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Tool Talk logoBy Jon Eakes

Lock it, Leave it, Locate it...

The underlying theme for this month’s issue of Home BUILDER Magazine is transportation, so we thought it might be fun to look at some of the latest and greatest gizmos and gadgets to help you protect, cover, find and maintain your equipment.

Lock it down
With an open pick-up truck, or open doors on a van, your tools are open to theft as you go in and out of a site. The Stanley FatMax Xtreme Portable Truck Box ties them down, yet leaves the whole box portable. It has a 42-gallon capacity, water resistant box, good internal organization, large wheels and extendable handle—and then it gets better. A docking rack bolts down to the bed of your truck and the box just slides in and key locks into place. It doesn’t bounce around and only you can get it out of the truck. The lid locks with a keypad combination lock making it easy for you to open and close securely, and it has a siren if someone else attempts to open it.

Record a vehicle’s location and find it again
If the problem is finding your truck on a new or large site, or even finding your work location away from the truck, you will want to find a smart phone app to help. Car locater apps allow you to click in your GPS location, and then later be directed back. Most even keep track of time spent to remind you of parking meters that need feeding. Most allow recording of multiple stop points, like car, the hotel or the work site—or three truck or supply locations around a large construction site if you like.

“Find My Car” is a surprisingly good free app for Android that I have used.
Remember that GPS doesn’t work inside most parking garages and when first turned on it takes a bit of time for the GPS to lock in, so turn it on before you arrive so it is ready when you want to leave the vehicle.
Check permissions on all apps. The more features it has, the more potential for hacker problems. For instance, some want total access to your contact book or calendar and although that could be convenient for sending your location to someone else or pre-mapping a future trip, it also opens up potential hacker problems. Other apps allow you to grab your GPS and then manually MSN or e-mail it out to someone you want to join you; a bit more trouble but you control the communications.
For higher tech with iPhone 4S and higher, supporting Bluetooth Smart, you can get a just-released hardware/software combination. Whenever you power down your car, the Bluetooth device in the car automatically tells your phone to insert the GPS coordinates and time into your phone. You don’t have to remember to record anything, and it walks you back to your car. I am not sure how well that works when you are buried in a parking garage or how much extra battery you may use leaving your GPS on. www.FindMyCarSmarter.com

Place a tracker in a vehicle and keep track of it
As a cross between fleet control and spyware (know where your teenager is with your new car), there are a large variety of GPS devices that can be installed in vehicles (or other mobile equipment) and then followed in real time back at a home base. Google “Car Trackers” to find the latest.
LoJack.com is a web service that I have used for years to track my laptops. They have now merged with the Boomerang system to extend their service from stolen computers to stolen vehicles and equipment. This is the system that has developed the closest working link with police departments for quick response to stolen material. You phone in a theft report and they immediately tell the police where to pick it up. More and more police cars are actually equipped with LoJack tracking devices that can allow them to follow that stolen moving vehicle.

Track a whole fleet of vehicles for service and maintenance in the field
ToolWatch.com is one of several Cloud applications for complete management of mobile and fixed equipment. With a full equipment management database application on the Cloud, you can log in from any cell phone or laptop and see the full status of all equipment. In the field you can use a special bar code scanner to directly update information on any piece of equipment via cell phone communications.

Montreal-based TV broadcaster, author, home renovation and tool expert Jon Eakes provides a tool feature in each edition of Home BUILDER.

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