Have you ever taken a trip to see friends or family and during the trip you’re called several times being asked, “Hey, where are you at? Are you close?” Or maybe you’re taking a solo trip and you would like people to know your last recorded location in the event the unthinkable happens. The potential uses for real-time phone GPS tracking is plentiful but the solutions, unfortunately, aren’t.
With InstaMapper you can track a GPS enabled device, such as iPhone, Android or BlackBerry in real-time, integrated with Google Maps, for Free. Then share or embed your device tracking map and information with friends, family or maybe even your boss to keep everyone updated on your location.
In this how-to I’ll show you how to setup InstaMapper and even embed your tracking map in a custom page.
As I already mentioned in the intro., there are quite a few reasons why you might want to track a GPS enabled device like the iPhone. I’m sure many of you already have great ideas coming to mind! However, a real-world scenario many of us encounter are road-trips. You might be going on vacation, visiting friends or family, traveling on business or some other reason.
Whatever the reason for the road-trip, whether you’re traveling solo or with others, it’s not a bad idea to let others know where you are. Accidents do happen and you’ll be safer by enabling others to keep tabs on you, just in case.
I’ll be taking a thirteen hour road-trip to visit family, picking up my sister half way through the trip. My family is excited to see me so they’ll want to know where I’m at during the trip. My sister will also want to know how close I am so she can be ready once I arrive. So, I installed InstaMapper’s iPhone app and created a custom page on my personal website with my device’s GPS tracking map embedded.
I’ve sent the link to my family so they’ll be able to view my progress without the need to call. The embedded map doesn’t provide real-time tracking so viewers will have to refresh the page. InstaMapper provides a real-time tracking map on a dedicated page for your device, viewable by those you send the link to.
There are several other sharing options as well such as Facebook integration and even API access.
Once logged in, you’ll need to setup your device to be used with InstaMapper. Visit InstaMapper’s supported phone page for instructions on installing your phone’s mobile app.
I’ll be using an iPhone so I’ve installed the InstaMapper iPhone app from the App Store. Once the app has been installed you’ll have to enter a 13-digit device key to tie your device to your online account. On the InstaMapper website, navigate to the Devices page and add your device.
Once added, you’ll be given your device’s 13-digit key which you’ll then enter in your device’s InstaMapper tracking app. Once you’ve configured your device’s tracking settings, click save to begin sending your GPS information. To see your live tracking map, navigate to the Live Tracking page in your InstaMapper account. You’ll should now see your device and its GPS information. You can also add more devices if you need to track more than one; a fantastic feature for employers!
The iPhone application must be open to continue transmitting GPS data. Apple prohibits applications from running in the background. If you’ve jailbroken your iPhone you can install an app that will allow you to run InstaMapper in the background, called Backgrounder.
Map Sharing & Embedding
Now that your device is setup its GPS data is being tracked, you’re ready to share your tracking map with others. Navigate to the Devices page in your InstaMapper account and click “sharing” for the device you would like to share location data and map tracking.
InstaMapper provides a link and dedicated page for desktop and mobile viewing, although the mobile viewing page is focused more on regular handheld viewing rather than iPhone or Android viewing. You can also embed a map with your current location on Facebook.
To embed a map on your own site(s), use the wizard they provide to customize your embedded map as desired. This is the option I chose as it offers the most flexibility for customization. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t offer real-time tracking like the map InstaMapper offers.
I’ve setup my custom embedded map on its own dedicated page and subdomain so my friends and family have quick and easy access. You can view a copy of the custom GPS map page here. You’ll need to replace my InstaMapper key with the one provided in your InstaMapper account.
I’ve added a couple extra options to my custom embedded map page to make up for the lack of real-time mapping and iPhone browser optimization. To the left of the map you’ll see an option to set the refresh interval of the map (doesn’t refresh the whole page), along with a link to view the real-time tracking map provided by InstaMapper.
I then added iPhone/iPod browser detection to redirect to an optimized map. I didn’t spend much time on it so it is only partially optimized for landscape viewing. I may further optimize this later and will update this article if I do.
There are a few extra features InstaMapper offers, such as an API, device tracks and device data (shown below). It would be great to see some uses of InstaMapper’s API to create some neat GPS tracking web apps!
There’s tons of creative, useful and fun ways you can use InstaMapper so hopefully this how-to comes in handy for you! Please abide by InstaMapper’s terms of service and respect people’s privacy. You’ll also want to be sure your mobile device has an unlimited data plan as extended use of the app could incur large data charges otherwise.
I’d love to hear how you use InstaMapper or what you think, so please leave a comment below.
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