Security 101

Amazing creativity: Using Prey to track your bike

Stolen bicycle tracked with Prey
We’re extremely happy to hear that every day Prey helps hundreds of people around the world recover their stolen property by providing the information needed to get them back. A few weeks ago, though, we heard about Fernanda, a Brazilian enthusiast who uses an old Android phone running Prey to keep her new electrical bicycle safe.

Yup, that’s right mister.

She claims that there’s not a single insurance company interested in insuring her bike in Brazil, so she developed her own security system without any help. If you want to learn how she managed to solve her problem, keep on reading.

Fernanda’s solution is quite simple. Her bike has a tail box, as you can see in the picture above. The box is big enough to carry an inexpensive Android smartphone (a Samsung I5500 Galaxy 5) running Prey, reporting every two minutes. That means if the bicycle is ever stolen Fernanda will know exactly where her bike is in real time via GPS tracking, plus IP addresses if the phone happens to connect to any Wi-Fi network while being tracked from the Prey’s Control Panel.

The phone plugged to a portable battery chargerThe only issue is that if Prey is running on a phone and reporting every two minutes —for more than a day— the device’s battery may drain away. And if the phone is constantly sending it whereabouts, that’s a lot of battery power if you have Prey reporting 24/7. Fernanda solved that with a portable battery charger, as you can see on the picture to the right. The phone’s battery plus the external charger allow her to track the bike for about 30 hours, long enough to get its location and route if it’s ever stolen.

Covered phoneIt may seem a little obvious—for a thief—to search the tail box and find the phone inside. And yes, it’s not the best hiding place for a tracking device, but there’s no reason to think it won’t do. After all, Prey does work for stolen phones! But if that’s not enough, you can always cover things up if you want to hide them from the sight, as you can see on the image to the right. It probably won’t save Fernada’s phone from being discovered but it could give it some more time to report the thief’s location.

Even more tips on how to track your bike using Prey

There’s nothing wrong about Fernanda’s way. It works fine and we all praise her creativity, since we never thought about using Prey for tracking bikes. This opens a whole new set of possibilities! Here are a few more tips, tools and gadgets to enhance your recovery chances. Nothing’s too much when you’re in need.

MAKEFirst of all, there are pedal-powered phone chargers that take advantage of the energy you generate while riding your bike. If you’re interested, Google knows a lot of stores where you can purchase one, but if you’re into electronics or just want to show off to your friends, MAKE Magazine has an excellent DIY guide for making your own pedal-powered phone life-saver, which you can see on the pic to the right. With one of those, you’ll never run out of power as long as the wheels keep turning round.

You also need a cheap and small Android phone. Try using an old forgotten phone, but here’s a decent list with a few options if you’re buying a new one. It all depends on how much you love your bike and how much it costs—obviously there’s no use in spending $200 on protecting a $200 bike. But if you’re doing it anyway, you could manage some way to hide the phone under the saddle. Try picking the smallest phone out there, hiding it will be easier. Or trying a saddle bag if you prefer a portable charger like Fernanda does. There are two important things to keep in mind: You need to have enough power for your phone to stay alive and your Prey account needs to have a good report capacity. Free Prey accounts support up to 3 devices, and each of them can store up to 10 reports; this means reports every two minutes would only cover a span of 20 minutes in total. If you think you need more than that, Pro Accounts start at $5/month.

After all this reading, if you think none of the above works, we’ve heard from some trustworthy sources that painting bikes pink and/or covering them with wire tape are successful ways to deter possible thieves, but we’re not sure if we’ll be trying that out.

Do you have any crazy or creative ideas on how to use Prey for different stuff? Let us know through Twitter! The best idea gets a free cookie.

About the author

Fabián Núñez

I love tech and Asian food. Headbanging since 2002. Overall badass.