After Tile raised $2.6 million in its crowdfunding campaign for a Bluetooth Low Energy-powered tagging tech for tracking valuable items, it was only a matter of time before others jumped aboard the bandwagon. Now to be fair to Innova Technology, they were in this game already — with their first-gen Protag tracking card device. But they’ve now beefed up the offering with a Bluetooth 4.0 product called Protag Elite.
The key difference between Protag Elite and its predecessor is much improved battery life — thanks to the new, more efficient flavour of Bluetooth. Instead of a single charge lasting a few hours, the Protag Elite is good for a year’s use on a single charge — which tallies with Tile’s longevity.
However, Tile is not rechargeable. Instead users are alerted when it’s nearing the end of its functional life — and have to purchase a replacement Tile to keep on keeping tabs on their stuff. With Protag Elite, there are no recurring costs as the tag can simply be recharged via USB — taking around 1.5 hours to be fully topped up and good to go for another year. Or so say its makers.
Tile is charging $25 per tile, which is cheaper than the Protag Elite’s price-tag but remember that only buys you one year of use. Assuming you treat your Protag Elite well, and don’t somehow manage to lose it (ha), or drop it down the toilet, it should be keeping tabs on your valuables for years, plural. It will be available for $29 to the first 1,000 backers of Innova’s impending Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign — which kicks off tomorrow, seeking to raise $100,000 — after which the device is clearly going to cost more. How much more will be key to figuring out which system — Tile or Protag Elite — offers the best value for tracking your valuables. Update: The Protag Elite will retail for $79, so you’ll need to get multiple years’ use out of it get your money’s worth — or really fancy its particular feature set over Tile’s.
In terms of features there’s plenty of overlap between the two — including the latter’s plan to add a ‘crowd tracking’ feature in December that will allow other Protag owners to be on the hunt for your lost valuables, a la Tile’s plans to leverage a distributed network of Tile users to find lost items. Both also have a radar-style graphical system for tracking down nearby valuables. Protag Elite allows for up to 10 valuables to be tracked on a single phone within a range of 100 feet, while Tile’s range is 100-150 feet. Both systems support iPhone and Android (limited to the newer devices which also support Bluetooth 4.0).
But there are some differences between Tile and Protag Elite too. Protag Elite includes a proximity warning, which can alert you (via your smartphone) when you move out of range of the tag. So, for instance, you could put the tag in your bag and then get an alert when you’ve left the house to go back and get it. An in-home Wi-Fi alert-free zone can be configured, so you’re not constantly being alerted as you move about your house. Tile doesn’t have this, but does include a feature letting you ring a tile to try to figure out where you put your keys/wallet/bag etc.
Tile also has a more compact form than the Protag Elite, being matchbook-sized. It also has a hole in it so it can be easily hooked onto a keychain or even a pet’s collar — vs the larger, thinner Protag, which looks like it’s been designed to be slotted into a wallet, much like a credit card, or tucked into a bag pocket.
Protag also includes a cloud system for tracking the smartphone to which you have downloaded the corresponding tracking app — so you can log in to your Protag Trace account via another device that’s still in your possession to view the last known location of your phone on a map. The software also lets you lock the phone, send a message and snap a photo — much like other device tracking systems such as Apple’s find my iPhone, so the software may be duplicating existing smartphone functionality, depending on which device you own.