Life Just Got Easier for Forgetful College Students

Technology helping to track important belongings.

By on October 1, 2013

The constant scramble of college life can make it difficult for students to keep tabs on their stuff. Keys, wallets and other valuables get lost in the shuffle between classes, internships, school activities, parties and frequent moving.

University of Southern California (USC) student Joyia Sandoval said, “I can’t even remember all of the phones, digital cameras, wallets and keys I have lost. A simple key chain or tag that can track my stuff would have helped a lot.”

Fortunately for her and anyone else prone to losing stuff, new services are being developed like Tile or are currently available like Bungee. Tile works by attaching electronic tags to whatever item a person wants to track. Items lost nearby — say, in your dorm room — are located with a downloadable mobile app on your Verizon Wireless 4G LTE device. The app indicates how close you are and can trigger a ringtone from the tag.

Out-of-range items are located with the power of crowdsourcing. If a user tags their item as lost, every device on a Tile’s user network is alerted to be on the lookout. When another user passes within range of the item, a message with the location is automatically sent to the owner. The user near the lost item is not notified about this communication.

Bungee offers a simpler and less expensive method. Users place a sticker on their items instructing anyone who finds it to text the sticker’s unique identification number to a phone number. Bungee’s servers relay their message to you via text and email so you can arrange to meet.

To make Tile’s high-tech system work, make sure you don’t lose your mobile device. It’s what you need to power it. Unfortunately, losing cellphones is more common than one might think. One-third of college students reported in a recent survey that their cell phone was lost, broken or stolen at least once during their college years.

Dan Wallace, who oversees USC’s lost and found with the school’s Department of Public Safety (DPS), notes that beyond cell phones, keys are the most-lost item on campus.

“Phones and laptops already containing the built-in tracking software have a much higher chance of being recovered by the DPS and its owner.” Wallace said. “Something similar on other devices would help the recovery rate.”