Team Location Sharing and Tracking
This article and much of our Knowledge Base now lives at the CalTopo training site. This specific page can be found here. Please go there for the most up to date information, as well as more comprehensive instructions for using CalTopo.
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 offers 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 allows you to track location data on a saved map and includes recording tracks with the mobile app and adding locator groups. The second type, which requires a team account, allows you to turn on a Team Shared Locations overlay, which displays the position of trackable devices that are sharing their location with the team. As you will see below, different location functions serve different purposes.
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 using the mobile app.
If you wish to record actual tracks on a particular map, then this is the option for you. Besides importing tracks from a dedicated GPS, currently this is the only location function that will allow you to create a permanent record of where a team member has been. 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 when the team members in the field have a reliable data connection.
The image below shows mobile tracks for two teams being recorded 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.
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.
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.
To finish a track, click on the Recording Track dialog at the bottom of the screen and then select Finish and Save.
The track will be saved to both your individual account under Your Tracks and the map.
If you have an individual account rather than a team account and wish to view the position of trackable devices such as Garmin inReaches or APRS, then this is the option for you. Adding a locator group to a saved map will allow you to display position updates from these types of devices. This can be helpful in areas without cell service and the position will be updated at either regular intervals as specified by your device’s plan/settings or by manually pushing updates. Typically the most recently reported position will be displayed along with a small part of the track tail so that direction, speed and recent locations can be inferred. However, this location function does not reliably save the entirety of the track and is not meant to serve as a record of permanent tracks. Recording tracks with the mobile app or importing in tracks from a dedicated GPS device is recommended for this purpose.
The image below shows a single Garmin inReach that has been added as a locator to a map.
How to use: This method does involve some initial set up. The Garmin inReach is one of the most common devices added as a locator. These instructions from the Knowledge Base will walk you through the process of integrating SARTopo and Garmin inReaches: Integration with Garmin inReach Devices.
Please reach out to us at email@example.com with specific questions about adding other types of devices as locators.
If you have a team account and want to easily track 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. Because this overlay does not belong to a map, position data is displayed but not recorded on the map you are currently working on. This allows you to seamlessly switch between maps while still viewing location data and eliminates clutter during situations where recorded tracks are not needed, such as when team members are initially responding to a first response incident from home, going door to door for evacuations or walking up and down fire lines.
The image below shows the position of a device being shared with the team. Notice that, unlike adding a locator, there is no map object added for this device. It is part of the Team Shared Locations overlay.
How to use: This overlay can be found at the bottom of the layers menu under Realtime Data and it will be displayed as (Your Team Name) Shared Locations.
Each device sharing its location with the team will be displayed as a dot on the map. Clicking on the device on the map displays a dialog with the device’s name, coordinates, last update time and an option for copying as a marker.
Devices can be added to the Team Shared Locations overlay by turning on the Share Location function in the mobile app and by adding devices to a Trackable Device Group on the Team Admin page.
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.
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.
Please note: to view your position and the position of anyone else sharing their location on your team, you will also need to turn on the Team Shared Locations overlay from the layers menu in the mobile app.
This feature allows you to create groups of trackable devices ahead of time that can then be viewed using the Team Shared Locations overlay. This is the method you will use to add any device that isn’t running the mobile app to the Team Shared Locations overlay. Multiple devices can be added to one group, including Garmin inReaches, 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 but not recorded.
How to use: Only team members with Admin access can create or edit trackable device groups. To create a group, navigate to the Team Admin page. At the bottom of the page, select Create a New Group under Trackable Device Groups.
In the New Trackable Device Group dialog that appears, assign a display name and a device color. Unlike locator groups, this display name will appear everytime a device that belongs to the group is detected. Press Save to create the group.
The new trackable group will appear at the bottom of the Team Admin page. Clicking on Details will bring up instructions on how to add different devices.
To view trackable groups in the map viewer, turn on the Team Shared Locations overlay. Any device that is on and transmitting (including the mobile app) will appear on the map.