Pet GPS: It's Not Just For Cats

This is the kind of innovation that makes America great, no?
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Earlier this week, I told you the story of Lost Cat, a new book about pets, love, and GPS. So, of course, a vendor of pet GPS products got in touch with me. As a public service, in honor of National Pet ID Week, which begins April 15, I'd like to point out that the company Snaptracs sells Tagg, a real-time tracking system for animals.

This is not the homebrewed system that Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton used on their cat, but a commercial system with apps for your phone (Android and iOS) and a marketing program centered on puppies.

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Snaptracs is owned by a Qualcomm subsidiary. And the Tagg's main competitors appear to be Garmin, which sells the pet-friendly GTU 10, and DogTracs, which is sold through Costco.

Does the Tagg work as advertised? 

Most Amazon reviewers seem to think so (and they give the Garmin unit decent marks, too). While some people complain about the monthly subscription's pricing scheme, the actual product seems to do exactly what people think it will. Here's a representative narrative:

On a single charge the tracker lasted 3 weeks and this included my dog being outside the Tagg zone about 6 times for a combined total of about 2 hours. Each time he left i got a notification about 3 minutes after i noticed he was gone. I would grab my ipad and jump in the car and setup the 'start tracking' feature which would update his location on the ipad app map every 3 minutes. Most of the time i was able to find him within 1-2 more updates and every time he was exactly where it indicated. 3 minutes might seem like a long time and it is if your tracking a car downtown but for a dog that's just wandering up the street it's more than enough.

As a newly converted cat person, I have to say that tracking your dog with GPS has none of the romance of tracking your cat. With a dog, you're dealing with an escaped prisoner that you're hunting down to return to your yard. With a cat, the GPS is a means of vicarious exploration. Cats know a neighborhood in ways that humans never will, but if you attach a GPS to a cat's collar, you can at least begin to understand the lives they lead.

Also, yes, of course, this is all ridiculous (until your own pet goes missing).

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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