How to track your car in Jamaica

For many people, their car is their second most valuable possession next to their homes. Whether you are the enthusiast who will spend several hundreds of thousands of dollars (JMD) into vehicle modifications, or the teenager who got their first car, or mom’s ‘grocery getter’, your vehicle is an expensive asset. As such protecting your asset from unscrupulous eyes is something all car owners have to consider.

Most cars now-a-days are designed with some amount of anti-theft systems stock, like automatic car locks, vibration/shock sensor alarm, and Transponder car key. However, thieves are very crafty and can overcome most of these systems car manufacturers put in place. Even third-party kill switch systems are not without its limitations. I recently spoke to a young lady who recalled a few years ago that while she was home, a criminal came into her yard and stole one of her relative’s vehicle without her knowing. Even though it was equipped with a shock sensor so sensitive that if you cough too hard it would set it off; she heard nothing at the time. Having a means to track your vehicle after the theft to report to the police would surely be the next step in reinforcing your security. Below I will discuss three ways you can monitor your car.

Electronic Security Companies

HawkeyeLogo

king alarm

At the time of writing, the two major electronic security companies in Jamaica who provide vehicle tracking and recovery services are King Alarm Systems and Hawkeye. Both companies install and offer live fleet management and vehicle tracking recovery services via app for android and IOS. Both King Alarm and Hawkeye charge a fee monthly for their service.

King Alarm uses the Fleet Mobi app which is free to download however a paid subscription to Fleetilla’s Vehicle Tracking Solutions is required which is done through King Alarm.

Hawkeye utilizes the app Syrus Mobile.

What makes this offer even better is that you can not only monitor your fleet, but also their security personnel are at your beck and call if you are ever in danger or if you are ever robbed.

On a side note it is advised to not paste the King Alarm or Hawkeye stickers on your vehicle because this will immediately tell criminals that there is a tracker installed and they will try to search the car for it before stealing.

The costs at the time of writing are summarized as follows:

King Alarm

Device+Installation: $15,000 + GCT  (Wireless panic button additional S4,200 incl. gct) one time cost

Monthly Fee (Billed Quarterly): $2,500+gct monthly ($7500+gct per quarter)

Hawkeye

Device+Installation: $24,000+gct one time fee

Monthly Fee: $2,750+gct

Pros

  • Live real-time fleet monitoring.
  • Vehicle recovery from armed security forces if stolen.
  • Other benefits such as a panic button, vehicle immobilizer, and discounts on most comprehensive vehicle insurance policies.

Cons

  • Relatively expensive monthly fee.

Amber connect

amberlogo_ora2x

According to their website “Amber Connect is a Kingston-based software company that specializes in the development of Internet of Things (IoT) applications.” Amber Connect’s SMART VEHICLE SECURITY product is claimed to be a user-friendly vehicle tracking system that’s the first in the industry to employ artificial intelligence. It provides real-time GPS location data, anti-theft alerts, and can remotely shut down the engine in case of unauthorized use. This PDF goes in-depth on the details of all their hardware features. Similar to King Alarm and Hawkeye, it operates through a device physically installed in your vehicle and is managed via app on Android and IOS. Vehicle recovery services are offered through a partnership with Quest.

The costs at the time of writing are summarized as follows:

Installation:

$3000+ GCT

Device Fee:

  • AMB 365 Device which cost $ 19,799.18 {includes GCT with the device installation cost}.
  • AMB 363 Device which cost $ 22,129.18 {includes GCT with the device installation cost}. Installation take 2-3 hours

Yearly Fee (No Monthly Fees):

  • AMB 365 Device =  $ US 85
  • AMB 363 Device = $ US 95

Panic and Vehicle Recovery (Optional):

  • Recovery Only {AMB 365 Devices}= $8,388.00 {includes GCT}
  • Panic with Recovery Only {AMB 363 Devices} = $13,980.00 {includes GCT}

Note: Prices depends on the ex-change rate within the next year when the device is due to be renewed.

If you call directly you may e able to get a discount.

The overall package is less expensive than the latter and the interface might be more appealing to persons.

Pros

  • Live real-time fleet monitoring of location, speed, and fuel consumed, with expense manager, trip history log, and the ability to schedule reminders.
  • Easy to use interface.
  • Cheaper rates than first party security companies.
  • Third party Vehicle Recovery offered

Cons

  • Relatively new service compared to traditional electronic first party security companies

GSM/GPS Tracking Modules

gps tracker

Another way you can monitor your vehicle is by buying a third-party GSM/GPS tracking module and having them installed or doing it yourself. Some of these modules, like the GPS Tracker 103B

offer a wide range of features that you would expect from a subscribed service. These include live location/speed/oil level/ fuel monitoring, trip history log, remote immobilizer, Geo fencing, panic button, and more. What is even better is that after the initial cost of buying the device and installation, the only other associated costs would be from the cellular network used since its GSM SIM card based. This device is managed via app on Android and IOS, and it can also be managed through SMS (if you don’t want to use mobile data). This makes it by far the most flexible and cheapest solution when considering installation and the total cost of ownership.

Pros

  • Live fleet monitoring of location/speed/oil level/ fuel monitoring, trip history log, remote immobilizer, Geo fencing, panic button, and more.
  • Custom installation.
  • Very inexpensive total cost of ownership.

Cons

  • Requires a more involved setup before it can be used.
  • Interface may not be the most attractive
  • No vehicle recovery service.

Conclusion

There may not be a ‘best’ monitoring solution since each has their pros and cons. It all depends on what you need most or what is best for you. If you are a business owner with a large fleet, or if you are the average working class citizen who just want a simple way to monitor your asset, or even if you are the type that likes to tinker and find the most economical solution there is and to fine tune it to your liking there is a solution for you here.

For whichever solution you choose bear in mind its effectiveness is limited by how well its installed. As stated before criminals are crafty and with enough time can deactivate almost any security measure put in. the key is to be ahead of the game in technology always.

In the next part I will explain how to install a GSM/GPS Tracking Module yourself.

Bonus Anti-theft System

stick shift

-Dave 2018

Continue reading “How to track your car in Jamaica”

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Protecting Your Devices with UPS Power

Prelude

Imagine finally paying your light bill on-time after years of paying late fees and then BOOM lightning flash and mash-up your smart TV and Desktop PC. Or, you finally made some progress in that assignment you’ve been postponing until last-minute and then BOOM the power gone. An unlucky scenario for sure especially since the power company isn’t gonna reimburse your precious electronics.

crying its not fair

But fear not! This could have been avoided with a UPS battery backup. For the less informed, UPS stands for uninterruptible power supply. As the name suggests it acts as a power source when power is gone and typically lasts for a few minutes before dying. One might wonder what the difference between a UPS and a standby generator is since they both supply backup power when there is power loss. In fact, the generator typically lasts for much longer, and is cheaper per Kilowatt! The key difference lies in the load it is powering. While it’s no major problem when simple linear loads lose power, eg. lights, speakers, heaters, and motors to name a few; many electronic devices are more sensitive to the power feeding them, and often times require a shutdown process to protect the information from corruption. As such, an active power back up solution is required so there is no noticeable switchover time when there is a power failure.

The UPS operates by taking AC utility power, conditioning it, and switching over to battery backup when there is a loss of the source power. Like most things, there are many different types and size of power supplies, but the taxonomy of UPS systems can be broken down as:

  • Standby
  • Line interactive
  • Online/ Double Conversion

There are other classifications, but these represent the majority of UPS system topologies. Just think of the classifications as a ranking of their quality and cost, with the Standby variant being the cheapest and Online being for the most mission-critical applications. The most basic UPS (standby UPS) allows utility power to pass through to the connected loads and switches over to battery inverted power when there is power loss. The line interactive UPS is similar to the standby with the difference being that the incoming power is ‘conditioned’ before being supplied to the connected loads. Conditioning power refers to the process of filtering and smoothing an electric signal to bring the signal close as possible to an ideal form. The Online/ Double Conversion variant operates by transforming incoming AC power to DC, and then back to AC to power connected loads. This design makes it so that there is zero switch-over time during a loss of source power since power is constantly being generated from the batteries, while the source power constantly charges back the batteries. The UPS has 3 key components that accomplish this; the batteries (DC power), Rectifier (converts AC to DC power), and the Inverter (converts DC to AC power). For most home appliances, the standby and line interactive variants are more than good enough, while most businesses with server room equipment would use the online variant.

Project

Now that we got the intro and theory out-of-the-way let’s work on a project. The objective is to supply UPS power to a TV, 2 desktops, monitor, speakers, camera system and wireless router, all located in 3 different rooms.

Disclaimer: This project will involve working with mains electrical power and as such safety precaution should be made to follow all relevant electrical standards. Only a certified electrician should perform electrical installations within your home.

Tools Used

Tools needed for this project are from the How to cable your home or office for power, audio, or video post. Other tools include :

The first step in doing this project is evaluating the total power of all the connected loads. This is done by finding each equipment’s power rating or current draw. Note that Electrical Power =  Voltage used x Current consumed. Most times these are shown on a label on the device. If that’s not accessible you could also get an estimate from this List of the Power Consumption of Typical Household Appliances. For a more accurate estimate you could measure the current draw from the particular device with a clamp meter then multiply by the utility voltage (typically 110-120Vac).

For the scientists and engineers reading, yes there are two types of AC power with units of W(Watts) and VA (Volt Amps) which represents the real power consumed and apparent power. However for the scope of this project we will assume they are equal for ease of calculation. The mathematics will be discussed in a separate post.

Appliance Max Power(W)
Desktop Computer 500
All-in-one PC 60
Monitor 150
CRT Colour TV 150
Camera System 48
Speakers 48
Total  956

As we can see the maximum theoretical power usage is about 956W but in actuality only a fraction of this will ever be used at any one time. This fraction will vary but a reasonable estimate would be about 60% of the total load = 573.6W. The Tripp Lite 1500VA 900W UPS  was chosen for this project as it can supply my power needs with room for future growth.

The next step is choosing where you will lay the UPS and where to route the electrical cables. The post on How to professionally cable your home or office for power, audio, or video goes in further depth on how to run cabling in your home. The size electrical cable you choose depends on how much current is being transferred, the voltage, and the distance. Since I’m running power to two 15Amp power strips I need a minimum 1.5mm2 cable (cross-section) or 16AWG. See SAE & Metric Wire Size vs. Amps. This simply tells you your minimum size cable you can use safely; larger sizes are of course acceptable.

Material List

  • 5 lengths 16x16mm PVC Trunking
  • 70 ft 3-core flexible 2.5mm2 cable
  • 3 x PVC handy box
  • 2 x NEMA 5-15 (US) receptacle
  • 6 bonding nipples
  • Electrical tape
  • 5 x Wire Nuts
  • 3/4″ concrete/drywall nails

Results:

For ideas on any other future projects you’d like to see me cover please comment below.

References:

Technical Comparison of On-line vs. Line-interactive UPS designs

Different Types of UPS Systems

Calculating Total Power Requirements for Data Centers

List of the Power Consumption of Typical Household Appliances

SAE & Metric Wire Size vs. Amps

Continue reading “Protecting Your Devices with UPS Power”

How to professionally cable your home or office for power, audio, or video

This is the excerpt for a featured content post.

If you think of a house as a person, the steel would be the bones, the concrete the muscles, plumbing the blood vessels, and the electronic/electrical cabling the nervous system. This post will focus on your home’s nervous system and how to set it up for whatever the application, be it electrical power, video/audio, data, etc. While many applications are adopting wireless solutions, some things still require or works best with physical cabling. Cabling is a trade skill and as such a lot of attention should be put on quality and aesthetics of work. If the cable guy from Flow or Digicel came to your house and did a sloppy job setting up the cables you’d kick them out of your yard and try to have them fired! From my experience in the field myself, I’ve learned some tricks of the trade I’m willing to share.

Tools and Material:

  • Tape measure
  • Power drill
  • Nails
  • Wall plugs
  • Hack saw
  • Screw driver
  • Pipe conduits/Trunking
  • Tie straps
  • Saddle straps
  • Hammer
  • Level
  • Ladder

Part 1: Planning And Design

The first rule of thumb is that cables should never show. We don’t want cables running all over our homes like the arm on some jacked up power-lifter.

power lifeter2

Fun fact: this is an actual picture of my biceps on arm day at the gym.

Jokes aside, this why the run cables within walls. If you want to add additional cables after construction, running them through the walls may not always be possible or feasible. Luckily, there are surface-mount solutions that can still leave your project with a neat and professional look. This post will primarily look on surface-mount cabling solutions. The three most popular of these are using cable clips, trunking or pipe conduits.

Cable Clips

PVC Trunking

PVC Pipe Conduit

Cable clips are rather limited in use since they expose the cable, it doesn’t provide any mechanical protection, and it may stick out if not painted to match the walls. However it is excellent for quick indoor use, so long as you don’t mind spending hours hammering. Pipe and trunking (raceways) come in several different material types and sizes depending on their application, but for most home projects their PVC variants can get the job done just fine. Pipes are typically recommended for outdoor installations, and trunking typically indoors although they can be interchanged to some extent.

The next thing to consider is where your end points will be installed to determine your cable route. These points can be electrical outlets, network/phone jacks, audio/visual jacks, cameras just to name a few. The route you take is very important because it determines how much material you need to buy and how neat the presentation will be. As I said before visibility is everything, so ideally choose the most inconspicuous path out of sight. If that’s not possible try to run along the corner edges of your walls, either along the ceiling or along the floor.

After you’ve chosen your route the next thing to do is to measure your run distances. Fortunately, this does not need to be accurate to the inch, and in fact is not recommended. This can be found if you have a plan of your home/office. This plan be sketched if you do not have access to a building plan. You can also manually find these distances. Having a tape measure is invaluable here, however if you don’t you can always use you feet and count steps to measure distances like when you were in primary school. For vertical runs you can use wall tiles, furniture or anything that you know the length of as a reference. Once you know your total length its good practice to add-on ‘fat’ to give yourself a generous estimate. Its cheaper to be a foot over than an inch too short. With enough experience you can estimate by just eye balling the route.

Now that you have decided whether it’s an indoor or outdoor installation, and your route length its time to draft a material list to take to the hardware store. You may not be able to get the exact amount as estimated since most times the stores will quantify their cables in reels of certain lengths, or pipes/conduits will be of certain standard lengths (typically 10 ft). For this reason expect to have excess material.

Part 2: Installation

Before we continue, having another person to assist you for the installation would be highly recommended as some of the steps listed below are difficult/tiresome to do solo (however not impossible).

It’s usually a good idea to start by marking where your end points will go and then mount your raceways to meet it. Based on your prior planning to get the estimate you should have an idea of where you will be laying your cables/raceways. Whichever method chosen for laying your cables (pipe/trunking/cable clips) you need to make sure your route is level with a bubble level (or laser level if you can afford) before mounting to the wall.

For cable clip installations align your cable along wall, level and straightening it, then hammer down cable clips every 2 -5 ft apart. Be sure to hammer straight, otherwise the nail in the clip will chip the wall.

For piping raceways, similarly align & straighten and use saddle straps to hold it down the mounting surface. The distance apart will vary depending on how much structural integrity you need. Run cable through the pipe(s) and if necessary join more lengths of conduits with pvc conduit couplers.

couplers

Trunking may be the easiest type to work with as all you need to do align it to where you want it to go and remove the adhesive on the back to make it stick to the wall. For good measure its recommended to nail it to the wall with at least 3 nails per 10 ft length. Then simply place your cable(s) in the trunking by removing the cover.

Once all your cables and raceways are in place you can connect your end devices and enjoy the fruits of your hard work. This tutorial may not cover every possible scenario but it should at least equip you with knowledge for many home cabling projects. Stay tuned to see some more projects that will draw on techniques used here: Cabling house for video Surveillance and Cabling UPS circuits.

 

Amazon Links to purchase some of the speciality tools used:

Level: Semlos Multipurpose Laser Level Measuring Tape Standard and Metric Tape Ruler (8ft/2.5M)

Power Drill: Dewalt DCD771C2 20V MAX Cordless Lithium-Ion 1/2 inch Compact Drill Driver Kit

Screw Driver set: Performance Tool W1727 39-Piece Screwdriver Set with Rack

Dremel: Dremel 7700-1/15 MultiPro 7.2-Volt Cordless Rotary Tool Kit

 

 

 

-Dave 2018

Continue reading “How to professionally cable your home or office for power, audio, or video”