On the most recent IoT Podcast episode, we tackled a question that Richard asked us on our voicemail hotline. Richard lends tools out to his friends and wants some digital method to electronically tag and track those tools. We might be overcomplicating this scenario with our answers because good old paper and pencil could the trick. But, Richard asked us for some alternatives, so we’ve come up with three potential options.
Expect to pay between $10 and $20 per Bluetooth tracker; the more you buy, the cheaper per unit. Given that you’re likely loaning out items to friends, you’ll want to ask them to install the requisite mobile app for the tracking device as well: You’ll need the Bluetooth on their phone to tell you where your tools or other items are.
You could go all “big brother” on your friends by attaching a GPS tracker on a more expensive tool. This will cost you though: These GPS trackers typically run around $99, such as this one from Samsung. Because these trackers also use LTE-M networks, there can be a monthly service charge although carriers usually include one-year for free. I’d call this the “highly overkill” approach but hey, it’s an option!
A less invasive solution for your friends would be to purchase a handful of NFC stickers. Most phones these days have an NFC chip inside them for mobile payments, but you can also use the NFC feature to encode a sticker with a small amount of information, such as a person’s name and contact information.
The idea would be to encode a tag that information as well as the name of the tool. Then you attach the sticker to the tool and scan it an NFC reader app. Now you know who has what tool so you can reach out to them in the future if the tool hasn’t found its way back home.
This video is a great example of how to do this using a mobile app called ToolTaggers:
A set of NFC stickers will run you about $13 for 10 on Amazon, so this is a fairly low-cost approach. Because of that and the fact that these are the smallest items to attach to tools and things, I’d lean towards this solution to keep track of items I’ve loaned out.
To hear Richard’s question in full, as well as our discussion of the topic, tune in to the IoT Podcast below: