TrackR, the Bluetooth Low Energy-powered dongles that help you find missing or misplaced items, like your car keys, wallet, purse or bag, or even your dog, are now being upgraded in order to communicate peer-to-peer with other TrackR devices so that, when you’re out of range, you’ll be able to tap into a larger network for better support. Because such a task requires a network to actually exist in order to be worthwhile, the company is also giving away $100,000 worth of TrackR technology to kickstart its efforts.
Formerly known as Phone Halo, the company was founded by Chris Herbert and Christian Smith back in 2009, as a spinoff from a project at the University of California Santa Barbara’s engineering school the year prior. TrackR’s initial device, the “WalletTrackR” (designed, as the name indicates, to be carried in your wallet) was soon crowdfunded into existence.
It was later followed by a smaller “StickR TrackR” dongle which can be added to a key ring with an included strap, or stuck on just about anything using double-sided tape, including things like bike seats or dog collars. It’s these StickR TrackR’s which are first being upgraded with the additional peer-to-peer support, though a software update due in around five months’ time will provide something similar for the older WalletTrackR users.
The dongles themselves offer user-replaceable batteries, which is one way they differ from some of the competition, and they’re able to communicate with a nearby iPhone or Android app up to 100 feet, which is par for the course. (Though in TrackR’s case, the dongles themselves can help locate a missing phone running its app, too, as well as vice versa.)
However, until now, the devices would disconnect when out of range, only providing users with their last known GPS location for reference.
The new support for peer-to-peer communication changes that. TrackR calls this feature “Crowd GPS, explaining that when an item goes missing, all TrackR-enabled phones will join in the search. This is similar to the promise buzzy competitor Tile makes today, but the difference is that TrackR may be beating Tile (which is still accepting pre-orders) to market.
In addition to simply establishing the technology to underpin this peer-to-peer network, TrackR is also seeding its network via a giveaway. The company is offering $100,000 worth of its technology utilizing a viral marketing campaign that assigns users to “boarding groups” based on a variety of actions, including their willingness to invite friends, share on social networks, pay the shipping fees, or buy an additional device for a discount. (It’s normally $24.95, but users can buy the extra one for $19.95). Those who push their way into boarding groups 1 & 2 will receive the free dongles.
The waitlist currently has nearly 98,000 users in line at the time of writing.
To date, the company has shipped roughly 50,000-60,000 of its StickR TrackR’s, and 100,000 WalletTrackR’s. It now has over 100,000 active users, and has tracked a million items.
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