Ok, I’m probably overstating things here. With what little I know, it’s probably “Here Are Some Tips That May Help With your Pod Tracker If You’re Lucky”, but it’s not as click-baitish.
Anyway, here with go:
1. Before You Buy: Research
Before you buy a Pod Tracker, you need to do a bit of research to see if it’s worth it for you. The two things you need to be aware of are phone signal and chance of getting GPS lock.
Phone signal: The Pod uses the Vodafone network, which has a reputation for being a little patchy1. So, first you need to find out what sort of coverage is in your area. Their own coverage maps are probably a good place to start. However, what you really need is to talk to anyone living in your area that has a Vodafone service, and see what their experience is.
If the signal isn’t great around your area, then you’re likely to have issues with the Pod.
GPS Lock: With GPS there are a lot of caveats. In general, though, you need two things for this to work. The first is a good data connection to the Pod (see Phone Signal above), and the second is a good view of the GPS satellites.
As best I can tell, the Pod uses AGPS(Assisted GPS)2. While you can use just data from the GPS satellites to get a lock, AGPS uses the data link over the phone network to download what’s called an ‘almanac’ (orbital data, valid for a few days) and an ‘ephemeris’ (slightly finer detail which is valid for only a few hours). It can also use this to get a more precise time, which is also useful in interpreting the GPS data to get a quicker, more accurate lock.
If, however, the data network is patchy, or very slow, then the Pod might not get the almanac, or ephemeris, or may have issues with getting a precise time. In this case, it has to get more of the information it needs from the Satellites and it can take even longer to get a Lock. If the signal from the satellites is interrupted during this time (eg with trees, powerlines, buildings in the way), it might even fail.
So really, you need a good data network signal, and you need clear line of sight to satellites. Having only one of these means the potential for degraded GPS Lock. Having neither means you probably won’t get a location at all.
2. Play Around
With any new GPS/assisted mapping system I get, I play with it. Whether this is a dedicated system, one on (say) a mobile phone, or something like the Pod, I spend time trying to discover its quirks.
Before you attach it to your pet, it’s probably a good idea to make sure its charged, turn it on and connect the App to it. Then walk around the area that your pet is likely to use (whether for walks or by escaping), including your home turf, and see how well (or otherwise) the Pod behaves.
Now, this is where you need a little more information on the various modes that the Pod has.
Standby: Every 10 (I think) minutes the Pod tries to get a GPS lock. This means if you press the status button on the Pod, you’ll only see the GPS light green occasionally. This does not mean it’s broken, it’s just that it’s only trying to get lock infrequently to save power. This means you’ll have to look at the status lights repeatedly over that 10 minute period.
Perimeter: Every 5 minutes the Pod tries to get a GPS lock. It compares the location to the ‘safe zone’ you (hopefully) defined earlier, and if the location is outside that it will complain. Again, this means that you won’t always have a lock, so don’t panic if the light isn’t green. This does mean you may have to look at the status repeatedly over a 5 minute period.
Adventure: This is the worst on battery usage, but it tries to keep a lock all of the time. This is probably also a good mode for initial testing. Once it has a lock, you’d hope to see the GPS light on green all the time.
While doing this, you will be able to get a good idea of whether you can talk to the Pod via the App (phone network coverage), as well as seeing if the ‘phone network’ light is green. You should also be able to get some idea of how hard it is for the Pod to get a GPS lock in all modes. If you can’t get a ‘Locate’ to work, then it might be worth putting the Pod into ‘Adventure’ mode to give you the best chance.
3. Understanding How ‘Locate’ Works
The Locate function itself seems fairly simple, but what you see when it’s operating can be a little confusing.
It begins with the App trying to connect to the Pod.
One it’s made contact, it asks for the Pod to send back the location. Here, the Pod can use Bluetooth, WiFi, or GPS to determine it. Let’s assume it needs to use GPS. The Pod now tries to get a GPS lock. It begins sending information back to the App. It sends back 12 or so responses. The first few are likely not to have the location in them, simply because lock hasn’t been achieved yet. However, the theory is that location will be sent back in the last few. You can then get an idea if your pet is home, not at home, and even (if the location keeps moving) which direction they’re headed.
What this means is that you may see the location of your pet shift with every response. Sometimes you’ll just see the location get a little more accurate. Sometimes (if the GPS lock is tenuous) they might be seen to be darting all over the place (moving sometimes 50 meters at a time!). If you’re lucky you’ll see useful information telling you the path they’re taking (or none, if they’re at home).
The best way to make any of this useful is to have done some testing, as in point 2, and know what quality of information you’re likely to get back from the Pod, under what circumstances.