If it’s something that I really need to have, it’s a device to help me track lost items. I actually don’t need it for my own use, but my house mate cold really use one. He’s a real Guy when it comes to that (no offense to those men that actually wear their head on the right down below attached neck who can keep good track of their belongings). And the second most annoying thing for me, runner up after him losing my personal stuff, is hearing “Have you seen my [insert here: keys/phone/passport/head]?”.
How to track lost items: The device is comparable in size to a coin and it sends and receives signals via Bluetooth, which gives a distance range of about 60 meter max. It connects via the mobile app and triggers various sound alarms when in range. It can be used both ways: the device can call your phone in case you misplaced it and it will ring even if set on silent. Tough luck though should the phone be out of battery. The efficiency of the devices increases with the number of users: together they create a tracking network, so even if the item is lost and gets outside of your reach, it will be pinned anonymously by the crowd location service on a map by other similar devices that happen to pass by its range.
I was looking for stats regarding the numbers of active users but couldn’t find the complete data for any of them. There is by now a lot of competition for these devices and the features offered vary more or less, so this is my list of criteria when deciding which device is most suitable for my needs:
- type of communication system: is it Bluetooth, GPS (Wi-Fi), GSM? Important to know as it influences the available search distance. I would prefer a hybrid: Bluetooth+GPS, so I can use it to track stolen items as well, for instance my bike, which I use everyday, without relying too much on having enough other users in the community app network
- size: should be small enough to fit my key chain and flat enough to fit my wallet
- waterproof: items lost outside may get wet from the rain, therefore the device should be able to track lost items with the same efficiency both wet and dry
- temperature: a nice to have, can give indication if an item is located outside or inside
- battery: ideally should be replaceable but some of the best rated brands so far are consumables. Battery life is around 1 year after which they need to be replaced. One of the downsides of being waterproof
- personalized: due to being very appropriate gift ideas, some of these devices can be sold personalized. This is handy when tracking your pet for example
- community coverage: when relying only on the Bluetooth feature, it’s important to know whether the network is mature enough before deciding on a brand. I looked at Tile (reports selling over 6 million devices worldwide) and TheTrackr (interactive map showing data from the previous month), the 2 most popular devices, but there’s no way to compare between them
- price: the devices featured in this quirkticle are low budget, priced at around €20 for a 1-pack and getting more affordable in 4 or 8-pack.
- Bikes in Amsterdam disappear faster than my buddy’s keys, which makes them the most liquid merchandise on the 2nd hand market. That’s also the reason why I’m riding one that looks like it barely survived the 2nd World War. It’s my 3rd in less than 5 years and I’m honestly drooling to get a brand new one. Which I will probably never do unless I first get a GSM spy tracking element like this one here by Spybike – this one costs around €100, or GPS like the Sherlock for €130. I’ll cover this in detail in a future quirkticle.
Until then, don’t forget to double-lock and ensure your bike at least by 1 fixed point!