Key finders, also known as keyfinders, key locators, or electronic finders, are small electronic devices fitted to objects to locate them when misplaced or stolen, such as keys, luggage, purses, wallets, pets, laptop computers, toddlers, cellphones, equipment, or tools, and to transmit alerts, e.g., that one's restaurant table is ready or a nurse is needed. Some key finders beep or flash lights on demand.

A Bluetooth-based key finder

Types edit

Sound-based edit

Interior of a sound-based key finder

Early models of key finder were sound-based, and listened for a clap or whistle (or a sequence of same), then beeped for the user to find them. Determining what was a clap or a whistle proved difficult, resulting in poor performance and false alarms. Because of this low quality and unreliability, these early key finders were soon discarded and were unpopular for serious needs.

Radio edit

As electronics became smaller and cheaper, and battery life improved, radio became viable to locate the keys, which were fitted with a small receiver. A separate transmitter is used to activate one or more receivers. All wireless key finders have to "listen" for a searching transmission, resulting in battery replacement at intervals ranging from 3 months to a year. Using a radio signal removes the risk of false alarms.

Some distributors include a cost-effective key-return service that assists in returning the keys should they be lost in a taxi, bus or other public place, provided the customer registered their devices and contact information. The transmitter can also contain information to help return it to its rightful owner.

Peer-to-peer edit

Peer-to-peer key finders no longer require a separate "base"; they are all functionally identical and based on a communication system wherein each device can find all the others individually. The user can, for example, use a digital wallet to find misplaced keys and vice versa, or a mobile phone to find a lost TV remote control or eyeglasses. In addition, since the keyfinders have their own transmitters, they can reply to each other by radio as well as by beeping and flashing a light to attract attention. The seeking unit can then follow this beacon to find even a buried set of keys. Having a transmitter in each unit also means that, unlike second generation units, losing a single transmitter does not result in total loss of the ability to find other items it tracks.

Bluetooth low energy beacon edit

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons are crucial in the functionality of key finders. These beacons, characterized by their efficient energy usage, emit signals that can be detected by compatible devices, usually smartphones, for location tracking purposes. Key finders with BLE beacon technology primarily aid in locating personal items. The beacon attached to an item like keys emits signals that, when in range, are detected by a smartphone app, indicating the item's location.

BLE beacons transmit signals that are detected by a compatible device, enabling the device to determine the beacon's location. This technology is widely used in key finders, where the beacon is attached to items such as keys or wallets, facilitating their location through a smartphone application.[1]

Advantages edit

  • Low Energy Consumption: BLE beacons use significantly less power compared to traditional Bluetooth, extending the battery life of devices like key finders.
  • Broad Compatibility: Most modern smartphones support BLE, making these beacons highly compatible with numerous devices.[2]
  • Precision: BLE beacon technology provides accurate location tracking within a short range, ideal for finding personal items.[3]

Use in a criminal context edit

Tracking devices have been implicated in criminal activity, such as stalking[4] and identifying when properties are empty.[5] Safeguards built in to some tracking devices to notify a person when they are being tracked, are compromised because devices can be turned off once tracking is undertaken sufficiently, can be muffled or hidden out of view, or require an app to notify of illicit tracking, which is not usually in use by a victim.[4]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Extensive Guide to Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Beacons". Retrieved 2024-03-28.
  2. ^ "Bluetooth Low Energy beacons". Wayfindr. Retrieved 2024-03-28.
  3. ^ "Guide to Beacon Technology". NovelBits. Retrieved 2024-03-28.
  4. ^ a b Apple AirTags – 'A perfect tool for stalking'. BBC News.
  5. ^ "AirTags Can be Used to Figure Out when a House is Empty, Researcher Warns".

Bibliography edit