Phone? Check. But where are my keys? And did I leave my flash drive at the office? GPS-enabled devices, like smartphones, make keeping track of gear easy. But sometimes I need a locator for low-tech (or no-tech) stuff, like the remote control or my luggage. I'm apparently not alone, as indicated by the emergence of Bluetooth locator tags and their companion apps, which literally attach to anything to offer find-it radar maps for all of the essentials.
There's two main locators buzzing on the market, each with their own pros and cons. Here's what you need to know:
- A small sticker about the size of a quarter that can be attached to anything, including an included key fob mounting plate. Runs on replaceable watch batteries rated to last around one year. Assorted colors.
- About $25 each, although the price gets cheaper buying 10+ at a time.
Search for the stickers with the StickNFind app. Compatible with iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, New iPad, iPad mini, new iPod touch. The sticker also works on Android devices supporting Bluetooth Low Energy, running Android 4.1 and newer, but be sure to check with your model.
- Track up to 20 stickers within a 100 foot range, spotting their locations on a radar screen.
Tap on a sticker on the radar screen, and alert the sticker to buzz, flash lights, or both to find items. Keep an eye on the radar to determine if you're getting closer to your item.
- Virtual Leash feature sends alerts when a pet (or anything else) moves outside the default range.
- "Find It" alerts help find lost items. Once the location sticker is marked as "missing" in the app, it will send an alert when the sticker is back in the radar.
- A teeny square plastic tile designed to be stuck with adhesive or looped to a key ring. Small, thin, and waterproof. The casing is solid and the battery inside cannot be replaced. Tiles last 1 year before requiring replacement (but can be recycled). Tile sends an alert when Tiles "expire," but users are on the hook for the cost of the new ones.
- Available for preorder now for $18.95 each (shipping Winter 2013 or early 2014). Price will go up to $25 when Tile hits the open market.
- Runs with the Tile app, compatible with iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad Mini, iPad 3rd and 4th gen, and iPod Touch 5th gen. New iOS devices will be supported as they become available, as long as they have Bluetooth 4.0 support. No Android or Blackberry apps for now.
- Track up to 10 Tiles with the app, in a 150-foot range, spotting their locations on a map. Share tile locations with friends or co-workers. Tiles also have a built-in-speaker to hear it in close range, sending the command to sound from the app.
- Tile's big strength is in crowdsourcing. If a Tile is reported as "missing" by a user, everyone with the app running worldwide is secretly and silently helping them find their lost gear. If a Tile-tagged item is within 150 feet of any Tile user, the Tile's owner (and only the owner) gets an alert to their Tile's location.
If a Tile is totally out of range of any users, the app saves the last GPS location where the Tile was spotted, all of this happening in the background.
The idea seems gimmicky at first, like those keychain finder fobs they sell at the mall. But I started thinking about all of the things I might want to track with a Bluetooth locator like StickNFind or Tile.
Use a locator to search for things you know are nearby. Buzzing, lighting, and beeping functions make hunting between couch cushions a thing of the past.
- Backpack or Purse
- Remote controls
Ideal for adding location tracking for targeted theft items. StickNFind will tell you when you're close, and Tile's crowdsourcing can help you find it anywhere. Hide the sticker inside a console's casing or paint over one on a bike to hide the device from thieves.
- Gaming consoles
Whether in a bar, plane, a hotel, or a friend's house, spot and recover the gear that's often left behind. Tile's Last Place Seen feature will track down the bar where you left your credit card, and StickNFind's virtual leash will remind you not to leave your makeup bag at the hotel.
- Phone charger
- Toiletries cases or makeup bags
- Credit cards
- Flash drive
Anything Requiring Tracking
Attach a locator and find out when something's close (e.g. your luggage on the airport conveyor belt) or sound an alert when its getting too far (kids at a theme park).
Can you think of any other uses for a Bluetooth locator like Tile or StickNFind?
(Images: Tile, StickNFind)