Tiny SPOT GPS Unit Serves As 'Anti-Theft Satellite Tracker'

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Spot LLC is known for its namesake SPOT satellite messenger products, which are used mainly in wilderness settings. A new product this month from the brand takes aim at a wider audience.

The SPOT Trace offers “advanced theft-alert tracking,” as the brand puts it. You mount the 2-inch-wide unit on an object and it syncs with a satellite network to let you know if the object moves.

You get an email or text message if the Trace (and the object to which it is attached) is moved, stolen or otherwise. The notice gives time and coordinates, and then it offers a link to a Google map.

We tested out a beta unit last week. The Trace synced up with a satellite when placed outside the GearJunkie office in the dense Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis.

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Trace location on a Google map

To test its basic function, we had an editor move the unit a few blocks away. In near real-time, an email came through titled “Movement Alert from SPOT GJ-TRACE.”

The device, the email informed, was at Latitude: 44.95041, Longitude: -93.28711 at 11:50:25 CST. It then informed, “SPOT Trace has detected that the asset has moved. Click the link below to see where the asset is located.”

A click to a map revealed waypoints and markers. Our editor was revealed to have “stolen” the Trace and taken it to a pizza place for lunch down the street.

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Email alert after Trace was moved

Ostensibly, you could follow the bread crumbs to a stolen car, boat, an RV, perhaps even a bicycle that has a Trace secured on its frame.

The device is small (about 2.7 × 2 inches) and stealth black. There are LED lights for turning it off/on, but those go dark after the unit is mounted in place.

It is made to mount on an object and keep it there powered on and in standby mode (which it goes into automatically) and then essentially forgot about, much like a security system in a home.

The Trace comes with a mounting bracket. You can hide it on a boat or vehicle in certain places — the device will transmit through fiberglass, fabric, and glass, Spot cites.

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Weighs 3 ounces and measures about 2 inches across

When moved, vibration sensors in the unit set off a process to track via GPS satellites. It will begin mapping waypoints automatically with a maximum sensitivity of one point every 2.5 minutes.

Four AAA batteries power the unit. Depending on mode and setting, the batteries will last for months of idle time and live GPS tracking.

Spot sells the Trace for $99.95. You need a service plan in addition, which starts at $99.99 per year. It’s available this month at the Spot website as well as retailers like West Marine, Sportsman’s Warehouse, REI, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, and Best Buy.

Last week, we gave the Trace a quick test with the loaner beta unit. It did its basic job in two tests moving the unit around in a city. Stay tuned for a detailed look and a test that will simulate a complex scenario where the Trace travels many miles blipping out its coordinates across varying terrain with a couple GearJunkie editors in hot pursuit.

—Stephen Regenold

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Spot LLC markets “advanced theft-alert tracking” with the Trace device

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