Decoding Satellite-Based Text Messages… [Mini-CIA]

Decoding Satellite-Based Text Messages with RTL-SDR and Hacked GPS Antenna by Rick Osgood.

From the post:

[Carl] just found a yet another use for the RTL-SDR. He’s been decoding Inmarsat STD-C EGC messages with it. Inmarsat is a British satellite telecommunications company. They provide communications all over the world to places that do not have a reliable terrestrial communications network. STD-C is a text message communications channel used mostly by maritime operators. This channel contains Enhanced Group Call (EGC) messages which include information such as search and rescue, coast guard, weather, and more.

Not much equipment is required for this, just the RTL-SDR dongle, an antenna, a computer, and the cables to hook them all up together. Once all of the gear was collected, [Carl] used an Android app called Satellite AR to locate his nearest Inmarsat satellite. Since these satellites are geostationary, he won’t have to move his antenna once it’s pointed in the right direction.

You may have to ally with a neighbor who is good with a soldering iron but considering the amount of RF in the air, you should be able to become the mini-CIA for your area.

Not that the data itself may be all that interesting, but munging cellphone data with video surveillance of street traffic, news and other feeds, plus other RF sources, will hone your data handling skills.

For example, have you ever wondered how many of your neighbors obey watering restrictions during droughts? One way to find out is to create a baseline set of data for water usage (meters now report digitally) and check periodically when drought restrictions are in effect.

Nothing enlivens a town or county meeting like a color-coded chart of water cheats. (That will also exercise your mapping skills as well.)

Using topic maps will facilitate merging your water surveillance data other data, such as high traffic patterns for some locations of different cars. Or the periods of cars arriving and departing from some location.

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