An iPhone App That Finds Your Keys (And Just About Anything Else)

A Kickstarter project solves the age-old problem of misplaced keys. But a great concept got even better with the help of crowdsourced ideas.

Since Henry Ford sold the first Model T, people have been losing their car keys, cursing this pocketable tool that never seems to be in one’s pocket. Many of us have been forced to abandon our cars altogether, allowing them to rot in our yard until a decade passes and, amidst vacuuming under the cushions of our couch, we discover them amongst an extra large tub’s worth of popcorn and $100 in pennies.

Now, a new Kickstarter-backed project called Hone ($49) is poised to track our keys at will. It’s an iPhone app that syncs with a Bluetooth keychain. To find your keys, you’ll simply load the app and an onscreen display will point the way in hotter/colder fashion.

"Why hasn’t anyone thought of this sooner?" you may ask. One big reason is that the Bluetooth 4.0 standard is the first to make it possible with its new energy-efficient mode, Bluetooth Low Energy. This allows a single battery to power Hone for several months. And it’s also new enough that Hone had a jumpstart on automakers that haven’t had a chance to build it into their own keys just yet.

“The fact is that it takes a long time for automakers to qualify new technology for use in their cars,” explains Hone designer Geoffrey Litwack. “Typically new parts have to be tested in prototype cars before they’re passed into production, and that process is minimum a year.”

As of now, this innovation jumpstart has allowed Hone to nearly double its $46,000 goal on Kickstarter. But for Litwack, it was the crowdsourced ideating that proved just as valuable for the future of his product.

“We have a backer who is blind, and he asked if we could add an accessibility feature to the app: having the phone vibrate as it got closer to the Hone device in addition to the visual proximity display,” Litwack explains. “He told us that if we would do that, which of course we did, he would be able to use six or seven Hones to navigate the cluster of objects he needs to keep track of as he goes through his day. We think having a Hone to find keys is great, but we never considered its use for the visually impaired.”

As a keychain dongle, Hone is stuck in the middle of major automakers who can quickly make the idea obsolete. As a find-anything-device, Hone is not only tapping into the accessibility market, it could track many small objects of value to anyone around the house--like those important storage keys you only use twice a year, or maybe that one container hiding your social security card and passport.

With a bit of crowdsourced context, it became obvious that Hone could track just about anything. Well, anything except for your smartphone running the Hone app.

Sign up here.

[Hat tip: Core77]

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  • Willow

    Wonderful idea. I am one of those people who would lose their head if it wasn't attached. My car keys are a daily ritual of backtracking if I forget to put them on the key hanger by the door and my glasses are worse because without them I could literally be looking right at them and not see them unless I'm only a foot or so away.

  • John Riecke

    Put this on a pair of glasses and I'm sold.  I'm constantly misplacing them and then checking all my usual haunts.

  • Joe

    I love your idea.  This should be imbedded in the frames of glasses, the linings of wallets, the soles of shoes, and of course, the TV remote. 

  • Dhingston

    How about a setting that will notify you if you (or at least your phone) should stray too far from your keys (e.g., leave them on the checkout counter)?  You could set the applicable distance (e.g., 15 feet), and disable it when you're at home or in the office...

  • Steven Leighton

    My wife can't find her car keys in the morning. But she also has to call her iPhone to hear it ringing in order to find that .. and often when she can't find her phone it's a good indicator that the battery has run down anyway.
    Sighted people just need mind and habits.