April 13, 2022

Anti-Theft GPS Tracker and Recovery System

Build a Notecard-powered anti-theft device complete with SMS alerts when movement is detected, for under $100.

Paige Niedringhaus, Staff Software Engineer

The words “asset tracking” typically bring to mind moving dots on a map: cars, trucks, planes, and the like. Things that are supposed to move.

But think about things that shouldn’t move, things that, if they are on the move, means something is amiss: historical statues, expensive environmental monitors, high value equipment in storage, or even (believe it or not) beehives.

In this Hackster project, I built a Blues Wireless Notecard-powered anti-theft tracker that integrates with Twilio to send SMS alerts to a user’s phone when motion is detected, complete with last known location coordinates and a simple Google Maps URL link.

At a high level, here’s how it works:

  • The ultra-low-power cellular Notecard (a mere ~8uA when idle) is configured to act as a GPS device, and only begin taking location readings when motion is detected.
  • When it’s in motion, it begins taking GPS tagged readings every minute and sending them as JSON data to Notehub - a thin cloud service that securely accepts data from the Notecard.
  • Notehub immediately transforms the raw JSON with the help of JSONata into a payload of relevant info for Twilio, and routes this data on.
  • Finally, Twilio forwards this data along to the user’s phone and they receive an alert like the screenshot below, with a clickable Google Maps link. Hopefully speeding up recovery of whatever’s gone missing.
Notecard, Notecarrier AL and LiPo battery

The Twilio alert complete with Notecard name, last seen time and location and Google Maps link.

To see how I built this, view the full tutorial on Hackster, where I detail exactly how to set up the hardware and software that made this anti-theft and recovery device possible.

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