Talking tech since 2003

When I’m at home, my keys typically hang on a key rack near the front door. Hanging them there has become habit; I walk in the door, I hang up my keys, and go about my business. Like a lot of habits, it’s something I do without a lot of thought, and my keys rarely ever cross my mind.

That was before I installed a PROTAG Duet on my keyring. Now my keys won’t stop bothering me.

Allow me to explain.

The PROTAG Duet ($20) is a Bluetooth-powered tracking tag that you can attach to valuables or important items; for example, keys, or a laptop bag. The tag, which is about the size of a quarter, pairs with your smartphone (iOS or Android) and works in conjunction with an app that names the item (say, “Keys”) and records its last known location.

protag-duet-boxShould you and your smartphone walk out of range of the PROTAG Duet tracker, alarms will activate on both your phone and the tracker. The app will show you the last place your phone and the Duet were paired, which is, more often than not, the place you left your item.

For the forgetful, a Duet tag is a nice solution. And it actually does work as advertised. While at a volleyball game last week, I chucked my Duet-tagged keys into a bush and started to walk away. This activated a high-pitched beep from the Duet tracker and a ringtone-like alert from my iPhone. I was then able to open the PROTAG app and, on a map, view where my keys had last been located and how close I was to them. It’s really handy.

That is, until you walk in the front door and hang your keys on the key rack.

The technology that makes the PROTAG Duet work so well outside can actually drive you bonkers at home. I almost always have my iPhone in my pocket, and just walking into the kitchen, or walking downstairs to do laundry will activate alarms on both the Duet and the iPhone. And there doesn’t seem to be a good way to silence the alarms — they either shut off after a few minutes, or if you come back into range.

Remember when I said my keys rarely cross my mind? Now, anytime I’m going to grab a drink or going to switch over a load, I’m constantly wondering if I’ve gone out of range of the Duet tracker on my keys, and whether or not I’ll set the little alarms off. It’s super annoying, and it’s a stain on what is otherwise a nice experience.

What the app desperately needs is a “safe zone,” and according to settings inside the app, there does appear to be such a feature. Unfortunately, I’ve been told that it isn’t quite ready yet, but it’ll show up later on; perhaps when the device goes on sale to consumers?

There’s one more tiny thing that PROTAG needs to fix with the Duet, and that is the product’s packaging and promotional materials. When you look at the box and the instructions for the Duet, you get the sense that the device is having a bit of an identity crisis. The Duet tag is meant to be attached to your important items, and the software is build to help you track those items — I don’t think anyone would argue that. Yet the Duet (and other PROTAG products) are promoted as products that help you keep track of your smartphone. This will likely confuse consumers. There are plenty of ways for you to locate your phone that work a lot better than short-range Bluetooth. Really, PROTAG, just stick to keeping track of my stuff.

All in all, I like the Duet. The tracker itself is simple technology, but the PROTAG software that runs the show behind the scenes is well done. Both work as advertised. If the company can get “safe zones” working properly — or, at least offer an easier way to disable alarms — I might pick up a few PROTAG Duets for my various belongings.

You can check out the still running IndieGoGo campaign for the PROTAG Duet here.


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