As many of you know, we adopted a new family member in July 2019…Loki. Seeing we live full time and thus travel, we find ourselves in different locations with different environments etc which of course would also all be new to Loki. So in knowing this, we knew that we would want a way to track him if he was ever to get lost. Enter the search for a GPS Tracker!
In searching we came across two, one that has been around for some time, and one that, at the time, was very new to the market, the Fi GPS Dog Tracker! In reading about both and doing research, it was not as simple as just picking one based on reading stuff…nope…we decided we had to get both and do real world testing! After all, if Loki was to get lost, we wanted the best chance we could have at finding him. That turned out to come down to one main thing…BATTERY LIFE!
Turns out that the battery life and how to achieve the maximum use of it comes down to more that just battery size. After all, you could have a large battery and solve the issue that way. But then you would have a very large tracking unit and that would not only not look good, but could hinder your furry family member. So in order to achieve some really stellar battery life, you need to put some thought into the issue and then come up with creative ways to maximize the battery, thus giving you a much better chance at recovery.
You see, turning on the GPS receiver is one thing that uses a lot of power, but the biggest use of power comes from the LTE-M 4G connection that will be needed to send the updates on the location. The Fi, as well as other GPS trackers, use the AT&T 4G network to send out location updates. For some reason AT&T is the only service that offers services to devices like trackers…we have not once seen anything like this that runs off Verizon. And before you say this is only good if you are in an area that has AT&T…TRUE! However I would rather have the CHANCE that he will at some point get into an area that has service than not have any chance at all of recovery.
But anyway….Seeing it now needs to turn on the most power intensive parts of the device, then the next part is to use that power wisely. For example…when you activate LOST DOG MODE, the next time the Fi connects to check in, it will see you want full tracking, it will then start to ping the location every one minute or so. However, it will only do the updates if the dog is actually moving (for why use the power to send out an updated location if the location has not changed?) and two, if the dog is moving away from you. Now, understand, we want updates for sure. But if the dog is moving towards you, that is a good thing, so we would require LESS updates and thus save the power as the dog is coming in the right direction. Make sense? It’s all about getting the most number of readings from the battery which of course then increases your chance at recovery!
Now remember, this only works if it can connect to AT&T to send the info. So if it turns on it’s 4G module and can’t see AT&T, it will then sleep for X amount of time, and the dog must be moving, then it will check again for a signal and we hope the dog had moved into an area where AT&T can be used. But as you can maybe understand from my short description of operation, a lot of thought went into how and when to turn on the power hungry devices inside the Fi Tracker and that is one of the reasons that it sets the Fi so far apart from its competitors.
Now there is more to it, but one thing you need to know if you want one of these for your furry family member(s)…You MUST have full time Wi-fi with Internet in your coach or RV. You see, one of the features of this unit is that it also uses Wi-Fi. The “Home Base”, which is also it’s charger, connects to your local Wi-Fi and also has Bluetooth. So the Fi Collar connects to the base via Bluetooth when you are not around and thus it knows your pet is home and safe as it is connected to the base. The base uses Wi-Fi to report in as needed, thus the need for Wi-Fi and an Internet connection. If not, it would use your phones connection when you are around or it would need to use the 4G connection thus killing the battery faster, thus defeating the best feature…it’s battery life!
One of the BEST PARTS that comes in very handy for us travelers is that it is very easy and quick to update the current location for the “Home Base”. When you arrive into a new RV Park and get all setup, just open the APP, press the 3 line menu icon on top left, click on BASES, Click on your base, and click SET LOCATION at the bottom. You can just then update your current position and save. Done! Your new home location is set complete with safe zone all set. (A Safe Zone is an area around your location where your dog is considered to be home or safe. In other words, not lost or outside the zone.) They likely never really thought of the use like this…But it sure is handy when you live on the road!
And hey, it’s not like you need to understand it, after all, that is what you read our blog for. For you know we only post about things we actually use or would use. And when it comes to tech, you know David surely played with it and learned all he could about it before making a choice and then letting you all know about it. In this case, 6 months of playing around. Here is a 12 min video of us talking about the need for one and also a LIVE FIELD TEST of the Fi in action!
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We hope you share this post if you know of others that may have an interest.
A very interesting article. Thank you! You also made one very important statement and that is, that the tracker needs to be able to connect to an AT&T 4G LTE signal. That is extremely important and my question in this regard is, what about when you are roaming? Furthermore, we do have a temperature sensor inside our RV which sends out alerts when the temps go over or below a certain threshold. Works great. As long as you have a signal. And that is really the most important aspect of it all. When you travel around the USA, you will find yourself in areas with no reception at all. Or spotty in few places or roaming on some obscure network. Or just 3G. Or in an area where Verizon works and AT&T/Sprint/T-Mobile do not. Been there and experienced it all. So while you wish to go out and explore, you may find that tracker is of no use. Your thoughts?
Simple… I would rather have the CHANCE that he will at some point get into an area that has service than not have any chance at all of recovery.
David, you mentioned that a dog could become scared and do a run away and this really becomes real if there is ever a collision or a injury while in a strange area. I could really see something like this happening. Thanks for your help!!
It was one of our main concerns…being in new areas. Not so much a collision, but something just happening to scare the enough to run and then become confused. I had one follower who had asked me about the Fi when he had seen it when meeting us. He told me the story of them being at a RV Park and a Hot Air Balloon came over their rig low (they did not see it coming…quite an all). They were outside sitting and the dog was off leash, a really good and well trained dog, and the balloon activated it’s burner. The dog took off as he had never seen, nor heard, a hot air balloon before! The dog ended up being found 2 hours later in a reveen. The next day after we meet he told me he ordered a Fi as he did not know something like that was even a thing. So you never know what may happen, even with a well trained dog.
I purchased another tracker, The Cat Locator ( http://www.thecatlocator.com/ ) from Communication Specialists. It uses radio and a direction finder to find your pet and does not require any cell service. You must have an amateur radio license but that is easy to get and you can take a one day course many places to get a license. I got it because we travel, too, and most national parks are away from cell service.
Hi david, Brenda,
Awesome video! We are looking into the collar you recommended. I’m also interested in the orange / black dog platform you have for Loki. Do you have the website for information regarding your dog platform?
Thanks In Advance,
Tom & Kathryn Compton
That would be the Coolaroo! We love it and so does Loki. Here you go… https://amzn.to/2PM3Iy0