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Own something valuable and potentially mobile and prone to theft? A motorcycle, boat, car, RV or even an ATV? Wouldn’t it be good to track its position and even receive automated alerts within moments should it unexpectedly move? Enter the Spot Trace personal GPS tracking device, a multi-purpose GPS gizmo the size of a box of matches that works in conjunction with your Mac and iOS device.
The basics of the Spot Trace involve a small black box containing the GPS hardware and motion detection. It’s powered by four standard AAA batteries (provided), delivering up to 18 months of battery life. You also get a mounting cradle with a quartet of sharp screws and a few adhesive pads. That gives you the option of attaching the cradle permanently or simply sticking the device on in a more temporary way.
As compact as the Spot Trace is, it’s worth remembering that this is a GPS device and so requires line of sight to function. Global Telesat Communications, which manufactures the device, says it can pick up satellites through fibreglass, glass and fabric. But it won’t operate through metal. That places some limitations on where you can locate the device.
Once configured, Spot Trace automatically sends a text and or email with your asset’s GPS coordinates when movement is detected. You can also view and track online via a web interface. Various alerts can be set up too, including for movement, if the device has been turned off, or if the battery is running low. You can also manage and track multiple devices from one account.
The core functionality works via satellite, including both GPS tracking and sending alerts. So the device does not require an Internet connection, allowing you to track objects beyond cellular range, for instance on the open ocean. If all that seems like a good deal, here’s the snag. You’ll also need a service plan to use the device. One year costs $99.95, with the Extreme Tracking upgrade another $99.99. The basic plan allows tracking every five, 10, 30 or 60 mins. The Extreme tracking plan improves on this, reducing the intervals to 2.5 mins.
Both initial setup and the various web-based interfaces can be a little confusing, although it’s not entirely impenetrable. We weren’t sure whether the device supported being attached to an object that was located out of satellite range. In other words, could you use the Spot Trace on a car in a locked garage and rely on it to wake up should the car leave that location? As it turns out, the answer is no.
But for the most part, the Spot Trace works pretty well. During our testing, we received email alerts almost immediately once our test asset (a car) started moving. If you’re wondering about accuracy, it’s in line with general GPS devices. But since it doesn’t use roads as reference points, you’ll find the accuracy isn’t quite as good as an in-car GPS. As for battery life, that’s tricky for us to judge definitively given the large time frames. However, it’s claimed the absolute worst case scenario for tracking a device that’s constantly moving is three days.
The bottom line. For tracking large objects, such as vehicles, the Spot Trace could be just the thing for peace of mind. That said, likely annual fees for the basic service plan suggest that this probably isn’t a device for easy use by general consumers.
Mac with an Internet connection, any iOS device (for tracking)
Very compact. Wide range of uses. Long battery life. Easy online tracking.
Expensive service plans. Doesn’t work out of GPS range. Can be tricky to install and set up.