I wrote a piece a while back about some new technology products coming out in the next year like Tile and Coin. The ability to pack more and more tech into tinier objects with data transmission capability to interact with your smartphone is really interesting. Real estate agents carry keycards, keyboxes, phones, tablets, and of course keychains that could all potentially benefit from an integrated location discovery system.
I got a call from someone at Audiovox shortly after I wrote that article to see if I wanted to try out their inSite separation alarm. It’s basically the same premise as Tile…except that it actually exists (it’s funny how much press Tile gets from schmucks like me without actually having a product). The inSite alarm is slightly bigger than Tile is purported to be, but only costs about $40 (for those that worry I’d pitch a product here, you can’t buy my time for $40). It’s about 1/3 the size of a business card. It runs on a free app for your phone and a bluetooth signal.
There are a few functions of these “separation alarms”. The first is a simple “ringing” of your alarm. If it’s attached to your keys, wallet, etc. and you can’t find it, just open up the app, click the ringer, and the alarm will sound on the device. This is a perennial tv-remote-searcher’s dream, even if it’s not particularly cutting edge. It also uses bluetooth to alert your phone to deliver an audible signal when it gets too far apart from the device. Leave the device behind, and your customized ringer alerts you before you get too far away. For security, private business tools and products that need to be monitored could certainly benefit from this kind of proximity alarm. For my personal use, I wouldn’t want my phone or my keys chirping every time I walked out to the mailbox, but that’s just a personal preference.
The most intriguing function was the email that was sent to me when I “left my wallet” at a location. The alarm registers that you’ve left a location for a period of time, and sends you a link to the Google maps location where the item was last in connection. I clicked on the link and was presented with a street view image of my house. For someone who loses things when they’re out for a night on the town, or hustling between business meetings, getting not just an address but a picture of the location is again simple, but hugely helpful in terms of how quickly you can recall where you were. The simplicity is the genius of the idea.
I could see similar technology being built into every real estate keycard. Most of them already incorporate a cellular network to update their security functions. Tying in a location search for the keycard itself would be useful, even if it had shades of Big Brother. It’s not difficult to leave any one of the half dozens items you’re carrying in the 4th home of your 15 home Saturday tour. Just the bluetooth alarm alone would keep an agent from showing up at the next home without a keycard and having to drive back.
Phones and tablets already have the “Find Me” functions built in. Portable units like Tile and inSite just allow us to attach similar functionality to non-tech items like bicycles, cars, and valuables. As these products continue to get smaller and less expensive, there’s a huge market opening up for more consumer involvement in (please don’t hate me for saying it) the Internet of Things. It’s exciting and intrusive at the same time. But at $40 a pop and dropping, it’s only going to get bigger.