Recently my wife lost her purse, and it got me thinking if there was a device that would alert her when she and her purse were separated. Not too long afterward, I came upon the PROTAG by Innova, a device that works with a smartphone to keep track of your personal items and sends alerts when they get separated by more than several feet. It seemed like a good solution to the problem of our forgetfulness, but I wasn’t sure it was easy to use. Read on to find out if it is.
The PROTAG itself is about the size of a credit card, but a little thicker. It links to your Android smartphone using Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity.
- Uses Bluetooth v2.0
- Rechargeable battery up to 6 days use
- 40 foot range
- 7 PROTAGs per mobile device
- Requires smartphone with Android v2.1 and above
- Online PROTAG trace system
- Alert me
- Smart Locator
- Mobile tracking and lock of smartphone
While the device was charging, I downloaded the PROTAG app from the Play store to my borrowed Android phone. The instructions for the download are on the packing material for the PROTAG, actually under the device, so you won’t see it until the PROTAG is liberated from the plastic blister pack. Before I found these instructions, I spent a great amount of time trying to find some user details on their website, but it doesn’t have much.
Now that I had the app running on the phone, it was time to configure.
There are multiple options that can be changed. Unfortunately, there is no users guide to help, and the settings were made by trial and error. There is a help file in the app, but it refers to the PROTAG Elite, which isn’t available and didn’t meet its Indiegogo funding goal.
As part of the monitoring process, the user will have to subscribe to a free web account at the PROTAG website. Here you can track down your lost phone and perform other functions. The site isn’t needed to track the PROTAG, which is monitored by the smartphone app. This setup isn’t as complicated as it sounds and only took me 15 minutes.
To enable tracking I had to sync the PROTAG with my smartphone. The steps to do this are detailed in the Android app after tapping the + sign button. After putting the PROTAG in discovery mode using the power discovery switch on the device, an icon will be displayed in the app screen. You can monitor up to 7 PROTAGs at one time. Here the green icon shows that my PROTAG is within range of the smartphone.
Once the tag is synced with the phone, if the tag moves out of the monitoring radius, an alarm will sound and the icon on the phone will turn red. Also, the LED on the tag will flash red. That alarm radius is preset to about 8 feet, but it can be changed to the maximum of about 40 feet. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any documentation to tell me how to do this, so I had to contact the vendor. On the tag is a small button labeled distance. Holding it down until the on-board LED turns solid blue will start the process. Then carry the tag to a distance you want to monitor and tap the button twice, and it is set.
A check of the status screen on the phone provides information to help you locate the lost device. Here I show that the tag is within range, the last known position of the tag, which tag I’m looking at and a proximity detector to help me find a lost tag. This detector indicates whether the tag is within range of the phone. As an example of use for the detector, you could put a tag in your luggage, and when you’re in baggage claim, you’ll know when you bag is coming off the conveyor or nearby.
Tapping the last known location button will bring up a map of the last place the app was in contact with the tag. To be clear, this is not a real-time location of the tag, only where it was when it went out of the Bluetooth range of the phone.
At the beginning of this post I mentioned that what got me thinking about devices like the PROTAG was my wife losing her purse. Putting a PROTAG device in her purse would not have enabled us to locate it, because her phone was also in the purse, but the online part of the PROTAG system would have pinpointed where she left it.
Using the track mobile feature on the website, you can locate your phone and if necessary send a message and/or lock the phone. This assumes of course that the phone is in a coverage area and the battery still has power.
I’ve been using the PROTAG system for several weeks and have mixed feelings about it. I used it to track my grandkid when we attended a county fair recently. I put the tag in her backpack and set the range about 15 feet. It did alert me when she exceeded that distance, but sometimes it wouldn’t reset when she came back into range. On those occasions, I had to use task manager to stop and reset the app. My other concern is the lack of documentation. There are some features I was never able to make work or understand. For example, what is the function of the track belonging tab on the website, and how does it work? The same is true for the image capture tab. On the other hand, $39 for the PROTAG isn’t a large amount and could save you more than the cost of a lost item or smartphone.
By the way, we did finally recover my wife’s purse. She didn’t notice it missing until 4 hours and 150 miles later. However, I kept calling her phone, and after several attempts some nice clerk at Dunkin Donuts answered and secured the purse for pickup by my daughter later that evening.