GPS Tracking Watches

by Joe Mueller on April 8, 2009

GPS tracking watches combine the power of GPS tracking technology with the usefulness of personal time pieces. They are small, highly portable, and extremely useful in several different applications. In many cases, these watches can be a bit bulky – but they are still usually lightweight and agile. Some of the latest devices produced by Garmin are the same size as a “normal” sport or fitness watch, even with the GPS device built in.

When you step back and get the big picture about GPS tracking watches you will find the most GPS watches fall within one of two main categories: kids watches and fitness watches.

Contents:

GPS Tracking Watches for Kids

GPS tracking watches for kids are all about one thing: safety. These devices are meant to connect parents to their children in such a way that parents are continually aware of their child’s location and in the unlikely event of an abduction or kidnapping the parent will have enough information to locate their child quickly with the help of the police or other law enforcement agency.

These devices are extremely difficult to find, but there are some available at online retailers. Brickhouse Security, as an example, does have a GPS tracking watch designed for kids that is featured in the picture to the left. This little device is extremely powerful – not only does it provide very precise location information, but it also has a distress Alarm and a built-in cellular speakerphone that will allow your child to contact you, the police, or emergency personnel if the need ever arose.

Not many companies have created such fine watches. One reason why these devices are so difficult to come by is that for them to work effectively at making the GPS information available to parents is that they must find a way to transmit the signal out to a data processing center. The watch must be a data pusher rather than just a data logger (like fitness GPS tracking watches).

Turning a watch into a data pusher is no small feat. The best devices for this are GPS tracking cell phones – mainly because they already have cell phone technology built in and can leverage it to transmit position information to a central processing station (the does use cell phone technology in their wrist watch to push location data out). What would a cell phone look like if it was attached to your wrist? Pretty bulky, my friend. Pretty bulky.

So the technological problem of turning a watch into a cellphone-like device is one major hurdle that GPS manufacturers have had to overcome; and they have done so with very limited success.

Another main reason why GPS tracking watches for kids have not taken off and become extremely popular is that they suffer from some serious detection flaws. What I am talking about here is not GPS signal detection, but bad man detection.

Will someone taking your child really ignore the bulky device on their wrist? Will the locking mechanism really keep the watch from being removed? Won’t someone evil enough to steal a child also be evil enough to remove a hand to remove the watch that will get them caught?

It is nearly impossible for a child to hide the watch, especially if it is locked on to their wrist. This creates some serious safety issues and can essentially negate any benefit that GPS tracking might provide in this terrible situation.

These are the two main issues with kids GPS watches. These issues can be solved by creating smaller, “normal” looking devices that still have all the power of GPS tracking and a cell phone.

GPS Tracking Watches for Fitness

Fitness is a huge industry in the United States where billions of dollars are spent annually on fitness equipment, clothing, gym memberships, and fitness accessories. One small portion of this very big pie are GPS tracking watches.

In order to get a piece of this pie, several major players have arisen in the GPS watch market. There is one GPS manufacturer that has taken their product and converted it into GPS tracking watches as well as a few watch companies that have incorporated GPS in their design. The major players are Garmin, Suunto, Timex, and Polar.

There are two major methods of translating GPS tracking into fitness watched: integrating the GPS directly into the watch or using a GPS pod to collect that location data.

Garmin and Suunto have watch models that integrate the GPS receiver directly into the watch. The most recent Garmin model is the GARMIN Forerunner 405 Black GPS Enabled Sports Watch/ HRM. This is a fully integrated GPS watch that also sports a heart rate monitor (HRM). Many reviews of this device have been particularly favorable as it has a sleek, “normal” design that actually looks like a wrist watch might (unlike some of the previous Garmin Forerunner models). It is relatively lightweight at 2.1 ounces, making it easy to use during a long run or other outdoor activity.

The heart rate monitor is another great benefit to using a fitness GPS tracking watch like the Garmin Forerunner 405. This small add on will give you immediate feedback on how hard your body is working and if you are getting a good workout while you are on your run. But the benefit doesn’t end there. Once you are home you will be able to sit down in front of your computer and get a bird’s eye view of your workout, giving you a better understanding of what you need to work on to continue to improve your fitness level.

The other way that companies have made GPS available or fitness watches is via a GPS pod that you attach to your shoe or waist. These devices then capture the GPS signal and transmit it up to the watch which then takes the information and stores and displays it to you, the user. Many of these watches also come with a heart rate monitor.

Here is a robust list of fitness GPS tracking watches found at Amazon.com divided up by their brand:

Buy A GPS Tracking Watch

Buying a GPS tracking watch is certainly not a necessary purchase – not for child safety nor for physical fitness. However, these devices can be extremely fun and enjoyable if you want to know more precise information about your fitness routine or you feel a need to know your child’s location on demand. Make sure you consider all your options carefully before buying a GPS tracking watch.

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