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Christopher Mims

A View from Christopher Mims

GPS Receivers Now Small Enough to Attach to Almost Anything

Entire GPS systems, including batteries and wireless transmitters for downloading data, are now no bigger than a coin.

  • September 5, 2011

With a tiny-enough GPS sensor, it’s possible to track the location of anything from your lost keys to a runaway pet. That’s because the world’s smallest GPS receiver is now smaller than a penny and weighs only 0.3 grams. But that’s just the chip – what about all the electronics required to make it truly useful, like a system for remotely downloading the data it has logged?

LoJacking a bat is just one step toward getting a PhD
10 gram GPS receiver

This GPS logger weighs 10 grams, most of which is battery. Custom-made by Telemetry Solutions of Concord, California, it’s small enough to attach to a fruit bat for research purposes. Data can be downloaded directly from the chip upon recapture, or it can be downloaded wirelessly from up to 500 meters away.

GPS receivers small enough not to impede flight enable new classes of research questions

Wirelessly tracking animals has been a mainstay of research for decades, ever since the first bulky radio transponders were attached to large mammals. But GPS loggers this tiny are inspiring a whole new set of questions: everything from where our trash goes to what kind of landmarks bats use for navigation.

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