Tracking My Position all the Time

I have a long standing interest in monitoring my daily doings, I previously thought about putting a GPS tracker in my car, a good idea for both tracking my position and also checking to see if it has gone walkies (is stolen). I decided against doing this a while ago due to exams and lack of time to set the whole thing up. But I did decide to have a crack at this idea later with my phone.

The way I chose to go about this power hungry task was to use an app like IFTTT to record my position to a spreadsheet. But then I heard about owntracks, a purpose-built app for tracking your position. After setting up the owntracks server, MQTT and owntracks recorder. I now have a pretty good way of determining where I am at one time or another and have been using it for about 6 months.

My phone is a OnePlus 3 and as I said the app is fairly power hungry. Currently owntracks uses ~39% of my battery’s capacity based on 1 day 1 hour uptime. Although this seems fairly high I have accepted it as a fair compromise untill I can finish another GPS project I have in the works.

Here’s my experience of such a setup so far,

  • Battery usage increased significantly to a point where some users may not find it acceptable.
  • I had to turn off battery optimization and advanced battery optimization or else the app would stop.
  • The app does not always capture my location all of the time, sometimes it may be a few hours before it reports a significant change despite being in move monitoring mode or significant changes mode.
  • The performance and recording of positions in the app isn’t as good if the app does not have internet access all the time, so if data is switched off in my phone, the recording of the position isn’t as good as if it were on all the time, sometimes there can be large gaps where there was no internet access where it drops out.
  • My use case was for later analysis of the data, not realtime.
  • Owntracks recorder is not very featured but it does the job.
Oneplus3 Battery usage with owntracks

Cerberus for android – It’s awesome

So I bought Cerberus for android and installed it on all my devices for about 2 years, and its pretty great, not only does it provide you with the standard ‘find your device’ features that common apps do, but its also got ROOT permission stuff as well, the online console looks like this

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The online console also shows when a command is both sent and recieved

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Here is a list of features from the dropdown menu (As HTML)

<option value="START_TRACKING">Start tracking</option>
<option value="STOP_TRACKING">Stop tracking</option>
<option value="DEVICEINFO">Get device info</option>
<option value="HISTORY">Get location history</option>
<option value="LOCK">Lock with code</option>
<option value="UNLOCK">Unlock</option>
<option value="ALARM">Start alarm with a message</option>
<option value="MESSAGE">Display message</option>
<option value="CALLLOG">Get call log</option>
<option value="SMSLOG">Get SMS log</option>
<option value="CALL">Call phone</option>
<option value="SMS">Send SMS</option>
<option value="RECORDAUDIO">Record audio</option>
<option value="TAKEPICTURE">Take picture</option>
<option value="CAPTUREVIDEO">Capture video</option>
<option value="SCREENSHOT">Grab screenshot</option>
<option value="STARTEMERGENCY">Start emergency mode</option>
<option value="STOPEMERGENCY">Stop emergency mode</option>
<option value="HIDE">Hide from app drawer</option>
<option value="UNHIDE">Show in app drawer</option>
<option value="WIPE">Wipe device memory</option>
<option value="WIPESD">Wipe SD card</option>
<option value="REBOOT">Reboot device</option>
<option value="BACKUP">Backup data</option>
<option value="STOP_BACKUP">Stop backup</option>
<option value="GET_APP_LIST">Get installed apps</option>
<option value="LAUNCH_APP">Start application</option>
<option value="START_SERVICE">Start service</option>
<option value="SEND_BROADCAST">Send broadcast</option>
<option value="STARTSHELL">Start shell</option>
<option value="ENABLEBLUETOOTH">Enable bluetooth</option>
<option value="DISABLEBLUETOOTH">Disable bluetooth</option>
<option value="ENABLEHOTSPOT">Enable Wi-Fi hotspot</option>
<option value="DISABLEHOTSPOT">Disable Wi-Fi hotspot</option>
<option value="SCREENRECORD">Capture screen recording</option>
<option value="GETAPPCONF">Change app settings</option>

Some features require root, which for me is no issue. Some things to note is the picture and video quality is very poor, I cant tell whether this is because they try to save bandwidth (as responses are given over email) or because of some funky implementation the app uses, but they are mostly watchable, though you’d get lucky to get your thief’s face.

You can start apps which is useful, you can also go into the app settings and set the app to open when you ring a phone number like ‘10000’ for example, you can also force it to be persistent by installing it with TWRP or  CWM so it survives a wipe of the entire system, as well as deleting the app, once the phone is restarted, it re-installs, with your settings.

You can also download the ‘System Framework’ version, which in the event that your phone is nicked, the app wont be deleted by the thieves.

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The app also has some other features seen below

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SIM checker allows the app to secretly send a message to a defined number if a new SIM is inserted, which I accidentally triggered when I replaced my SIM, so I can say that I’m confident it works so long as the SIM has credit. The AutoTask Configuration is useless at best, there aren’t much things you can do with it and whenever I try to save, it crashes the phone, which I can only assume is because it tries to write to some inaccessible memory.

The track feature is good, precise and fairly accurate, it updates regularly, Id say every minute or so (sat stationary on a desk for 3 minutes. {note that the inaccuracy may be due to GPS, rather than Cerberus itself})

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Being able to switch on data with a text command was especially handy when I had to retrieve a phone, once the phone was on we were loaded with all there Cerberus and able to find it at Tesco’s lost and found, but without the tracking we would have had no clue where to look (does not require root).

One other good feature is the ability to disable turning off the phone without first unlocking the device, this is one of my favourite features and a unique selling point for Cerberus

All in all I’d defiantly say it’s worth the one time investment, I’ve lost a phone and found it again with Cerberus, It worked well.