Locating a Casualty's mobile phone

Rob Brookes' Blog - MRMap and Communications Info

Locating a Casualty's mobile phone

Postby Rob_Brookes » Fri Feb 11, 2011 10:58 am

Nip next door onto Russ' blog page to get far more detailed help than I can give on this one. If anyone has any questions or feedback, again, by all means use Russ' page to get a definative answer from him.


Some of you will already know of this one but for those who don't, Russ Hore, one of the MRMap developer team and writer of the ini file editing application to be found elsewhere in this site, has now begun the testing phase of a method of locating the mobile phone of a casualty, misper or informant etc without there being any need to place any apps or code of any kind onto the mobile phone itself apart from the built in Java scripting that actually does all the work after which it sends your location to the server for display to the team.

The results of testing the system can be seen at http://www.russ-hore.co.uk/locate_them.php

The system uses a variety of methods to locate the phone after it has been sent a SMS text message containing a web address. The wording of this SMS would be such that if the phone's user doesn't want to be found then they delete the message but by clicking on the web address contained in the message, the user gives his or her agreement that the system will be brought into play and the location of the phone calculated.

As I understand it, the system can use the GPS built into the phone but can also work even if there isn't a GPS receiver in the phone. Obviously position accuracy isn't then quite as good but it's still reasonable from the stand point of a rescue team. The phone does need to be web enabled however and you do need to have Java Scripting enabled which isn't the default condition on some phones

The proposed use for this is not as a tracking device but to enable a rescue team to pin-point the location of the phone they are talking to. It's immediate value would be in the location of all those lost and lonely walkers who continue to be surprised that it gets dark at night. These are time consuming jobs where there is no injury and if they can be made easier for the teams then it's worth Russ' efforts just for that! This is a one-shot system if all goes to plan. Once the location has been determined then it's no longer needed and the team can set off in reasonable confidence that they are heading in the right direction. In my own experience, this is often not the case if all you do is to ask the informant where they are. If you're searching for them because they're lost then it logically follows that they don't know where they are and any location information they give you is unreliable. Russ' system should help in these cases.

Yes, mobile phone coverage is far from perfect. Yes, 3G coverage is even worse but there are places where it works and where I believe this system would be a significant help to search teams. Basically anything that is potentially of benefit to the casualty deserves a try out.

To date Russ has achieved position accuracies of down to a few tens of metres which is within earshot of someone blowing a whistle etc.

I have to emphasise a number of things.

The work is at testing stage but isn't yet finished. Many thanks to all those team members who came forward and offered to test for us!

Russ' system doesn't require any software to be present on the phone itself apart from Java scripting which is already on most phones.

The data received by the system is currently displayed on a web site that would be visible to the rescue team. However the data is such that it can easily be pushed onto the MRMap server and so your casualty location would appear on MRMap.

It provides what is really a one off location rather than a continuous tracking function you are all already familiar with.

If any team would like further details of the system please contact either myself or Russ.
Last edited by Rob_Brookes on Wed Feb 16, 2011 7:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Rob_Brookes
 
Posts: 191
Joined: Mon Jul 14, 2008 10:37 am
Location: Langdale Ambleside MRT

Re: Locating a Casualty's mobile phone#2

Postby Rob_Brookes » Tue Feb 15, 2011 11:11 am

An addition to my previous post on this subject.

If you have a mobile phone that is supposed to do all of this sort of thing but have found that it won't handle ordinary GPS, satnav-type, mapping then as Russ almost certainly uses the same API that sits on your phone, it's unlikely his system will work until the problem is sorted out at the phone end of things. This is in the realms of You, not Us.

As already mentioned but in need of re-stating, you do need Java Scripting to be enabled on your phone for this to work. However, recent tests by myself and others have produced accuracies of better than 50 metres using only a laptop without GPS or mobile phone being involved. Entering the link to Russ' site initially produces the following page which is a security feature designed to protect you from the web monsters.

Getting location. If location not shown in 30 seconds please try again
Tested on
iPhone 3GS
iPhone 4.0
HTC Desire HD (Android 2.2)
Samsung Galaxy S
If it works on another phone please let me know


This is slightly misleading in that no matter how long you wait, you won't get any further. In fact the computer (or your phone) is waiting for input from yourselves giving it the OK to send your location to us. Somewhere on the screen of your browser will be an acceptance button or similar. Click this and you will then get a message along the lines of

Locate Me!! © 2011 - Russ Hore
Any questions please ask
Timestamp: 1297710440882
OS Grid Ref: SD527924
Latitude: 54° 19' 0.489'' N
Longitude: 2° 43' 0.633'' W
Accuracy (m): 49
Altitude (m): 0
Altitude Accuracy (m): 0
Heading (degrees): 0
Speed (m/s): 0
TAG = LAMRTRobDellNoGPS

Tested on
iPhone 3GS
iPhone 4.0
HTC Desire HD (Android 2.2)
Samsung Galaxy S
If it works on another phone please let me know


Once you see this, your location has been sent to the website and can be viewed by what in real life would be the mountain rescue team sending you the link as either a casualty or an informant.

We have to stress that this system uses existing (if slightly scary) technology for which most browsers are prepared. Because of confidentialily and privacy regulations, all should default to NOT giving out this information. Indeed, if the system came up with your location immediately you entered the link into your phone then that is cause for you to worry. If we can do it then so can the web monsters. Your phone or laptop should first ask your permission for location information to be sent over the net. If the program appears to stop as soon as you click on the link then this is almost certainly what has happened. It's not that it doesn't work on your phone, it's actually waiting for you to give the OK. If you don't do this then, No, it doesn't work but this is as intended and is a security feature that should always be there.

It is possible but not at all recommended, to switch off Location Aware Browsing in your web browser, especially anyone using FireFox who are normally ahead of the game in this sort of thing. If L.A.B. has been switched off then ANYONE can discover your location if your computer is connected to the web. If you DON'T get the 'Wait 30 seconds.....' message but your computer gives you a location immediately then you might want to look more deeply into some of your browser settings.


The intention is to have this location information available on the MRMap website from where it will be displayed on your map as the location of the casualty or informant. Providing they don't subsequently move, you now know more or less exactly where your team has to go to recover this person. (A number of suggestions have already been put foreward to keep the casualty stationary but they are all illegal in most countries of the world)

This will be short-persistance data that will cease to operate once the rescue has been satisfactorily resolved. The mechanism for this is being discussed at this moment. Casualties or informants won't be able to pass the link around their mates and have all of them popping up on MRMap.

Note that this should work from anywhere in the world as far as Google Maps is concerned but will only work in the UK on the maps we have from Ordnance Survey.

In theory and given the right maps, it would work at sea as well as on land.

For this system to work, you do not need GPS to be fitted to the phone you are trying to locate. You only need it to be internet enabled.

After testing and sieving through the results, it appears that the above mentioned permission-to-send issue, is what has caused the majority of problems in getting a location onto the website. Most of you that have reported it not working on your phone are quoting makes and models from which we have already successfully received reports from others. By all means have a go or even give it a try from your laptop. Those who don't have the magic link can get it by contacting me direct or through this website.
Rob_Brookes
 
Posts: 191
Joined: Mon Jul 14, 2008 10:37 am
Location: Langdale Ambleside MRT


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