The difference between a house and a home is how much you love living there. LaunchPad explores the innovative technologies that help you care for your space more effectively.
A non-exhaustive list of things I’ve lost over the course of my thirty odd years alive on this earth: countless socks; every decent hair-tie I’ve ever owned; approximately four hundred bobby pins; money at poker and blackjack and airport slot machines; an iPad Mini; a single pearl earring; an entire suitcase (full); my own damn mind. For those in danger of losing it mentally, I recommend exercise, Vitamin B, omega-3 supplements, one doctor who can prescribe you medication to regulate your emotions, and a second who can talk to you about them. For those in danger of losing almost anything else: There’s an app (or a networked piece of real-world tech) for that.
To keep track of physical items, try the Tile Tracker. Individual “Tiles” come in four styles — Sport, Style, Slim, and Mate — but they’re all variations on the theme of thin and square. Individual tiles can be slipped onto a key-ring and attached to your dog’s collar, your purse, or your bike helmet. Tiles also be affixed with adhesives to things like the remote control or a textbook. Synch the Tile with an app on your phone, and you’ll be able to see — or, if you activate the built-in alarm, hear — each Tile’s current location from up to two hundred feet away. If the Tile is out of range, the app will tell you where it was last seen. Mark the item lost, and Tile will enlist its community for help tracking it down: if another Tile comes within range of yours, you’ll be sent the location details. An individual Tile costs between $20 (for the Tile Mate) and $35 (for the Tile Sport).
The TrackR comes in two models, the bravo and the pixel, and has a smaller range than Tile (only 100 feet), but these circular devices are Alexa-enabled. TrackRs, which are available in a variety of colors, also come with changeable batteries, which TrackR will replace for free. (Tiles must be repurchased every year, at a discounted rate, after their batteries run out.) One TrackR bravo costs $30; pixels are slightly smaller and slightly less expensive at $25 each.
If your phone, tablet, or computer goes missing before you have a chance to attach a physical tracking device, you can try to locate it using a built-in app. Devices that run on Apple’s operating system — iPhones, iMacs, and iPads — come with a “Find My …” feature pre-installed. Once enabled, the app allows you to access your device’s location via the cloud. You can see where your phone, tablet, or computer is, lock it, ask it to display a message on its lock screen or to play a sound (even if it’s on silent), or wipe its data completely — all remotely. Electronics that run Google’s Android operating system come with a similar feature (“Find My Device”), as do Samsung phones (“Find My Mobile”).
The over-anxious among us may find that signing up for the third-party app Prey — which is compatible with multiple operating systems — brings added peace of mind. Like the locators that come built into electronics, Prey allows a worried owner to see a missing device on a map and lock or erase it remotely. But Prey goes a step further, permitting users to snap screenshots of and pictures from their devices, allowing you to see who has your phone and what they’re doing with it. A free version of the Prey app allows the user to track up to three devices and to activate one “control zone;” Prey will notify you whenever your device leaves or enters a predesignated area. For a monthly fee, you can protect additional devices and designate multiple control zones.
The problem, of course, remains: If you can’t recall where you left your keys, what are the chances you’ve remembered to hook them up to an electronic fob? It’s the kind of paradox that demands only the finest of clichés: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; a stitch in time saves nine.
Perhaps, in the end, experience is the best teacher. The suitcase I lost was actually stolen by a mustachioed man at a New York airport. I was on the phone with my boyfriend. A beautifully bristled gentleman grabbed a battered black roller from a slowly rotating carousel. I watched him walk out with it. And either the suitcase he snatched was mine or it was an epic coincidence, but regardless, my bag never showed up. My boyfriend and I broke up. I haven’t checked a bag since.
Miranda Popkey is an MFA candidate on the fiction track at Washington University in St. Louis. She also freelances; read more of her work here.