Global Positioning System technology, more commonly known as GPS, has changed our many people's daily lives forever. As well as directing you to and from specific locations, GPS units can navigate you to points of interest (POIs), pinpoint your current location in the event of an emergency, let you know about traffic congestion and synchronise with your mobile phone via Bluetooth connectivity to enable hands-free phone calls.
But GPS units aren't just a way to find a way to your mate's house. Many GPS units available in Australia are designed to track your pets, particularly cats and dogs. So when Rex manages to jump over the back fence or Whiskers disappears for days at a time, you no longer need to break down into tears of despair.
We've rounded up five products (some GPS-based and other relying on radio signals) that might be of interest to Aussie pet lovers.
PetTrack by Corteo
Based on the use of mobile receivers and phone towers to relay signals to owners, PetTrack is a device that is strapped onto your pet and sends GPS coordinates of its location to the owner's mobile phone via SMS.
The owner must first send a command to the device (via SMS) before the device can respond and send information to the owner. Using a GPRS compatible phone, the device can send a full visual display via SMS which contains GPS coordinates including the street and suburb. If the mobile phone issuing the command is not GPRS-compatible, the recipient will be sent an SMS message containing the coordinates of the dog's location. They will then be required to contact Corteo for full details of their pet's location, such as street name and suburb. PetTrack includes a Telstra SIM card and also has a 'boundary alert' feature where the owner is sent an SMS when their pet strays beyond a particular area.
PetTrack is handicapped in areas of limited mobile phone reception and we think questions also need to be asked about data usage costs when GPRS is utilised, but it could be a godsend for pet lovers. It's available in Australia for $299.
CatTraQ Live by Mr Lee
Designed by Jurgen Perthold, who currently resides in South Carolina, this GPS locator is part of a range of products in the 'Mr Lee' range. Other nifty gadgets include a CatCam which allows owners to see video footage of their feline companion.
CatTraQ Live operates in a similar fashion to PetTrack. The tiny device (measuring 5cm x 4cm and weighing just 50g) allows up to five different mobile numbers to request GPS coordinates. The user has to call the device that is strapped to the cat and then the GPS coordinates are sent directly to the mobile phone. CatTraQ Live claims that it is synchronised for use with Google Maps, but this is slightly misleading as the user can just insert the GPS coordinates into any navigation site or software.
Other cool features include auto-tracking, a low battery alert, audio surveillance (the device includes a microphone) and Geo-fence. The latter alerts the owner if the cat moves outside a certain area. Battery life is claimed to be 48 hours and probably the best asset that the device boasts is quad-band capability, so it works globally. It costs US$135.
GPS-20 by Innotek Australia
The GPS tracking market for pets has long been a useful tool for hunting dogs. With this in mind, there are some better-quality products on the market that carry a higher price tag. The GPS-20 by Innotek Australia is one such product. It utilises older radio technology as well as GPS.
The GPS-20 comes in two parts: a handheld receiver and a collar that transmits information back to the receiver unit. With a built-in electronic compass, the LCD screen on the receiver is able to show the direction and exact distance of the collar. The R2 GPS dog tracking system communicates via a radio signal and not through GPS satellites. As it is much more difficult to transfer a GPS signal than the simple beep required in radio mode, the radio tracking mode of the GPS-20 has a range up to five times greater the GPS.
Innotek recommends tracking your dog first in radio tracking mode and finding the exact location within last few kilometres. The company claims that tracking in radio mode has a range of up to 20km (7km in GPS mode). Dog collars from other manufacturers can be used with the GPS-20 receiver, and the components use replaceable AA batteries. The GPS-20 receiver and collar will set you back $1990, while an extra collar can be added for $449.
RoamEO Classic GPS Dog Tracker
Similar to Innotek's GPS-20, RoamEO's Classic GPS Dog Tracker includes a receiver unit and a collar for your pet. The unit can track up to three dogs (each needs its own collar) and has a range of almost 5km.
The handheld device uses a colour LCD to show the location, direction and velocity of your pet and is designed to update readings every few seconds. You have to buy it online from the US and it costs US$400 with an additional collar setting you back US$160.
SportDog SportHunter SD-800
A radio-operated locator, the SportDog SportHunter SD-800 has a range of about 725 metres. It operates on an AM signal, which means the signal is weakened in thick terrain or if you lose line of sight. The product is fully waterproof and can be expanded for up to three dogs. It's yours for just $500.