Qualcomm's Snaptracs -- Not SnapTrack -- Offers New Pet Tracking Technology to Consumers

San Diego-based Qualcomm (Nasdaq: QCOM  ) has focused most of its business and resources on commercial customers who install the company's wireless chips and related technologies in a host of cell phones, mobile devices, networking equipment, and other products. But today, a year-old Qualcomm subsidiary called Snaptracs is unveiling a new product for consumers -- a lightweight tracking device called Tagg that attaches to a pet's collar and helps pet owners track down their lost pets.

Snaptracs says its Tagg system uses advanced global positioning systems (GPS) technology to track the device, which is attached to the pet's collar. If a pet strays out of a zone designated by its owner, the automated system sends an alert via text messaging and email to the pet's owner. Owners can then determine their pet's location by using online mapping technology.

The system also can send text messages with the nearest street address to the animal's location, so you can still locate your pet with a conventional feature phone. Snaptracs even included a trip button, which allows the pet's owner to take the animal out of its designated zone (for example, for walks or car rides) without triggering an alert.

In its statement today, Qualcomm says hundreds of thousands of pets go missing every year, yet only 15 to 20 percent of lost dogs and only about two out of every 100 lost cats are ever returned to their owners, according to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy.

One downside to the gadget is its short battery life. Snaptracs says the battery "can last up to 30 days" depending on usage. Still, pet owners embraced the Tagg concept so enthusiastically in marketing studies that Qualcomm decided to offer the product directly to consumers, according to Snaptracs president David Vigil. "We just wanted to get this out to consumers as fast as possible," he says.

The Snaptracs president tells me the new subsidiary chose its name partly to echo Omnitracs, Qualcomm's satellite-based locating and messaging service still used by long-haul trucking companies. But Vigil says Snaptracs is not to be confused with SnapTrack, a Bay Area leader in GPS technologies that Qualcomm acquired 11 years ago in a $1 billion deal. It's an easy mistake to make, though. SnapTrack still operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of Qualcomm and continues to focus on business-to-business wireless GPS technologies.

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can email him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788

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