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Iota offers no-fee GPS tracking, thanks to long-range RF and your neighbors' Wi-Fi

Susie Ochs | Aug. 1, 2014
The small Iota tags use long-range RF signals to transmit data from a tiny onboard GPS back to the Iota Home Base.

iota phone scene pet

Locating devices to keep track of your stuff (or even your pets or kids) sure are handy, but they have their limits. Trackers that rely on Bluetooth, like Tile and Proximo, have a relatively small range, so once they're more than 150 feet from your cell phone, you can't see them until they're back in range. GPS trackers, like Tagg for pets and HereO and Filip for kids, can be tracked anywhere, but you also need to pay a monthly fee for a cellular connection to send the data from the GPS chip up to the cloud before it can get back down to your phone.

Bay Area startup Iotera wants to combine the long range of a GPS tracker to the no-fee model of a Bluetooth tracker with Iota, which is on Kickstarter now. The small Iota tags use long-range RF signals to transmit data from a tiny onboard GPS back to the Iota Home Base. The Home Base is connected to your home Wi-Fi network, so it forwards that GPS data to Iotera's cloud, letting you locate the Iota tag using the companion app for iOS and Android.

iota home base window
IOTERA. The Home Base picks up RF signals from any Iota tag within range and relays them to the cloud over Wi-Fi.  

While the Iota tag can transmit to the Home Base unit from up to 4 miles away, it doesn't have to be your Home Base. The Iota tags send encrypted data to any and all Home Bases in range, so a city could be blanketed by a mesh network of sorts if enough people put Home Base units in their windows. It's a small amount of data too, only 5Kbps of bandwidth says Iotera, so even people with capped Internet plans shouldn't notice much of a dent.

More sensors
Iota tags can do more than just track something's location. They also have a temperature sensor, accelerometer, emergency alert button, and speaker. If you attach an Iota to your keys, for example, you can use the app to sound an alarm that can help you find your keys in the couch cushions or under the front seat.

The temperature sensor and accelerometer allow the Iota app to send you alerts. If you use the included pet collar accessory to attach an Iota to your dog's collar, you could get an alert if it gets too hot where your pooch is. You could also stick an Iota to a window or door and get an alert if it's opened--the app includes setting for common use cases like this to help you configure alerts that make sense for what you're tracking.


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