Last year, we told you about a smartphone-based system that can be used to find your missing stuff, known as BiKN. It consists of an electronic case that the phone slides into, which tracks the whereabouts of paired radio frequency tags that the user attaches to their car keys, purse, children - you name it. The phone displays the location of the sought items, or can sound an alarm if one of them gets too far away. Now, it looks like BiKN might have some competition, in the form of the similar-but-different U Grok It.

Like BiKN, U Grok It consists of a sort of "mothership" unit (known as the Grokker) that the phone couples with via its headphone jack. It also uses tags that are attached to items that are likely to go missing.

Instead of BiKN's key fob-like RFID tags, however, U Grok It utilizes flat labels. These labels incorporate a simple antenna, that reflects the Grokker's radio signal back to it. Each label also contains a tiny microchip that slightly alters that signal, to convey a 96-bit number that's unique to that label. By cross-referencing that number with a database of the user's labeled items, software on the phone can identify which item is being detected. Auditory and visual cues will then guide the user to the missing whatzit.

One the advantages of the labels are that they are cheaper and less obtrusive than the BiKN tags - at about one dollar each, lots of them can be used. They also don't require any batteries, drawing what little power they need from the Grokker's radio signal. Their range, however, is limited to about six to ten feet (1.8 to 3 meters). This is fine for some purposes, but doesn't open up the possibilities afforded by BiKN's 100-foot (30.5-m) indoor/500-foot (152-m) outdoor range.

The suggested uses for U Grok It include doing sweeps of rooms for items that the user can't find, or even for checking that things aren't being left behind at someplace such as a hotel room. Tagged items can even be grouped together, under umbrella names such as "Gym Bag." In that particular example, the user would just sweep the Grokker over their gym bag before heading out the door, and it would alert them if any of their usual gym gear wasn't in it.

Although working prototypes of the system have been publicly demonstrated, U Grok It is not yet commercially available. People wishing to be notified when it's priced and ready to go, however, can contact the company at the link below. There is no word at this point on phone type compatibility.

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