Wireless Key Tracker Fails Stress Test

Wireless Key Tracker Fails Stress Test

1. Despite millions invested in design and marketing, the Duet failed a basic stress test and came separated from the keys it was supposed to be tracking.

If you’re like me, you tend to leave your keys in odd places, especially since these new keys came out that don’t have to be in the ignition. That was such a handy and reliable place to keep them, you always knew where they were. Now, who knows where they might end up: under the seat? Under the coffee? In the coffee?

The logical place would be in my pocket, which is where they were when the trouble started, and now here I am talking about failing stress tests. How’d that happen?

I got the Protag Duet key tracker for Father’s Day, four of them actually. And I was so excited. I thanked my son profusely and quickly ran off to play with my new toy. I downloaded the app, tested it, and it worked, beautifully.

I set it up for Wi-Fi geo-fencing so it wouldn’t beep when it went out of range in the home, and went about my business, until I lost the Duet. I had my keys in my hand, oddly, along with the ring to which the Duet was attached via a very stylish string/rope, but no Duet.

So, with keys in hand I go searching for it. The app on my Android phone wasn’t picking it up, so I had to retrace my steps the analog way. Eventually I found it in my pants pocket, under my wallet. That’s a hint as to what happened.

Check out this video for a quick look inside the Tile tracker, one of the most popular key trackers out there. Maybe I’ll take one of the two Duets that are unused and tear it down. Want to see inside it? I hear Dialog Semiconductor is at the heart of the Tile. Who’s inside the Duet, and why?

Apparently I pulled my keys out of my pocket, but because the Duet, via that lovely rope, was simply glued to a metal cap on the key ring, the whole thing separated (Fig. 1).

This kind of thing drives me crazy: millions spent on research, design, test, redesign, development, test, packaging and marketing, and no one thought to test the string: Seriously?

Was it an engineer who decided to bet everything on a glob of glue? I doubt it. But alas, somewhere between the otherwise wonderfully working design of the Duet, it became important to use a piece of pretty rope. That’s fine, aesthetics are important, but for goodness sake, do a basic stress test on the assembly.

2. Tom’s Hardware did a review of tracker devices. It was useful, but maybe a “stress test” of the attachment would be a good row to add, and a good thing for designers to watch for as their systems leave the shop. Don’t let marketing add anything that might undermine the purpose of the system for the sake of curb appeal.

Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence not only with these fast-to-market Bluetooth Smart gadgets , but also in bigger machines. We have Sputnik-sized Kenmore machines, one washer, one dryer, in the basement. Front loaders, both of them. Oddly, Kenmore decided to use plastic catches for the locks on the washer, instead of metal or aluminum. The catch snapped in a few months. Luckily, the water had already drained out. But who uses a thin strip of plastic to hold a front-loader full of water and clothes shut?

Anyway, I restrung the Duet, minus the rope, and attached it back on the key ring. It works well and I’d recommend it.

Design is almost always about compromise. Good design is about the right compromises (Fig. 2).

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