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Monday, July 8, 2013

The Pocketfinder GPS Personal Locator: A Bacon Review!

A couple weeks ago I lost Eric for twenty gut-wrenching minutes at a water park in San Diego.  You can read all about that little incident here:  "The Day I Lost Him at the Water Park".  This was the fourth time we had "misplaced" our little renegade in his nine years and, by far, the longest span of time. 

When my hands stopped trembling and I finished my last swallow of a greatly needed alcoholic beverage, I decided that it was well past time to invest in some form of locating (tracking) device for my little wanderer. 

I did a little research and decided to purchase the Pocketfinder GPS Personal Locator.  I was won over by its reviews, claims of small size, durability and ease of use.  As promised, here is my review of the product based on our experiences so far: 

Price:  I found the Pocketfinder on Amazon.com for $99.00 plus tax.  They offered free shipping, but I paid a little extra for 2nd day delivery.  The monthly service fee for using the device is $12.95 per month in the U.S.  There are no "basic" or "premium" plans to consider.  There is only one plan and it includes all of the capabilities of the device, which includes some pretty cool features.

Service Plan United States Canada & Mexico International
Monthly Cost $12.95/month $15.95/month $29.95/month
Number of Location Lookups Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Number of emergency contacts Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Email Alerts Included Included Included
SMS (Text Message) Alerts Included Included Included
View 60 Day History Included Included Included
iOS Push Notifications Included Included Included
Unlimited Zones and Speed Alerts Included Included Included
Medical and Emergency Info Files and Photos Included Included Included

Size:  The Pocketfinder website touts the small size of the gizmo as comparable to an Oreo cookie.  This is a little misleading.  Yes, the device's diameter is about equal to an Oreo, but its thickness is closer to two Oreos stacked together.  It also has a small protrusion that I believe houses the unit's antenna.  It is relatively light, but not undetectable, which is an issue for my little guy as I will describe later. 

Reliability:  I was very impressed with the device's accuracy.  The company says it can reliably locate the device within 10 feet and that seems about right in my experience.  I had some initial problems locating the satellite for the first time, but I have had issues with RF interference hampering other GPS devices (heart rate monitors) in my home.  After a brief walk around the block it located its satellite and has been very reliable since. 

Durability:  The gizmo seems very well built and solid.  They say it's waterproof and shock resistant.  I have not yet experimented with either, but don't see any indicators to doubt their claim.  It comes with one latex covering (bright green) that serves as added protection and as the connector holding the included attachment hook (to secure the gizmo to clothes, backpacks, etc.).  I am a little concerned that the latex will rip if pulled hard enough leaving the device rendered useless on the ground somewhere.  I wish they had drilled a small hole in the plastic housing of the device itself to attach the hook and increase durability. 

Ease of Use:  I am pretty technologically savvy, but this gizmo is extremely simple to set up and use.  It requires logging in to the website and/or downloading their free smartphone app.  The app and website are very simple and intuitive.  They both allow the user to set up "zones" of adjustable size and notify you if the gizmo travels outside the zones.  I think this will be useful.  However, so far I have received a ton of random alerts that the device has left my "home" zone, even though it hadn't moved from its charging cradle.  If I can not locate the reason for these false alarms and develop a sense of trust of their accuracy, I envision turning off the feature to avoid "Boy Who Cried Wolf" moments. 

It runs on a rechargeable battery and includes a sturdy and well-made charging cradle.  They say it will last up to 20 hours per charge depending on the power adjustments you make. You can set it to ping at differing time increments.  The more time between "locates," the longer the battery will last. This claim seems a little stretched, but close.  It also will send you an alert as the battery life falls below a level you can set.

Bottom Line: All in all, the device works exactly how it is advertised.  It is a quality product that operates very reliably. 

Now for the bad news:  There are some practical issues with the device for a family like mine.  If you don't already know, my son has Autism.  He is extremely sensory and not very tolerant of bracelets, necklaces, anklets or jewelry of any kind.  The day after it arrived, I charged it over night.  My father came to pick up Eric early the next morning for their weekly Chuck E. Cheese date and I slipped the gizmo in the cargo pocket of his shorts for a test run.  In fact, to be extra cautious with my new investment (and knowing my son), I used a safety pin to secure it inside the pocket.  I dressed my little monster and off they went.  An hour later I fired up my laptop and attempted to locate my son.  The website indicated that he was still in my house.  I refreshed it a bunch of times and thought their might be a slight delay, but the application still located the device in my house.  I was halfway through dialing customer assistance, thinking it was malfunctioning, when I saw the gizmo sitting on the kitchen counter.  Within 2 minutes of putting on his shorts Eric felt it, located it, removed it and discarded it. 

I tried a second test run that evening.  I ditched the subtle and slick approach and approached the problem directly.  I secured it to the outside of his pants (belt loop) and pointed it out to him.  I told him that it was very important and not to remove it.  He removed it within 5 minutes and handed it to me. 

For the device to have any trust-worthy value to me, I will have to implement a behavior plan to keep him from removing it and discarding it.  Hiding it is simply not possible.  It is just too big and thick.  This isn't a deal-breaker and I am not giving up.  But it will be a little more complicated than I had hoped.  I will keep you posted and welcome your thoughts and comments!



  1. You would have thought that dealing with a sensory overload customer base. ...mums of autistic children or kids of dementia parents. .. making the device more smaller and less noticeable would be high on the agenda. .. we KNOW it can be done....think fache in Davinci Code.... we know the government has small devices we cant notice.....although I feel even my lil asd child would protest to even a gram of extra weight in her clothing. ... but a little bit of consumer testing may have been needed... but great job mum for getting him on the road to staying safer... sending good vibes that kiddo understands soon that its for his own safety he needs it. .. maybe even just making it part of every days getting dressed routine may desensitise him... let us know how it goes

  2. I remember hearing of a device that can be sewn into clothing. It was in the US and I think I saw it on an Extreme Makeover (home edition). So yes they must be able to make em smaller.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience with this! It's hard to fathom how to keep a device of this size attached to a child who won't tolerate a Band-Aid for more than two minutes. I think you're on the right track with developing a behavior plan. If turning in the tracker (or better yet, trading it for a freshly charged one) at bedtime came with a meaningful reward, it might be something our kiddos would willingly do. Nice of your son to leave it on the counter or hand it to you! In our house it could easily have ended up in the trash or behind the sofa! I'll be following how this goes for you.

  4. Yep was going to say exactly the same here ...can't see either of my 2 autistic grandchildren tolerating that about their person for more than a few seconds. Our little princess Jesse-Leigh would tear it off and bite straight through the latex (and then eat and swallow it) and her brother Cody-Bill woud have meltdown if you even tried to attach it to him in any way shape or form. Neither are old enough or advanced enough to have it "explained" to them...and another thing...they both remove all their clothing at the slightest chance anyway !! Still will keep reading and see what anyone comes up with (not sure what we have here in UK

  5. Hi Jerry! I'd love to talk to you "off line" about writing an article for my company's publication.
    I can't find your email. Can you please email me at lucie@expertbeacon.com so I can share the details with you? THANKS!

  6. I have had very similar experience with the Amber Alert GPS. If it were a watch or something that could not be removed (we have had luck with those with proximity alerts (non-GPS), it would be great, but my daughter always found and removed the GPS. She finally put an end to that 5 day experiment by FLUSHING IT DOWN THE TOILET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was at work and I pulled it up to see if she made it to school. Shortly there after, it vanished. It doesn't work like in the movies when someone flushes a tracker and you see them following it through the sewer system. :-)

  7. I am the supervisor for the call center and have a son on the spectrum. Give me a call, my name is Adrianne. I am happy to help with the global drift (drifting outside zones) and we can set you up with the nylon case. Drift is common with gps devices, but i can adjust your settings to reduce that.

  8. Personal Tracking is a system, where a person or an commodity can be tracked using devices that are integrated with Global positioning System (GPS) and Global Service for Mobiles (GSM).

    GPS personal tracking

  9. Will have to try this one. We had went with amber alert and their device was broken easily, and after the 2 and break they decided we have to purchase a new device at full price. Needless to say still paying for a service that we don't have a device to track.

  10. I have recently purchased the pocket finder and am really dissappointed. Not only did it not work for us, when I attempted to contact customer service, they were very unhelpful. In the end it was determined that the one i got is a dud. OK, now I would like to return it for a refund and they will no longer respond to either a phone call or email. I am beyond frustrated. Good luck to anyone that has to work with this particular company.

  11. I am so impressed with your stories, GPS is very useful indeed,, it's good