💢It's growing ever more common for jumpers to come up with devices for tracking gear, especially main canopies cutaway, but there's still a lot of assumptions and misunderstanding about such devices, so lets get geeky and talk gadgets.
There are basically two types of devices out there, one is a LOCATOR TAG, the other is a TRACKER UNIT.
> LOCATOR TAG
Like Apple AirTag, Samsung SmartTag and others, those works through proximity wireless technology, more commonly Bluetooth, and rely on being in short range of a compatible smartphone to be able to detect or transmit its rough location, once such phone has the same wireless channel active, its location services enabled, an internet connection, and the phone user grants permission for an "in range device to broadcast through its phone", which might come as a surprise to someone not expecting to get such random request on their phone, and can end up getting denied.
Tags are commonly advertised having ranges up to 100ft, but they will be limited to 15-20ft when surrounded by obstacles like thick tall grass, bushes, fences, buildings, etc.
Those are smaller and cheaper devices, around the $10 range, and do use very little battery since its uses most of the paired smartphone resources, once it's in range.
> TRACKER UNIT
Like Tracki and many others, those are fully standalone locators and transmitters, that will fix their precise location using GPS positioning and will transmit it in real time using their own 3G/4G connection, not requiring any devices in proximity. Their location acquisition will degrade if blocked by major obstacles, and only need to be within cellphone towers range, which is not hard to come by nowadays.
Due to their standalone capabilities, such units are bulkier than simpler tags and also drains a lot more power, commonly needing recharging in a weekly basis, normally having a sleep mode that triggers transmissions upon movement.
Also, for their standalone 3G/4G cellphone comms, along with the server + locator app services, they'll have a monthly service fee, averaging $15/month, and units costs around $40.
TAGS are easier to accommodate with a few different options of custom holders for skydiving gear for D-Bags and risers, while a TRACKER is bulkier, commonly limited to a D-Bag pocket of some sort, and will need to get recharged frequently.
TAGs can be of marginal help around less populated areas and even at more urban areas, as it relies completely on a smartphone proximity, and possibly a random user permission, while a TRACKER will likely get you to where its landed in real-time, since its a standalone unit.
There are also some other uses not involving cutaway, like bag locator on trips, gear tracker for DZs or in case of theft, and some other statistical features that specifically TRACKER unit apps can provide.
> BEING PRACTICAL
In general TAGS have no cost-of-use, will last longer, but will maybe help you find something you "already know its approximate location", while TRACKERS have a monthly cost, needs constant recharging, but will most get you to where it is exactly.
So, now you know each device's main pros and cons, how each one works and what it has to offer, you may make a better decision on what suits you best.
> MY CHOICE
For the reference, I do prefer and have TRACKER units on my main canopies D-bag, which grants me peace of mind on most likely recovering my top-priced canopy due to a cutaway situation, even if I don't know were it landed, and even being able to track it real-time in case someone decides to "take it home with them", and that is a very affordable trade-off for the monthly cost. Although it could go easily 4-5 days without recharging, I routinely put my gear away unpacked and the unit recharging overnight, or at least every 2-3 days, just to be safe.
by Vitor Tamarozi / @vitor.tamarozi (linkedin, instagram, facebook)