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Pet Tech 101: GPS vs Microchips

Which is better for keeping track of your pet?


By: Katie Shirley


Often, when I tell people about Whistle GPS pet tracker, I frequently hear things like “Oh, my pet already has GPS – it’s in their microchip!” As a pet owner personally familiar with the agony of trying to find a lost pet, that misconception worries me for pets and their owners. Let’s dive a little deeper and talk about what makes GPS trackers different from microchips.

How do microchips work?

A Microchip, or Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID), is a very small device with a chip that contains a unique identifying serial number. It is easiest to think about microchips as an internal bar code for your pet. When your pet is found and taken to a vet’s office or shelter, they are able to use a microchip “reader” to access the serial number within the chip much like your cashier would in the checkout line. The unique serial number is tied to a database that has your contact information.

The RFIDs that are used for pets do not have their own power supply. This makes them safe to implant in living things, but it also means that they can only work when they are within range – usually several inches – of the RFID reader since they don’t have the power to transmit a signal on their own.

How does GPS work?

GPS is a network of satellites circling the earth that transmit radio signals. These radio signals are received by devices, like your Whistle GPS Pet Tracker, that have a GPS receiver chip built in. The devices determine their location by calculating the distance from three or more satellites, and then triangulating, which means they bounce the radio signals off one another until they have determined the location. It’s pretty incredible.

A GPS pet tracker is a waterproof battery-powered GPS device that attaches to your pet’s collar. If your pet gets lost, you can use the Whistle App on your smartphone to view their GPS location and see where they’ve wandered off to, so you can go pick them up.

So does my pet need a GPS tracker or a microchip?

They need both. A microchip is vital because if your pet is found and taken to a vet’s office or shelter and scanned, the microchip will allow them to be identified as your pet. The GPS pet tracker is essential to track your pet as soon as they get lost. The live updates and nationwide coverage allow you to see where your pet has wondered off to without having to wait in agony for someone to find your pet (if anyone finds him) and take him to a location with a microchip reader (usually a vet’s office).

The takeaway

Only you know what’s best for your pet. While a microchip is recommended and useful in the case that your pet is lost and found by a stranger, a GPS pet tracker will help you locate your pet in minutes if he’s wandered off on a minor (or major) adventure.





About the Author | Katie Shirley
Katie is, in order of importance and identity, an animal enthusiast, San Diego native and marketing professional. At Whistle Katie’s unofficial title, Queen of CRM, sums up the authority and passion she puts into the email communications and strategy. When Katie is not at the office or playing with dogs, she enjoys running, hiking, and all things art and history.




Sep 29, 2016

Tags:   gps pet tracker   whistle web app   pet tech  

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