View Full Version : Living With A GPS Tracker

09-12-2017, 10:11 PM
I'm writing a story that involves human test subjects being outfitted with GPS trackers by a foundation that's in the business of making super-soldiers. (Long story) Anyway, a rival organization captures some of these subjects, and they're unable to remove the trackers immediately for reasons I won't go into. My question is, what are the logistics of transporting a subject from place to place without alerting the foundation to their location? My first thought was to use a signal jammer or faraday cages for transport and storage respectively, but I'm not an expert on either. How long does it take to set up a faraday cage? Can RF jammers be detected from the signals they emit? These are just a few of the questions I have, but the main one I have is, is this idea plausible? Is there a better alternative I'm not seeing? Help would really be appreciated if anybody has insight on these kinds of things.

09-12-2017, 10:45 PM
Hmm. I don't know if this is helpful for your purposes, but a common misconception in animal microchipping is that the microchip can be used as a tracking device. In actuality, microchips function basically like a tag that can't be lost. You have a scanner that you wave over the microchipped area of the animal, and if a chip is present, the scanner will read it and display the ID number, after which you have to contact the manufacturer to track down the vet it was sold to, who in turn will contact the client associated with that animal. The system depends on people being honest enough, and knowledgable enough, upon finding a lost animal, to bring it in and have it scanned.

The issue with tracking devices/gps, and the reason they aren't used in place of microchips, is because they require a power source. Think about the GPS on your phone. It's awesome... until the battery dies. Then you're out of luck. You occasionally see tracking collars used to train hunting dogs and the like, but they have to be recharged regularly, and they're much bulkier than the microchips, which look like overgrown grains of rice.

Unless your GPS trackers are solar-powered or otherwise self-charging, the power source would be the weak link. Take out the battery or just wait for it to die and "voila," no more tracking.

09-12-2017, 11:48 PM
Tazlima has hit the nail on the head. In wildlife research, the tracking devices placed on animals are only good for as long as the battery holds out. If the research is to continue past the batter life, the animal has be be captured and collared again.

09-13-2017, 12:23 AM
Just a commercial review I found http://petslady.com/articles/5_best_pet_tracking_systems_dog_and_cat_owners_606 24

On some of the wildlife shows that I've watched I seem to recall some tracking devices lasting up to 9 months. Since this is a SciFi story personally I would not be upset with a theoretical device lasting a year. Other electronic devices are implanted so I wouldn't have an issue if these were implanted, however, what is implanted should be surgically recoverable, maybe not in the field. Requiring a formal surgical suite would be reasonable. As far as temporarily blocking a signal goes I'd expect that an X-Ray apron if wrapped completely around it would work, but if it's implanted, you'd not really be able to completely wrap it so then I think you'd need a lead lined box...Are cargo containers dense enough to block a radio signal?

09-13-2017, 12:26 AM
If it is any kind of near-future the devices would need to be a reasonable size, like the size of a AA battery or so, and shorting/draining the batter could certainly kill the signal.

If you need it to stay in working order they could perhaps distort the signal so it changes a characteristic the system uses to find them.

09-13-2017, 01:48 AM
It is pretty easy to disrupt GPS with things like tons of concrete and metal. Even city streets with lots of close-together tall buildings can throw off a GPS signal (New York City is a great example of this. It's *very* difficult to get an accurate GPS location because of all the bloody big buildings).

Transporting your subjects underground or through tunnels could be another solution.

And yes, a Faraday cage might suit your needs too - Google how to block GPS with a Faraday cage. A little malice aforethought and some basic engineering skill is about all you'd need to build one.

Al X.
09-13-2017, 02:54 AM
Also note that a GPS receiver and a GPS tracker are two different things. The GPS receiver in your phone is just that, it is a receiver. It CAN be a tracker, but the tracking function is enabled over the cell data network, not through the GPS satellites.

There is a big difference in size and power requirements for a receiver vs. a tracker. If you don't need real time access to tracked locations, a small device about the size of a watch will work and it can last for quite a while, but of course you would have to download the data at a later time.

Blocking either the data network signals and the GPS signals would be fairly trivial. A metallic suit, vest, or tin foil hat should do the trick depending on the location of the device within the body.

Or, keep in mind that your subjects, after a month of captivity, unable to pay their Verizon bills, will lose the data connections on their own.

09-13-2017, 06:48 AM
A GPS tracker uses a radio signal to broadcast its location. Jamming radio signals is relatively easy and merely requires a device that has enough power to override the radio signal. Electromagnetic shielding is also easily done. Jamming can be detected and tracked.

Take a look for GPS jamming. Illegal, it is also fairly common as kids seek to hide from parents, or employees from employer, or cheating spouses from their spouse.

Jim Clark-Dawe

09-13-2017, 06:47 PM
A conceit you can ad to your story, since these are super soldiers, is that the device is powered by mitochondria -- the tiny creatures inside us (yes, they have their own DNA) that power our cells by manufacturing ATP (adenosine triphosphate). The device efficiently transforms the chemical energy of ATP into electrical energy, so as lon as the carrier is alive, the device is powered.

Yes, any metallic suit (copper preferred) would block radio signals, but not subspace communications....


09-13-2017, 07:31 PM
Tazlima has hit the nail on the head. In wildlife research, the tracking devices placed on animals are only good for as long as the battery holds out. If the research is to continue past the batter life, the animal has be be captured and collared again.

RE: Electronic tracking: GPS is a long-range tech. RFID,NFC, even Bluetooth can be used for short range. And RFID can be done without a battery (think badge readers at the door, though I've seen parking lot "arches" with RFID readers in them for tracking company vehicles as they leave and enter). I think NFC also, though less sure of that.

Also, GPS has a formal and somewhat informal definition. GPS, formal, is the satellite-based location service. The cell-tower based location service is not, technically, GPS. That's probably a distinction that matters to few outside of engineers. And the cell-tower based one uses GPS to interpret location data.

So, depending on the distance expectations, it may not be GPS, per se.

Anything that can block a signal, though, can block this.

09-13-2017, 09:26 PM
Animal tracking devices can be destroyed/disabled https://raptorpersecutionscotland.wordpress.com/2017/09/11/imagine-that-satellite-tags-continue-to-function-after-non-suspicious-deaths-of-two-hen-harriers/ If the animal dies of natural causes researchers can find the body. If the animal vanishes in suspicious circumstances (illegal, if the animal's an endangered species), the tags also mysteriously stop working.

09-15-2017, 06:25 PM
I don't know the technical terms for any types of bugging/tracking devices, but I do work in Eastern Europe, and I know that Russian bugging/tracking of American Embassy workers is so common as to be expected here. All American Embassy workers' personal computers and phones are destroyed before they leave their post/country because it isn't possible to deactivate whatever bugging devices are routinely enabled/added to diplomat/Embassy families here. I don't know if this is the kind of info that is relevant, but if so, let me know and I can share some other creepy stories of the tracking/bugging stuff.

(My cat, so far as I know, only has a routine pet microchip :)