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Here come 'Awareness of Things' gadgets

Mike Elgan | Sept. 5, 2016
A new class of mobile device is tiny, cheap and gives you total information awareness about your stuff.

The Dot simply makes your phone do what you tell it to when the phone and the Dot are close to each other. For example, you can put one in your car and give yourself a notification to get gas next time you get in, have the light turn on when you walk into your hallway, or play music on your phone when you leave the house.

You can also tell the Dot to communicate with color. You can have it show a solid green light when there's a package at the door or flash red when rain is forecast.

Dot is working on open source utilities to give Dot beacons extra functionality. They've already got a few, including one that opens your daily agenda when you sit down at your desk and another that launches Netflix when you sit on the couch. When Dot launches, the company promises integration with a wide variety of smart-home platforms, including Philips Hue, Samsung's SmartThings, plus Belkin and WeMo devices. It also integrates with Chromecast and Apple TV.

The Dot's replaceable battery lasts between six months and a year, according to the company. The Dot is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter and may ship as early as March.


If you listen to tech podcasts, you may have heard the TrackR advertised. The TrackR is a $29.99 gadget (Amazon price) you can attach to your backpack, keys, wallet, bike or dog, then keep track of them with the free app. (If you buy more they get cheaper. For example, a pack of 10 costs about $12 per TrackR.)

The TrackR app tells you how close you are to a lost object within the house, and can even sound an alert to make finding your item easier. Plus, the reverse is true. If you have the Trackr but not your phone, you can make your phone sound the alarm. The app lets you even set up an alert, so if you leave the house without your wallet, your phone makes noise. Best of all, if something is truly lost or stolen all the Trackrs in the world form an ad hoc network. When your TrackR gets near somebody else's Trackr, you get updated about where this took place.

TrackR supports Alexa, so you can just ask your Amazon Echo device where your keys are. Best of all, you don't even need a TrackR to use it. By simply downloading the Trackr app, you can ask Alexa to make your phone ring so you can find it in your house.

Tile Slim

Another TrackR-like device is called the Tile Slim. It costs $30 (Amazon price) and is as thick as two credit cards, which is great for a wallet.


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