Tracking technology explained – Editorial

Let's look at the 3 types of technologies most commonly used in finding pets in Australia.
-Microchip implants (RFID Chips)
-Radio Frequency 2.4GHZ (Zigbee)
-Global Positioning System (GPS) & GSM


Microchip implants

This is the most common method of animal repatriation in the market today. Why? Simple, if your pet goes missing and ends up at a vet clinic, animal shelter or Council Pound, they will simply scan to see if the pet has a microchip. If your pet has been chipped and registered on a national animal microchip registry like Central Animal Records, your contact details can be immediately given to an authorised person who can then contact you with the good news that your pet is found.

However, we at Microchips Australia and our friends at Central Animal Records, the most experienced national animal microchip registry in Australia still get calls asking if we can “track” the location of a lost pet through the microchip. A microchip implant is NOT a location tracker. It is radiofrequency (RFID) technology involving a very small, passive microchip implant that is "energised" by the microchip reader to generate its unique identification number. The number is linked to animal/owner information listed on a national animal microchip registry database. 

So why have a microchip implanted? Because it is extremely difficult to damage or remove, does not require batteries so will last the lifetime of your pet and is simply the difference between you getting your pet back or not when found.  But another question is...... what if your pet goes missing and is never found? What if you could find your pet before it’s too late? This is where other types of tracking technology come into play.

Radio Frequency 2.4GHZ (Zigbee)

So what if you’re in the kitchen and your much loved pet escapes through the window or through a gate or door that has been left open by a visitor or tradesperson and only an hour later you realize your pet is no longer at home? You can hope that some nice person will find your pet and take him/her to a local vet clinic, animal shelter or pound but this can take some time and in the meantime your pet is at risk of being injured, stolen or hopelessly lost. If you had been alerted the moment your pet escaped, you would have a greater chance of getting him/her back home much more quickly.

So how does Radio Frequency pet finding work? It’s simple really ........ think about how your TV remote works with your TV, it sends a signal and commands the TV to do as you wish. With Petrek RF Pet Finders you have a remote and your pet has a small tag that can be attached onto a collar. The remote simply tells the tag unit to send an alert signal if it moves out of a certain range. So what if your pet is out of the house and you are alerted? Simply go out and scan the area nearby and by a press of the button the remote will send a signal like a TV remove and ask the tag unit to start beeping so you can more easily locate the tag on your pet's collar. With Zigbee RF technology on Petrek Pet Finders the remote will also give you an idea of the direction of your pet by indicating signal strength.

So, for most pet owners, having a microchip implanted and a small RF Pet Finder on your pet's collar would be a great combination and a very affordable option especially if you are home most of the time. However, like everything else, there is a downside to RF Pet Finders in that they are normally limited in range. In most cases 200 metres with a direct line of sight and, in some of the newer Petrek RF Pet Finder models, up to 500 metres! The reason for this limitation of range is because it is after all, based on bouncing signals from A to B and, being radio frequency based, any metal, concrete walls will cause the signal to bounce. So, in a heavily populated area, the range could be limited even further. This is the reason that we designed it to alert you as soon as its out of the range you have set. On a positive note, it can still be the difference between you getting your pet or not, especially if you can find them before they head further away from the house.

Now we move onto the worst case scenario, you finish work, you go home, and your dog has gone on a "fun" journey across the country. He has lost his collar but he is microchipped, however nobody has yet found or caught him and taken him to somewhere to be scanned.



Now this is where GPS tracking technology plays a big role...........

Global Positioning System (GPS) & GSM

Satellites have, for some time now, helped planes, ships and nowadays vehicles and even people locate their exact position. This not only saves lives and prevents people getting lost but can also save costs by allowing companies to track their assets and make sure the fastest routes are used and in return save fuel. The big hand-sized GPS trackers fitted in machines talk to the satellites and ask for its position coordinates. Once a coordinate is returned the tracker can then transmit this data back via a telecommunications network (Telstra, Optus, Vodafone etc) to a computer using software that then turns the coordinates into a point on a map. The tracker in the car is basically the car’s phone and all it is doing is getting its location from the satellite and then calling its "master" (the computer) to let it know where it is. So for a tracker to work you need a GPS signal (dependent on a clear sky) and GSM reception (dependent on being in an area within mobile reception).

In 2011 Lintek was able to start developing a tracker at 1/5th of the size of the original GPS trackers and have smartphones rather than computers receive the GPS coordinates and turn the numbers into a dot on a map. So, the first Petrek LT-903G was born and a simple call to the tracker from your mobile phone would reply with a Google map link to show you up to 2.5m accuracy of where your pet should be.

However, there was one option the Petrek LT-903G lacked and that was the proximity alarm that all Lintek RF Pet Finders had. So, just over a year later and with the help of a 17 year-old school boy,  Lintek developed the Petrek LT-905G (Petrek GPS Pet Tracker) - the first GPS Pet Tracker with a full App system that allowed you to set a circuar "geo-perimeter" around your house or area. No matter where you are (as long as you had mobile reception), you would be alerted instantly when your pet left the area and within seconds find out exactly where your pet is located and the direction in which it is going.

A GPS tracking device, however, has limitations as well ....... they use more power and they only work when there is GSM reception so that it can contact your mobile to transmit the location. They are of course much bigger than an implantable device and, although they cost much more than a microchip, the current available technologies are available at a reasonable cost. There are slight on-going costs as the device runs on a Sim card which may incur some data or text fees. Some tracking companies may also charge you monthly for using their tracking software......not Petrek.

Luckily, Petrek believes you should not be charged any monthly fees so hence you only pay for the costs that you incur on the Sim card you inserted which is normally at a text per location update or a tiny bit of data for any iPhone live updates (these updates normally come at very minimal cost - if any).

GPS Pet Trackers fit perfectly as an addition to a RF Pet Finder and a microchip implant. They may cost more, but they give you the highest probability of getting your beloved pets back home.......... not to mention the additional  peace of mind it provides.

For more in-depth answers please visit our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page to see the answers to the typical enquiries about our range of finders and trackers.

Please note that we can never guarantee the safety of your pet but we do try our best to provide or develop solutions that help you greatly reduce the risk of losing your pet.


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Note: The Petrek GPS Pet Tracker (LT905) can only work when there is GSM reception. It is important that you understand the factors that can affect normal operation of our RF Pet Finders and GPS Pet Trackers before you choose the right product for your pet.