It never fails. I'm rushing out the door late to work and I can't find my keys or my wallet—and sometimes my smartphone. It's as if gremlins hid everything during the dead of night, though it's more likely the work of my kids in the case of my smartphone.
That's where tracking tags come in. All you have to do is adhere a small tracking tag on an item you habitually lose: your phone, the remote, the dog. Then, when it goes MIA, you can use either your smartphone or a locator unit to signal the tag to beep or flash a small LED light to signal its location.
There are two basic types of finders: Radio Frequency (RF) and Bluetooth. RF finders use a dedicated fob for tracking your devices, while Bluetooth finders work through an app on your smartphone. Range is about the same (30-100 feet, depending on the device and conditions), though you get more features with the Bluetooth tags.
Here are our favorite devices for finding all the lost things in our daily lives.
Click 'N Dig! Key Finder
The popular Click ‘N Dig item finder runs on radio frequencies (RF), like a cordless phone, and comes with one finder fob and six tags. Attach the tags to your easily lost items by adhesive backing or key ring. Each tag is color coded and corresponds to a colored button on the finder.
When an item goes missing, you press the colored button on the finder and the tag will flash and beep. The signal will go through walls and cushions, but you’ll need to be within at least 60 feet of your lost item.
The Click 'N Dig comes with extra batteries for the fob and tags. A transmitter with just 4 tags can also be purchased if you don't have a need for 6 receivers.
2 Way RF Find One Find All (FOFA)
Instead of having a finder and multiple tags, each FOFA device acts as both a finder and a tag. They come in a flat, credit card-sized style for your wallet and a key-fob style that can be attached with either adhesive or key ring. Up to six can be linked together. Each unit flashes red and sounds a 94bB alarm when signaled by any of the other devices.
The range on these is rather short, approximately 30 feet, and they have some issue working between floors, based on Amazon reviewer feedback. But this is balanced out by the ability to use any device to find any other one.
Bluetooth finders for smartphones
Attach a Trackr Bravo tag to your keys or bag, pair the tag with your smartphone and, when you lose track of an item, you can find them it with the TrackR app. The alerting works both ways; you use the app to find items with the tag attached and the tag can be set to automatically alert you with a 85dB alarm if you get separated from your phone. This is great if you are in the bad habit of leaving your phone at public places or even in your car by accident. And if you don't want to get separation alerts in specific places, like your home, you can set up Safe Zones.
If you do leave an item behind, you can view the item's last known location on a map or use the app's crowd-sourced device finding feature. The crowd-sourced locator only works if a person who uses the TrackR app is near your device and has their Bluetooth turned on. So you might get lucky in a densely populated area like New York City.
The TrackR Bravo measures 3.5mm thick and 31mm in diameter—small enough to stick in your wallet. Battery life is rated at approximately one year and is user replaceable. The TrackR Bravo works with iPhone 4s, 5, 5c, 6 and 6 Plus and Android devices running Android 4.4 and later that support Bluetooth Low Energy. Available in silver, blue, rose gold and blue.
Price: $29.99 for 1 tag, $58.99 for 3 tags, $87.99 for 5 tags or $116.99 for 8 tags on thetrackr.com
Tile is another great item finder that works with the Bluetooth functionality of your phone. Smaller and thinner than most other tags, the Tile tag doesn't utilize a transmitter unit, but is located via the app. When you get within 50-150 feet of the lost object, the app will be able to tell you the direction you need to go to find it. There is no flashing light on the Tile but it will play an audible sound.
But what if you are out of range? That's where Tile really shines. It will use every phone with the Tile app installed to search for your Tile tag. If someone else's phone finds it, you will be notified of its location and your private information is never revealed to the phone owner. It will also remember the last location it received from the Tile tag.
Tile uses Bluetooth 4.0 and only works with certain phones and tablets. Check out the full list on the manufacturer's site.
Updated on 7/13/2015 with new tracker option and updated pricing.
[Lost keys via Shutterstock, all others via Click n Dig, FOFA, TrackR, Tile]