We live in Switzerland, where around half of the year, the temperatures are a bit chilly for people originally from South America as we are. The problem to solve was quite simple actually, we needed a way to track the school bus that picks up and drops our son from school to our house. The reason behind is that we knew a timeframe on which the bus would arrive at our address, but we never knew for sure. This was resulting in long waiting times at the sidewalk for the bus to come. In Switzerland under cold weather this could mean 15 minutes waiting on the snow, not so much fun.
So we tested a few ways to fix this, for example we placed an old iPhone on the backpack of my son and tried to use Google Maps location sharing. Unfortunately this was not working as expected and the updates were not as frequent as needed and they cannot be customized either. Then we tried with the Find My Phone application on the Apple ecosystem, but we got the same restrictions.
What were we looking for
- A tracker that would allow us to have GPS and Cellular technology to have good accuracy so that it would work even when GPS signals are low.
- The main objective was to learn when the bus was arriving and leaving, but also to know the whereabouts of our son (security) when they go out to do activities or if something would happen.
- Something relatively small that can be placed in a backpack.
- A rechargeable tracker that would have a long battery life to prevent us from having to recharge it often.
- Alert zones and able to configure updates frequencies according to our needs.
- Ideally not a watch to avoid our son from getting distracted and to prevent him from having a constant cellular signal already stuck to his body at such a young age (he is 4).
The solution that worked for us
Invoxia sent us the Invoxia GPS Tracker to try, a very smart device that would allow us to track the school bus using GPS in combination with a low powered network (similar to cellular technology). Also, it would allow us to configure how often we would want to be updated on the whereabouts of the device. Let me share first some specs of this device:
- It’s a GPS Tracker with low powered network technology in Europe and cellular in the US, so it’s fast and quite accurate
- It has geo-fencing alert functionality
- The device comes already with a 3-year subscription included and costs just 10 Euros per year after that
- Good battery life (more than 6 months) depending on the update frequency you configure
- You can trigger the device to make a noise from your mobile
- Works with most Android & iPhone devices (still check their website to ensure your device is compatible before buying)
- Uses the LoRaWan (low powered network in Switzerland & France) and Sigfox in the rest of Europe. The US version I understand uses cellular networks.
- The price of the device is CHF 149 (USD 166) in Switzerland, its a bit less in the US.
The device is 10.5 cm long (4.13 inches), 2.7 cm wide (1.06 inches) and a little less than 1 cm thick (0.39 inches). It weighs just 28.11 grams (0.99 ounces). As you can see the device is really light so you won’t feel the difference when attaching it to basically anything, in our case our son’s backpack.
How do we use it
We configured 2 locations on the device, one with the address of the School and one with our home address, then we would receive an automatic alert when the device is “in zone” or “out of this zone” through the Invoxia mobile app. This way it gives us the time to go out from our home and wait for him on the sidewalk.
We live in a multi family house, basically a building with 12 apartments, and it takes us around 40 meters (131 feet) for us to reach the sidewalk from the door of our home. Also we don’t have visibility of the sidewalk until we reach there. Because of this time needed to reach the street, we needed to adjust the zone notification alert to a larger area, 400 meters did the trick.
As commented before, we placed the tracker on our son’s backpack, in a hidden pocket preventing anyone from seeing it. We could have placed it hanging outside with the included leather strap, but honestly we wanted to benefit from a bit of security too, by not alerting potential ill-intentioned people that the tracker is there.
Below you can see some images of the app and some of its functionalities together with a sample of a 3 days history:
What would a better implementation look like?
I’ve been in discussions with Invoxia themselves about this use case. Schools can have their buses provisioned with one of these trackers and place it on their buses permanently plugged on a USB port (which most vehicles already have nowadays). Then, they could invite the parents of the kids that use the bus service for them to receive the alerts when the bus arrives and leaves. Invoxia offers a platform for companies and organizations. I can be used by schools to track a fleet of devices and to invite multiple members to be able to see the tracker that they would like to assign to them. It would be a great add-on service provided by schools at a very low cost.
Where can the tracker improve
While the device works for us as it is, I think there would be some things that could be improved, maybe on a version 2?
– Frequency of updates: Maybe our use case is quite specific, but we know the 30 minutes time frame window when our son’s school bus arrives and departs. It would be really useful to configure the tracker to update every 5 or 10 minutes outside these hours, but set it to 1 minute on these two mentioned timeframes. An alternative would be to make the tracker update with 30-second intervals when it arrives at one of the defined Alert Zones, instead of the minimum 2 to 3 minutes currently available on the app. Then we would have better updates when its more important for us. Also, some use cases would allow the device to be constantly plugged on USB power, so battery impact would not matter.
– USB: I think the next version of the tracker would need to already come with a USB Type C connector instead of a Mini USB as the world switches to this connector.
– App: The app it’s ok, but it needs a bit more love to make it more friendly and easy to use. I think they already improved quite a lot.
The Invoxia GPS Tracker it’s a surprising device, it works very well, and we would recommend it to anyone having the need to track things or kids. You could place it inside cars or motorbikes or basically any other thing you need to track. I can imagine people using it for looking after backpacks or suitcases with important documents, laptops and other devices.
I think schools and bus services would also benefit greatly to offer to their parents to know the whereabouts of their kids. It would certainly bring a lot of peace to them.
Don’t miss their other GPS tracker models that are better suited for other use cases like for pets and for bicycles. Not sure if these are offered on every market but you can have a look at them on the Swiss store here.
Invoxia shared with us a 10% discount coupon you can use on their website on your first order, use coupon “THEONLINECORNER10” at the checkount. Thank you Invoxia! 😉