You have concluded you need a GPS tracker to track something or someone that’s important to you, but how do you find the right device that will accomplish the kind of tracking you really need? There are many types of trackers out there that track a variety of different ways, so it’s essential to find a device that aligns and functions with your specific tracking goals.
The good news: if you take into account a few basic considerations before purchasing a tracker, you can find the perfect tracker for you and avoid ending up with a device that doesn’t cut it.
The first thing you need to determine when deciding on a tracker is “What am I tracking?”
If you are tracking a person then it’s likely you are tracking someone you care about. It could be your child, someone with dementia, an employee, or a volunteer, so it is essential that your tracker reports back reliably when and how you expect it to. Look for a tracker that is small enough that it can be concealed and worn comfortably. Remember that smaller devices will generally have a smaller battery life. It is important to find a tracking company that provides customer service when tracking a person, just in case you need backup understanding how your tracker is reporting and the function of your device at important times. Look for reporting frequency customization options that can extend your battery life, and an SOS button feature on the device that will send an alert out to a smartphone.
When you need to track a pet then size, weatherproofing, geofence capability, and safety of a device are factors you should consider. The device should not be very large as it may get caught on something or come off during wear, and you want to make sure a little rain hitting the device won’t cause it to malfunction. Geofences can be helpful if a pet should only go but so far around a home and you need an alert if they were to leave for any reason. The primary goal should be to find a tracker that causes no harm to your pet but gives you peace of mind and the ability to locate them if something ever happens.
When it comes to tracking a vehicle it is important to consider if the tracker will be powered (wired) by the vehicle or if the device will run off a battery you have to recharge occasionally. There are trackers with 2-4 week battery life so depending on if you can retrieve the tracker every once in a while, this can help you decide on how the vehicle tracker should be powered. Other factors to consider: How often should the device report? Can the device let you see which roads a vehicle traveled in the past on some sort of interface or your smart device? Is the device magnetic so that you can easily conceal/attach it to many potential areas on a vehicle? Can the tracker/vehicle roam to another state and still be reliably tracked from another location?
Asset tracking is a widely used, general designation describing just about anything else you wanted to track not mentioned above. It could be a computer, equipment, a guitar, an HVAC unit, a toolbox– it could be things that sit still and shouldn’t move or something that moves every day. Asset tracking usually lends itself to longer battery life with less reporting frequency. You may only need 1 location report per day unless your asset moves, for instance. Look for trackers with years of battery life and the ability to customize reporting frequency if your asset goes missing. Look for geofence capability that will alert you if an asset leaves/enters a designated area. Confirm your potential tracker can still get a signal where it is placed (if inside a trailer or enclosure of any kind). Finally, some devices have tamper alert alarms built in. It is a helpful feature if your tracker can give you alert on your phone the second someone finds your device/removes it.
Now you know what you are tracking. The next question is: “How much is this going to cost?”
If you are dealing with a reputable and quality GPS device/company, then you will be required to buy the tracking device itself as well as a subscription of some sort to keep the device activated. You can expect to pay anywhere from $40 – $90+ for the device itself and $15 – $50+ for the monthly subscription. As mentioned in the graphic, you should look for a tracking company that does not lock you into a contract. Instead, look for a subscription you can start/stop at will. Make sure you are getting good value for your subscription. For example, is there any kind of customer support available if your tracker stops working at a crucial time? What sort of return policy does the company have if you find the tracker does not meet your expectations? Does the device provide GPS tracking only or does it have special features like live audio or temperature monitoring? Does the tracking company provide a SIM card with the device cost?
A recap of important factors to consider in your search for a tracker:
Report frequency really lays the foundation for what type of tracking you are doing. For some people, 2 reports a day would not help them accomplish their more frequent type of tracking purpose, while for other people it is all they need. You may need the device to report as much as possible. The more a tracker reports the more you can actually determine exactly where that device is or was over a period of time, so think about how often location reporting would best benefit you. In this article, battery life has been mentioned several times and for good reason. You can’t do any tracking if there is no power to the device, so, you want to make sure you have the right battery for the job. Understanding the differences in devices that recharge and may last for weeks of use, devices that last for years with infrequent location reports (ie: 1x per day) with one battery charge, and devices that are powered by a vehicle or other power source, is essential to figuring out what battery style you need for your tracker(s).
Placement of the device is also a key component to your tracking success. You may need the tracker to function unseen on the undercarriage of a vehicle tucked away, or you may be fine with the device inside the cab in plain sight but disguised as a USB charger. If you are tracking expensive equipment, the device needs to be hidden somewhere that nobody would know to look inside the equipment so you can successfully track and recover your asset. It is also extremely important to place your tracking device somewhere where it can get a clear enough view of the sky to communicate with GPS and cell tower signal. This means not putting the device in the trunk of a car, underground, or anywhere surrounded by metal and concrete. Last but not least, you should ask yourself what type of Geofences and Alerts you will need in a tracker. You will likely want alerts when the device goes to certain places or leaves certain places. You may need alerts if the device reaches a certain speed, or temperature, or maybe when the device has been tampered with. How can you receive alerts exactly? Look for tracking devices that can give you alerts via text message, email, or push notifications.
You will likely find that no matter what type of tracking you are doing, you will have to make a determination regarding the items in the recap graphic above. Understanding these actual tracking needs will create a framework for choosing the right tracking device. After carefully thinking about your requirements and learning some important tracker terminology, you are well on your way to finding the right tracker and accomplishing all of your tracking goals.