How the Trackstick II Works

Essential Gadgets Image Gallery The Trackstick II keeps tabs on your movements. See more pictures of essential gadgets.
Courtesy Trackstick

Sometimes, getting lost can be half the fun of exploring. If you're filled with a sense of wanderlust, you may enjoy driving around aimlessly, discovering the quirks and back alleys of a popular tourist destination or even your own hometown. Perhaps you like to take long walks with no particular destination in mind. Maybe your passion is throwing on some hiking shoes, grabbing a backpack and heading off into nature for a few days to smell the roses and gaze at the stars.

When you return to familiar surroundings, though, it can be fun to see where you've been during your spontaneous wanderings. That's where the Trackstick II can come in handy. Unlike GPS systems that tell you where you're going, the Trackstick II is a GPS device that records where you've been. That means you can review your meanderings, which could be helpful for a variety of reasons -- you could revisit an excellent bakery you found, keep a record of the best spots for bird-watching or just see how far you traveled on a recent vacation.

The Trackstick II, which is available from several dealers for just under $200, is fairly small. Clocking in at 4 inches (10.2 cm) long, it resembles an elongated jump drive. That's no accident -- the device does have a USB port that allows information to be downloaded to a personal computer. But the device also contains receivers that communicate with positioning satellites, and enough memory to record several weeks' worth of travel information. The Trackstick II can record the date and time you visited a given location, and it can tell you how fast you were traveling when you reached that spot. It can also track your altitude, latitude and longitude at any given moment. When used in conjunction with mapping technologies like Google Earth, the device can show you exactly where you were and what you were seeing.

­ While this technology makes the Trackstick II a pretty nifty travel companion, it's also helpful for carrying out some super-secret surveillance work. Let's say you'd like to keep tabs on a teenager who's borrowed the family car for the night -- the Trackstick II will show you exactly where that car goes, and at what speed. And hopefully your significant other will remain faithful, but if you have your doubts, a covert placement of the Trackstick II will let you know where your loved one is going.

On the next page, we'll take a look at how Trackstick II works.