Track Anyone With a Cell
Time: 4 Hours
Easy | | | | | Hard
Cue the Mission Impossible theme. I´m working a top-secret operation, and my support team is monitoring my every movement. OK, so I´m just going to the hardware store, but my girlfriend, Jen, is tracking me. Using a $100 kit from Mologogo (with a $6-a-month data plan), I´ve turned a prepaid cellphone into a GPS tracking device. Every few minutes, the phone transmits my location within 100 meters to mologogo.com, which posts it to a Google map that Jen can access from any computer. She can view my most recent spot or my past 100 recorded locations as little pushpins stamped with date and time.
The key to this project is the government´s Enhanced 911 program, which will soon require all cellphones to transmit a GPS signal so that police can locate callers in need. So far, only Nextel, Boost Mobile and BlackBerry allow third-party companies to build software that uses that signal, but other carriers will follow suit this year.
Since Mologogo launched in October, its 1,000-plus members have found plenty of uses for it: following marathon runners, keeping track of the kids, planting a phone in the car in case it´s stolen, watching a boyfriend´s every move . . . Uh-oh.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.