Can’t Ever Find Your Wallet or Keys? You May Need an Electronic Tracker
Tile, TrackR Bravo, Pixie and other tracker systems help you locate your frequently lost items
If you’re one of those people who can never seem to find their keys, wallet or even the remote control, it may be time for a technology solution in the form of a Bluetooth-enabled electronic tracker. These tracking systems are simple: Affix a sensor to your item and your smartphone will pinpoint its location within a certain range. (Sorry, you can’t track your luggage with these.)
You’ll need a newer smartphone, one with Bluetooth, and you’ll need to configure an app to establish an interface. Then you’re good to go.
These trackers aren’t necessarily intended as anti-theft devices, though some of them can provide an early alert in these situations. And you won’t be able to track your missing item if the sensor runs out of battery, if it falls out of Bluetooth range or if your phone is lost or broken.
The sensors vary in size, appearance, and performance and their apps vary in compatibility, networking capabilities, and features. Here's a quick comparison of some popular options.
Tile, a white, rounded-square sensor, is popular and powerful. Battery expectancy is about one year, but the batteries cannot be replaced. The sensors are about 1.5 inches square and a quarter of an inch thick. Their maximum range is 100 feet.
The app allows you to assign an unlimited number of Tiles, so you can use it to track as many things as you want. You can also extend Tile access to any friend, family member or household staff with a compatible smartphone.
If you go out of range, the app will tell you where you were the last time the item was in range. Or, you can mark an item as “lost” via the app. In this case, if another Tile user goes within detection distance of your item, your phone will be notified with your item’s location (unbeknownst to the other user). In this way, Tile uses its own crowd-sourced network to increase the location services it offers. (Photo: Tile/Tile)
Cost: One tile for $25, four for $70, eight for $130, twelve for $180.
TrackR Bravo has the most modern-looking, minimalistic tags of the systems we’ve compared: aluminum, round, approximately the size of a quarter, and available in four colors. It takes a replaceable CR1616 battery with a one-year lifespan, which is a major plus for this system over others with non-removable batteries. It is water-resistant and can be made waterproof with accessories available in the TrackR store.
The TrackR system includes several handy features. You’ll get an alert to your phone if an item goes out of range, helping you avoid leaving items behind. If you are in range, you can ring the item and an audible signal will help you find them. Lost your phone? You can also use a tag to ring your powered-on phone, even if the phone is on silent or you don’t have service.
An unlimited number of TrackR sensors can be tied to your app, but you can’t connect more than one phone to the same TrackR. The app does have a “Crowd GPS” feature similar to that of Tile. Even if you’re out of range, the TrackR network will send you location notifications if another TrackR user is in its vicinity.
Cost: One device for $29, three for $58, 5 for $87, eight for $116.
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The sensors, called “Pixie points,” are teardrop-shaped and made of multi-colored plastic (the same material Legos are made of). The maximum range is 150 feet. Batteries have an 18-month lifespan and are not rechargeable or replaceable. Pixie points are water resistant to a greater degree than their competitors. The points can handle short-term immersion or withstand a short wash cycle.
Pixie’s “augmented reality” app is a major differentiator. The user experience goes something like this: You receive an alert that the lost item is somewhere in your living room. Pass your phone over the room, almost like you’re taking a panoramic picture, and a real-time image of the room comes on the screen. When your item is detected, a pop-up indicator is superimposed over your space: “Keys — 3 feet away.” Even though you can’t see your keys underneath the couch cushion, Pixie can.
The app also has a checklist feature, which you can use to itemize the contents of your luggage or computer bag. It does not have a crowd-sourced out-of-range feature, but it will give you the last location your item was seen. It also has a two-way sensor that can be used to find your phone, like TrackR. (Photo: Pixie/Pixie)
Cost: Pack of four for $39.95, two packs for $74.90, three packs for $109.85.
Duet by PROTAG
Like other options, the Duet is a two-way alarm; once you connect it to your phone, you’ll receive an alert if you leave your phone or the Duet-connected item behind. You can connect up to ten Duets to your phone, but there is no sharing Duets between phones. (Photo: Duet by PROTAG/PROTAG)
Cost: $29.95 each.
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This is the simplest system, consisting only of your iOS device and one transponder unit. The anodized aluminum unit is round, is comparatively large (about two inches in diameter, 0.25 inches thick) and has a 164-foot range. It is rechargeable via USB, with two weeks’ usage in between charges.
The hipKey system cannot be extended to accommodate additional transponders or users, but that may be a godsend to users not inclined toward gadgetry. It is a two-way system, meaning your phone will tell you when your hipKey is going out of range and vice versa. This is an iOS-only option, while all others are compatible with iOS and Android. (Photo: hippih/hipKey)