PawTrax – In Collar tracker
It is amazing how many people think that the identity microchip in a dog can track their moves. It really doesn’t, a microchip is the size of a grain of rice and it holds a number, that’s it. The number is registered to information held on a database. The only way at the moment that you can follow a dog’s location is either by using a pair of salivating trailhounds or a solution that is generally more convenient is a GPS tracker unit fitted inside the dog’s collar.
This week my crew have been testing the PawTrax Tracker, an ingenious piece of kit that is small enough to be carried even by a cat and robust enough to withstand the elements and all your dog can throw at it! Peter Calloway is the brains behind the unit and is always striving to improve the product as he feels passionately that every dog owner should be able to keep tabs on their dog for a reasonable price. I asked Peter how the unit worked, he explained: "The tiny water resistant unit fits into a pocket on the pet’s collar, inside the unit is a sim card, just like in a mobile phone. When your phone calls the unit it responds by telling your phone where it is, this is then converted by way of a map application to give you a real time view of position.”
Clear as mud to the Luddite that I am, I gathered I needed a mobile phone, believe it or not I do have one but it is very basic with no internet access so when the information came back from the unit I had to make a note of the co-ordinates and bring them up on my laptop using Google map; apparently some satnav units also have this feature. My husband’s smartphone was also linked into the unit, you can have up to four numbers logged with PawTrax and the difference using the smartphone was amazing and truly easy to use as well as being portable.
PawTrax will set up the unit for you for a very reasonable £8, well worth the money for a technophobe like me! When the unit arrived all I had to do was charge the battery in the tiny box, pop in the sim card and away it went. Just like the satellite navigation system in a car it needs to ‘see the sky’ when it is first turned on to synchronise with the satellites, the more time it spends outdoors the more accurate it becomes, down to just a few metres within a few days.
The time had come to test the unit on a real dog, Cyril my Irish Setter was chosen to be the messenger. I chose him in particular because he ranges far and wide and in deep cover so it’s often difficult to see where he is. The unit was placed inside its own waterproof bag and then tucked into the well-fitting sachet in the collar. Now Cyril is a bit of a water baby, in fact his favourite game is submarines in deep puddles, so I was concerned for the health of the unit. He is also, how shall I put it? Adventurous. That means he will run up hill and down dale with equal enthusiasm and very little fear of the unknown! If this tracker could stay in one piece and keep up with Cyril I was sure to be impressed. The unit is very small and weighing in at just 23g Cyril didn’t even know it was there. Using the iPhone (other smartphones are available!) purloined from my husband, I could track him as often as I wanted and on returning home it was fascinating to log into the computer and see the snail trail he had left and calculate just how many miles he really does cover in a two-hour walk.
I think all dog owners are aware of the possibility of our dog being stolen or lost so for the just over £100 you could be sure you know where your dog is all of the time – bargain! The micro tracker isn’t ‘advertised’ on the collar so unless the collar is removed it remains well hidden. You could argue that a collar that cannot be removed might be the way to go but personally I think the risks associated with a collar that couldn’t be released in an emergency would not be worth taking so a covert unit would seem to be the answer.
This PawTrax relies on a mobile phone signal but Peter tells me he is almost ready to go into production of a system that doesn’t need a signal for a phone, this really could potentially be a fantastic tool for all animal owners. Although a large part of the world does have mobile phone coverage it is sometimes patchy in areas and on days with heavy cloud cover this can affect the efficiency of the available signal, I’m told this new unit will be ready in time for your Christmas stocking – what a brilliant gift that would be to the dog owner.
Another advantage of the PawTrax unit is that there are no additional fees for the service, other tracking systems ask that you choose a plan linked to the company adding to the yearly cost of the unit. I’m interested in this side of the business as I am an advocate of tracking units for dementia and alzheimer patients, I really do not see why such vital peace of mind should always have such an enormous price tag. PawTrax also sell a PeopleTrax which includes two way communication as well as ‘man down’ alarm among its many features. I think both these products deserve the rave reviews they have enjoyed, being a responsible dog owner or carer should not, in my opinion, carry an outrageous premium.
The PawTrax unit won’t prevent your dog being stolen but it is using technology to give dog owners the edge should the unthinkable happen, the battery will last up to a whopping 40 hours and will text your mobile when the battery charge is low. It does have weak areas, for instance if the unit is taken indoors it will only transmit its last outdoor location and in heavily wooded areas the signal may be poor but the coverage is extraordinary and for taking a dog abroad I think it is a ‘must have’.
I’m looking forward to the new unit launch, it won’t have the same coverage as the original but for those walks in wild places I’m sure it will be a boon; most companion dog owners are urban based and walk their dogs in areas that have a good mobile network so tracking a loose dog through the streets would not be a problem but my dogs and I tend to head for the hills and more remote areas – I’ve already sent my letter to Santa. I would suggest that you seriously consider that you join me in dragging yourself into the technology of today to safeguard one of your most precious possessions, your dog. n
Please see advertisement on page 6 of this week's DOG WORLD newspaper.