I Have a Project Idea

I’m taking a project course in September, which involves 3 senior electrical engineering students and 3 senior computer engineering students (I’m in comp eng). We have to make some innovative product that’s useful. I’m thinking of project ideas right now and came up with one. I wanted to share this and see how well you guys receive it:


The project is a stolen item locator, such as for cars. It would be a GPS/cellular device placed inside your car and automatically turned on through some mechanism when you realize your car is stolen. It can then report the geolocation of the car to you.


It would essentially be a cell phone that utilizes GPS. It would use the same identification (e.g. SIM card, I know there might involve some quasi-illegal methods of extracting information from SIM cards) as your cell phone.

Say you came back from eating out and realized your car is gone. Now you turn off your cell phone, and the device inside your car, which constantly tries to register with your service provider but can’t since your phone is turned on, will now be able to register. Upon connection, it immediately logs GPS locations and reports it through a edge or 3G Internet to some website service, say every 10 seconds. You can then check the real-time location of your stolen vehicle and assist the police on a crackdown.


Because everyone has a cell phone plan already, and with the oncoming of iPhone releases, people will have 3G/edge and GPS services provided through their plans. This device would simply be secondary device that utilizes services from your plan. Thus, there is absolutely no additional cost beyond the device.

I’m taking that this would be quite a big task for 6 people. Software stacks would have to be written if I find no open source ones, albeit a very small subset. A 3G or at least 2.5G cell phone with GPS capabilities would have to be built, maybe not from scratch but definitely custom to lower costs (our budget is $400, but I plan on spending only $100).

The reason I personally want something like this is partially due to my car stolen last year. I remember staying pissed off for about an entire 2 weeks and constantly imagining the things that I’d do to the mofo that stole it. With this device, I would be able to find my car quickly and do whatever the hell I was imagining but couldn’t do.

So yeah how do you guys like this?

Sounds like a good idea man. I do have one question, though: Would you be able to use more than one of these devices with the same cell phone plan? Like could you put one in your car, and one in a laptop or something? Or does the way that it works by registering with your service provider only when your phone is off prevent multiple ones from working (ie would they interfere with eachother)?

I think that the potential for this technology to be abused is staggering.


That’s probably possible. I’m sure there is a way to “configure” or specify which device is stolen to a web service, which would be accessed by each device as soon as it succeeds in registration with the cellular network. If somehow through the registration race that the device in the car registered successfully if the laptop is stolen, the device in the car could detect that the laptop is reported to be stolen and turn itself off and let the device in the laptop turn on by default delegation. Not sure how much more complicated that would be compared to the existing infrastructure.

@Dan, at that point, I’m sure I’ll be long finished with this project :lol:

I’m even attempting to think about this is because I’m working as a developer for VoIP software stack, and I have some knowledge of telephony, but I’m really not sure how vast a 3G network is and how much I have to grasp in order to implement something funcitonal…

in terms of longevity, i think the best way for this to be implemented would be directly into the car.

It wouldn’t take long for thieves to become wise to this piece of technology and check for it, be it some fancy gizmo, or simply searching for it in the car and throwing it out the window.

So, like I said, the only fool-proof way of making this gizmo work in the long run would be to devise a way to physically hide it in the frame rails (or something obscure like that) or directly into the car’s “Brain”

For sure it’d provide a better user experience. But this is for a school project and I see no point in making it specifically integrated into one make of a car. Well, it should be generic enough to be capable of being charged by any car battery. But it’s not really a product per se. I mean if cell phone, GPS, and auto makers together decided to make something integrated, so much the better but that’s not the case and there’s not much reason in trying to do what I don’t have advantage in.

ummm… that’s called lojack, and it has like a bajillion sister programs related to it already. for instance, you can get your computer/laptop lojacked if you wanted.



From what I just wiki/googled up, lojack:

  1. Only works in certain regions, where as the previously described device works anywhere with cellular coverage (all urban places).
  2. Is $700, where as mine would be less than $20 if produced in bulk (but it won’t be produced in bulk, so about an estimated $50-$100).
  3. Only works if police are near by, and only if they have the receiver.
  4. Only gives location to the police, not to the owner. With my device, if I had a gun, I’d go up to the thief myself and shoot him in his knee caps.

:-/ that’s just what I came up with right now.

I’m guessing MT’s idea is a lot less expensive than lojack. Their vehicle recovery system goes for like $700, and I bet if a company mass-produced something like MT’s idea it would be like $60, and wouldn’t require a technician to install it.

I still think it’s a good idea - I think there’s a niche for less-hardcore theft recovery stuff. You could just buy it at Radioshack and slap it on/in whatever you want.

If you could make a $60 version of LoJack that was small enough to be hidden in a car, you know under the seat or in the spare tire or wherever you please, that’d be such an amazingly commercially viable product. Having it interface with your cell is awesome too. Remember us when your student project makes you rich!

I agree that it’d be sort of a safety concern, people would be running off and shooting the people that took their car but you could just market it as something slightly different - like a way to find your card when you forget where you ‘park’ it. I mean that really would be useful too, I forget where I park my car all the time.

id buy it, my car got stollen 3 weeks ago, but it was eventualy recovered, same with my dads trailer, ya id love one of those, you should mass produce them, or at least sell them to us

Yay nothing boosts my spirits and ego as high as comments from you guys.

This would even work for stuff like luggages (cell phone roaming), or even international shipping if the contents is expensive enough to justify a $20 “insurance”.

Looks like a lot of work. I’ll look more into it and talk to some professors or professionals to see how much work is really involved…

It’d be badass if you could turn it on and off from a GUI on the phone. Maybe the same interface (Google maps or something?) that showed you the location.

It really *would *be useful if you forgot where you parked, or you wanted to know where your wife was or… man the possibilities are sort of awesomely terrifyingly endless. Hahah. :thumb:

ohh ohh add a small charge of explosives, then you could hide it under the drivers seat, near the front, then when some jerkoff steals your car, BOOM there goes his manhood, plus then we have to buy another one, its win fricken win

Ok but if the sole purpose of this project is to create something innovative, … its not really, its a product that already exists

you may be using the cellphone/gps technology in an innovative way, but the end result isn’t

But then again I am also making wild assumptions based on the first paragraph in your first post :stuck_out_tongue:

It could be argued that the innovation comes from the fact that it offers an affordable (hopefully) alternative to an expensive technology by using an already-existing cell phone network in a new way.

True, but thats just a spin-off, i’m sure the reason that the school is coupling 3 computer engineers and 3 electrical engineers is not to come up with a clever marketing scheme

I still think that it’s a product that currently doesn’t exist (saying it’s lojack is like saying an ipod is a home stereo system), and the fact it plays off of existing technology only serves to make it that much more affordable, which is cool in my book.

(MT I feel like I’ve now solidified myself as your PR guy, and expect a few of these things to be mailed to me free of charge)

Hhahhahaha, yea you argue good points, so I’ll stop trying to throw water on this BBQ lol
and to be honest I would definitely buy this product if it existed (and if i owned a car :P)