Love at First Sync
Last fall I decided to take the plunge and buy a Fitbit One activity tracker. It’s about the size of a USB thumb drive and clips to your pants or shirt and records steps taken, flights of stairs climbed, and how you sleep each night. Unlike reports you see online, I’ve never had a problem with the Fitbit falling off. But sometimes it can be annoying to wear and I’d unclip it and set it down. Of course, you know where the story is heading now. A few months ago I put it down “somewhere” and I lost it. It was gone for a day or two. That vague feeling of “I should have seen it by now” but not yet a full declaration of “It’s lost.” It wasn’t until I got an email saying that the Fitbit battery was low (a great wireless connection between mobile, physical devices, and networked web services, by the way), that I realized that it must be close enough to me in my kitchen to have sync’d with my phone or computer. Close. But where?
I was in my house, but didn’t know if it was on the main floor near the computer desk or kitchen, upstairs in the bedroom or bathroom, in the basement with the laundry. Using my phone I was able to see that it sync’d from all 3 floors of the house. That wasn’t a help. I went to the fitbit.com site to see if they had any help on finding a lost Fitbit. They had some general advice – like check the laundry. But it didn’t do the trick. I thought of downloading a Bluetooth sniffer app from Google Play, but they seemed a little sketchy/geeky, and the one I picked required permissions to access all of my phone’s contact information. Huh??
I returned to the sync strategy and noticed that the number of steps recorded that day had increased. It must have moved! I basically went and did a binary search of the house. I went down to the laundry and moved piles of clothes around for a bit. Sync’d. Nothing. Went upstairs and moved around all of my belongings. Sync’d. Got it. Eventually I found my lost Fitbit it in the dark recesses of a pocket in my computer bag. But there had to be an easier way.
An Easier Way
Back at Front Seat, our crack team went to work and created an easier way. It’s called Fitbit Finder, and it’s the easiest way to find a lost Fitbit. Right now it’s iPhone-only. (No promises, but note that I personally own an Android.) It works whether you are an avid Bluetooth signal geek or think that Bluetooth is what your kids get when they eat a Bomb Pop Popsicle in the summer.
One of the challenges with a tracking app built around a Bluetooth LE device like the Fitbit One (or Fitbit Flex, Fitbit Force, Fitbit Ultra, Fitbit Zip, or whatever new gizmo Fitbit comes up with), is that Bluetooth radio signals are not directional. It’s not a homing beacon. This means that finding a target is based on you walking around and noticing changes in signal strength, rather than just the software thinking harder and figuring it out. Oh, and did I mention that Bluetooth signal strength changes even if you don’t move at all? That crazy, non-intuitive signal behavior is just what opened the gap for a solution based on some world-class design insights, with the algorithms to back them up, that went into creating Fitbit Finder.
Check out the design, give a review, and let us know what you think. It’s free.