At a pre-CES event last night, I looked at two little GPS gizmos that are designed to attach to your dog's collar, so if Spot goes running off you can find him again. Both devices use GPS to locate themselves and cellular networks to transmit their location to a central service, allowing subscribers to view the locations on Web maps.
First up: the Zoombak Advanced GPS Dog Locator costs $199 plus $15 a month for service. It's got a five-day battery and lets you spot Spot on a full-sized Web map, should you need to find him. Of course, if your dog is missing and you locate him on the Web from your PC at home, he's not likely to still be where the Web said he was when you get there. So Zoombak also has a voice-based service that will direct you to the GPS receiver's location when you need it.
I posited that you could use Zoombak with people, too, but the exec I was talking to looked at me in horror, imagining, I think, me locking a location collar around my wife or child. Silly man. I was just thinking about putting the device in a kid's backpack or something.
Zoombak also makes a car version that taps into the car's power and can be hidden somewhere. You can use the Zoombak site to see where the car is at any time, or you can "geofence" the car, alerting you if it leaves town, for example. Or telling you when the child you've lent it to finally gets home. Or doesn't.
The Zoombak's big advantage is that it's shipping now, but an upcoming competitor looks like a better deal. The Pocketfinder is a touch smaller, charges by induction (is sealed and waterproof), and will cost less: $129 and "less than" $15 a month when it ships in March. The company claims a seven-day battery life.
The Pocketfinder spokespeople imagine the device being put on the keychains of kids and senior citizens, and maybe even in luggage. I love that last idea. There is no car version yet.
Pocketfinder will have a mobile Web site instead of a voice service for geolocating registered devices when you're on the run.
The monthly fees on these products need to come down, but the concept of a location tag that you can attach to your most precious assets is pretty cool. It's also terrifying from a privacy perspective. I don't need to spell out why.