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Assignment: Impossible

Assignment: Impossible


Exploring the area between the unknown and the impossible.
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A Modest Proposal: Consumer Wi-Fi Tags Redux

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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In the series “A Modest Proposal,” my colleagues and I will propose inventions and projects that I think are eminently doable and would love made real.

Nearly two years back, I suggested locator tags one can place on one’s own belongings to help find them if you misplace them — say, your keys, or a television remote. (To be absolutely clear, I suggested placing tags on belongings that did not already possess tags — I did not suggest, as some readers misunderstood, that manufacturers place tags in everything they made.)

Now it seems a company called Tile is creating something very much like what I suggested. Great minds think alike!

Moreover, they have the neat idea to use these devices to help find stolen goods by networking the devices together, and to have the devices emit sound if signaled to make them easier to find.

I’d still like thinner versions, like you see in library books. And I’d still like them to be used in ways to help inventory your belongings.

Incidentally, I found out about Tile via an ad on Facebook. So far the only time such an ad has proven useful to me. Hopefully there’ll be more.

Charles Q. Choi About the Author: Charles Q. Choi is a frequent contributor to Scientific American. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Science, Nature, Wired, and LiveScience, among others. In his spare time, he has traveled to all seven continents. Follow on Twitter @cqchoi.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. evelynjlamb 12:20 pm 08/19/2013

    Awesome! I can’t count the number of times I’ve been running around the house frantically wishing I could call my keys.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Hitchiker of the Galaxy 4:38 am 08/20/2013

    Cool, but these gizmos for finding lost car keys exist for decades. My late aunt had one.

    On the other hand, thieves could also use RFID tags to find hidden items to steal, eg. in luggage or handbag.

    Link to this
  3. 3. GregRobert 6:23 pm 10/7/2013

    I went to their site. My review is simple. Way, Way, WAY to expensive. Insanely expensive. And what’s worse? You have to REPLACE them once a year. I’ll wait on this till they are at most $ 0.50, not nearly $20 like they are today. I really don’t know what they were thinking.

    (Ps: of course they have quantity discounts. But they aren’t much better.)

    Link to this

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