Radio tracking system used to fight crime

A tracking system originally developed to locate crocodiles in the Australian outback could aid the rapid recovery of stolen cash boxes and property from crimes such as the recent £2.2m Heathrow heist.

The QuikTrak system, produced by the UK’s QuikTrak Telecommunications, allows security firms to trace objects such as cash boxes without the use of GPS technology and its associated limitations.

GPS-enabled devices must be out in the open and within the line of sight of satellites in order to work, but QuikTrak’s system operates over a dedicated packet radio network, said Chris Kyriakou, the firm’s chief executive.

‘GPS was developed for navigation purposes and was never intended to be a tracking technology, but QuikTrak was developed with this in mind from the start,’ he said.The tracker operates by generating and sending regular radio signals from a transponder fixed to the monitored item. Radio receivers situated throughout thecoverage area then capture the signals and make an accurate measurement of the time of receipt.

The resulting information is passed to a central control computer, which calculates the item’s location by cross-referencing times and receiver positions before superimposing the result on a street map of the area.

Usually when using radio waves, interference from solid objects such as buildings and hills can cause signals to echo or take multiple paths to reach the remote receivers, meaning accuracy can be out by over 30m.

But the tracker’s manufacturers have designed the system with these problems in mind, making use of direct sequence spread spectrum encoding, a former militarytechnology.

This has a broader signal, making it more resilient, resistant to urban multipath problems, immune to jamming and able to deal with interference.

QuikTrak’s technology also has a number of other applications, including the monitoring of criminals sentenced to home detention and the tracking of vehicles by roadside recovery firms. It can also be used to trace and locate children, animals and VIPs for safety reasons.

The system, due to be installed in London in July, has already attracted interest from a major roadside recovery company as well as Spinnaker International, manufacturer of intelligent non-armoured cash boxes.