Live Team Tracking


in this lesson

The ability to share and track team member locations can provide incredibly valuable information both during and after a major incident or event.

CalTopo and SARTopo offer a number of location sharing and tracking functions and the particular function(s) you choose to use will depend on several factors, including whether you have a team or individual account, why you want the location information, whether or not team members have a data connection and the trackable devices available.

The purpose of this article is to describe the different functions for tracking and sharing location on CalTopo and SARTopo in order to help you choose the best tools for your particular mission.

There are essentially two types of location sharing and tracking functions in CalTopo and SARTopo. The first type is focused on documentation and includes functions that allow you to record location data on a saved map, such as recording tracks with the mobile app and live tracks.

The second type, which requires a team account, is focused on situational awareness. This includes functions such as the Shared Locations overlay, which displays the position of any mobile app or trackable device that are sharing their location with the team. You can also easily record a live track from any object in the Shared Locations overlay. As you will see below, different location functions serve different purposes.

Topics on this Page:

It is important to note that you can use more than one location function at a time.

In the example below, a team member is recording their mobile tracks (the orange line with the blue dot) and sharing location data with the team (the green dot) at the same time via the CalTopo mobile app.

Simultaneously sharing location and recording a track.


Tracking Location Data on a Saved Map

You can record a track to a particular map, or set up a locator for that map. These actions are not limited to team accounts, but can be useful for teams.

Recording Tracks with the Mobile App

If you wish to record mobile tracks on a particular map, then this is the option for you. Any mobile tracks that are being saved to the map will upload in near real time with a data connection or as soon as a data connection is reestablished. Each set of mobile tracks will appear as a map object in the map viewer and the left side bar. This function does allow for real time tracking for anyone viewing the map if the team members in the field have a reliable data connection.

Mobile tracks for two field teams (shown as green and orange lines) being recorded live on the same map as seen from a web browser.

How to use: To record your tracks using the mobile app, open the team map that you wish to save your tracks to in the map viewer. Click on the 4 dot location menu in the lower right hand corner and select Record Track.

Record a track using the 4-dot menu (lower right corner) then the Record Track button.

The Record Track dialog will appear. By default, the name of the track will be today’s date. Change the track name if desired or according to your team’s protocols and make sure to save the track to Account + This Map. This ensures that your track will appear on and be saved to the map you have open.

The track recording initiation asks that you name the track and whether to save it to just your account, or to your account and the map that you have open at the time of recroding.

Select Record Track and the track will begin recording. As long as you have a data connection, anyone viewing the map will be able to see your track. If you don’t have a data connection, the track will save locally to your phone and then automatically sync once a data connection is reestablished.

The track is recording as the user hikes a trail that also has a line drawn over it as the intended route.

To finish a track, click on the Recording Track dialog at the bottom of the screen and then select Finish and Save.

Tap the recording box at the bottom of the screen to edit or finish the track.

The track will be saved to both your individual account under Your Tracks and to the map.


Back to Top

Live Tracks

Please note: this feature has replaced the original Locator Group function. While some objects now require more information (i.e. IMEIs for Garmin inReaches), this feature adds support for a wider range of objects (including ADS-B aircraft) and the ability to record live tracks to a saved map.

If you have an individual account rather than a team account and wish to view and record the position of location sources such as Garmin inReaches, ADS-B aircraft or APRS to a saved map, then this is the option for you.

You can now record live tracks to a map for a wide range of location sources- including aircraft as shown in this screenshot.

Depending on the location source, Live Tracks can allow you to record location updates in areas with and without cell service. The position will be updated at either regular intervals as specified by the location source’s plan/settings or by manually pushing updates.

How to use: Live Tracks must be added for each location source individually to each saved map. There are two ways to add a Live Track:

Method 1: Add a locator to a saved map

Open the +Add menu at the top of the Map Objects menu on the left side of the map viewer and select “Locator”.

Click the +Add menu and select Locator from the Map Objects section.

Select the type of device that you wish to record a live track for and the “Track Details” dialog will appear.

Select the type of device that you want to record.

Complete the form with your device information, label, color, etc. Device specific instructions for how to complete the form are shown in each Live Track dialog.

An example of a Track Details dialog for adding a Garmin inReach to a map. Note that device specific instructions are provided.

Please note for adding a Garmin inReach: each individual inReach’s IMEI number is assigned by Garmin. You can usually find it on the device itself, in the device settings or on the Garmin Portal Connect page.

Device info fields cannot be edited once you complete the form so double check that these fields are accurate. Track attributes can be edited as needed later on. Once you are happy with the form, click “Ok.” The next time that the locator reports its location, it will appear on the map as a map object and in the Map Objects menu in the Live Tracks folder (unless you designate a different folder).

Locators in the Live Tracks folder and on the map once they report their location.

Method 2: Record live tracks for aircraft from the Aircraft overlay

Select the Aircraft overlay from the Map Overlays menu on the right hand side of the map viewer.

Select Aircraft from the Map Overlays menu

Click on the aircraft that you wish to record to the map and select “Record to Map” from the dialog that appears.

Click on the aircraft and select “Record to Map”.

The Track Details dialog will appear with the call sign/device ID field already completed. Fill out a label, color, etc and then click “Ok”.

Tail/flight number field will be pre-filled. Complete the track attributes fields as desired.

The next time that the aircraft reports its location, it will appear on the map as a map object and in the Map Objects menu in the Live Tracks folder (unless you designate a different folder).

To end a Live Track recording, click on the pencil icon to the left of the object in the Map Objects menu and select “Stop Recording” in the Track Details dialog.

Stop recording a track for an individual locator by clicking the pencil icon and then choosing Stop Recording.

To stop tracks for multiple devices at once, click on Bulk Ops at the bottom of the folder with the object. Select the object(s) that you wish to stop recording and then select “Stop Recording”.

You can stop recording for one or multiple locators by clicking Bulk Ops, selecting the object(s) and then clicking Stop Recording.

If you don’t manually stop a recording, the recording will automatically stop 24 hours after the last location update is received or once the track consists of more than 3000 points. Once a recording ends, the live track will be converted to a line object on your map and automatically moved to the Lines & Polygons folder in the Map Objects menu.


Back to Top

Shared Locations (Team Accounts only)

Shared Locations Overlay

If you have a team account and want to easily track and/or record the positions of multiple trackable devices at the same time, then this is the option for you.

Available only to team accounts, this overlay displays the position of any device (including the mobile app, inReaches, APRS, etc) sharing its location with the team or Event. Because this overlay does not belong to a map, position data can be easily displayed on any map. This allows you to seamlessly switch between maps while still viewing location data. If you need to record location updates for a particular device, live tracks can also be recorded and saved to a map for any device on the Shared Locations overlay.

The image below shows the position of a device being shared with the team. Notice that, unlike adding a locator, the device does not automatically appear in the Map Objects menu on the left unless you choose to record a live track for that device.

Devices that are part of the Shared Locations overlay are not automatically saved to a specific map and do not appear in the Map Objects menu on the left (left image) unless you choose to record a track for that device to the map (right image).

In addition, any device that is currently sharing its location with the team account and part of the Shared Locations overlay will automatically show up when the overlay is turned on, eliminating the need to add devices each time you start working in a new map.

How to use: The Shared Locations overlay can be found at the bottom of the layers menu under Realtime Data. By default, the shared locations for any team, subteam or Event that you are part of will be displayed. You can use the dropdown menu to show only the shared locations for a particular team, subteam or Event. You must turn on the overlay in order to view the position of devices that are sharing their location with the team account.

The Shared Locations overlay appears in the Map Overlays menu for all members of a team account.

Each device sharing its location with the team will be displayed as a dot on the map. Clicking on the device dot on the map displays a dialog with the device’s name, coordinates and last update time. There are also options for recording a track for the object to the map, showing a particular dot's track, and copying its current location to the map as a marker.

Clicking on the dot brings up a dialog with information about the device and options for recording a track, showing the track and copying the dot as a marker.

To record a track to the map, click the “Record to Map” option in the device dialog.

Click “Record to Map”.

The Track Details dialog will appear with the call sign field already completed. Fill out a label, color, etc and then click “Ok”.

The Call Sign field will be pre-filled. Complete the Track Attributes fields.

The device will now be added to the map as a map object and it will appear in the Map Objects menu in the Live Tracks folder (unless you designate a different folder).

If you wish to stop recording a track for a device, click on the pencil icon to the left of the object in the Map Objects menu and select “Stop Recording” in the Track Details dialog.

Stop recording a track for an individual shared location by clicking the pencil icon and then choosing Stop Recording.

To stop tracks for multiple devices at once, click on Bulk Ops at the bottom of the folder with the object. Select the object(s) that you wish to stop recording and then select “Stop Recording”.

You can stop recording for one or multiple shared locations by clicking Bulk Ops, selecting the object(s) and then clicking Stop Recording.

If you don’t manually stop a recording, the recording will automatically stop 24 hours after the last location update is received or once the track consists of more than 3000 points. Once a recording ends, the live track will be converted to a line object on your map and automatically moved to the Lines & Polygons folder in the Map Objects menu.

Devices can be added to the Shared Locations overlay by turning on the Share Location function in the mobile app and by adding trackable devices on the Team Admin page.

Share Location From the Mobile App

You can easily share your location with the team from the mobile app as long as you have a data connection and an update or higher team permission level. This is different from recording mobile tracks because your position is displayed but not saved to a map.

How to use: To share your location with the team from the mobile app, click on the 4 dot location menu in the lower right hand corner and select Share Location.

The Share Location button in part of the 4-dot menu in the lower right corner of the map viewer.

In the Start Location Sharing dialog that appears, choose a name and color for your device. Select Share Location with (Your Team Name) and then press Start Sharing. This will start sharing your location in the Team Shared Locations overlay.

Name yourself for others on your team to identify you on the map, change the color if you would like, and confirm which team(s) you are actively sharing your location with.

Please note: to view your position and the position of anyone else sharing their location on your team, you will also need a data connection and to turn on the Shared Locations overlay from the layers menu in the mobile app.

Trackable Devices

This feature allows you to add trackable devices ahead of time that can then be viewed using the Shared Locations overlay. This is the method you will use to add any device that isn’t running the mobile app to the Shared Locations overlay. Multiple devices can be added, including Garmin inReaches, ADS-B aircraft, APRS, and custom systems.

When any device in a group is turned on and transmitting its location, the most recent position data for each device will be displayed on the map as part of the overlay. Instructions for how to record location updates for a trackable device are covered in the previous section.

How to use: Only team members with admin or manage access can view, edit or add trackable devices. To view, edit or add a trackable device, navigate to the Team Admin page and select the Trackable Devices tab.

Any team admin or manager can view, edit and add trackable devices on the Trackable Devices page.

Added devices will be listed in the Trackable Devices section. Location reports with a device ID matching one of the devices in this list will be displayed as part of the Shared Locations overlay with the designated labels and color. To edit a device, click the “Edit” button next to the device’s name and make any desired changes (label, color etc) in the Edit Device dialog.

View, edit or delete devices linked to the team account in the Trackable Devices list.

To add a device, click the appropriate button for that device (for example, choose “ADD ADS-B AIRCRAFT” to add an aircraft) and then complete the dialog.

Device specific instructions are shown below:

ADD AIRCRAFT (ADS-B):

  • Tail/Flight Number: Enter the tail number (civil or military aircraft) or flight number (commercial aircraft). Double check this field because it cannot be edited once you complete the form.
  • Enter a label and device color. This is how the aircraft will appear on the map.
  • Click “Save” and the added device will appear in the Trackable Devices list.
  • Aircraft will appear on the map as long as they have a ADS-B transceiver that is on and transmitting, and there are sufficient receivers in the area. Aircraft may not show up for a number of reasons including (but not limited to): the aircraft is on the ground and turned off, the aircraft is in an area without sufficient receivers or the aircraft is flying too low.

ADD APRS DEVICE

  • Call Sign: Enter the beacon call sign (and optional SSID). This value should exactly match the call sign sent by the device. Double check this field because it cannot be edited once you complete the form.
  • Enter a label and device color. This is how the beacon will appear on the map.
  • Click “Save” and the added device will appear in the Trackable Devices list.
  • The APRS device will appear on the map as long as the device is within range (either directly, or through a digipeater) of an APRS-IS gateway connected to the internet. You can use sites like APRS.fi to verify your reports are being received by a gateway.

ADD OTHER DEVICE

  • Call Sign: Enter a call sign, formatted as "{GROUP}-{DEVICE ID}" (ex: SARTRUCKS-14). Choosing a unique GROUP value will help ensure your reports are not confused with another user's.
  • Configure your script or custom system to send position reports to our API endpoint: https://caltopo.com/api/v1/position/report/?id=&lat=36.47375&lat=-118.85302
  • Enter a label and device color. This is how the beacon will appear on the map.
  • Click “Save” and the added device will appear in the Trackable Devices list.

Anytime the device is on and reporting its location, it will appear in the Shared Locations overlay.

Access URLs allow you to link a device or group of devices, such as Garmin inReaches and custom integrations, to your team account. To link a device or group of devices using an Access URL, click the “Create New Access URL” button at the bottom of the Access URLs section. The “Create New Access URL” dialog will appear.

Click the Create New Access URL button at the bottom of the Access URLs list to bring up the Create New Access URL dialog.

A default connect key will be displayed. The connect key is a unique semi-secure key that you will use to add trackable devices. In general, using the default access connect key will prevent others from listening to or spoofing (falsely reporting) your locations. If you wish, you can edit the connect key to make it easier to either share your key with another team (allowing them to listen to your devices) or listen to their devices. However keep in mind that using common words or short keys can result in interference with other users. Therefore it is recommended that most users use the default connect key.

To generate the connect key, click “Create” and the connect key will be displayed in the Connect Key list.

All connect keys appear in the Connect Key list once generated.

Click on the information icon to the right of the connect key to view the entire access URL (including the unique connect key) as well as specific instructions on how to link Garmin inReaches and custom integrations. Follow those instructions to link your device(s).

Click the information icon next to the connect key you wish to use in order to bring up the Access URL Details dialog.

For instructions on setting up the Garmin side of the inReach connection, see below.

The next time that any device that is linked to the team account reports its location, it will be automatically added to the Trackable Devices list on the Team Admin page and it will appear as part of the Shared Locations overlay in the map viewer.

To remove a device from the Trackable Devices list and the Shared Locations overlay or to remove a connect key, click the “Delete” button next to the device or key that you wish to remove and then confirm.

Garmin Setup

CalTopo offers integration with all inReach devices including the popular inReach mini and other devices.

CalTopo uses inReach Personal Connect (IPC) to receive this information from Garmin. Use of IPC requires a professional account for your device. Garmin allows one or more devices on a single Professional plan.

More information about Garmin Professional plans can be found here. If you are already active on a Personal plan you can switch your account to a Professional plan by following Garmin's instructions for switching an inReach subscription to a Professional Account.

The next setup steps are done in Garmin's interface and require an active device with an active professional plan (see above). To begin navigate to Garmin's inReach portal and login.

You'll be brought to the main page of Garmin account system. You'll select Settings (circled with an orange 1 on the below image) and then you'll navigate to Portal Connect (circled with an orange 2 on the below image).

Fleet Object options.

CalTopo uses the OUTBOUND Portal Connect. Copy and paste the URL with the connect key in the URL field.

Once you are on the portal connect page, look for the outbound setting section. Copy and paste the URL with the connect key there.

Turn on the outbound connection (click on the gray off switch and it will turn green and display the word on as shown above). In the URL field place the copied URL from the details dialog box.

You can send a test message at this point to your map and it should display a dummy locator and a marker at that point. Ensure to save your settings on the Garmin site at the bottom of the page.

Remember to SAVE this setting.

At this point you've successfully linked your trackable device to the team account. Any inReach that is part of the Garmin account will appear in the Trackable Devices list and as part of the Shared Locations layer the next time that it reports its location. Garmin devices may require additional settings to push updates; typically these can be set to occur regularly, or only on demand, based on your plan and preferences.

Back to Top