Jan. 22, 2010— -- You're probably familiar with portable navigation devices like those sold by companies such as Garmin and TomTom, or perhaps you've even used Google Maps to find a local restaurant on your iPhone or other smartphone. But there are other uses for those location-pinpointing satellites that together make up the Global Positioning System.
Last year, a number of companies launched small devices that could report back on their location, on demand, by using GPS and a cellular connection.
You could theoretically keep it in a car to see where your vehicle is, drop it in a child's backpack to track her location, strap one onto a dog's leash should he become lost, or even pack one in your luggage so you can find it if the airline loses it.
But these gadgets come at a price.
One, from a company called Zoombak, starts at $99, but requires a subscription fee of $10 to $15 per month.
Now, a company called TrackStick has produced a product called the TrackStick Mini that ditches the expensive wireless connectivity.
The result is a product that, at $299, has a higher up-front cost than the Zoombak and can't be used to find things at a moment's notice. On the other hand, it requires no monthly fees and can tell you where it's been after it's physically retrieved.
This can be helpful for either recreational recording one's location, say, on a trip, or for tracking the whereabouts of, say, a vehicle over the course of a few days.
The TrackStick Mini comes with a bracket that has two powerful magnets you can attach to the roof of a car. The bracket can also be attached to the springs of a rear door.
The TrackStick Mini, which resembles a double-wide USB flash drive, is itself a very simple device that can be charged using its USB connector.
The company includes a silicone sleeve to protect it from bumps, scratches, and the elements. After it's charged, simply turn it on and optionally affix it via the bracket. And then wait until the activity you want to record (or which you suspect is happening) is done.