Friday, March 30, 2012

Garmin GTU-10 GPS Tracking Device


We just got a new dog! We're very excited to have her. It wasn't without angst though. In under a day we lost her. I was getting her out of the car and as soon as I opened the door, Purna, our dog, sprang out of the back seat and ran off. Here's where it gets interesting. When we originally got her, she was fresh out of active training for sled racing. She's an Alaskan Husky. She's strong. She's fit. She can run for miles and miles a day (she was retired because she started to "lose stamina" at a mere 20 miles). As soon as she realized she was free, she was gone. And our epic saga starts. Read on for more...



The police were called and they chased her for over an hour-and-a-half. The animal shelter spotted her numerous times and would call us, but by the time we made it there, she had already moved on. We kept getting numerous calls through good Samaritans that would see her and check Craig's List, see our ad, and then call us, but by the time they got around to calling us the information would be hours old. We were losing hope quickly.

The back of the included pouch, showing how it attaches to
a pet's collar. That flap goes through the slot on the top
and then reattaches to itself with Velcro.
The time of year didn't help anything either. It was winter and we were experiencing the worst snow storms of the year. This did not affect Purna at all (sled dog, remember) but it sure hampered all our search efforts. Looking for her in the woods was nearly impossible and even if we headed out into the wilderness, we didn't know if it was the right stretch of wilderness. Purna could cover 50+ miles a day. It was disheartening to say the least.

Our dog, lost, tired, and hungry, was out in the world and we didn't even know where to look for her.

So did we get her back? Yes. Then we lost her again... the same way as the first time. Only this time she had the Garmin GTU-10 attached to her collar. That's where this story and this review intertwine.

The device half-way in the included pouch.
We bought the Garmin GTU-10 after we got Purna back. She obviously needed it, after all. When I got it home, I did as the instructions told me and went to my.garmin.com. I logged into the website (you will have to create a login if you don't already have one) and plugged in the GTU-10. From there, I registered the product and set it up for the first-time use. There are a few settings to adjust. For one, we called the device "Purna." Garmin also asked us what we would be tracking; a person, a vehicle, or a pet. We chose pet.

This made me think, "What's the difference?" I researched it and it turns out when it's a car, the tracker will limit itself to roads (funny enough) and if it's a person or a pet, it will not. This leads to a more accurate location of the device.

The Mini-USB connection is used to charge the device and
connect it to a computer through the included USB cable.
There's also an indicator light on the bottom that turns
green when it is plugged-in and fully charged and red when
it is plugged-in and not fully charged.
After telling Garmin we were tracking a pet we had a lot of other helpful settings to decide on. Number one: did we want to use GeoFences? And your question is probably, "What IS a GeoFence?" A GeoFence is a personalized designated area on a map. See the screenshot at the bottom of this paragraph for an example of a GeoFence that could be drawn.  The purpose of a GeoFence is so that you can set a, "Safe zone," for your device. That means when the device is in this zone, you can set the settings so that you either get a notification when the device leaves and enters the GeoFence and/or so tracking turns on when the device is outside of a GeoFence and goes into "Sleep mode," when it enters a GeoFence. You could use this for a pet, human, or a car if you don't care to track it and want to save battery while the device is in certain places like at home, school, or another place you know your object of at(trac)tion will spend a lot of time.


The next thing we did was set the battery settings. In this menu there is numerous settings. See the screenshot below for the setting preferences. On the "Heavy," setting, the devices location is updated every 30 seconds. This is VERY accurate, but the device needs to be charged daily. On the, "Balanced," setting the device's location is updated every 5 minutes when outside a GeoFence and goes to sleep when it's inside a GeoFence. It needs to be recharged every frequently (every 10 days when inside the GeoFence and every 3 days when outside). One the, "Moderate," setting the device's location is updated every 15 minutes when outside a GeoFence and goes to sleep when inside. It needs to be charged on this setting every 5 days when outside the GeoFence and every 4 weeks when inside. Finally, there's an, "On Demand," setting. On this setting it needs to be charged every 7 days regardless, and the device's location is only updated when you request it's location.


Here's where I'll make a suggestion: charge your battery AT LEAST when it gets to 50% battery life. Here's why: if you're just STARTING to track something with the battery at 20% and you start updating the location more frequently than normal, the battery may not even last an entire day. That doesn't give you much time to see where the device is (not to mention the important thing it's attached to).

This is a screenshot on the iPhone, showing
her tracking history. The blue dots are
where she had been tracked previously and
the blue dot with the square above it is her
current location. The blue dot with the circle
around it is your current location.
So how do you track your device once it's missing? Well, it depends on how you want to track it. If it's a car, you may be comfortable sitting at home and getting an occasional update on your computer to see where that teenager of yours is actually going. If it's a pet, you're probably looking for it so getting updates on your computer while trekking through the woods is very unrealistic. That's where the smartphone app comes in. The Garmin "Tracker" app is available for Android and iOS and is free on both devices. Once downloaded, you merely need to sign-in with your previously created Garmin ID and it will track any devices you have already set up online. Note: you must have previously set up the device from a computer for this tracker app to work. It is not a replacement for a computer.

Once Purna ran off the SECOND time, technology started to play it's part. My wife called me while I was at work and let me know the dog had run off AGAIN. She had her phone with her and the Garmin Tracker app was installed on her phone.

She headed off immediately to track Purna down. Within 10 minutes she'd spotted her and, had she been a normal dog, she would have had Purna back... no big deal.  Purna, however, did not want to go back to my wife and headed off in the opposite direction. My wife then used the tracker app to find her a few more times, and everytime Purna ran off again.

The settings menu of the tracker app
shown on a screenshot taken from an
Android phone. The settings and
options shown are also available on the
iPhone app.
When I got off work we went out and took the two-person approach. We found her at least 5 more times. Unfortunately, she didn't come to us.

The tracker was working perfectly, our dog just wasn't cooperating. With any normal dog that had made it off the leash, the tracker would have saved the day (numerous times over). It cemented my belief in the product. It also changed our mind about keeping Purna. We decided if we did get her back we would return her to the original owner (a friend of ours).

While tracking Purna we found her over 10 times before the battery ran out. Compare that to the first time we lost her. That time we found her a total of 0 (zero) times. This is when you start to see the advantage of having the GTU-10 tracking device on your side.

To end the Purna story, she is currently safe and sound with her old owner. She showed up the next night on the doorstep of her old owner's house. After being hit in the head by the door because of her poor choice in location on the step, she was let inside and will be staying with them. We will be trying out another one of their dogs that doesn't have the same fear issues Purna has. Her name is Dace and she will most definitely be wearing the GTU-10!

Purna wearing the tracker
Here's some other advantages of the GTU-10 that will come in handy:

- The package contains a collar attachment for pets, a carabiner clip attachment (for those of you that aren't comfortable attaching collars to people), and Velcro attachment strips so you can attach it to anything you want to track.

- The device comes with one year of free tracking included and is $199.99 on Garmin's website or $149.99 at your nearest AT&T corporate location. The tracking feature is only $4.99/month after the initial year.

- The device uses both GPS and AT&T cell towers to determine it's location. Two times the tracking means two times the accuracy and if one goes out, you still have the other to keep on tracking!

- It is waterproof, so your dog never needs to take it off.

All the attachment options pictured with the GPS unit and a
quarter in the top right for size comparison.
- The battery is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

- Dimensions = WxHxD: 1.34" x 3.07" x 0.79" (3.4 x 7.8 x 2.0 cm)

Over-all it is amazing. You can track your dog, your cat, your kids and adults (especially the elderly or mentally handicapped), your cars, or anything else you can find to put the device on! It works great. Because of the size, it probably wouldn't work the best on a Chihuahua, but even most reasonably-sized dogs and cats will have no problem with it. I will never leave home without it on my dog's collar again.


6 comments:

  1. I have been looking for a more detailed written report of this little tracking device for ages, great to have someones opinion who has actually used it.

    Still need to find a review on someone with a cat though which is what i want to use mine for. My little rascal loves to explore and get lost! Something like this seems ideal but i am still concerned about the size...

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