We've reviewed portable GPS tracking devices before. We've also reviewed installed vehicle GPS tracking devices. However, what makes LiveViewGPS' Live Trac EZ interesting are its ease of installation and its level of integration with the vehicle.
The smallish device only measures about 1.8 inches long by 1.5 inches wide by 0.86 inch thick and plugs directly into your vehicle's onboard diagnostics (OBD) port. When plugged in, the EZ only protrudes about 1.5 inches. Depending on where your vehicle's port is located, the Live Trac EZ's low profile will most likely keep it well hidden from casual observers when plugged in. However, I've seen OBD ports located in some odd places (some Volvo vehicles I've driven that put the port right next to the driver's right foot spring to mind) so you'll want to check out your vehicle's port placement to be sure that the EZ won't be in danger of being struck by a swinging leg during driving or entering and exiting the vehicle. In our test vehicle, a 2012 Jaguar XKR-S, the OBD port was located just beneath the dashboard, about where many vehicles locate the hood release lever.
The OBD connection that makes the Live Trac EZ ridiculously easy to install also makes the device ridiculously easy for a clever thief to find and disable. A device such as themay be harder to install, but its two-wire connection means that it can also be hidden anywhere in the vehicle.
Web interface and features
Once installed, the Live Trac EZ establishes a connection with your vehicle's diagnostics system, determines its GPS position and speed, and communicates all of that data via a GSM data connection to LiveViewGPS' servers. A trio of LED lights indicates when the EZ is accessing any of these three connections. After registering for a service plan, you can then track your vehicle via a Web interface. Position data is grabbed once every 10 seconds on the default service plan, allowing users to watch and replay the vehicle's position on a live updating map at any time at live.liveviewgps.com.
The historical playback function is particularly interesting, for example, for parents who want to keep an eye on the comings and goings of a teen driver. After selecting March 16, for example, I was able replay my trip where I accompanied CNET's Eric Franklin to a midnight iPad launch, followed by a few hours in which the vehicle remained parked while I slept, and ultimately along a twisty back-road route that I took with fellow Car Tech editor Wayne Cunningham to put the Jag through its paces.
At each of the 10-second data points, I was able to view vehicle position, speed, and direction of travel, but you can get that level of data from any GPS tracker. The Live Trac EZ's OBD connection gives it access to even more data, including more accurate speed data, fuel economy information, and vehicle fuel level--so you can double-check that the tank actually was full before you loaned your keys to that friend.
Although we didn't have any problem navigating the LiveViewGPS Web site, the interface can be a bit cluttered and overwhelming for less "tech-savvy" users. Because LiveView's site is designed to be used with the variety of devices that it provides for personal and fleet vehicle management, there are a lot of leftover elements and dialog boxes that the Live Trac EZ user simply will have no use for. For example, clicking on the vehicle icon on the map displays options for starter disable, door unlock, and remote start, among others. None of these functions are supported by the EZ. We'd like a more content-aware interface that edits out inaccessible features.
Always-on monitoring and notifications
For users who don't want to keep checking Live View's Web site every few minutes, the Web interface also lets you set alerts that send e-mail or SMS alerts when certain conditions are met. For example, you can be alerted when a certain speed is exceeded, when the vehicle's ignition is turned on, when the Live Trac has been disconnected from the car, or when the vehicle enters or exits a geofenced area. A geofence is a virtual boundary set using GPS coordinates. This means the EZ can send you a text when your car leaves home and send another when it arrives at the office.
All around, this is a fairly robust level of idiotproof vehicle monitoring and should be more than enough information to deter, for example, an irresponsible teen or untrustworthy roommate from "borrowing" your car while you're at work. The whole valet subplot of "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" would have been cut short if Cameron had had access to this device. Come to think of it, they'd have never gotten away from the house if Cameron's dad had installed the Live Trac EZ on his 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California. Then again, a '61 Ferrari lacks an OBD port, and wouldn't be compatible with the EZ anyway--but I digress.