If you have a hyperactive child or a pet that's always running away from you, a GPS tracker might be a more humane solution than a leash. The Trax GPS Tracker $199 fob is the world's the smallest real-time GPS device, and comes with a app that offers some nifty features for keeping an eye on your precious ones.
Launched on iOS, Android and Web platforms at CES 2014, Trax's app also works independently of the fob to help you locate people you connect to, as long as they also have the app on their smartphones. The app will be available for Windows phone users soon.
We tried out Trax and found it packs some useful features.
What struck us as really cool was the app's augmented-reality interface, which uses your phone's camera viewfinder and shows you in real time in which direction your child or pet is. We weren't able to see the full version of this function, due to spotty Wi-Fi, but based on screenshots and a rep's description, you should be able to see a little tag indicating where your trackee is as you turn your phone around in all angles.
Arrows will pop up telling you where to go to find your companion. This should be a really useful feature the next time Rover runs off in the park; directionally-challenged folks won't have to waste precious time figuring out which way to go.
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Trax's other features are what you'd expect on such an app. Geofences allows you to draw zones on a map and set it to alert you when your trackee enters or exits that area. Some practical uses could include making sure your child or pet doesn't enter unsavory areas, or being notified when your spouse is almost home.
The home screen simply displays a map (Google or Apple maps depending on your OS) with your location represented by an arrow that points North, and tags showing where your trackees are. It also lets you check in via Facebook and other social networks, and you can choose whether to share your location all the time or only during specific periods.
For those with stalking tendencies, or who simply want a better picture of their kids' activities, Trax also keeps a footprint or paw print history of locations visited.
We can see plenty of other uses for the app, including keeping tabs on friends while splitting up during a shopping trip at the mall or finding your buddies at major outdoor events. If you shelled out for the additional fob, you can also use it to look for your car in a parking lot, or can look for any object you attach the fob to.
The Trax device will last up to 4 days on a charge via microUSB cable and is water-, dust- and heat-proof. It transmits via a 2G cellular signal, so it can be used wherever you go, even overseas (up to 35 countries so far).
If losing loved ones or things is a problem for you, Trax could be a lifesaver.
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Cherlynn is Deputy Editor, Reviews at Engadget and also leads the site's Google reporting. She graduated with a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University before joining Tom's Guide and its sister site LaptopMag as a staff writer, where she covered wearables, cameras, laptops, computers and smartphones, among many other subjects.