TypewriterFrom The Urbach Letter May 2013

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Getting Back What You Lost

Searching for your keys again? Can't find the TV remote? Misplaced your wallet? Cat gone missing? Losing things is aggravating, costly, and painful... but now you can get your stuff back faster with the help of a little bit of technology. There's a new device that just came on the market: the Stick-N-Find.

What you're looking at here is a disk about the same size and weight of two quarters stacked together:

On its back is some super-strong VHB foam adhesive tape (see this issue's CTOM), so you can stick it just about anywhere on just about anything. Comes with hang tags too, to go on kids' sneakers, key-rings, soft bags, etc.

There are companion apps for recent iPhones and Androids (just Galaxies now, with broader support in the near future), that'll allow you to track the location of your Stick-N-Find "stickers" and perform some other neat tricks. For example, you can enable a virtual leash function so that if your stickered object travels away from you -- or vice versa (think camera bag, purse, and the like), an alarm will sound. Or the inverse function: when a stickered object comes within range (about 100 feet, line-of-sight), your phone will alert you. This could be handy if you sticker your suitcase. You won't have to jostle for position around the baggage carousel; when your bag emerges, you'll be notified.

There's a paging function. Each sticker has its own remotely-controlled buzzer and LED light. The app can track up to 20 different individually-named stickers. And some upcoming enhancements will enable launching various apps depending upon proximity to a sticker. For example, a sticker can be placed in a conference room and will automatically set your phone's ringer to silent when you walk in. The very common CR2016 battery should last for about a year and is user-replaceable (cost is about a dollar).

Drawbacks? There are a few. The discs are not inexpensive at about $25 each. (I got four for $65 because I was an early "investor" in their Indegogo crowdfunding campaign. More about that next month.) Also, the radar function is based solely on distance, not direction. Since the app is essentially just measuring signal strength, it can't tell you exactly where something is. Instead it's like the kids' game of warmer/colder as you walk around, getting closer or further away from the object. Lastly, the hardware support is currently rather limited. Because Stick-N-Find operates with a very low current draw, only iOS devices with Bluetooth 4.0 (iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, new iPad, New Touch, mini iPad) or Android devices supporting Bluetooth Low Energy (Samsung S3, Note 2, and a few others) will currently work with the stickers. BT 4.0 is where all phones are headed in the future, so support should expand soon.

The Stick-N-Find is great for small, easily losable inanimate objects, but I don't think it'll work so well on kids/pets/etc. Apparently, neither does the company. That's why they're developing the BlueTracker, an ultra-small GPS-enabled Bluetooth tracker. It has a range of about a half-mile (LOS) and a rechargeable battery that'll last up to 2 months with always-on usage. Because it's GPS, actual location is displayed on a Google Maps-type map. You can also establish a "virtual fence" that'll alert you if your dog/kid moves outside of a defined radius. Also, a motion-sensor that'll work like a theft alarm for your bicycle or other big-boy toy. When released sometime in May, the BluTracker will cost about $70.

Quick Video Overview

Stick-N-Find promo video (2:50)

If you get yourself a BluTracker, please write and let me know how well it's working for you. Thanks.

-V-

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