Sunday, March 18, 2012

Iotera Brings GPS Tracker to Kickstarter


It seems like almost every week there is a new GPS tracker trying to gain ground on Kickstarter or Indiegogo, but this week I wanted to post about the Iota, a little GPS tracker with big dreams from Iotera. Last August, they raised $350,000 from Zenshin Capital to develop the tech, and have now taken to Kickstarter to crowdfund the testing and production costs. Now, you’re probably thinking that you’ve seen GPS trackers before, so what could possibly be so exciting about this one? Well, Iota is a little different from most of the GPS trackers that you find floating around the internet. And, while there are definitely some security concerns, the idea is pretty cool.

Free! Well, kind of.

attaching_home_base_windowIota isn’t free–the retail is expected at about $200 or so–but it doesn’t require any kind of monthly service fee or complicated networking options with sneaky fees. In fact, the thing that caught my attention about this device is the idea that you and a few of your friends could create a city-wide wireless network that wouldn’t cost anything extra (aside from startup) and would let you keep track of everything and anything. I’m not really one to put tracking tabs on items, but the idea is kind of neat.

The network is set up in two parts: The Home Base and the Iota. The home base is set up at (you guessed it) your home, attached to a window, and it broadcasts a network anywhere from a one to four mile radius (depending on the congestion of the area). Any iota within range of a home base can communicate with a connected smartphone app, letting you monitor it

You can Track….Anything!

phone_scene_bike_3Your bike, your pet, your kid, your keys… anything important or liable to get lost or stolen can be tracked with the Iota. With the ability to detect movement and temperature, Iota has a ridiculously wide range of uses.  The Kickstarter page indicates that the device could be used to help protect homes by alerting of a break-in, or to let you know when your mail has arrived by detecting the opening of the door to your mailbox or a safe.

The Iota also supports geofences so you can set a perimeter and be alerted whenever your dog escapes the yard, your child arrives at school or your bike leaves your property. The battery life of the Iota is, according to their site, excellent and will last 10x as long as a cell phone–only needing to be recharged every few months–in part because it only transmits location when you ask with your cell phone. Location updates and alerts are then sent straight to your phone.

To use or not to use…?

phone_scene_child_1I have already made known my opinion  on GPS tracking devices and how, while they seem like a pretty good idea, trading privacy for convenience isn’t always a good thing. However, something that I hadn’t even considered is covered in this article from If Iotera succeeds and creates a nationwide network of Iota and Iota Home Bases, then they will have positioned themselves as the gatekeepers of VAST amounts of location data and other data. As we have seen with Google and other industry giants, this kind of information can very sneakily be used in other profitable ways for the company and annoying ways for the consumer.

And that’s not even mentioning the potential issues with someone hacking the system somehow (there is always a way) or tracking someone without their knowledge–say you drop the Iota into a car trunk, or your wife’s purse?

But, I am sure as the technology expands, the concerns will be addressed. Despite the potential for spying and such, the idea is pretty cool. I look forward to seeing where this will go, and I’ll definitely keep an eye on it in the coming months.

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