position information and transmitted when it could connect to an open wifi network. I am not sure whether the 30 second updates is a firm requirement of yours but this is something which would be feasible for your project and would certainly cost less.

As for microcontroller for that project I used an mBed which is a prototyping device like the arduino. Extremely simple to connect to other IC's and the code was written in C with loads of libraries provided for free. If this is a commercial product it would probably be better in my opinion to design a bespoke PCB with a PIC or ARM based processor as you would end up with a better final product.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your answer Aaron. Regarding driver phones, this is something we've explored but sadly due to legal and technical reasons we're not able to do this. Also, we would need to send every 30 seconds sadly so WiFi hotspots sadly is not an option. \$\endgroup\$ – jskidd3 Jan 9 '15 at 16:44

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