Keeping Your Loved Ones at Ease

4 real-life stories and how to master that tool in your pocket

Maps are dead. Long-live Google Maps.

I traveled out of my country for the first time in 1997. Destination: Montrose, Scotland. Those were the days before the internet and mobile communications as we know them today. GPS and satellite communications were stratospherically far beyond the reach of the average person. Google was born one year later. Google launched Maps in 2005. Apple released the first iPhone in 2007.

On a weekend after the completion of our course in Montrose, my co-worker from Holland invited me to join him for a tour of our Scottish countryside. All we had for our navigation tool was a wide city map picked up at the city’s Information Centre. Armed with this map, we matched out of the city through the surrounding dales of farms and onto the coastline. I even dipped my feet into the North Sea. Towards the end of the day, we trouped back to our home away from our homes. Despite all the weary limbs and for me, blistered feet, in all, we were satisfied with our adventure.

Lost in a chopper in the swamp.

On one occasion in the late 1990s, I was a lone passenger in a chopper flying with the pilot back from one of the oil-drilling rigs then operating in the Niger Delta. As we were traversing the swamps, suddenly, the pilot made a diversion and had to touch down on a small strip of a dry flat patch in the middle of nowhere, and in the swamp. Was I scared during that incident? No. What has gone amiss? The electronic GPS module in the chopper’s cockpit has gone blank — the battery has run dry. That was what the pilot told me.

We were temporary without a functional GPS module to point the pilot in the right direction, we and our chopper were like an ant lost in a jungle. Fortunately, in a matter of minutes, after he touched down to get his bearings (using manual or analog backups, I guess), we were airborne again. The remaining trip back to our Port Harcourt base was safe and uneventful.

“I’m just keeping track of the love of my life.”

A former co-worker told me of an occasion when he used GPS car tracker to monitor his wife’s driving while he was at work in his office. On that occasion, the excellent woman was over-speeding when the good husband called to caution her against excessive speed. Listen and watching him in admiration, I quipped in, “I like your style, you dote and watch over your family with so much loving fatherly concern.” To this, he promptly replied, “I lost my first wife to an untimely death, I don’t want to go through that harrowing experience again.”

Photo by henry perks on Unsplash

No car-tracker? Go home and pray.

In 2019, my wife got robbed of her car at gunpoint at the gate of our residence. The time was around 9.00 pm. On that night, she honked her car to announce her arrival to me and her children. We were eagerly awaiting her return home. Joyfully, and with some of our kids behind me, I sauntered out. Just before I got to the gate, a gunshot rang out. Screaming and threatening her with their gun, she handled the car key to the armed robbers. She entered our compound petrified and frozen, speechless and in shock as the robbers made good their escape with her car. At the end of the ordeal, our greatest joy was her coming home to us unscathed. That was our inestimable consolation.

Not long afterward, we reported the case at the police station. There wasn’t much they could do to speed up the tracking or the recovery of our car. Arriving at the police station, we narrated our harrowing ordeal. At the end of our story, the officer asked, “Do you have a GPS tracker installed in your car?” To his request, I replied, “No.” The Toyota car was then over 20 years old and it never occurred to us that any robber will take any interest in the smokey car. But then, this is Nigeria and one man’s jalopy is what some drugged hoodlums will quickly kill for.

“Sorry that you don’t have a car tracker. With a car tracker, we might have been able to recover your car. Just go home and pray.” We left the station downcast. It was unbelievable that the car will just “disappear, just like that.” But we went back home and indeed we prayed, “God Almighty, please help us to recover our car.

Gloomy but hopeful, we returned home that night. Wednesday came, no good news from the police. The hours tick on into the third day. The longer the hours that have elapsed since our loss, the less likely the chances of our recovering our old but dependable ride.

Finally, on Friday, a woman, the lady whose property we use for our church’s fellowship center came beaming with rapturous delight to our place. She couldn’t hold back her excitement. The police have called through her phone number written on the tenancy agreement she gave to us. We had left the tenancy agreement inside her car before the robbers stole it. As soon as the robbers got hold of the car, they trashed and dispose-off every document with which we, the original owners of the car could be identified or tracked.

Driving across four state boundaries with no vehicle details, they were about to cross the fifth state border into the notorious armed-robbers and now bandits-ridden Middle Belt region of our Nigeria. Beyond Enugu State border is the North and far North region “lands of no return” for stolen vehicles. It is “a kiss of goodbye forever” for any stolen vehicle that enters that black-hole of banditry, killer-herdsmen, and kidnappers.

As the lone driver was about making good his escape into the fifth state, a police officer apprehended him at a checkpoint. Upon interrogation, the officer couldn’t see any paper on the accomplice driver or the stolen car. “Who is the owner of this car?”, the police queried him. The Nigerian police know how to do their job when they really want to do their jobs. (Or rather, when they may do their jobs.) The robber’s confused response was one of the quick give-away signs. The driver was up to no good. His feeble response of, “It was an Alhaji at Abuja that instructed me to bring the vehicle for him”, did not rhyme with the inquisitive officer.

Probing further, the police officer drilled on, “So, you mean to say that you don’t have any single vehicle document with you?” “No sir.” The thief muttered on, feigning innocence. He doesn’t even know the registration number of the car he was driving and claiming to be for his boss-in-crime. Proceeding to check the car further, the officer discovered the tenancy agreement that has a phone number on it. That was what led to the thief’s arrest. And that was what set in motion the process for the return of the stolen car. Over 60 hours transpired before the police discovered the car. Who says God doesn’t answer prayers?

Photo by Owen Beard on Unsplash

Here in Nigeria, the average police officer is poorly paid, ill-equipped, and unmotivated. To make matters worse, the average law-abiding citizen and the police relate as cats and dogs. Yet, it is the same police force we run to in the event of any mishap such as mine. Demotivated and ill-equipped, policing here is more or less like a business.

At the police station, you must part with wads of reasonable cash before they enter your report into their incident logbooks. You pay for phone cards, pay to fuel their car, pay for them to write your report, pay before they make radio calls to within the state and out-of-state police posts.

Traveling out of state to recover my car, they accorded me, two plain-clothes police officers, to travel to the recovery point three states away. On this journey, I had to hire a car. I had to hire hotel accommodation for a night, pay for the police officers’ meals for the duration of the trip. At the end of the round-trip through good roads inter-spaced with longer pothole-ridden road sections, we got back home safely. The last 20 miles of the about 500 miles round trip took us hours to complete as that stretch of the road was then under reconstruction that was progressing at snail-speed.

All is well. Lessons well learned.

All was well as I and my family had the last laugh. But, here is the crux of our ordeal. The money spent besides the losses we incurred from the items stolen from our car quickly sums up to several hundreds of thousands of naira. Little did we know or rather let me say, my not giving attention to the installation of a GPS car-tracker before that incident ended up costing me almost twenty times the cost of a car tracker.

These days, GPS car trackers come in various affordable packages. With it installed in your car, you can track your car in real-time, demobilize and mobilize it from the comfort of your mobile phone. While tech-savvy criminals can jam or bypass these devices, their ability to delay or stop carjackers in their tracks can make a great deal of helpful difference and the more likelihood of recovering stolen cars.

These days, every smartphone comes with an inbuilt GPS receiver. Using this with Google maps, social media, or SMS apps, it is possible to track not only your car, you can also use them to track the position of your loved ones should in case they are coming back home late.

Some location-based apps need your phone’s GPS turned ON for them to work. Even more beneficial, you can use your phone GPS to send your location information back to your loved ones when you are traveling through uncertain and unfamiliar areas.

This is not about snooping, unnecessary tracking, or invading people’s privacy. These days, insecurity incidents and reports are occurring at frightening runaway frequencies. Instead of just killing time, distracting, and amusing yourself to death with your phone, master the security option that GPS can offer. When discretely and properly used, the GPS tracking option can help grant your loved ones’ rest of mind because they know or can trace your location.

Follow these steps

In the following procedures, I take you through 4 different ways you can use the GPS/Location function on your phone to track the position of your loved ones or relay your location information to your friends and family members.

1. Use Google Maps / SMS — Short Message Service

No data or WiFi signals

Mobile Network: ON

GPS/Location: ON

  1. Start Google Maps on your phone.
  2. Tap on your Google profile picture at the top right-hand side of the screen
  3. Tap sharing via link. Tap copy link. The link is now copied.
  4. Start you SMS app
  5. Click and select the contact you want to send your location information to.
  6. Tap and hold your finger in the message box.
  7. Tap paste.
  8. Click send.

Your recipient will receive the url (user resource locator), the web address of your last location.

When the receiver taps on the url, Google Maps will launch itself and show your last position on the map. With this, it is easier to trace your location.

NOTE: There should be clear line of sight between your phone and the sky. Though not necessary, both sender and receiver having used Google Maps make it easier for the app to access offline cached stored map data in the app cache.

2. WhatsApp

Mobile Network Data ON

WiFi; ON or OFF

GPRS / Location: ON

  1. Start WhatsApp
  2. Tap on the recipient from the WhatsApp message list. (You can also user the WhatsApp icon displayed in your contact’s information list when you search and open your desired contact from the address book app.)
  3. In the new message box at the base of your WhatsApp message screen, tap on the paper clip icon at the bottom right-hand side.
  4. Tap on Location
  5. Tap on either (i) Share Live Location or (ii) Send Current. Live Location option sends your current location live for the time duration you send. Send Current will only send your current location only.
  6. A Live Sharing message is now displayed under the message sent icon to the user, or group you sent your location information to.
  7. The recipient will receive a WhatsApp message. And as long as you did not switch off or stop sharing location from your app, your contact will keep on seeing your current location.

NOTE: You can stop sharing at any time. Also, this mode will quickly drain your battery. Make sure you have a charged power ban ready.

3. Telegram

  1. Start Telegram app
  2. Tap on the user you want to share your location with.
  3. Tap on the recipient from the message list. (You can also user the Telegram icon displayed in your contact’s information when you search and open your desired contact from the address book app.)
  4. After selecting the right contact, tap on the paper clip icon at the bottom right corner of the message box.
  5. Tap Share my current location or scroll to select Share Live Location for:
  6. Select the duration of time you want your location to be shareable.
  7. Tap Share.

NOTE: You can stop sharing at any time. Also, this mode will quickly drain your battery. Make sure you have a charged power ban ready.

4. Google Maps

  1. Start Google Maps on your phone.
  2. Tap on your Google profile picture at the top right corner
  3. Tap on Location Sharing
  4. Tap + New Share
  5. Select how long you want to share your location (i) For 1 hour or (ii) Until you switch OFF (the app and GPS / Location sharing.)
  6. Select the contact you want to send your location information to.
  7. Click Send (via SMS).
  8. Google Maps displays Message sent successfully.
  9. The recipient will receive the url of your last location. When he clicks on it, your position will be displayed on the map.

NOTE: I hope you find them helpful. But, your duty is to master and use your phone apps correctly. No liability is in any way implied by these explanations. Last week, I called my daughter and asked her to send me her location via Telegram (just to be sure she was safe). I looked at the map and she was where she said she was.

Next time you are travelling, follow these tips to relay your location information to your loved-ones back at home.

I originally published this story here. I hope you find these tips useful. Click here to connect and follow through and read some of my other stories below.