I had an odd, little exchange with one of the vendors today on the show floor. To be clear, the product seemed pretty good -- I've seen others similar to it -- but when trying to expand beyond its core usage, things went a llittle off the tracks.
The product is Chipolo, which is a small disk you attach to anything you want to keep track up, keys, luggage, a pet -- within a certain range -- and then keep track of it through an app. And as I said, it looked fine. In addition he said, you can use it in reverse, to track you cell phone if you've misplaced it. (Needless-to-say, after my adventure yesterday which I wrote about, temporarily losing my phone, I thought this was a great added feature. But that's when things took a turn.)
The way the reverse phone recovery works is you just shake the Chipolo disk, and your phone sends an alarm. Easy. Very nice.
"One question," I asked. "What happens if you have the Chipolo disk on your keychain, and it's shaking all the time?"
"Oh. Well, the alarm on your phone would ring all the time," the guy said.
"That doesn't seem good. Since usually you have your phone with you."
"Well, it's not a problem, because there's a setting on the app, and you can just tell the alarm not to ring under certain condition.
"Okay," I said. But -- what happens if you can't find your phone? If you've turned off the alarm, it wouldn't alert you."
"Oh. That's not a problem. You could just go back and set the alarm to turn on."
"Except you wouldn't be able to set the alarm on the phone, since you can't find the phone."
He stopped, and scrunched up his face, thinking. Finally, "That's a good point. That's the first time anyone has ever brought that up. I don't know."
Seriously, how could no one ever have brought that up before?? It's the very first thing that came to my mind. I believe him that it never came up, I just don't understand how not? It seems so basic.
As he pointed out -- correctly -- finding your missing phone is not the core function of the Chipolo, just an additional bonus feature. You might attach it to something (luggage, for instance) that doesn't shake around all day. Or maybe keys in your pocket don't jangle enough to set off the alarm. So, it would be fine. And the main function is in the other direction, to keep track of keys, pets, luggage, whatever. And that appears to be a valid product.
(I also mentioned another workaround. Add to the Chipolo website a way to create an online account and log-in. That way, if you've turned off the alarm on the phone, you could log in to your account and temporarily turn the sound back on. He thought that was possible. Though I suspect, not likely...)
Anyway, my mission accomplished -- pointing out an basic oddity that others hadn't thought of before -- I nodded a how-de-do, got on my trusty horses and rode off into the sunset.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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