S5 "Poor Man's LoJack" Tracking Chips Will Run for Four Years, Cost $2, Weigh Nothing

When Spidey tosses one of those sticky spiders to a getaway car, suspicious villain or hot chick he plans to stalk rescue later, we take for granted that the tracking chip inside is going to work right? Wireless-technology developer S5 plans to deploy a network of receivers in cities, so that its tiny $2 transmitter chip's unlicensed 915MHz signal can be triangulated wherever it comes from, indoors or out. You'll probably recognize this as a sort of inverted GPS—and also as an infrastructure nightmare—but there are reasons why this harebrained scheme just might work:

Besides the chip's extraordinarily small size and price—$2 though the module itself will cost $7—the main boast is that it will be able to be spotted wherever there is a network of receivers, whether the chip itself is indoors or out. S5 is cautious about managing expectations though: the claim is "accurate location equivalent to GPS."

What's more interesting still is the battery life, which S5 says can last up to four years. That is a stark contrast to current GPS trackers, which need to be charged regularly to be functional.

The trick will be getting enough people to adopt the technology, which is why it's giving away the design of the chip itself, royalty free. The company intends to charge money on the service itself, at somewhere around $1 per month.

The S5 vision is lightweight tags on everything from cats to cars to crates, but they gotta get cracking on that network if the thing will ever happen. According to the company, "several" cities will get S5 receiver towers next year, with 35 cities within three years. Even then, if you want to hide, you just have to drive to the outskirts of town, like the Dukes of Hazzard used to do.

I leave you with some final caveats from the S5 website:
• "Four-years is the approximate life of a 2100 mAh battery when the tag transmits every 30 minutes. "
• "Actual coverage will depend on service availability and network coverage by city."
• "This is an estimated price based on a number of factors, including estimated manufacturing volume and a basic set of features and is subject to change at any time."

Ahh, the fine print. [S5 Wireless via AP]