In the Summer of 2011, I set out to create a food truck website that provided a comprehensive and accurate picture of where food trucks are and where they’re going to be. Until recently, I relied mostly on data from twitter and published calendars to drive my daily schedule. While twitter scraping works accurately enough for trucks that operate on a pretty normal lunch schedule, it works horribly for food trucks that move around the city during the day (like donut and dessert trucks).

This fall, I started testing out a live tracking solution that I developed with Beavers Donuts. This solution includes a device that’s plugged into the food truck that sends live GPS data to my website. When my website says “Trasmitting from beacon” next to a food truck, you can conclude with a high-level of confidence that the food truck is where it says it is (data is broadcast roughly every couple minutes when parked).

This tracking solution integrates with my social media accounts (all the accounts that start out with chiftf_* such as @chiftf_125clark). Whenever a food truck with a tracker comes within the boundaries of one of these accounts, a tweet gets sent out saying that the truck has arrived.

I do encounter the occasional glitch from these devices (when they are obstructed). I built some code to algorithmically correct these glitches within a 100ft of accuracy, but it’s not perfect. That’s one of the reasons why requiring these devices to enforce the 200ft rule is dumb - they’re only super precise when they can be triangulated without obstruction.

I plan more features around these devices in the future and hope to get more food trucks to use them, so that I can present to you the most accurate view of food trucks in Chicago (and New York, which is in beta).