A simple tracking service for Search and Rescue to locate lost people by smart phone

After many years with a Search and Rescue team I’ve noticed that most of the people we search for don’t know how to make their smart phone show where they are, or share that location with us. Even worse, the location is often very approximate, and while the phone records the accuracy, almost no methods used for location sharing include this value. This is very important for SAR work because it tells us if the location is a general area or a specific point.

Communicating with the lost subject is confounded by many factors; remote location, bad signal, low batteries, low temperatures and precipitation. Long conversations on the phone reduce battery life and make the job of find the subject harder. It seemed like there should be a way to “Ping” the phone and ask it to send back it’s location.

With the arrival of HTML5 and specifically the Geolocation API there is a simple way to get a web page to access the phone’s location. This API provided the foundation for writing a service that allows one party to request the location of another party by asking them to click on an URL. is that service.

The Process

The party requesting a location goes to and fills in the Request” form with their name, the email address they want the location sent to, and a short message.

They then email or SMS the URL generated to the party whose location they want. This is the “PING”.

When the recipient hits the link, the page will request permission to access their location. If permission is granted, the page determines the location and emails it to the requesting party.

Donation Supported

This service costs some money to develop and has ongoing hosting costs. I do not charge for the service, and most SAR teams that use it as registered charities themselves; it does not make sense to charge them either. That leaves the support for this project up to donations alone.

If you believe, as I do, that this project has the potential to save lives, and speed rescue of lost and injured people, then I encourage you to donate to the project.

I am not a registered charity, but I will use all funds collected to pay for hosting, testing and development costs.

Other Uses

  • Two way adhoc communication with subjects
  • Integration with TrueNorth Mapping
  • Message templates for different rescue scenarios
  • Integration of agency logos
  • Live position tracking


I struggled with the licencing options for this project. This particular bundle of features is fairly unique, and while the component parts of this project (Geolocation API, Short URL, SMS, Markdown, Bootstrap) are free and open source, I’ve decided that at the moment I’d like to reserve licensing, so for now this project is closed source. Myself and my team will be the sold developers and curators of the service.

The service is free however, and I’m planning on adding the ability to embed the location code into your own web site in the future.

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