Way back in November, TUAW first covered the Wallet TrackR campaign on Indiegogo. That initial campaign offered a device that could be slipped into your wallet or jacket, and that used Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to ensure long battery life and easy iOS integration.
Originally scheduled to ship in April, units are just now getting ready for delivery. CEO Chris Herbert tells TUAW that the delay was unavoidable and frustrating.
The first samples Phone Halo received from the manufacturer did not pass their quality assurance standards, so the company had to go a few more rounds before they could begin their mass production run. The units are currently in shipment from China and should be sent out to the original purchasers by the end of the month.
Even as they were working to fulfill their initial crowd funding effort, their second foray into personal item tracking was well underway. Their new product Button TrackR streamlines Bluetooth Low Energy tracking even further. Units are smaller, use just one battery, and are (frankly) better looking and more portable.
Button TrackR was built using the same technology that powered Wallet TrackR but this second generation uses miniaturized circuitry that enabled Phone Halo to fit it into a much smaller form factor. Customer feedback helped drive a fundamental redesign that makes it easier to stick the unit onto things -- such as remote controls. It ships with 3M double-sided semi-permanent sticky tape in the package.
A new attachment hole enables you to attach a loop (also provided in the package) to connect the TrackR to your keychain or even to bracelets to put on your kids and pets.
When I first tested the Wallet version of the device back in November, my family fell in love with it. Its beep-to-locate feature means you can find your keys even if they fall into cracks in the couch (and yes, my kids pushed items down there just to make sure during testing).
Even better than that, you can set up the software to alert you if you walk away from items that have been left behind -- this was a godsend for items like coats at restaurants, specifically items you don't normally hold in your pocket or backpack. The Bluetooth LE feature means this functionality works even if the Phone Halo app is running directly in the foreground, and best of all, it's super energy efficient, so you won't kill your batteries if you use this tech.
Now with Button TrackR, a new crowd-sourcing recovery system plays an even bigger role. Although your phone remembers the last-tracked location of your lost item, many customers want to find items that have gone out of range from their phones.
The challenge is getting the lost item in touch with devices that could help send its location back to you. "So we thought, what if other people could help you find your lost stuff for you," Chris Herbert explained. "What we did is update the software so that a lost device starts broadcasting a pre-registered unique ID stored in a cloud database. When other people with our app move near the tracker, the Bluetooth LE on their device can pick up that broadcast and will send those GPS coordinates to our company."
The Phone Halo system associates that device ID and coordinates with your account, and sends the location data to you. "This provides an almost live GPS tracking stream for all your lost items without a subscription like other device providers might charge," said Herbert.
Worried about privacy? The "call home" signal never activates so long as the device stays in contact with its primary phone. It only starts broadcasting after an hour. What's more, the Wallet TrackR owners who are helping you out will never know anything about your details, your device, or any location. That information is sent invisibly and encrypted for privacy.
Want to pick up a device or ten for yourself? Head on over to Indiegogo and place your order. Originally established with a $15,000 goal, Button TrackR has now raised almost a quarter of a million dollars. The developers kindly extended the campaign to the end of the month specifically at TUAW's request.
You can pick up a single tracker for $25, two for $40 or if you want to go crazy, the best value for most consumers is going to be 10 devices for $95.
The units should ship in August, but given the company's insistence on high quality controls please allow a little extra time for them to get things exactly right.