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Spot Trace - GPS Tracking for Assets and Safety

Posted in Product Reviews on May 23, 2014
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With the hard-earned cash and sweat equity you pour into your off-road rig, it plain sucks to find out your ride has been stolen. Locks and alarms can help stop or stall a thief, but if he gets away with your vehicle, it could be useful to have a means of tracking it for possible recovery.

We recently purchased a new Spot Trace theft-alert tracking device. It’s a small module that can detect vehicle movement and report it to you. It uses 100-percent satellite technology, which means it has a wide coverage range that includes remote locations far from civilization. It relies on GPS and low-orbit satellites but does not require any cellular system access.

The unit uses an internal vibration sensor to detect movement and allows you to receive a text message or email any time your protected asset moves. You can also check on the location of your vehicle or follow it using Google Maps on a smartphone or computer. Tracking options can allow you to set a tracking interval from 2 1/2 to 60 minutes. The module is small enough to fit easily in the palm of your hand and weighs just over 3 ounces. It’s robust and can operate in a temperature range between -22 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It should survive in most any outdoor climate.

The Spot Trace has only a power button on one end of the device. Two LEDs flank this button. One indicates the power condition and warns of low batteries. The other provides GPS status to tell you when the unit is searching for satellites, communicating, or cannot acquire a GPS location fix. The lights will also go dark after 20 minutes for greater stealth.

Battery life is based on type used and the nature of use. Recommended batteries are four AAA Energizer Ultimate Lithium 8x batteries for maximum battery-powered life, but any quality AAA batteries can be used. Battery life with the lithium batteries can be as short as four to eight days, if in constant motion and reporting track every five minutes, to several months, if only reporting one hour of movement per day.

The Spot Trace unit retails for $119.99 and the basic service plan is $99.99 per year. If you want tracking updates every 2 1/2 minutes, annual cost is double the basic rate.

Setting up the Spot Trace was pretty straightforward. We had to create an online account and subscribe to annual service. Then we chose the settings we wanted to have enabled. The unit can alert you of its movement, notify you if it has been powered off, send a daily status message, and tell you when the batteries are getting low.

You can direct messaging to multiple email addresses and text message accounts. You can view tracking details and plot track locations on a map online after logging into your account. Additionally, you can share tracking and messaging information online where others can see the location of your Spot Trace.

The unit can be powered externally or connected to a computer through the micro USB connector on one end. A water-sealing cover plate must be removed to access the connector.

We set the Spot Trace in our truck one morning before we headed out into the desert. Once we started driving, the module detected movement and sent us an email a few minutes later. We drove into the desert and unloaded dirt bikes for a ride. We tossed the module in our hydration pack and hit the trails for a few hours. Once we returned home, we logged into our Spot Trace account online and were able to see the tracking reports the device transmitted. The online map showed our reported location in five-minute intervals. However, the vendor does caution obstructed skies or foliage could cause the unit to have trouble sending some transmissions. We ran our test on a sunny, clear day, so all track intervals were reported.

Note that, if the Spot Trace records you have stopped moving, it will not send a movement message for 30 minutes (minimum) or 12 hours. So if you park your vehicle somewhere and a few minutes later it is moved or stolen, the device will not emit a movement message until the 30 minutes has passed but will continue to track at the set rate.

Overall, we found the Spot Trace worked well. We like it as a theft-alert device and see it also being used as a means for others to track you when you are in remote locations, as we often find ourselves when out ’wheeling. We’ve used other more feature-rich tracking devices, such as Arrowtrack, in our vehicles that can alert you of movement, speed, and direction, and set up geofencing. These units cost more than the Spot Trace but have lower annual costs. In any case, if you’re looking for a means to have your off-road rig alert you when it moves, this might just be what you need.

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