Feb 15 2010

GPS Tracking Key Pro Earns Top Ratings for Passive GPS Tracking

Published by at 5:17 pm under GPS Tracking,Passive GPS Tracking

An aversion to the high cost of new technology and a fear that it is just too complicated are no longer good excuses for being without a GPS tracking device. LandAirSea Systems, an industry leader and trusted name in vehicle tracking, has introduced a GPS data logger that couldn’t be simpler. The palm-sized Tracking Key Pro® boasts a sleek, uncomplicated design and it has user-friendly software to match.

The Tracking Key Pro® was introduced to market in 2009 as LandAirSea’s next generation passive GPS tracker and an improved version of the company’s top-selling Tracking Key.

1. Overview:

All GPS tracking systems receive or capture GPS signals. If they are real-time devices, they employ a method for transmitting the data to a server so it can be viewed over the Internet. Cellular data technology is the most cost-effective method. However, in today’s tough economy, consumers and businesses are under pressure to cut costs. Even a reasonable real-time tracking solution can become a financial burden. A passive GPS tracking device such as the Tracking Key Pro® is a logical solution to this dilemma.

Passive GPS tracking systems – also known as data loggers – are appropriately named because they record location data and store it in internal memory. Users have the flexibility – whenever it is convenient for them – to download the information to a computer via the USB port. There are no monthly fees as are associated with real-time units. Furthermore, a passive GPS tracker can store a significant amount of data that is simply not available on a real-time unit.

What piqued our interest was LandAirSea’s claims that their Tracking Key Pro® had superior power and signal capture and that it performed well with unconventional (clear view of the sky) placement. Sounds like a challenge.

 

2. Manufacturer’s Introduction and Specifications

LandAirSea Systems, based in Woodstock, IL, has been manufacturing and marketing GPS tracking products since 1994. That’s a rather long time in this booming market. The company’s suite of GPS tracking solutions includes the Tracking Key and Tracking Key Pro®, both passive units, and a real-time device called the Victoria. The manufacturer intends to introduce two additional real-time devices to the market in 2010.

The Tracking Key Pro® is essentially a Tracking Key with some significant upgrades. They include an on/off power switch and a battery compartment that has an easy-access door with a latch, instead of tiny screws.  But the biggest change in this model is an extended battery life. It runs on two AA batteries, as opposed to the two AAAs in the original Tracking Key. Store-bought alkaline or lithiums provide the power.

Users that are upgrading from the Tracking Key to the Tracking Key Pro® will be happy to know that both units utilize the same Past Track software. The conversion to a new GPS tracking product should be convenient and smooth.

Tracking Key Pro® Features:

  • Power: two AA batteries (will last about a month, with average driving)
  • Magnetic mount
  • Second-by-second sampling
  • Water resistant
  • Motion sensor
  • Flash memory holds up to 100 hours of travel activity

New features:

  • 12V external power option
  • On/off switch
  • Easy-access battery door
  • Recessed USB port
  • Rounded-edge, sleek design

 

3. The Test:

We fitted the Tracking Key Pro® with two standard AA batteries, and tested the device in various covert positions in an everyday four-door sedan. Our challenge: Just how good will GPS reception be when the Tracking Key Pro® is placed in compromised locations? Every two days, the unit was moved to a new location in the following cycle: under the driver’s seat, under the vehicle on the frame, in the glove box, in the trunk near the passenger window, and inside the rear bumper. Miles traveled per day averaged 39, about the same as a domestic vehicle in regular use. The cycle continued until the batteries ran out.

(*Note: One-hundred hours of travel data is stored in memory. When the batteries die, the Tracking Key Pro® shuts down, but the data already recorded is unaffected.)

In Figure 1 below, the arrow shows where the battery and GPS status lights are located. The Tracking Key Pro® has one LED light to show that it is locked on a GPS signal, and another LED light to indicate battery power. The GPS signal light will flash every second when it is locked onto a signal. The battery indicator light glows solid green when power is adequate and it will turn red when it is time to change the batteries.

The test started Nov. 25, 2009 with fully-charged batteries. The first position was deep under the driver’s seat, mounted upside down (antenna side down). Every two days the Tracking Key Pro® was moved to a new location. The Tracking Key Pro®’s GPS lock light indicated good and continuous reception in each installed location.

LandAirSea claims the Tracking Key Pro® will track continuously for four weeks. Remarkably, it operated flawlessly for 35 days. The red, low-battery indicator light did not illuminate until Dec. 29, 2009. The unit ceased working the following day.

With the data collected, it was time to check the quality of signal acquisition, accuracy of readings and the software interface.

4. Download and Review of Data

LandAirSea’s Past Track Software is used to download and display the GPS tracking data. The tracking system and the PC interface via the USB port. The Tracking Key Pro® can also acquire power from the PC port.

The menu-driven, Past Track software is user friendly and all the data is identified by the date it was recorded. Past Track shows in great detail where a vehicle has driven. The data collected includes speed, direction, time, location and length of every stop.

There are three options for the presentation of tracking data:  digital street image, satellite maps via Google Earth® and a text activity report. The software has a great emphasis on the graphic formats.

The animated digital street map option is illustrated in Figure 3. From the screen, users can click to choose Google Earth® (Figure 3, item 1); the daily text report (Figure 3, item 2), and animated controls of the vehicle (Figure 3, item 3) as it moves along its path.  A panel of instruments (Figure 3, item 4) changes as the vehicle progresses on the map. The playback is very smooth because the Tracking Key Pro® takes a reading every second. The path can be manipulated to show different colors at different speeds, so the user can focus on incidents of excessive speeding.

Figure 3

For Google Earth®, click on the icon in the toolbar. The KMZ file is created and the program automatically launches. Navigate the Google Earth® sidebar for all the details on the vehicle’s path and stops. You can also choose a new path color in Google Earth® rather than the default setting.

See Figure 4 for an example of the daily activity report.

Figure 4

On the left side of the report is a summary of the day’s activities (Figure 4, item 1) including total miles driven, total driving time, start and ending addresses, and top speed of the day. Below the summary, the user will find a breakdown of every stop (Figure 4, items 2 and 3) including time and address of departure (acquisition point), time en route, time and address of new location, and the miles between the stops. For further information, click on the address and you’ll switch to a satellite view on Google Maps®. The text report gives an easy-to-read review of any day’s events.

The vehicle being tracked must pause for a preset number of minutes in order to quality as a “stop”. That parameter can be changed in Past Track. For instance, the user can lower the “stop” threshold from 10 minutes to 5 minutes, then immediately rerun the report and see the extra stops that were not there previously.

The accuracy of readings from the Tracking Key Pro® was impressive. As shown in Figure 5, the path of the vehicle was fluid and consistent.

Figure 5

5. The Results

  • Battery Life: The Tracking Key Pro® recorded a full 35 days without fail. When the batteries are drained, they can quickly be replaced with two fresh AA alkaline or lithiums and then the tracking system can immediately be put back to work. This quick swap quality will be appreciated by police and private detectives.  Alkaline batteries were tested. LandAirSea claims a 50 percent increase in recording time (minimum) when lithium batteries are used. A 12V power option is available as an alternative to batteries.
  • Signal Acquisition: The Tracking Key Pro® quickly captured GPS signal regardless of its placement in the test vehicle. It acquired signal in positions other tested vehicle tracking devices did not.
  • Accuracy: A vehicle tracking device’s accuracy is of utmost importance. The quality will vary, depending on how the device is engineered, and where it is placed in the vehicle. The performance of the Tracking Key Pro® was remarkable. It acquired a position update every second and, as shown in Figure 5, the animated replay follows the road and is smooth and unbroken.
  • Software: The menu-driven Past Track software is easy to navigate and offers the variety of data presentation in three formats: animated street map, Google Earth® satellite image and text report. In each, travel activities are broken down by day. The Past Track software has the ability to maintain version updates. The Past Track software is good on all Windows operating systems, but it not Mac compatible.
  • Device Design: The Tracking Key Pro® has a sleek design in an inconspicuous black housing. The device is small, easily portable and the strong magnet offers a variety of placement options.

6. Conclusion

The LandAirSea Tracking Key Pro® is an excellent solution for covert vehicle tracking. At each level of testing the Tracking Key Pro® performed as advertised. Its battery life, sensitivity and price are hard to beat. The Past Track software is easily navigated. Users who have questions about the operation of this device will find the LandAirSea technical support team both accessible and experienced.

Pros:

  • 35 days tracking on a battery charge (with average driving)
  • Good signal acquisition in many covert positions
  • GPS readings every second
  • User friendly software

Cons:

  • Past Track software not compatible with Mac operating systems
  • Unit is water-resistant, but not waterproof.

Rating:

LandAirSea Tracking Key Pro®

Battery Life:              5 stars

Acquisition Time:     5 stars

Accuracy:                   5 stars

Software:                   4 stars

Device Design:          4 stars

Overall (Of a possible 5 stars:)

LandAirSea Tracking Key Pro®

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