This story was originally published in the Chicago Tribune Prime Time senior living section.
How much would you pay to never lose your keys again? What about your phone? Misplacing things cost money, wastes time and is just plain maddening. Fortunately, GPS, Wi-Fi and cellular technology allow us to electronically keep track of all of our important stuff, from luggage to pets. Most modern tracking devices require a smartphone, but there are a few non phone-dependent gadgets to keep things at hand, too.
1. Frog’s Tung cables
If your phone tends to wander off to odd places, a leash may be all it needs. Frog’s Tung makes “leashes” for your gadgets, which you can attach to a belt loop or bag. Frog’s Tung cables come with adhesive pads on one end that easily attach to the backs of phones, tablets or cameras. The retractable cables were made to keep your phone from getting lost or dropping while doing outdoor sports, but they make great low-tech anti-theft devices too. Frog’s Tung cables start at $14.99 at frogstung.com.
2. BackTrack G2 digital compass
The BackTrack G2 is a pocket-size GPS device that allows you to easily navigate back to your parking spot to find your car or bike. It does not require a smartphone or a cellular signal, so it’s great for rural areas and travel. You can set three locations in the BackTrack G2 with a push of a button. The compass shows you the way back. It’s battery operated, and has a backlight, so it works well day or night. Available in black, orange or silver at outdoor and electronics retailers. Cost: about $60
3. Tile tracking device
The Tile is an attractively designed, versatile flat plastic square about half the size of a business card. It can clip to your purse, your key ring, or slip inside your wallet without much notice. The Tile has been so popular — with 8 million sold — that there is an entire line of Tiles now from which to choose. For example, the Tile Slim is for wallets and purses, and claims to be the world’s slimmest Bluetooth tracker. The Tile Sport is the most powerful (and waterproof) Tile with an extended range of 200 feet. Tiles connect to an app on your smartphone, which keeps track of where it last detected the item, so you can start looking in the right place. Tiles work well around the house because Tiles can “ring” other tiles or call your smartphone, so you can zero in on an item quickly. The latest Tiles work with voice activated devices such as Amazon Echo and services like Google Assistant. Tiles start at $25 for one, $70 for a four-pack, and $130 for an eight-pack at thetileapp.com.
4. Whistle 3 pet tracker
If your pet gets loose accidentally, you can track it down quickly with today’s GPS tracking technology. The Whistle 3 is a PC magazine Editor’s Choice device for its small size, simplicity and price. The small tracker clips to your pet’s collar, and weighs only 1.25 ounces. It is dirt- and water-resistant. It links to your home Wi-Fi and will notify you via the free app, or any method you choose, when your pet leaves your yard. When outside the bounds of your home Wi-Fi, it uses AT&T 3G GPS service to track your pet. (You don’t need to be an AT&T customer to use it, but check first to make sure this service is in your area.) The collar device must be charged once a week on average, depending on how often you are using the GPS signal. The Whistle 3 retails for $79.95 plus $9.95 a month for the service at shop.whistle.com.
5. Trakdot luggage tracker
With Trakdot, there are no more tense moments waiting at the baggage carousel wondering where your luggage might be. You simply put the palm-sized device into your suitcase and follow its progress via a smartphone app. Trakdot uses microelectronics and ground-based cellular telephone technology to track and report the location of your bag. (Don’t worry—it automatically enters “airplane mode” while on board.) Once you’re on the ground, it alerts you with either a text message or an email or via the smartphone app. You don’t need a smartphone to use Trakdot, because you can elect to receive texts or emails about the location of your bag. But the smartphone app allows you to track your bag on a map. There are no fees to use Trakdot and it operates on two regular AA batteries. Each piece of luggage requires its own Trakdot device. Cost: $39.99 at Amazon.com.