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Technology

New Tech Tools to Keep You From Losing Your Keys, Wallet, More

New devices and apps let you track down misplaced items before the trail goes cold.

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No matter how organized you are, there are days you’d lose your head if it weren’t attached. But a growing number of helpful devices can save you the trouble of retracing your steps to locate your misplaced keys or wallet. And unlike friends and family who aid in the search, these solutions won’t laugh if the keys were in your pocket all along.

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Tag, you’re it. To pin down items that seem to wander away, including keys, glasses, a purse, and even a laptop or tablet, you can tag them with a Bluetooth tracker, such as Tile ($25 per tag) or TrackR Bravo ($30 per tag), that pairs with a smartphone app—assuming you can find your phone (read on for more information on that). Tile’s 1.5-inch plastic square and TrackR’s 1.2-inch round plastic disc can easily attach to or slip inside items that you want to track.

When a tagged item proves elusive, launch the app on your phone to see how far you are from the item or its last known location on a map. If you’re within 100 feet, you can make the tracking device ring so you can follow the sound. If you lose your phone, both Tile and TrackR work in reverse, allowing you to press a button on the device to make your phone ring—as long as your phone is nearby. To help you avoid leaving items behind, TrackR can be set to sound an alarm when there’s too much distance between your phone and the device.

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Both devices’ batteries last about a year. TrackR’s watch battery is available online and at most grocery and hardware stores for about $3. Tile’s battery cannot be swapped out; you have to buy a new tile for $12 through the company’s replacement program.

For objects that may stray hundreds or even thousands of miles, such as luggage, you might want a more robust tracking device to slip into your bag. TrakDot ($80, including unlimited tracking for one year) and LugLoc ($70, plus $7 per year for five traces) are both palm-size tracking devices that use cellular technology, rather than GPS (GPS may not work well in airport terminals and baggage loading areas). But if your luggage gets stranded in an electronic dead zone, you will have to rely on lower-tech methods to find it. So don’t forget to label your bags with your name and contact information, and double-check to be sure the check-in agent tags your bags with the correct information for your final destination.

Find your phone. You don’t need a tracking device to keep tabs on your smartphone. If you enabled location access services on your phone, you can sign in to your phone’s account from any Web browser to pinpoint the phone’s location. (Apple users who have the Find My iPhone app on the missing device can sign into their account at www.icloud.com; Android users can go to www.android.com/devicemanager; and Windows users can visit http://account.microsoft.com/devices.)

You can make your phone ring loudly (even if it’s set to silent) and, if it’s within earshot, you can follow the sound to its hiding place. If it is farther away and it’s still on, you’ll be able to see where it is on a map. Apple users can set a message that will appear on the lock screen with instructions on how to contact you. If you suspect the phone is stolen or could fall into the wrong hands, you can erase your data remotely.

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