How do pet trackers work?
Before we get into available tracking technologies, let's first discuss the myth on Hollywood driven Microchip GPS implants that don't exist in real life. There is no such thing as a real time tracking GPS implant and there won't be for a very long time. The components required to make a real time GPS Tracker cannot be designed and turned into a tiny rice sized implant, if we could we would have by now! Below we explain why.
There are 3 types of technologies currently commonly used on finding or identifying pets.
- Microchip implants (RFID Chips)
- Radio Frequency 2.4GHZ (Zigbee)
- Global Positioning System (GPS) & GSM
Microchip implants – This is the most common method of pet repatriation in the market today. Why? Simple, if your pet goes missing and ends up at a vet clinic, animal shelter or SPCA, they will simply scan to see if the pet has a microchip. If your pet has been chipped and registered they will look it up on the New Zealand Companion Animal Register (NZCAR) to obtain your contact details, and be able to contact you with the good news of your pet is found.
However, our friends at the NZCAR, the largest micro-chipped animal repatriation database in New Zealand receive calls all the times from pet owners on tracking down their lost pets. Unfortunately RFID does not transmit any type of GPS data, it is simply a hidden digital address label.
So why have a Microchip implanted? Because it is almost irremovable and will help locate your lost pet back to you should it be found by SPCA or your local vet. But question is, what if your pet goes missing and is never found? What if you could find your pet before it’s too late? This is where other types of tracking technology come into play.
Radio Frequency 2.4GHZ (Zigbee) – So you come back after a long days work to find your cat hasn't come back like he/she normally does? This is where RF Tracking technology can help in short distance tracking in suburban areas.
So how does Radio Frequency tracking work? It’s simple really, the pet owner has a tracking base remote, and the pet has a tag attached to it's collar . The base remote simply searches for the tag via RF signals and tells you if you are walking at the right direction towards your missing pet. RF Trackers range from 100 metre tracking ranges and up to 500 metres. However, RF Trackers has it's limits, the distance is measured at direct line of sight, this is because RF signals cannot get pass hills, metal, concrete and crowded residential areas. This means RF has to bounce between certain objects to get from point to point. So if the RF tracker is rated at 300 metres, than the tracking range can be anywhere from 100 metres and up depending on the environment.
For most pet owners, having a Microchip implant and a RF tracker would be a good affordable combination especially if your cat or pup don't tend to go far or out for long periods. On a positive note, it might be the difference between finding and not finding your lost pet.
RF trackers are one of the smallest active trackers around and start at only 4.2 grams for a tracking tag.
Global Positioning System (GPS) & GSM – Just like a smartphone, a GPS tracker requires GPS and GSM(Cellphone coverage) signals to work. So think of a GPS tracker like a smartphone for your pet, where if a smartphone works, so will the tracker. This also means each tracker requires it's own SIM card like a phone.
Real time GPS Trackers also require 5 major components and parts to work. Which is why a GPS tracking implant does not exist, unless you want a rather large item implanted in your pet.
- GPS Antenna - For getting coordinates from the satellite
- GSM Antenna - For connecting with the local telecommunication towers
- GSM Sim card - For sending the location data via the telecommunication towers
- Processing board - For processing and managing the data
- Battery - To power up the above components
As you can probably tell by now, a GPS tracker is like your smartphone, without a screen and other features. While just like a smartphone, you cannot get an update if there is no cellphone coverage or GPS signal when indoors or undercover.
In 2011, Lintek was able to start developing a tracker at 1/5 of the size of it’s original GPS trackers and have smartphones rather than computers to receive location updates.
So the first Petrek LT-903G was born, a simple call & text for location device that would reply you with a Google map link of it's current approximate location. In 2012 we developed the Petrek GPS (LT-905G) and with the help of a talented Boy from Saint Kentigern College in New Zealand we successfully launched our current Petrek GPS model and the first retailed app based tracker in it's time.
GPS trackers however has it’s disadvantages too, they use more power, and require charging every 1 to 5 days depending on the update frequency. Weak GPS signal (indoor) can also mean a location up to 200 metres off it's mark, no GSM signal will also mean no updates. But as pets normally do roam outdoors where there is GPS & GSM signals, using a GPS pet tracker will give you the best chance of finding your missing pet.
Petrek's GPS trackers has no monthly subscription costs while a $20 credit in a prepay card can get you a year worth of usage which means very little on-going costs.
Conclusion - All the technologies currently available in the Petrek range have different ways of finding and preventing your pet from getting lost. So we hope that our readers now understand where technology is at with pet trackers and what suits them best.
For more in-depth answers please visit our commonly asked questions page to see the little things petrek users ask. No trackers are perfect, you simply choose the tracker best suited in terms of functions, sizing, weight etc, for you and your pet.
Lintek can never guarantee the safety of your pet but we do try our best to make solutions that help you reduce the risk of losing your pet completely.
If there are still unanswered questions in your mind, head to our common questions page for more in-depth explanations!