Blogs » Digital Babble » Gadget Review: In where I use a GPS tracking device, on purpose

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If anyone would have asked me to test out a GPS tracking device a few years ago, I would have laughed in their faces. But not before quickly running home to check for hidden surveillance devices, and then possibly relocating to a remote location in the mountains somewhere.

Blame it on my childhood, where I maybe watched one too many spy shows and James Bond movies. A childhood marked by my fear of "someone" listening in to my phone conversations or following my every move. Never mind the fact that back then my "phone" had a smiley face on it and was manufactured by Fisher-Price. Hey, I was only five. I also wasn't sure who would want to listen in on my "conversations" on my Fisher-Price phone. Conversations that mostly involved me talking about how difficult it was to tie shoelaces, how awesome it was to color outside of the lines, and my theories on who really shot J.R. on "Dallas."

So when I was asked by someone from AT&T if I wanted to test out the Garmin GTU 10, imagine my own surprise when I agreed to try it out.

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What is it?
The Garmin GTU 10 is a personal tracker that uses GPS technology to track anything from your children, pets or property.

The device itself is small, weighing in at 1.71 ounces, is 1.25 inches wide and 3 inches long. Although the device may be small, it's not so small that it wouldn't be detected easily. So don't even think you can get sneaky and track some unsuspecting person. That's not what this is about. Or it could be used for that, but come on! Don't do that!

The GTU 10 comes with a small carrying case, which can then be attached to your pet's collar, your child's backpack or whatever you want to track. The device has a power button, and LED power indicator light and a Mini-USB port. You are able to configure the GTU 10 once you register it online.

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Setting it up
You set up the GTU 10 by attaching it to the USB cable, also included, and connecting to your computer. Then you must create an account on Garmin's website, my.garmin.com, and download the drivers, thus allowing the site to detect the GTU 10 so you can begin your tracking.

Once you create an account and register your GTU 10, you can begin tracking the device and also set up geofences. A geofence is a virtual boundary you set up, by outlining areas on a map. Anytime your GTU 10 enters or exits the geofence you can receive an alert via text or email. This could come in handy if you are tracking a pet or property. The GTU 10 supports up to 10 geofences.

How it works
Now when it comes to continuous tracking sessions, meaning you watching the map as you track where the GTU 10, that may not be as instantaneous as you'd like. You know, like on CSI or one of those shows where all the computers make noises you've never heard them make in real life. Back on topic. You can set up the GTU 10 to update every 30 seconds, 5 minutes, 15 minutes or by on demand.

The battery life depends on how you set up your device. You can also configure this on the web site, by deciding how often you want the GTU 10 to report its location. Setting it to check-in for 30-second intervals requires a daily charge. I found that even selecting a lower interval checkup still used up quite a bit of battery, so be prepared to charge it at least every day.

In addition to tracking your locations on the Garmin website, you can also use the free Garmin Tracker app available for the iPhone and Android smartphones. I'll admit the web-based version of the online tracking was not as user-friendly as I would have liked. I was much more inclined to use the iPhone version of the Garmin Tracker app to check the location of the GTU 10.

My thoughts
My take on this device is that it is not a bad option if you want a way to track a pet. Although some may already have microchips that do that. Yet another option could be using the GTU 10 to keep check with personal property such as an automobile, boat or something else valuable you want to track.

I can also see a parent using this. They could set up a geofence around their home, neighborhood, or school, as an extra safety precaution for their young child. Then the parent could set it up to receive alerts when their child arrives at school, or leaves the designated geofence set up by the parent.

Be aware, that while using this device you are limited by the satellite reception sent to the GTU 10. When the device is outdoors, it works well as long as you can get a good signal as it depends on AT&T's GSM network. I also noticed that if you are indoors, like in a parking garage, the signal received from the GTU 10 is not good. Keep that in mind if you are using this to track your car.

Pricing
The GTU 10 is $199, which may be a pricey option for some, and the tracking service is included for the first year only. After the first year the Standard Tracking plan is $50, and the Deluxe Tracking plan is $5 more.

I can't say I would use this device myself, unless the price went down on both the device and tracking services. Then maybe I would consider it, to track my cat. I always imagine her going out at night to catnip parties or something to that effect.

For more information on the GTU 10, visit Garmin's website: Garmin GTU 10