By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore, July 14, 2014: How often do we misplace personal items like phones, spectacles, a TV remote or a USB data stick and say: 'I wish it would me know where it has gone!" This is no more wishful thinking. A whole family of tiny devices are available which you can attach to such objects on a key chain or as a sticker -- and they will use bluetooth to send out a beep or tell you where they are, in other wireless ways.
In its simplest form it costs less than Rs 500 and can be found on Indian online retail sites like Naaptol, if you search for "Keychain whistle locators". You string the device on the chain provided, to your specs, say, and when it is misplaced, you just whistle or make a similar noise. The device will beep in reply -- telling you where it is -- as long as it is less than 7-10 metres away.
In recent months the technology has been refined: the market leader in the US is something called a Tile, a small stamp-sized waterproof piece of plastic which you attach to stuff that you tend to lose. You can activate ip to 20 of these and attach them to things like laptops or tablets or even bikes -- so that they start beeping if somebody - a thief say -- moves them. You control the Tiles from an app on your mobile phone and it will give off beeps that get louder as you get closer. Tiles cost around $ 20 each . There is a competing make called EZ-find which also comes in models which you can use to track pets. And frequent travelers are using airline-approved tags on their checke- in baggage so that they can recover them fast from the belts on arrival
Now it looks like the most mature product in this space may come from Indian brains: Engineers at Bangalore-based Connovate Technology have created a sticky tag called 'Gecko' which houses a chip, a tiny battery, an accelerometer to sense movement, LED flashing lights and a buzzer. You can tag your front door to warn if it is opened by an intruder, you can even tag a crawling baby to ensure it does wander away.
But the real beauty of Gecko is that it works in reverse: you can use it as a hand held gesture device to send instructions to your phone to start playing music -- or even to switch on the camera remotely, while you get into the shot. The uses are limited only by one's imagination.
Gecko was crowd-funded by generous backers worldwide who pitched in more than $100,000 to help productionise it. These backers are now getting the first units while the public can pre-book their orders at store.geckotag.in, by month end, Connovate founder Bahubali Shete informs us. Meanwhile tech sites are raving about Gecko, with one -- TechCrunch -- calling it "One small step for the Internet of Things, one huge leap for your smartphone."
For a few days, we have a video intro to Gecko in our Tech Video spot on the home page