Date reviewed: May 2018 | Tested by: John Milbank | Price: £229 + installation & subscription | www.datatool.co.uk
With motorcycle theft such a serious problem – particularly in London – the ability to very quickly locate a stolen machine can not only mean getting it back, it can also mean capturing the thieves in the act.
Of course, some will argue that if their bike were to be stolen, they wouldn’t want it back, but as so many now are taken overseas or stripped for parts, if recovered fast enough, they could have very little damage, if any. And anything that does need repairing would be far cheaper than a total loss insurance claim.
Bikes are typically left out in the open after being taken (often with a cover over them and even chained up), while the crooks wait to see if a tracker’s fitted – they don’t want to be caught with it, especially if they have a workshop.
A quick-response tracking system can really help catch the crooks – a BMW R1200GS stolen in London was tracked all the way up to Leicestershire, where the Datatool monitoring team was able to direct officers, secure the bike and make an arrest. The van driver was linked to a number of other thefts and successfully prosecuted.
Datatool, part of Scorpion Automotive – the UK designer and manufacturer of vehicle security and telematics systems – has an excellent track record; in 2015 for instance, of the 130 motorcycles and scooters stolen with the company’s TrakKing system fitted, only 14 weren’t recovered. All the rest were back with their owners, usually within just two hours of being stolen. You can follow Datatool’s updates on its Facebook page.
• Datatool’s TrakKing systems are monitored 24 hours a day by its own in-house team
• TrakKing Adventure is made in the UK and approved to Thatcham Category 6, which applies to devices with a back-up battery, communication to and from a server, street-level
mapping, a police or licensed security agreement, secure storage for positional data and an ignition-off theft alert.
• TrakKing Adventure incorporates a small but powerful external antenna that gives the most accurate GPS location data to the team.
• It’s IP56 rated, so safe from dust and high pressure water jets.
Your own rides can be viewed on the app and online with TrakKing Adventure
• The Adventure can track your journey and display your route online and on the app.
• Full Western Europe and some countries beyond are included in your subscription, so your machine will still be tracked when you’re on holiday. It costs £9.95 per month (which works out at £119.40 per year), or you can pay each year in full for £109.
• ‘G-Sense’ notifications will detect an impact at speed and send an SMS notification – with latitude and longitude coordinates – to an emergency contact.
• Geofences can be set up to send you alerts based on your location; for instance when arriving somewhere or leaving a specific location, or when you pass a toll for instance, to remind you to pay.
• Early-warning text alerts can be switched on or off, notifying you immediately if the vehicle is knocked or moved. You get five free every month, then you can buy 100 for £15.
• Alerts can be set to let you know when your bike’s battery is low.
• Just introduced is the integration of the excellent RealSafe technology; for an additional £3 per month, the system will work with the accelerometer and gyroscope in your phone to accurately detect a crash. Using a secure server, the emergency services are notified directly and dispatched to your last known location if you’re unable to cancel the alert on your phone.
TrakKing can’t be DIY fitted – you have to have a qualified dealer or installer do it for you. I used Pete Mouncer, The Bike Alarm Man who can fit a TrakKing Adventure at the location of your choice for £339 including the unit and with a full warranty (check his website for the regions covered). A full list of installers around the country can be found here.
I’m unable to show you the device, as like other leading tracker manufacturers, Datatool doesn’t want to publicise what it looks like.
TrakKing Adventure (and the standard TrakKing) has a small external antenna box that can be located away from the main unit to give the very best GPS location data – while this is an additional part for the installer to hide, it means the main box can be tucked well away, without worrying about how effectively it can ‘see’ the satellites.
The app gives instant access to important functions, like transport mode and early warning text alerts
Generally, you never need to give the TrakKing adventure a second’s thought – it automatically arms itself when the ignition is off. If you’re using the early-warning SMS messaging service, you’ll likely trigger a few before you remember to turn them off when washing the bike. I bought an extra 100 for £15, which easily last when combined with the free five every month. I still get the odd alert when moving the bike in my garage, but it’s not a problem, and they can very easily be disabled using the iOS / Android app.
The app is simple to use, and on Apple can be entered with fingerprint recognition or a passcode. It’s quick and easy to access the last known location (when the ignition was turned off), and to enter ‘garage mode’ (to disregard battery disconnect alerts) and ‘transport mode,’ which will mean the call centre disregards ‘movement without ignition’ alerts, for instance when the bike’s on a ferry or trailer. These can be scheduled, so you don’t forget to turn them off, though the modes still show as being activated after the period has elapsed. They’re actually off, but hopefully this will be something tweaked in a future update of the app.
You can also message the operations centre from within the app, check your subscription, edit your G-Sense emergency contact (and turn it off if you want), as well as access emergency phone numbers at Datatool, change your settings or enable the RealSafe crash detection if you’ve paid the small extra fee. It’s worth noting that a standard subscription to RealSafe, which can deploy an ambulance direct to your location, costs £3.99, so the 99p per month saving is a useful addition if you run it from within the TrakKing app.
With your own position recorded every 15-20 seconds when riding, it’s easy to accurately plot your trips – even on green lanes thanks to the use of Google satellite imaging
The TrakKing Adventure sees all your rides tracked and recorded on Datatool’s server. Your speed is shown, which might be a worry for some, but of course this information isn’t shared. If you were to be involved in an accident and the police wanted to check your speed, it can be done with your phone, along with other tech you might have, so it really shouldn’t put you off.
A calendar in the app shows when journeys were made and gives an overview of them, with speed and data for each point. The device updates every 15-20 seconds when riding, though not all of these pings are shown in the mobile app. For the most detailed view, log in through your browser to see everything; here you can cycle through each point to display the address you were nearest, the exact time, bearing and the number of satellites linked along with the Horizontal Dilution of Precision (HDOP) – the GPS accuracy. An HDOP of under one is considered excellent – the smaller the number the more accurate your location is shown.
Overall, the day-to-day operating system is very good, though there is room for improvement – the tracked routes aren’t yet downloadable to share (though this is promised soon), and there can be niggling little glitches in the app, like the scheduling of modes that won’t work if you select the current time (set one minute later and it’s fine). The company has been very good at updating though, and can be easily reached if you have any problems or queries. Ultimately, you can very easily control your tracker, and what really matters is if it can find your bike in the event of a theft…
When in full alarm mode, TrakKing adventure accurately updates its location every 30 seconds
All our tracker tests are conducted in the same way – we don’t tell the manufacturer when we intend to perform a mock theft, and while we won’t waste police time to raise a crime number, we expect the operations centre to demonstrate the full service.
Level one: Stolen and left in street: With the early warning text alerts active, movement notification was received within less than a minute of the bike starting to shift – the bars are first twisted to simulate breaking the steering lock, which is more than enough to trigger motion alerts.
Within three minutes of the bike moving away from the parked location an operator called to confirm if I was with the bike. In a real theft situation, I’d then have contacted the police or a crime number and given this to Datatool, so they could work directly with the police.
The motorcycle was tracked to the exact spot it was left, making recovery extremely easy. With the accurate location data, a PCSO or any other officer can protect a bike until it’s recovered.
Level two: Stolen and hidden in a building: Movement alerts again notified within 45 seconds, and within two and a half minutes of the bike being taken away a call was received from Datatool.
Location accuracy was very good, easily identifying the exact building the bike was in. This can of course reduce depending on the structure, but it’s typically good enough to get officers to the correct location. It’s possible that in a very densely populated area, where the signal is weakened, there may be some uncertainty as to exactly which building the bike is hidden, though once nearby, the police will be able to look for other indications of criminal activity.
TrakKing Adventure doesn’t have an RF beacon – these are used by some manufacturers to allow a member of the brand’s team to be deployed and, when within a mile of the last known location, activate it to allow them to use a device that will pinpoint the device exactly. This can be helpful in a block of flats for instance, where GPS might show the building, but not the floor or individual residence. Again though, officers on the scene will be able to look for other activity, and may well know of suspects.
Even when inside a van, the accuracy is excellent thanks to TrakKing’s enhanced GPS antenna
Level three: Stolen and hidden in a shipping container: The early warning message alerts came through before a crook would have had time to cut through a chain and snap the steering lock. Within five minutes of being taken away in the van, I got the call from Datatool, asking if I was with the bike.
TrakKing Aventure pinged its location, direction and speed every 30 seconds, with nine satellites locked to it, and a Horizontal Dilution of Precision of just 0.5 – impressive.
Once stopped, the bike was accurately shown on the call-centre’s mapping right up until the point the container doors were closed. In a real theft situation, the location data showed the bike directly outside the position of the container, so an officer attending would likely have good grounds to gain entry.
If your motorcycle were to be taken with the keys, the tracker of course wouldn’t know, but you can call the Datatool operations centre 24/7 to notify of a theft, and they’ll still be able to put the device into full alert mode.
Besides being able to message Datatool’s own UK operations centre, you can call at any time. The response is always fast, and contact times in the event of a theft are between one and five minutes – the speedy response means the chances of getting your bike back are very high.
Besides many insurance underwriters offering a discount for a Thatcham-approved tracker, a professionally fitted and monitored system significantly increases the chance of getting your bike back, whether it’s your only transport, you’ve spent a lot of time and money making it your own, or you simply have many fond memories attached to it.
The most common situation is that a motorcycle is taken and tucked away for a period, before being stripped or shipped; the very fast response time of TrakKing can see your bike back within a couple of hours. Motorcycles being stripped in trucks while in transit is a very unusual scenario, but a well-fitted tracker could lead the police to the team while on the move, before the device found and discarded.
If it had an RF beacon to compliment the accurate GPS – to locate a bike that was very well hidden – TrakKing could be the perfect system, but that would cost more not just for the technology, but for the team that would be required to deploy with it.
TrakKing is the only system tested to date that gives such accurate location data even when the motorcycle’s in a van; the recovery rates and typical theft scenario mean that Datatool’s pinpoint accuracy gives you a very good chance of your motorcycle being recovered very quickly. And it could help nail the criminal gangs involved.
For more information on tracking systems, click here.