Crowd GPS Technology busy in wooing the world?

Habit of forgetting things often? Propensity to misplace car-keys knowing how irritating it is to look for them whilst you are running late? Well, technology companies have solution for every little problem these days. When you’ve lost something, another set of eyes can spot clues that your own eyes inadvertently ignore.

In 2013, a crowdfunded project known as the Tile became a smash hit, racking up over $2,500,000 in funding from nearly 50,000 backers. The secret to its success? Simple: The Tile promised to help users locate any object attached to the coin-sized Bluetooth-connected tag priced at $20. Similar Project; Phone Halo’s TrackR was trying to establish this idea. However, both these projects TrackR and Tile used similar technology. This technology uses a small handy instrument (TrackR is a small, circular device and Tile is a small, square device). You attach them to things you’d miss if they went missing, and when those things inevitably do go missing, you can use your smartphone app to make the TrackR or Tile beep so as to find them. They also try to find your stuff when it’s farther away near you. Both of these products use the concept of “crowdsourcing” and Crowd GPS.

Crowd GPS is based on the idea that if you can’t find something, say, your keys, maybe someone else can — as long as they also happen to be using the TrackR or Tile app (iOS and Android), with Bluetooth turned on and crowd GPS enabled. Your lost keys will give off a unique identifier that can be detected by other people’s apps, sending you GPS data about where they are.

In addition to using the crowd to learn your lost item’s GPS coordinates, the TrackR app also helps you find things that are close by, and alerts you before you walk away from a spot without bringing your phone or TrackR-labeled device. This works by setting off an alarm on the device when it and your phone are separated by more than 100 feet. Likewise, if you press a tiny button on the TrackR, it can locate your iPhone or Android phone by setting off an alarm on the phone, even if the phone is in silent mode.

So what happens when your Tile/ TrackR can’t be located by going back to the last place your app saw it?

Tile calls it the “Community Find” feature. Turns out, every person who keeps the Tile app open on their iOS device becomes a node in a much larger Tile network. For example, were there 5 Tiles at the Starbucks this morning? Your Tile app took note of them. Your cubicle mate left their Tiled keys at their desk during lunch while you worked straight through? Your Tile app knows that too, even if you and your cube mate don’t. The same will be true for your Tiles.

If there’s a killer ingredient to the Tile, this is it: By leveraging the combined tracking power of thousands of Tile users (er, Tilers?), that paltry 150-foot Bluetooth radius is amplified many times over

While Tile’s ability to notify you of nearby lost items via alarms is helpful, it’s not unique. They need enough people to use its app to make its crowd tracking worthwhile, and they won’t likely use the app unless they have a device. The Community Find method relies on people having the Tile app installed — and running — on their iOS device. If the app is closed, it cannot track the presence of Tiles.

One key factor to remember with both of these networks is that their crowd GPS techniques rely on strong communities of users. That means that people who live in more densely populated areas, like big cities, are more likely to have luck when tapping the crowd for finding lost things. And, of course, the product has to have a lot of people using it in order for the crowd GPS to really work well.