You might’ve heard about Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology for tracking down cars or locating items – but what about pets?

After all, some item finders like Apple AirTags also include UWB as part of their design. (To help track down a missing pair of keys or wallet with pinpoint precision.)

So you might’ve wondered: can UWB technology help you track down your runaway dog or escape artist cat? After all, a pet that’s escaped might’ve covered several miles before you even notice they’re missing.

And even if they don’t wander off too far, there’s no end to the dangers they might face when lost – from passing cars, other pets, even pet thieves.

But here’s our take as leading experts on pet tech: when it comes to a missing pet, UWB trackers might not be the best choice. With their limited range and build, they’re a better choice for non-moving items you’ve misplaced indoors. Not living, constantly moving pets.

(Which is where a dedicated pet tracker with unlimited range and real-time tracking can be a lifesaver.)

So in this post, we’re going to cover UWB as one option for pet tracking – including what it is, how it works…and most importantly, how it compares to life-saving pet GPS trackers. (Like Tractive.) Let’s go!

What’s Ultra Wideband technology? And how does it work?

Much like Bluetooth and GPS, UWB is a wireless communication technology that can help you find a misplaced object or item.1

  • They’re usually limited in range compared to GPS trackers. (Up to ~650 feet/200 meters, tops.)
  • They’re also highly precise – able to pinpoint a missing item down to a few inches.
  • They transmit data at high speeds between devices.

Which makes UWB trackers an excellent choice for location a missing pair of keys or wallet on a busy workday morning. Connecting to your phone, a UWB device can guide you to exactly where you might’ve dropped your item.

Which puts it at a bit of an advantage over Bluetooth trackers, which normally use a sound or a beep to guide you audibly.

A person working at a computer overlooking a cluttered desk

UWB tech might come in tag, chip, or in indoor tracking system form.

  • In fact, many smartphones are UWB-compatible, including Samsung, Android, and even iPhones.
  • You can enable UWB settings on them – and then connect to a network of devices to help you track down a missing item. (Like Apple’s Find My network or the upcoming Android Find My Device network.)

Which, at the same time, might not actually be the best choice for a missing dog or cat.

Read more: “Find My Device” Trackers: Not Ideal For Pets

How does UWB work?

UWB technology uses radio waves to locate objects or items within short range in real-time.2 It sends short, low-energy pulses which help it track an item with high precision – even if you’ve, say, lost your keys in a messy bedroom or a cluttered desk.

It’s why you’ll find UWB tech most popularly used in:

  • Manufacturing industries, which use large warehouses (to keep track of parcels and packages)
  • Healthcare environments, where doctors use radar imaging to monitor patient heart rates or breathing
  • Transport industries (where workers have to transport goods across long distances)
  • The automotive industry, helping cars monitor and avoid crashes
A couple checking an ultrasound image at a doctor's office
  • Radar imaging (including some military operations)
  • Larger industries where worker safety is a priority (where UWB tech can help prevent accidents)
  • Baby monitors, which detect children’s breathing and heart rate (while asleep)
  • Smart home setups, where UWB tech can even help you unlock your car or front door

Plus, like we’ve covered, even some Bluetooth-powered item finders – like the AirTag and the upcoming Google AirTag alternative – include UWB as part of their build. And in terms of its precision, accuracy and low power consumption, UWB might even outperform GPS locators as an item finder of choice.

But does that make it a good option for pets? Not quite.

Read more:

What’s the range of UWB?

In general, UWB technology can track items up to around 650 feet/200 meters. However, they work best around 3-164 feet/1-50 meters. Aka, when you’re standing inches away from your missing object.

Which still place it at an advantage to most Bluetooth trackers – but still less than most GPS trackers which help you track over an unlimited range.

Here’s a quick breakdown of these tracker ranges:

UWB techBluetooth trackersGPS trackers
Up to 650 feet/200 meters
(best within 3-164 feet/1-50 meters)
33-400 feet (10/121 meters)Unlimited

So if you’re, say, trying to track down a dog that’s run off on a hike in the woods, you’re unlikely to find them with a UWB or Bluetooth tracker.

Plus, most Bluetooth trackers expand their “reach” by connecting to a network of compatible devices around them – which might not be an option if you’re out in the woods or wilderness. (Where you might not find a fellow Android or Apple user.)

And if you’re trying to locate your missing pet in a city, well…there’s no guarantee they won’t be picked up a pet thief instead of a helpful stranger.

bluetooth vs gps tracker comparison infographic limited range

Does UWB track in real-time?

Yes – but within a super limited range. You’ll still need to be within inches to your missing item to be able to locate it accurately.

With a UWB chip implanted into a device, it’s still possible to track moving objects – but again, only within a short range. Which is why UWB makes sense for non-moving missing items like keys or backpacks. (Aka, objects that don’t tend to move around by themselves.)

A UWB tracker might not be the best choice for a missing dog or cat that…

Two dogs standing on a log by a forest lake

⚠️ On average, most lost pets wander anywhere between 2-5 miles (3-8 km)3 before they’re reported missing.4 Just to give you a heads up on why a GPS tracker with unlimited range is such a lifesaver.

In fact, tracking their position in real-time can be key to finding them safe and sound – or never seeing them again.

Tractive Trustpilot review
Tractive pet monitoring GPS tracker

Always know where your pets are

Follow every step in real-time with unlimited range. Get alerts if they wander too far. Keep them happy & healthy with Wellness Monitoring. And let others – like walkers or sitters – keep an eye on your pet too.

Discover Tractive GPS

Read more: Kathy the Beagle who was kidnapped during training – but rescued by her Tractive GPS

How does GPS tracking work for pets?

In a nutshell: a GPS tracker for pets means an entire sky full of satellites connecting to your device to help you track down your missing dog or cat – in real-time, and no matter where they are. (Or where you are.)

Because with all the reasons dogs run away or cats wander off from home, you’re best off ensuring their safety – and your peace of mind – 100%. No matter if you’ve got an outdoor adventurer or an indoor couch potato curled up at your feet.

So with your trusty Tractive device, you can…

Track your pet – even while on vacation

With its built-in SIM card, your Tractive device connects to mobile networks across 150 countries. Which means you can track your pet from no matter where you are in the world – with just a glance at your phone.

And, yes, which also means a monthly fee. (That’ll cost you less than your monthly Netflix subscription.)

gps tracker app close up
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Ivelin-150x150.png

“Your Tractive device’s GPS module receives signals from several GPS satellites. This helps it better and more accurately calculate your pet’s position.

These satellites then forward their location to the Tractive servers with the help of the network module. (Which also includes a SIM card.)

Once the Tractive servers receive this information, you can quickly and easily check your pet’s location when you open the Tractive app.”

– Ivelin Nenkov, Embedded Systems Engineer at Tractive since 2016

GPS trackers without SIM cards do exist. Plus, some don’t offer any subscription plans either. In fact, most UWB and Bluetooth trackers don’t come with any ongoing costs – just an upfront payment for the tracker itself.

But their biggest downside? They can’t track your lost dog or cat in real-time. Or, since you’re only covered by a single provider, you might lose coverage in certain areas.

Which, in an emergency, can make all the difference.

Tractive Trustpilot reviews

Read more:

Escape-proof your home and backyard

Imagine being able to kick back and relax – knowing you don’t need to monitor your pet’s movements 24/7?

Because let’s face it: setting up an outdoor fence is expensive. (And a cumbersome investment in the long run.) And despite your best efforts:

  • Your dog might still dig under it
  • Or your cat might still sneak past it, ninja-style

Plus, once they’ve escaped past a certain range, both Bluetooth and UWB trackers prove to be pretty useless. So what if you could prevent your pet from escaping in the first place?

With an invisible GPS fence, you can escape-proof your home and backyard – and let your pet’s tracker do all the hard work for you.

How? Simple. Just set up a Virtual Fence on your Tractive app.

Virtual fence on mobile app

“A Virtual Fence is a continuously monitored area that you, the user, create. You can easily move or resize it while still sitting on your couch.

Once you’ve defined a specific area, your Tractive GPS starts monitoring it. As soon as your tracker picks up that your pet is outside a safe zone or inside a danger zone, the system immediately detects a change in the area it’s monitoring.

Which means you’ll get a notification right away – so you can intervene and prevent your pet from wandering too far.”

– Ivelin Nenkov, Embedded Systems Engineer at Tractive since 2016

No stress or shock involved, like with some electric collars or invisible fences. Just the ability to take an active role in your pet’s safety – without compromising on their love and trust for you.

Read more:

Discover GPS Fences For Pets

💡 Some UWB products do offer geofencing capabilities – but they’re still built for tracking items and objects. Not pets.

Figure out where to look if your pet’s missing

Now if you’re out running with your dog or hiking with your cat, you might be thinking: isn’t a GPS tracker dependent on cell coverage?

And to an extent, yes, that’s correct. Tractive devices uses a combination of GPS, Bluetooth, cellular, and WiFi tech to track your pet in real-time – kind of like a smartphone that needs a mobile network to work best.

Luckily, your Tractive device comes equipped with features that monitor your pet’s movements – even if you lose coverage for a while.

Like your pet’s Heat Map & Location History.

The Tractive GPS Heat Map feature which helped locate the kittens.
Ivelin Nenkov, Embedded Systems Engineer at Tractive

“If you want to pinpoint your pet’s location or store their Location History, you don’t actually need a cellular connection.

So once you’ve equipped your Tractive GPS, there’s no need to worry if your device loses coverage for a little while.

Your tracker stores your pet’s positions securely. So you’ll be able to see where they’ve been even if you’re offline.”

– Ivelin Nenkov, Embedded Systems Engineer at Tractive since 2016

Tractive’s Heat Map & Location History have even saved the lives of dogs and cats around the world. Like, for example:

The biggest perk of picking up your pet’s Location History? You figure out where your dog or cat likes to hide, hunt, or just hang out that much better. Which, if they’re missing, can actually help you figure out where to look first.

Read more:

Tractive Trustpilot review

Track your pet both near & far, indoors & outdoors

Another criticism GPS trackers face? How they don’t work indoors.

(Which, if you’ve invested in a Tractive device, couldn’t be further from the truth.)

But it’s true to an extent – GPS trackers tend to give you an approximate location of what you’re looking for. You might’ve used, say, Google Maps to find a specific building or store in your neighborhood – and it shows you the general location mostly, right?

That’s where UWB trackers tend to shine, since they’re much more precise and can help you locate a missing object down to a few inches.

(But hey, we’re not tracking a missing pair of keys – we’re talking pets that are constantly on the move. Whether that’s wandering off outdoors or squeezing into narrow, hard-to-escape areas indoors.)

A small cat hiding behind a couch pillow

And as it turns out, smaller dogs and cats can also end up stuck in weird spots inside your home – like wardrobes, air vents, washing machines, crawlspaces…where you might not be able to hear them crying out for help.

💡Luckily, your Tractive device doesn’t just include GPS tracking – but a whole range of features to locate your dog or cat at close range. (Including indoors.)

Like, for example:

  • Bluetooth-powered Radar Mode, to help you track your pet within Bluetooth range. (33-330 feet – or 10/100 meters)
  • Augmented Reality (pictured here) to help you locate your pet with an overlay.
  • Light & Sound features, to help you locate your pet with an LED light – or a high-pitched ringtone.
AR View

Plus, even with all these bells and whistles, you can set up a Power-Saving Zone indoors – meaning your tracker saves battery when it detects a familiar WiFi network.

So you can have the best of both worlds – all in one device.

💡 Some UWB products also come equipped with Augmented Reality features – which work only within a limited range. Unlike Tractive’s LIVE Mode, which lets you track your pet, no matter where they are.

Read more:

Take an active role in your pet’s health

Besides location tracking, your Tractive device comes equipped with a built-in motion detector. Which tracks your pet’s movements throughout the day – and helps you ensure they’re getting enough exercise.

With time, this can help you better understand your pet’s “baseline” – and take action early if you notice your dog’s more lethargic or your cat more hyperactive than usual.

Because more often than not, a change in your pet’s activity levels might indicate they’re:

  • Sick
  • Injured
  • Pregnant
  • Or struggling with an infection

Which is why vets recommend tracking your dog or cat’s everyday activity – so you can catch on a change early.

An outdoor cat exploring a garden with Tractive's Activity monitoring features in the foreground

And even if you miss out a day of Activity Tracking, no worries – your Tractive device has you covered.

Sebastian Raab, Product Manager at Tractive

It can be easy to miss out on changes in your pet’s regular activity – or just if they’re on the move more or less than usual.

So we’ve set up Activity Degradation alerts for when your pet’s active minutes drop significantly. They can help you intervene in a situation where your dog or cat might be struggling with an infection or even just pain.

– Sebastian Raab, Product Manager at Tractive & occasional pet sitter

Discover Activity Tracking

Read more:

Where UWB works: Monitoring indoor pets

At present, there’s only one UWB-powered pet tracker around town – PetTrack by Georgia Tech University.5 And by design, it’s fundamentally built for tracking pets only when they’re indoors.

Using a combination of sensors, PetTrack helps you locate your pet indoors with accurate, real-time tracking data. This UWB tracker uses:

  • Wireless radio sensors to locate where your pet is
  • An accelerometer to determine if your pet is sitting or moving

PetTrack’s sensors help you pick up on your dog or cat’s location and movements even with walls or objects in the way. So no need to install a ton of cameras around your house to monitor what your pet’s been up to all day. It’s built as a sensor you can put on your pet’s collar and then view from your smartphone.

Check it out in this video:

PetTrack pros & cons

Now a tracker like this might be a decent investment if:

green check markYour pet primarily stays indoors. Plus, if you’re able to monitor their location and movements throughout the day, can help you intervene if you notice they’re struggling with separation anxiety or getting up to mischief.

green check markPetTrack seems lightweight and comfortable to wear and it clearly doesn’t seem to bother the dog.

But on the other hand…

red xIt’s not built for the outdoors. UWB tech is primarily built for indoor environments. So this tracker might only be a wise choice if you have a dog or cat who doesn’t stray past your door.

red xThe tracker chip might not have the safest design. While easy to slip into a harness, it’s unclear how well it would fit to a dog or cat collar. Plus, it might not be the safest if your pet chews on it by mistake. (Or if another pet bites it off.)

💡On the other hand, Tractive CAT Mini GPS trackers come accompanied with a weight-adjustable Rogz safety collar, which has a breakaway mechanism for your cat’s safety.

While Tractive DOG XL Adventure edition trackers come equipped with bite-proof fiberglass-reinforced casing and a 30-day battery life, for the most rough and tumble outdoor adventures.

Always know where your dog is

Follow every step in real-time with unlimited range. Get alerts if they wander too far. Keep them happy & healthy with Wellness Monitoring. And let others – like walkers or sitters – keep an eye on your dog too.

Track Your Dog With Tractive

And besides – with its indoor and outdoor tracking capabilities, along with Activity Tracking and Health Alertsyour Tractive device has everything you need for keeping your pets safe. No matter how far they roam or where you are in the world.

UWB vs GPS: Pros, cons & everything in between

With all this said, UWB is still an excellent tracking technology – just not for pets. It’s a great option for keeping track of warehouse inventory, in healthcare environments, and for locating objects. Some UWB products even include geofencing and Augmented Reality features for improved tracking.

And at the same time, it might work for pets only in certain situations.

UWBTractive GPS
Specialized forIndoor environmentsIndoor & outdoor environments
Powered byRadio frequencyGPS, Wifi, Mobile networks
Range650 feet/200 metersUnlimited
Cost~$3750 for a full setup6$49.99 + a monthly fee lower than a bag of dog food
Real-time trackingLimited to 164 feet (50 m)green check mark
Virtual fence/Geofencinggreen check markgreen check mark
Health alertsred xgreen check mark
Activity trackingred xgreen check mark
Sleep trackingred xgreen check mark
Location Historyred xgreen check mark

The biggest downside for UWB tech is its limited range – only able to track non-moving items in real-time under 650 feet/200 meters. Which, if you’re considering a runaway dog or cat on a hunting spree, just isn’t far enough to track safely.

Plus, UWB tracking systems are missing a whole bunch of pet-friendly and pet parent-friendly features built for your peace of mind.

So if you’re scrolling through Amazon and come across a tracker with UWB, you’re now better informed and have a more realistic picture of its tracking capabilities.

Because when it comes to our pets, it’s always worth it going the extra milefor their safety and your peace of mind.

Discover Tractive GPS

Want to see the Tractive DOG XL Adventure edition in action? Here’s a short, sweet, sporty video to get you pumped for your next outdoor adventure!

And if you’ve found this post useful, share it with a fellow tech-savvy pet parent – and let’s help build a safer, kinder world for our furry friends together.