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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

8 Ways to Track Just About Anything with GPS

Gone are the days of losing keys, phones, wallets, and luggage thanks to GPS technology. Tracking chips and devices can be implanted in almost anything, and are changing the way we interact with the world around us.

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People are tracking their children in real time

Times aren’t what they used to be, and parents are nervous just letting their kids walk to school, which is exactly why GPS-enabled smart watches and bands for children are increasing in popularity. Verizon’s GizmoGadget band allows 10 pre-selected contacts (like Mom, Dad, Grandma, and 911) for children to send and receive calls from, as well as offering real-time location monitoring for children wearing the watch-style bracelets. They’re popular among school-age children so parents can virtually follow their little ones with the synced smartphone app to school, play dates, and practices without hovering. (They’re also ideal for seniors with dementia who are prone to wandering.) For parents of younger children (or those you wouldn’t want to grant phone access to just yet), the PaiBand tracks children’s activities like running, jumping, and playing and has various built-in games while quietly tracking their location. Kids are excited to have what seems like a game-enhanced fitness band, while parents slyly enjoy knowing their every move. While you’re at it, keep your L.O.’s safe by never sharing these seven things about them on social media.

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Fitness bands for adults can offer safety, too

Fitness tracking bands are fairly popular for adults, but what many people don’t realize is that several brands come outfitted with GPS built right into the band. The GPS tracking features were initially enabled to reduce incidences of loss or theft, but experts say they’re helping keep people safe and even solve crimes now. David Lindner, CSO at nVisium, a leading cyber security firm, says, “All the different devices or systems tracking our location can be used in a court of law to prove or disprove event timelines or even alibis. Recently, a murdered woman’s Fitbit was used to disprove her husband’s story.”

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GPS is keeping tabs on lost luggage, too

Is there anything more annoying than lost bags at the airport? Hardly, and according to statistics published by LuggageForward, up to half a percent of all bags traveling through American airports are lost, misplaced, or stolen. It turns out those luggage locks are pretty useless, only adding to the stress of bags gone missing. One company, G-Ro, is stopping that problem by embedding GPS tracking devices directly in their bags. If you don’t see your bag make it to the carousel, simply open the synced app on your phone and begin treasure hunting for your unmentionables.

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You can even track your pet’s walk with a stranger

If you work long hours or hire outside dog walkers, apps like Rover actually let you track your pet’s experience from start to finish with their hired caregivers. Rover is the nation’s largest network of pet sitters and dog walkers, allowing pet parents to GPS track their pets’ time with their caregivers. In addition to GPS tracking your pet’s walking route, caregivers can also track additional activities along the way including your dog eating, drinking, and then peeing and pooping. It’s a great way to feel better about owning a dog, which has major health benefits, even if you can’t be home all the time.

Some devices actually prevent assault

The Athena, a tiny wearable button, works with an app called ROAR to alert emergency contacts with your current GPS location, last known activity, and a near instantaneous call to 911 on your behalf. The button works as a “silent roar” that an attacker won’t feel or notice, but also offers a high-decibel alarm to scare off potential attackers and draw attention.

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Don’t even think about stealing hotel linens—they’re tracked too

GPS tracking is turning up in the most unexpected places to aid in loss prevention. Some companies are offering chip-embedded towels and linens for hotels so the hotel will instantly know if guests leave the property with their goods. We haven’t heard of anyone getting arrested yet, but it’s not unreasonable to think the full price of those pre-loved hotel towels could be added to your bill. Try these tips for scoring a hotel upgrade instead of stealing the linens.

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Never lose your keys again

Technology has ushered in a bright future for the forgetful people of the world. A tiny square called Tile now affixes to your key ring with ease, weighs hardly anything, and helps you track down whatever it’s attached to. You’ll know instantly if you left them in the car, at work, in a coat pocket, or just about anywhere else. They’re small, so some parents are even dropping them in school backpacks to double up on safety without kids even catching on. Here are more strategies to never lose your keys again.

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Keep tabs on your car

You can attach a Zubie device to your car without anyone really noticing, even an alternate driver like a teenager or spouse, to follow just about everywhere your car may go. It’s a great, spy-style move for worried parents of young drivers, but it’s also a great helper for when you’re leaving your car in long term parking near the airport, parking in a dicey area, or lending your ride to someone.

Bryce Gruber
As Home Editor, Bryce Gruber is an expert in gift ideas, shopping, and e-commerce at Reader's Digest. You've likely seen her work across a variety of women's lifestyle and parenting outlets and on TV shows. She lives and works in New York's Hudson Valley with her five small children.