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Open Source Geographic Tracking? 84

Walkingshark writes "I work for a company that needs to track people and equipment across the US as they move to, work on, and leave jobs. The boss has been looking at the typical mix of closed, proprietary software and has also considered building off our existing 10-year-old SQL database (with the kind of clunky interface you'd expect from a program built in the late '90s). I'd like to be able to bring him a good open source alternative, but so far I haven't been able to find anything that can do what we need. Ultimately, we need to be able to keep track of a few thousand separate people and pieces of equipment, and to move them in dynamically created groups to and from our locations and jobsites in a way that is sharable between workstations, with updates to location entered at one station being broadcast to all clients in real time. Ideally, this program needs to also give us access to road routing similar to the capability found on Google Maps. We'd doubtless need to be able to modify the source for customization, but I was hoping there was something we could find out there that had the core functionality we're looking for."
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Open Source Geographic Tracking?

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  • tracking how? (Score:3, Informative)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @11:34AM (#32702618) Homepage Journal

    You probably should specify whether you are talking about real time tracking or something that only reads history off of a device. It's cheaper to only read history, for real time you need a constant uplink, but of-course real time gives more interesting potential applications. Also you probably should specify what kind of equipment you are interested in tracking. How precise must the tracking be? Simple things like who will charge/change batteries? How do you see tracking devices attached to the people? What's to stop people from faking the data or simply from covering the devices so they can't get a signal? Or from having 'dead batteries' in the most inopportune moments? How much money do you have for the project? How much time, what are your deadlines? Why are they interested in tracking at all, because based on the reasons for this you probably will have different requirements?

    Those are probably just some of the questions you need to get answers to from your management before you start the project, I mean you are looking at a very expensive problem here, I doubt you'll find an off the shelf solution that will be able to meet all of your requirements, but once you know all of your requirements and reasons, you will be able to use existing components, compact wearable GPS systems or maybe cell-phone triangulation, GPS recorders in cars/trucks, GPS recorders on other 'equipment' (what about batteries on this other 'equipment'?) Seems like it's going to be a huge and a very expensive project.

  • by ugen ( 93902 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @11:44AM (#32702648)

    Note that both Google maps and Bing require access through specific API and paid-for licenses specifically for anyone who wants to use their mapping services for "fleet" tracking and similar applications. Yours clearly falls into that area. Since without mapping data a project like that cannot exist - it is unlikely there is a truly free alternative (and, as a consequence, not much open source - I suppose because open source developers don't really find a compelling reason to tie to a proprietary data set).

    Incidentally, Bing has somewhat more lenient terms for those who want to do tracking.

  • Anonymous Coward (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 26, 2010 @11:59AM (#32702738)

    You need to check out Postgresql, in combination with Postgis , The postgis addon to postgresql allows you to use geometry or geographic field types to capture projected or lat/long coordinate data. You can then perform spatial queries on the data in the database using a string of sql. .

    Think of it this way, with a normal database, you can say select all red-headed persons with the first name of Bob ( if you have hair color and first name in the database) . With a spatial database you can say select all red-headed persons with the first name of Bob who live within 200m of a fire hydrant on Main Street in the town of Springfield.

    The cool part about this is that any application that can pass an SQL string to the database can now perform spatial queries ( intersections, points on a line, routing ( ) .

    So, you can spend many 10's of thousands of $$$$ on a proprietary software package that puts blobs in the database accessible only through their interface, or you can go with Postgresql/postgis and connect to and manipulate the data in any way you want, with plenty of options for commercial support.


  • by mattr ( 78516 ) < minus cat> on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:03PM (#32702768) Homepage Journal

    Have you considered using (there is for example the GeoPointe tool to link with google maps) or perhaps Google App Engine (GAE) as a platform for building your own easily scalable, mashup-friendly service? There seems to be something called GeoModel which you can access from within GAE for simple queries like what assets are within a given radius. These services will host it for you so you can save the money of purchasing and renting your own servers too. Here are some jumping off points perhaps.. [] [] [] []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:12PM (#32702820) [] That will get you
    map tiles, several viewers, and access to the underlying street information.

  • SaaS Solution (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:12PM (#32702822)

    Unfortunately the details here aren't totally complete for me to be sure, but a software as a service solution may work and be able to keep costs down. I know of one company that uses GPS to track everything from people to assets, to just about anything. Check out It's a SaaS solution that might work for you. Give them a call and see if it will do what you want. Not open source but it can be customized as need be most of the time.

  • by pthisis ( 27352 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:14PM (#32702832) Homepage Journal

    Since without mapping data a project like that cannot exist - it is unlikely there is a truly free alternative (and, as a consequence, not much open source - I suppose because open source developers don't really find a compelling reason to tie to a proprietary data set).

    But there are non-proprietary mapping data sets available (e.g.

  • OpenGTS (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:15PM (#32702838)

    Google's an open source asset tracking solution

  • by lxnyce ( 1280956 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:35PM (#32702958)
    OpenStreetMap and OpenLayers will give you a truly free platform to work with. No hidden costs or restrictions.
  • Map Authoring (Score:2, Informative)

    by sharkswithlasers ( 1842724 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:39PM (#32703000)
    If you want to be able to update you base layers: -postgres with postGIS lets you store geometry (e.g lines/roads) -GDAL/ORG with GRASS lets you author content -openstreet maps in an opensource alternative to googlemaps that provides an API -There are several geotagging/location modules in python that will take a lat/long and output an address
  • GeoServer? (Score:3, Informative)

    by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:48PM (#32703040) Journal
    How about GeoServer []? Several types of interfaces are available.
  • by jne_oioioi ( 890078 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:57PM (#32703068)
    PostgreSQL + PostGIS for the backend unless you already use and need oracle/db2. If you do gis do it with gis-enabled db. Openlayers for easy gui, GS for the stuff between the gui and db.
  • Postgres (Score:3, Informative)

    by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @12:58PM (#32703082) Homepage Journal
    Postgres has some GIS extensions that are quite nice. That'd be the foundation of anything I'd build. You might need some additional components if you also need to serve imagery.
  • Re:OpenGTS (Score:3, Informative)

    by RoFLKOPTr ( 1294290 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @02:00PM (#32703450)

    Seconding OpenGTS. I don't use it personally, but my uncle is a private investigator who chases trucks around California to find them for repo men, and he recently switched to OpenGTS (from some insanely expensive tracking system) for GPS tracking and loves it. It would be great for fleet tracking as well. I believe it uses SMS to transmit real-time location data, so you will need a texting plan for each device. []

  • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @06:26PM (#32705224)

    Don't overlook the protocol used by radio amateurs for location tracking. This is often used with amateur weather balloon and photography. Getting a fix on the landing site helps recovery of the payload.

    Auto Position Reporting System (APRS) can be adapted to other communications links besides ham radio. [] [] []

  • TangoGPS (Score:3, Informative)

    by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Saturday June 26, 2010 @09:03PM (#32706036) Homepage Journal

    TangoGPS [] is the best OSS alternative to Google Maps / Lattitude that I've seen. Much more usable and featureful than GPSdrive, which for some reason hangs out much higher on all the search engines and lists for Linux GPS mapping apps, even though TangoGPS has been around for a few years now.

    TangoGPS supports a Latitude-like latlon reporting and friend tracker, which would probably be pretty easy to modify to use your own server. It supports multiple map sources, including OSM, and even a "for test purposes" view of Google Maps. The routing is rudimentary since I think it just uses the basic TIGER data and not one of the more tuned commercial street databases, but it's there.

    Runs great on my eeePC with a bluetooth GPS and dumbphone EDGE uplink, though it looks like they also have clients for smaller devices. The user interface is somewhat touchscreen friendly, with large controls.

    Have fun!

  • Add handsets running Google Latitude [] for all the people you want to track, and you're good to go.

    As others have said if you don't trust Google with your data, you can do your own server based on open streetmap; and it's fairly simple to build a custom program for any smartphone platform of your choice which phones home to report position. if you add a bar-code scanning module (and most smarphones these day have APIs which allow the camera to be used to scan barcodes) then people in the field can also report back the location of hardware assets, simply by scanning them.

    I did a system much like this four years ago [], for monitoring the collection of shellfish; it's GPL, you can download the source from Sourceforge. Unfortunately the fieldkit [] is dependent on a Hewlett Packard iPAQ model which is now more or less obsolete. But rewriting the fieldkit for use with Android or iOS4 would not be hard.

    The mode of operation was that the inspector in the field would scan his own badge (with barcode); then scan the shellfish gatherer's license card (also with barcode); then scan the barcodes on each sack of shelfish collected. If the fieldkit had a current GPRS connection it reported back location, time and bag numbers to the server in real time, and was able to alert the inspector immediately to violations like re-used bags; if not it would buffer the the information until the next time it got a GPRS signal, at which point it reported back to the server. This allowed near real time tracking of shellfish inspections.

    This obviously isn't what you need to do - but it is analogous to what you need to do and you ought to be able to get the ideas you need from the code. If you need any help, mail me - the address is valid.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye