GPS Tracking Key Review
Upon receiving the LandAirSea GPS Tracking Key, we noticed that the retail quality packaging provides customers with easy access to the unit as well as convenient storage when the device is not in use. Complete with installation disk and an easy to follow instruction booklet, the Tracking Key is ready to be put in service as there are no pre-programming steps required. This makes the GPS Tracking Key attractive to those individuals wanting to deploy the device quickly or when a PC is not immediately available.
Specifications from the www.landairsea.com website state that battery life depends upon the number of hours a vehicle is in motion per day. The Tracking Key incorporates a cylindrical motion sensor that places the device in a sleep mode after the vehicle sits idle for more than three minutes. This saves the battery life when the vehicle is not in motion.
Initial Setup/Software Installation:
With the Tracking Key doing its thing, we decided to complete the installation of the LandAirSea Past Track version 8.2 software.This was relatively simple, as instructions on the screen walked us through the process. Once the installation was completed, it placed a shortcut program icon directly onto our desktop. This icon can be removed if the customer does not want it displayed on the desktop.
Cover and Concealment:
The compact design of this unit made it easy to conceal.With the dimensions of 1.3” X 1.5” X 3.8”, the Tracking Key is roughly the size of a 10-pack of gum and offers a wide range of covert installation options. With traditional GPS tracking systems requiring clear views of the sky, we had reservations when LandAirSea claimed that their Tracking Key could record GPS positioning data in locations that included under the vehicle, under a car seat, in the glove box, trunk, etc. We decided to take this challenge and compared it to another passive tracking unit called the Super Trackstick®. For additional and specific information regarding the Super Trackstick, please refer to the individual review within this site.
When inserting the two AAA batteries into the Tracking Key, we noticed two LED’s that illuminated to identify unit power and GPS status. It should also be noted that the the green power light will change to red when the battery level runs low. If the power runs out prior to retrieving the device, there are no worries –the memory is non-volatile and the data will be waiting for you once new batteries are inserted. The GPS light will flash once per second when locked onto the GPS signals and is consistent with the recording frequency of once per second. One potential issue with these LED’s is that anyone with sensitive night vision may see these lights once installed.We placed a small piece of electrical tape over the LED’s and this seemed to do the trick although we did not keep this tape on during the test.
To take on the full challenge, we decided to attempt the recording of data in all of the locations identified above. This test was conducted over a period of four consecutive days and the device data was downloaded after each test. We felt this was important to isolate each recording day’s effectiveness.The device was moved to its new position immediately after the USB download in preparation of the next test.
The Tracking Key incorporates a neodymium magnet that proved to be more than adequate when attaching the device to the metal frame under the vehicle. Small in stature but surprisingly strong, the magnet nearly took the device out of my hand!
1.Under the Vehicle
The Tracking Key was mounted with the magnet attached to the steel frame that is adjacent to the rear driver side wheel. We chose this location because of the obvious quality of magnetic adhesion and did not want the device directly behind the tire due to road hazards, weather problems, etc. This put the orientation of the Tracking Key antenna pointing to the ground.Because the GPS signals will not go through metal, the Tracking Key picks up signals that are reflecting off of the ground so positioning the antenna downward is actually considered advantageous in this scenario. Important note: LandAirSea documentation states that the Tracking Key is water-resistant, not waterproof. Even though our weather conditions at the time of test were dry, we placed the Tracking Key in a thin plastic sandwich bag to simulate necessary precautions. We did not see any negative affects with the magnet attaching to the steel frame. Another popular location is inside the plastic bumper.In this case, there was not a secure mounting position as the metal plate was not made of steel and we were not confident the device would be there when we retrieved it.We have been told that this varies from vehicle to vehicle.
With the Tracking Key installed under the vehicle, we went about our daily business and recorded 62 miles, or roughly three hours of motion. At the end of the day, we retrieved the Tracking Key.As advertised, the GPS LED was flashing away still under the vehicle when we removed it.
2.Under the Car Seat
Whether we chose the driver or passenger seat, there was ample room and metal to secure the Tracking Key. The seat mounting track provides a quality metal surface in which to attach the device.Alternate seat locations include storage pockets or under the rear bench seat. This test consisted of 78 miles and recorded roughly three hours of motion.
3.In the Glove Box
Because many people want to place their tracking device underneath the dashboard, the glove box is a natural test location. This is because it is positioned deep within, and in many cases, low in the dashboard.This test consisted of 42 miles and recorded roughly two hours of motion.
4.In the Trunk
The trunk of a vehicle is not an appropriate location for placement of a GPS tracker device. This is because the inside of the trunk is surrounded by metal and the signals will not reach the device. However, when opening the trunk, we noticed that the rear window penetrated the deep portion of the trunk.Further investigation revealed that there was a perfect installation spot near the rear speakers. The Tracking Key was small enough to fit inside a serviceable area in the rear window panel.It fit snugly between the service panel and the aesthetic carpet piece. Once installed, we expected that this would provide the best recording results as only the carpet panel and rear window separated the device from the view of the sky.This test consisted of 128 miles and recorded roughly four hours of motion.
At the conclusion of each test, the Tracking Key was brought back to the PC to download the recorded data.Although we elected to download each test and separate each file, we realized this was not necessary as the Past Track software isolates each day graphically and in a text report.
The LandAirSea Past Track software includes animated digital street mapping allowing users to seamlessly replay any or all portions of a recorded session.Color-coded paths based upon user-defined speeds, along with animated meters such as a speedometer and time clock, are also standard. This gives customers a unique view and helps pinpoint areas of speeding.
The Past Track software also allows customers to view the vehicle’s travels using the popular Google Earth® program. Impressive accuracy, stop duration, and maximum speed are displayed. The combination of vehicle positioning integrated with photo-realistic satellite mapping takes this application to another level. Activity reports can be generated based upon user-defined stop duration intervals. This report not only summarizes each day, it breaks down each driving segment between stops with time of departure, time en route, miles traveled, addresses arrived, and time of stop.Each address provides a web-based link that gives the user a satellite image of that stop using Google® Maps.
Each download was a simple process consisting of opening the Past Track software and selecting the download button with the Tracking Key inserted into the USB port.There is a dialog box in the download window that, if selected, will erase the memory once the data is downloaded.This erase function does not proceed until you have successfully saved the data onto the computer.The data file is a proprietary format so the data cannot be manipulated.This is critical for law enforcement use, as data from the Tracking Key has been introduced as evidence in many criminal trials.
Upon saving the data, the software provides an action toolbar allowing the user to select Google Earth, Street Maps, or Activity Report.Once selected, everything appears on the computer screen, making it easy to navigate the features.This eliminates manual loading of maps or unnecessary customization that would only complicate the process.
We started this test with a certain level of skepticism considering the traditional standards of GPS reception. To our amazement, the Tracking Key performed well above expectations and other GPS data loggers on the market. Each of the installation locations, including under the vehicle, returned a quality tracking signal. The Tracking Key also proved to be a very power efficient device, as the motion sensor effectively allowed the batteries to maintain sufficient power for this entire testing period.Although we recorded four days of tracking, the test period covered a total of ten days as the test was not continuous.
The integration of a quality electronic recording device along with a user-friendly software interface delivers a solution effective for all technical skill levels and it is apparent that LandAirSea designed the hardware and software with that purpose in mind. The Tracking Key is an inexpensive value-based tool that delivers as advertised.
Tracking Key Specifications:
Manufacturer: Land Air Sea Systems, Inc.
Average Market Price: $169.00
Height:1.34 inches, including magnet
Computer Interface: USB
Sampling Rate: Software selectable sampling rate (software is given upon request);
preset recording rate is once every second.
Waterproof: Water Resistant, not waterproof
External Power: None
Batteries: Internal battery compartment that requires 2 AAA batteries
Lithium batteries: Approx. 30-36 motion hours
Alkaline batteries: Approx. 20-23 motion hours
NIMH batteries:Approx. 12-15 motion hours