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Ever lose your phone, pet, wallet, kid or Uncle Joe? As an expert in GPS tracking technology, I often get asked questions about how to locate “stuff.” While GPS is a great technology, it is somewhat of a power hog when being run continuously and also requires a view of the sky to operate – not always useful if your keys have fallen under the seat in your car or if your toddler has done a runner at the supermarket.

Another cool tracking technology that I have recommended to some of my friends doesn’t use GPS at all; it relies on tracking a device using the Bluetooth wireless link on your smart phone. The device I have used is called a Tile and is a small battery-powered tag that you can add to a key ring or your pet’s collar or put in your wallet. You can download a free app for an iPhone or Android smart phone from the manufacturer (TheTileApp.com), which sells its tags for as low as $50 for a package of four.

I convinced my friend Sandy to try this tracking technology out with her little escape artist, Dash. She loaded the app on her smart phone and shared Dash’s Tile with me so we could both track the little scamp.

For Bluetooth tracking to work, you have to be within a range of about 100 feet. Once the Tile connects to the app, it can also tell the tag to play a tune, which is great for finding where you left your keys or your purse in your house. Or, if you lost your phone but have a Tile device in your wallet, then you can press a button on the Tile and it will make your phone ring, even if it’s on silent.

When Dash (Sandy’s little escape artist) jumps out of the car and “dashes” out of the 100-foot Bluetooth range, what then? This is where the fun community part of this technology works.

If you have your own Tile, then any time you are running the Tile app on your smart phone, you are also sharing the location (in the background) of any other Tile that comes into range of your phone based on its internal GPS-based location. So when Dash runs by one of Sandy’s neighbors who also has the Tile app on their phone, she can see where the little scamp is and hop in the car and track her down.

A group of friends is starting to build a local Tile community, which could have real benefits for Salida and the county.

The manufacturer claims that the battery in the device will last a full year. When the battery gets low, your Tile app gives you a warning and you can order replacement tags – no battery charging or changing batteries needed. So what’s the catch?

The only bad thing I found with this technology is that it does have a noticeable effect on my phone’s battery life, to the extent that I normally don’t turn on the Tile app unless I am looking for something myself. Otherwise, this is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to help memory-challenged folks like myself who can never remember where I left my wallet. Now if only they had the Tile “dot” that I could use to find where I put down my glasses …

The Galloping Geek, Dr. Alison Brown, is a local resident of Salida and self-acknowledged lover of new technology. She is also passionate about galloping with horses and hounds across our beautiful Rocky Mountain public lands.