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Track any device with RFID tags: phones, bags, tablets

Keeps tabs on your vital professional devices with RFID enabled devices, whether you travel or not and even if you’re not forgetful – you never know what can happen to your beloved iPhone, laptop or leather briefcase.

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What is all of this RFID talk about?

A RFID (Radio Frequency Identifier) is a small device used for tracking or identification. A typical tag consists of a chip, memory and antenna. Most new RFID tags utilize Bluetooth technology.

Why do you need RFID?

How many times have you misplaced something? Something like your keys, phone, tablet, wallet, or remote; if you are anything like me, at least a few times. If you place an RFID tag on these items, you can track them. There are several companies that offer tags that work along with smartphone apps to track your things. This is especially useful for business professionals always on the go.

You can tag your phone, briefcase, laptop, and even your luggage and your smartphone will alert you when the item is out of a set range (say 100 feet) and when it returns. RFID devices are even used with pet doors. If you place a device on your pets’ collar, the pet door reads the chip and allows them to enter, but only your pets. This will keep out those pesky raccoons that try to come in and help themselves to your refrigerator.

Four RFID options:

There are several companies that offer RFID devices; the following four can get you started as you find the option best for you:

StickNFind is one company offering these devices. The device is about the size of a quarter. It costs $25. And you can track anything you tag with a device via your smartphone. You can have up to twenty active stickers (devices) at a time. The smartphone application also allows users to trigger an alert if a sticker moves out of a specified range. This is called the “Virtual Leash” feature; users can set a distance range for each sticker. So, if you want to keep your pets or children within a certain range while they are outside, you can place a sticker on them and the phone will alert you if they go outside that range.

Bikn (“Beacon”) is another company offering a “lost and found” system. For $59.99 you get an iPhone case and tag. The tag can attach to your keys, your pet, your backpack, anything you want, really. And the best part is that your iPhone will find your tagged item, but the tagged item can also find your iPhone, even if it is dead or turned off. Currently Bikn only works for iPhone and you will have to remove any other cases you have (Otterbox, Armor, etc.) so the Bikn case can be in contact with your phone. But, if you are prone to losing things, this could be worth it.

ItemTrackr can track any Bluetooth device such as cars, headsets, low energy tags (like SticknFind) and much more. You can ring your lost Bluetooth device from the app. It will also record the GPS map and time you lost your item. This is especially helpful when you need to remember where you parked your car or left your keys. There is also something called, “separation alert”: if you are about to walk off without your Bluetooth device, the app will play a reminder so that you do not forget it.

InRange by Phillips is another Bluetooth enabled leash system. For $49.95 you get a similar system to Bikn’s. You will receive the Bluetooth device, a pouch for the tag, batteries and a pin to release the battery door. Items are tracked via the iPhone/iPad app and can be paired with up to three InRange devices. This device also allows you to still make calls via Bluetooth without any interference.

There are many other options available to suit your needs. All of them serve the same basic function: to track your possessions and help you insure they do not get lost. This seems like something worth investing in if you have a hard time keeping up with your belongings, or travel extensively.

Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Tinu

    June 25, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    #frustration – I had this idea a few years ago. At least someone is doing it, and I’ll be able to find my stuff again. *walks off bitterly*

  2. JonaD

    July 2, 2013 at 2:10 am

    Yeah, people will be able to find their stuff… and ‘I’ will be able to find your stuff and YOU too. RFIDs are EASY to hack. Also because their antenna are inductively coupled… I can find out more! I can discover if other people are between my sensor and an RFID device, I can uncover other things too… like if there is a chunk of metal close to your device and so it could act as a roving detector to identify where someone is wearing a gun. Think of these as old fashioned ‘ theremins’, and imagine… your life playing to the world as creepy sci-fi music, that anyone can investigate you with. Lovely.

  3. Guest

    July 2, 2013 at 2:13 am

    Yeah, people will be able to find their stuff… and ‘I’ will be able to find your stuff and YOU too. RFIDs are EASY to hack. Also because their antenna are inductively coupled… I can find out more! I can discover if other people are between my sensor and an RFID device, I can uncover other things too… like if there is a chunk of metal close to your device and so it could act as a roving detector to identify where someone is wearing a gun. Think of these as old fashioned THERAMINS, and imagine… your life playing creepy sci-fi music that people can investigate you with. Lovely.

  4. John Andry

    May 30, 2015 at 11:41 am

    You can Track Most of things with RFID Tags! Radio Frequency Identification devices are mostly used for the purpose of tracking. Giant companies and offices use this device to easily get access to their products. The devices are also used in many other cases like that of people tracking. The components that an RFID device consists are:
    RFID Microchip/ Tag: This microchip has an antenna through which it transmits information that it consists or that is fed in it by a programmer.
    RFID Reader: The information that the microchip transmits by the help of its antenna is being read by a reader.
    RFID Middleware: It is software that resides in between the software of enterprise and RFID interrogators.
    RFID Software: The information which the reader reads is then converted into digital form which can be used by software system for processing. Thank you!!

  5. jamyy

    July 22, 2015 at 4:22 am

    RFID is very useful tracking chips, by using those tracking chips you can track many things also saves lots of time.

  6. danny

    November 7, 2015 at 10:27 am

    Does any one know if any of these devices use passive RFID chips?

    • Guest

      December 8, 2015 at 3:54 am

      RFID tags can be passive, but you will need an active RFID reader. At the moment this reader will be a bulky device and is not available as a small and affordable add-on to your phone (dec 2015). To overcome this problem and keep the tags small, you can use an active RFID scanner/reader (e.g. built into your bag) that communicates with your phone via Bluetooth/GPS/WiFi
      Btw: All the devices in this article do not use RFID, but active Bluetooth tags. Bikn uses active Wifi tags.

      • Guest

        December 8, 2015 at 4:05 am

        One adjustment to my earlier comment: RFID tags can be passive, but you will need an active RFID reader. At the moment this reader will be a bulky device and is not available as a small and affordable add-on to your phone (dec 2015) >> This is if you want to read tags over a distance more then 8 cm. Otherwise you can use the NFC reader function of most new phones

  7. Pingback: RFID technology's resurgence and why you need it - The Real Daily

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Study finds 1,000 phrases that accidentally activate smart speakers

(TECH GADGETS) Don’t worry about accidentally activating your nosy smart speakers… unless, of course, you utter one of these 1,000 innocuous phrases.

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It’s safe to say that privacy concerns, especially in today’s digital era, are unquestionably valid. With new video recording technology making it easier to identify people at a glance (whether they like it or not) and concerns that your smart speakers are eavesdropping on you, it may feel like you’re bordering on slightly paranoid around modern technology.

After all, even though there have been cases of smart speakers picking up on intimate conversations, there’s absolutely no risk of them overhearing private things without your consent, right? Even though it’s been documented that these devices — including Cortana, Alexa, Siri, and Google Home — have listened in relationship spats, criminal activity, and even HIPAA-protected data, you’re totally in the clear.

Oh yeah. The thing is, everything that gets broadcast into your smart speaker? There’s a completely random chance that someone back at headquarters may decide to sift through it in order to improve AI learning.

And while most of the time these conversations are totally benign, it doesn’t change the fact that a complete stranger is getting an earful of your private life. In fact, these transmissions? Are actually completely admissible in court, as several murder cases have already demonstrated. Their key evidence was none other than poor Alexa herself.

But wait, wait. These smart speakers can only get your information if you activate them, and that requires you to clearly enunciate their names. Right? Um. Not exactly. Even though you may think that you need to speak crisply into the speaker to activate it, it turns out that these devices are highly sensitive to any suggestion that you might be talking to them. It’s almost like your dog when you even remotely glance at his bag of doggie treats in the corner: one crinkle and Fido comes running, begging for some kibble and ready to serve you.

It’s the same for your smart speakers. As it turns out, there are over a thousand words or phrases that can trigger your device and invite it to start recording your voice. These can range from the perfectly reasonable (Cortana hearing “Montana” and springing to attention) to the downright absurd (Alexa raising her hackles over the words “election” and “unacceptable”). Well, crap. Now what?

It’s no secret that someone is listening in on your conversations. That’s been clearly documented, researched, dissected, and even accepted at this point. However, if you thought that they’d only listen to it if you gave them implicit permission by activating your device (which, to be fair, should not even count as permission in the first place), you were wrong.

So what’s a privacy-loving person to do? Just suck it up and try to choose between the lesser of two evils? On one hand, yes, these smart speakers are super convenient and can make your life easier. On the other?

Well, if you’re a fan of your privacy, then perhaps these devices aren’t meant for you. At this point, you’ve got little recourse. These companies will continue to use your data, and there’s nothing stopping them from spying on you. That is, unless you prevent them from doing it in the first place.

If you want to keep your private conversations private, either unplug your smart speaker when you’re not using it, or don’t get one in the first place. Otherwise, you’ll continue to give your implied consent that you’re totes cool with them butting in on your personal life, and they’ll continue to be equally totes cool with using it without your permission.

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HEY needs to fix its issues to be the Gmail killer it claims to be

(TECH NEWS) You would hope that HEY, the paid email service, would launch without issues but it has a few. Let’s hope some of that money goes to fixing them.

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Hey email

Last week, we covered HEY–a new email service that seemingly has a lot to offer–and while we largely praised the service despite it being a paid client awash in a sea of free email options, not everyone is fully on board with HEY’s inimitable charm–at least, not yet.

Adam Silver, an interaction designer focused on user experience, had some criticisms of HEY–many of which he identified as “pretty surprising oversights.” Though Silver does mention that his overall opinion of the service is good, these oversights are the focus of his review.

“HEY isn’t very accessible,” says Silver in his notes. His assessment, while self-admittedly not a holistic view, includes issues related to JavaScript (specifically when it isn’t enabled, which is something more and more companies are requiring) and lack of reasonable keyboard shortcuts for anyone using a screen reader. As Silver points out, these are fairly simple–and, thus, surprising–problems that probably should have been caught from the onset.

“All of these things are really easy to fix,” amends Silver.

Another issue Silver highlights is the inbox (imbox?) sorting. As we mentioned previously, there are three locations for email: the imbox, the feed, and the paper trail, each of which serves a different purpose. The problem with this system is that organizing emails by only three overarching categories affords little flexibility; furthermore, Silver notes that the menu for accessing each folder leaves a lot to be desired from a design standpoint.

The feed is also the subject of Silver’s criticism in that it doesn’t function enough like a traditional inbox to the point that it is actually difficult to use. Especially given the feed’s purpose–to store newsletters and such in a free-scrolling manner–this is a hold-up for sure; coupled with the feed’s lack of notifications, you can see how this problem cripples the user experience without active attention to the ancillary feed inbox.

Lastly, Silver mentions that the name “imbox” is, well, stupid. “This is not a typo but it’s not good,” he says. “You need a really good reason not to keep things simple.”

This is actually a point that we initially glossed over in our overview, but it’s another instance of a company doing a little too much to stand out–and, in doing so, potentially disrupting the user experience. “Keeping it simple” by calling the delivery place for your email the “inbox” won’t sink your brand, and the name “imbox” is sure to, at best, annoy.

It’s important to reaffirm that HEY’s driving principle–accessible email that prioritizes your privacy and charges you a relatively nominal fee for doing so–is good, and that’s the tough part of any app’s development; should they choose to follow Silver’s lowkey advice and make a few tweaks, they’ll have a winning product.

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Tech News

Live captioning via AI is now available for Zoom, if a little limited

(TECH NEWS) In order to be more inclusive, and improve the share of information with your team, live captioning is a great option for your next Zoom call.

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Zoom live captioning

The ubiquitous all-father Zoom continues to prompt innovation–and in a time during which most companies are still using some form of remote communication, who can blame them? It’s only fitting that someone would come along and try to flesh out Zoom’s accessibility features at some point, which is exactly what Zoom Live Captioning sets out to accomplish.

Zoom Live Captioning is a Zoom add-on service that promises, for a flat fee, to caption up to 80 hours per month of users’ meetings via an easy-to-implement plugin. The allure is clear: a virtual communication environment that is more time-efficient, more accessible, and more flexible for a variety of usage contexts.

Unfortunately, what’s less clear is how Zoom Live Captioning proposes to achieve this goal.

The live-captioning service boasts, among other things, “limited lag” and “the most accurate [speech-to-text AI] in the world”–a service that, despite its sensational description, is still only available in English. Furthermore, anyone who has experienced auto-captioning on YouTube videos–courtesy of one of the largest technology initiatives in the world–knows that, even with crystal-clear audio, caption accuracy is questionable at best.

Try applying that level of moving-target captioning to your last Zoom call, and you’ll see what the overarching problem here is.

Even if your Zoom call has virtually no latency, everyone speaks clearly and enunciates perfectly, your entire team speaks conversational English at a proficient degree across the board, and no one ever interrupts or experiences microphone feedback, it seems reasonable to expect that captions would still be finicky. Especially if you’re deaf or hard of hearing–a selling point Zoom Live Captioning drives home–this is a problematic flaw in a good idea.

Now, it’s completely fair to postulate that any subtitles are better than no subtitles at all. If that’s the decision you’d like to make for your team, Zoom Live Captioning starts at $20 per person per month; larger teams are encouraged to contact the company to discuss more reasonable rates if they want to incorporate live captioning across an enterprise.

Nothing would be better for speech-to-text innovation than being wrong about Zoom Live Captioning’s potential for inaccuracy, but for now, it’s safe to be a little skeptical.

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