Vehicle Tracking or Phone Tracking for Free!

Tracking , , ,

In South Africa this is a common question. How do I track my vehicle, child or loved one, there any many needs for this technology at home and abroad.

I have been running a small tracking business as a side-line business for about 10 years. I have customers all over the world. So I am uniquely qualified to offer advise on which platforms work the best at the best price. I have used many many different tracking devices and have a drawer FULL of defunct and broken tracking devices that I’ve collected over the years.

3 Things You’ll Need

  1. A Tracking Device or Smart Phone:

    Depending on what / who you’re trying to track, you’ll either need a vehicle tracker, asset tracker or software tracker in the case of a cellphone.

    Vehicle Tracker: I use Teltonika devices. I import my own trackers and keep stock in SA (Not a push of my own product, but if you are interested, get in touch with me). I have tried multiple cigarette lighter trackers and OBD trackers without success (Mainly on BMW with the OBD which doesn’t seem to supply power to the devices).
        –  Recommended: Teltonika FM1100 / FM1120 / FM3400

    Behold! My collection of old and defunct tracking devices!


    Asset Tracker: I haven’t personally used any of these successfully. I have tried the mobile / personal trackers and they haven’t worked very well from multiple vendors.

    Software Tracker: The platform that I recommend which I will discuss next has an app for iOS and Android. Once installed and configured you’ll be able to track the phone’s location online in real time.
        –  Recommended: GPS Tag for iOS or Android

  2. Tracking Platform

    There are many tracking platforms available, and some of them are very good. My recommendation comes on the back of years of experience. Gurtam offer a free service to track a single device, whilst they offer a commercial package to track multiple vehicles / people / assets on the same interface. I am a South African partner for Gurtam and generally sell white-label solutions to companies. (They get to brand the interface, use their own URL and manage their own vehicles through a cloud based platform with support locally from me). Their free service is called GPS Trace.

    GPS Trace –

    This website offers a very basic version of the full featured commercial version. This is a great place to start. You can register an account, setup the app on your phone and you’ll be tracking within 15 mins!

    Here is a list of Hardware & Software available to use with GPS Trace  –

  3. SIM Card (If you’re not using a phone)

    If you’re going to go the route of a tracking device you’ll need a SIM card. I have tried all the networks on all the devices. My recommendation would be to use MTN or Telkom Mobile. I have had issues with Vodacom SIM cards not working correctly and Cell C doesn’t have the coverage required or the reliability out of town.

    If you’re tracking using the app, you’ll use the data & SIM in the device you’re tracking automatically.


How much data does vehicle tracking use?

To be honest, not very much. It depend on the frequency of updates and the amount of data you’re sending back to the servers. The higher the frequency of reporting, the higher the data usage. Keep in mind that the higher frequency also affects battery of the device.

That being said, you’ll use anything from 10mb to 50mb a month. I track many of my vehicles at 15 second increments, which is pretty much live and I have never used the data bundles loaded on the SIMs.

Contract or Pre-paid?

If you need SIM cards then there are many things to consider.

  1. Pre-Paid + Online Banking:

    How easy is it to load data / airtime etc directly to the SIM card. Luckily most banks allow you to schedule automatic top-ups of DATA directly to SIM cards now. I use FNB and it works like a charm. There is a small bank fee in addition to the airtime loaded. I think it’s about R1.10 per recharge.

  2. 3rd Party Monitoring:

    If you don’t want to or can’t use your bank account you can use services such as FlickSwitch’s SimControl. Depending on the network (Vodacom only to my knowledge), they can automatically monitor the balance of your SIM Card. On the other networks it just does recurring top-ups, similar to the bank. One major advantage is that they have a footprint across multiple Southern African countries. Convenient for cross boarder tracking (multiple devices or Multi-Sim devices). You can set rules of when to top-up the SIM cards. They do charge a monthly fee per active SIM card (Currently R13 per Sim, per month for under 30 Sims). I have used their service in the past and it works really well. The problem I have is with the monthly recurring fee, which in most cases is about the same as what I spend on data a month. When every cent counts and you’re trying to have a competitive solution, this can affect the viability big time.

  3. Top-Up Contract with Service Provider:

    This is what I am currently using. There are 3 convenience factors with this method.
    1. You don’t have to worry about topping them up.
    2. If they get stolen you won’t get a huge bill as they’re capped.
    3. No need to worry about SIM’s going deal if they’re not used often enough.

  4. Shared-Data SIM:

    This has recently become quite popular. With the number of sim cards that you can load per contract being as much as 14, all sharing the same data. It is worth looking into if you have a small fleet or using it for home use. I think at this point, MTN, Telkom Mobile and Cell C all have these options available. Not sure about Vodacom at this point.

Summary: Use what best suits your needs. The most flexible and cost effective is Pre-Paid Sim cards with auto-top-ups from your bank account.

How accurate and Reliable are the trackers?

I can only speak for the trackers that I use on a regular basis, the Teltonika devices. I have been using them for about 10 years and I have had a failure rate of 3 in 1500 units (0.002%). Sure the batteries do go quicker, but the actual PC boards having issues, nearly none! All of the ones deployed in the field that I currently have are still reporting in every 15 seconds, day in, day out without any issues.

With regard to apps for the phones, I must be honest, I haven’t used them too much. But there is plenty of support out there for them and the company who develops the app and platform are absolutely world class. Whether you’re looking to track your kid, or your driver I think that this is the solution. It is quick and easy to setup, there is plenty of support.

If you’re looking for something more commercial whereby you can track multiple things on a single screen, let me know and I’ll see what I can offer you.



If you’re looking for a cost effective way to add tracking to your business or even to track the whereabouts of your loved ones, then a platform like this is the answer. There are many solutions available with varying levels of detail and usability, but GPS Trace is backed by one of the largest and most innovative companies in the industry. They track over 1 million devices live 24/7/365.

Add a new level of accessibility and on-demand information to your workforce at the best price…. FREE!