Review: Protag Duet Bluetooth tracking tag

Small Bluetooth tag helps find lost or left behind phones, other items it is attached to (June 20th, 2014)

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Product Manufacturer: Protag

Price: $59.00

The Good

  • Multiple alarm options
    - Two-way location
    - Wi-Fi zones

The Bad

  • Alarm delay
    - No GPS
    - Security tied to app

Losing important items is always a concern, especially when it comes to smartphones. Whether phones are misplaced in the course of a day or left behind when moving about, it is something that happens frequently. But what if there was a device that could keep everyone from forgetting them? What if it there was a small, inconspicuous tracking tag that could help locate the phone or the item it was attached to? Fortunately, there's no need to wonder - as Protag offers the Duet to fit those needs.

Offering a tiny size at 1 x 1 x 0.19 inches, the Duet can easily be added to a number of items that are carried every day. Using the provided split ring or adhesive disk, users can attach the Duet to a keychain, laptop, luggage or bag. Forgoing either, the Duet tag can be stuffed in a pocket to be hidden from sight. Protag offers the Duet in five different colors, to give customers some options if they choose to show it off. Made from plastic and containing only a circuit board and battery, the Duet snaps together tightly. It stands up to as much abuse any normal keychain faces.

The Duet works in conjunction with an app on either an iOS 7- or Android 4.3-powered device. Once paired, the location of the Duet and the phone are shown as points on a map. Each Duet-tagged item is shown with a name that's defined by the user during the pairing process. On top of a custom name, information on the battery life and a place to open up options for the tag are included. Up to 10 Duet tags can be used with the app.

Duet tags utilize Bluetooth, pairing to a phone through Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy without the need of a password. The Duet is triggered into a pairing mode, which can only occur if it isn't already paired to a phone. When a user moves out of Bluetooth range from one of the items, both the device and the Duet tag set off an alarm. Protag says this occurs at 32 feet away, but Bluetooth distance can vary depending on a number of factors. Distances as little as 20 were witnessed when testing the device.

With the Protag application, users see push notifications (on one of their other devices) showing that the smartphone is out of range of the Duet tag. The point on the map then turns gray, indicating the last place it was seen. Moving back into range of the Duet ends the alarms, but users can dismiss the notification before then. There is a small delay in some cases when an alarm triggers. The company says there can be a delay as much as 10 seconds for Android, or 17 seconds for iOS.

For times when all else fails, Protag offers Duet users the ability to track items from their website. Any device tied to the account and currently logged into the app shows up on the tracker: it doesn't depend on it being paired to one of the Duet tags. This is useful in tracking down a phone that can't be located locally or potentially stolen. The app has a radar that can be used to help find an in-range Duet as well.

Protag recently added a new feature to the Duet's application, giving it some more flexibility in its use. Adding a feature called "Wi-Fi safe zones," the app now allows users to set areas where the Duet and phone won't set off an alarm when out of Bluetooth range. This is a welcome feature if a smartphone needs to be separated from the Duet at a distance further than 20-32 feet. Phones can be left in a safe area, eliminating one annoyance that users may run into in environments that require a lot of movement.

Turning on the option is simple to setup. Users can edit the item within the app, then click the arrow next to "Wi-Fi Zone" in the menu. A list populates with the available Wi-Fi networks, allowing the user to check off as many as they want as the safe zones. However, Protag says that it requires a strong Wi-Fi signal to utilize. As a perk, disconnecting the device in the zone, such as turning off Bluetooth, doesn't alert the phone. The Duet, however, sets off its alarm in both cases, if only for a few seconds.

When the phone leaves Wi-Fi range of the network, the communication between the Duet and the phone reverts to the normal Bluetooth state. Dropping off Wi-Fi to 3G triggered the warning on the phone almost instantaneously. The Duet beeped sooner, probably nearing 10 seconds before the phone switched over to wireless.

There are also other instances where either the device or the Duet alarms. A nice feature of the Duet is that it has a button that can set off the warning on the phone. This is useful if the item with the Duet is lost or stolen, but the connected phone cannot be found. Of course, this only works if the Duet is in Bluetooth range. Pulling the battery on the Duet sets off warnings on a paired device as well. The tone can be turned off in the Protag app, leaving the device to vibrate if the connection is lost. The application includes a button on each paired Duet tag that can trigger the small tracking tag's alarm.

In the future, Protag plans to add a crowd-tracking feature to the Duet's application. Using crowd-tracking alerts other Duet owners when a paired device has been marked as lost. In this case, a user would need to flag the Duet tag as publicly lost. When marked as a public lost item, other Duet users will receive alerts if they move in range of the item. A private lost option will be included, meaning only owners will see the items.

If there is any feature that is missing from the Duet, it is that it lacks a true GPS. For such a small device on a cell battery, cramming a GPS would be impossible to use for a long amount of time. As it stands, the Duet gets six to eight months of battery life on a CR2016 battery. With a GPS, users would be able to define a true geofence that could trigger warnings in a much wider area. It would also allow "home bases" to be set, in which the Duet and paired device wouldn't go off. It's a missed opportunity for the Duet, but it has no intention of being a GPS-based device.

Outside of some random beeps from the Duet, it is a fantastic little device to use. It never gets in the way of daily items, and the addition of Wi-Fi zones helps alleviate some headaches people could have with the device at home or work. Yes, it isn't a true GPS tracker. However, the Duet is trying to be a low-cost solution to reduce lost items, not a full-blown tracker. At $59 (or an introductory price on Indiegogo), the price isn't too high for a person that often forgets where things or placed, or always tries to keep a valuable item like their iPhone close by. In a home with children, it cuts down the time on finding those items that like to "walk away." The Duet tag takes a simple idea, and turns it into an item we wonder how we lived without.

by Jordan Anderson


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