I was traveling from my home in California to New York when experienced one of those big-city moments that always seem so charming in Woody Allen movies: I forgot my bag in the back of a yellow cab.
The moment was far from enchanting. That bag contained my laptop, iPad, phone charger, reporter’s notebook and house and car keys.
At some point, all our stuff will likely be networked, mapped and findable with a push of a button. But that time is not yet here, so we’re vulnerable to disturbing losses of time, data and money spent on equipment and software.
Here are a few tools that might fill the void until we have one or a combination of devices to bring about zero loss:
Canadian entrepreneur Pooya Kazerouni has created a thin, Post-it-size gadget called Linquet for Android phones. It is supposed to prevent you from mislaying things in the first place.
Linquet can attach to your keys or stuff in your purse or wallet. The device uses a Bluetooth wireless radio to connect to your smartphone. Then, when Linquet and your phone move away from each other, both devices ring.
The device is also meant to help find stuff at close range. For instance, if you lose your Linquet-tagged keys around the house, you can page them with your phone.
There is a $2.99 monthly fee with Linquet, and you have to recharge the device about once a week. (Kazerouni is working on an iPhone-compatible version that is significantly smaller and skinnier than today’s model, and it should go for about a year between charges, he said.)
Other finding-stuff devices include Cirago iAlert ($34), Cobra Tag ($43) and Treehouse Labs’ Bikn ($129.99 for a starter kit). As with Linquet, each has tags that connect wirelessly to your phone. Both devices ring when the tags are separated.
This did not work very well with the iAlert; it rang inconsistently, sometimes issuing a false alarm when phone and tag were still connected, and sometimes neglecting to make a sound when they were apart.
The Cobra Tag, meanwhile, was even fatter than Linquet, and its battery seemed to require charging every other day.
Then there’s Bikn, the most stylish of the bunch, but also the most cumbersome. In addition to attaching tags to your keys, you must wrap your phone in Bikn’s phone case. Currently, that case works only on iPhone 4 and 4S, not on the current model, the iPhone 5, and not on any other phones.
The Loc8tor was the best device I tested for finding things around the house, and it was the easiest to set up and use. The device comes with a small remote that, when pressed, emits a series of beeps that get faster and more high-pitched as you get closer to the tag you are looking for. The Loc8tor is about $70 with two tags and a remote, which isn’t a bad deal.
Another great deal is Find My Car Smarter, a $25 device that helps you locate your ride in a crowded parking lot. True, there are lots of free smartphone apps for that, as long as your remember to first pull out your phone and record your location.
Find My Car Smarter does not make you jump through those hoops. Instead, the tiny device – which plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter – connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone. When you turn off your car’s engine, the device sends a signal to your phone, which then records your car’s location on a map. Later on, even if you were in a daze when you parked your car, you can pull up the Find My Car Smarter app to be guided to it. The only downside: Find My Car Smarter is compatible only with the iPhone 4S and 5.
Today’s generation of find-your-stuff tags is just the beginning. Over the next few years, radio sensors will almost surely become much smaller and require less power.
At some point, the electronics in Linquet’s tag will be reduced to the dimensions of a very small, inexpensive sticker that can be affixed to every valuable you own, Kazerouni said.
“At some point, we’ll have sensors that are small enough to be put on a pair of glasses,” Kazerouni said. “Then it will be really useful.”
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