First impressions of my StickNFind Bluetooth location stickers

Ever since reading Cory Doctorow’sMakers“, I was excited about the idea of being able to tag my belongings with small electronic devices that would flash and beep to enable me to locate them.

There were some devices already available, like the Loc8tor range of products. However, battery life was poor (2-5 months typical), feature set was limited, and they were still quite large.

So when I saw the StickNFind project on IndieGoGo (a crowd funding site, similar to KickStarter), I was really excited. Ultra-small (probably the size of some arbitrary US denominated coin I am wholly unfamiliar with), long battery life (1 year typical), 100 ft range, and uses an iPhone or Android phone to locate them. Perfect! I signed up for 4 of them.

They turned up yesterday, and it appears I am one of the first people to get hold of them. Unfortunately, it appears that not all is well in StickNFind land.

They came well packaged in a cardboard box, with the four tags stuck onto a piece of cardboard. The instructions noted that I may need to “tap it 4 times with your finger or with a pen” to wake it up. I tried gently tapping the first one I peeled off, and nothing happened. Then I tried harder. Still nothing. I checked for one of those small plastic tabs that you need to pull out to activate a battery. Nothing.

An open and closed StickNFind

An open and closed StickNFind

I peeled a second one off. This one responded after a few taps with a flash and a beep. So did the third, and fourth. Looks like the first one is dead.

I then downloaded the app onto my iPhone 5. This is the latest v1.1 app.

The three tags paired fairly quickly with my phone with the default text tags of “sNf – 0″, “sNf – 1″, “sNf – 3″. They kind of showed up on the radar view, but the range was showing big numbers in the range of 100 (feet? inches? cm? m? the axis is not labelled).

When they are showing on the radar screen, you can make them beep, flash or do both. For some reason, only tag 0 and 1 would do this. 3 was showing on the screen, and the beep/flash buttons were present, but it wouldn’t respond.

I found out the app makes you accept the EULA each time you start it, and crashes very frequently.

I then tried the “Find It” feature. I turned this on for tag 0. It immediately said that the tag had been found. I turned it on for tag 1. The tag beeped and flashed a few times, and told me it had been found. Operation seemed intermittent with all three tags.

Back to the radar, and I found that the three tags, despite being adjacent to each other, were showing at ranges varying from a couple of units to a hundred or more. They kept on moving around, despite the tags and phone being stationary.

Not working so well - none show up despite being next to the phone

Not working so well – none show up despite being next to the phone

I opened the fourth tag and reseated the battery. This time it showed up on the iPhone, but as a “StickNFind – 0″ – why is this name different to the others?

Why is the name different for one tag?

Why is the name different for one tag?

All the while, on the radar page, the tags were dancing back and forth like a loon on speed. I couldn’t see how the leash functionality (where you are warned that the tag has moved away from you) would work.

I looked at the temperature screen. One was showing 11degC, another 22degC. It does say you may need to wait. So I waited until morning.

Next morning, tag “sNf – 3″ had completely stopped responding. The others were intermittent – I couldn’t seem to wake them. The temperatures were still wildly different, despite being in a centrally heated space next to each other.

I thought I would test the range. Even across our small open downstairs space, they would all drop out now and then. I went upstairs and none of them would work, and it is only a wooden floor.

I attached one tag to my keys. I took them to work and back again, and found that it didn’t work for most of the day. It briefly worked in my office, but the range was less than 30ft.

Once home, I found that I couldn’t get any of the tags working at all. One of them beeped and flashed a significant time after it was asked to. I reseated several of the batteries and checked they were dead, but still no luck.

I thought maybe my phone was at fault (although it works with other Bluetooth devices), so I tried my “new iPad”. I managed to pair it with one of the tags, but could get the tag to do nothing useful.

I checked the batteries using a multimeter, and all are showing 3V as expected.

Detail of inside the tag

Detail of inside the tag

So – my first impressions:

  • Tags don’t seem to work most of the time
  • Range isn’t reliable
  • Leash functionality is unusable as a result
  • Temperature readings are way off and vary from device to device
  • App crashes frequently and has many quirks

Really not good. I approached @StickNFind on twitter and found they suggested I call them in the US. I requested email, as a call would cost me a fair amount. No response. Website just has a contact form, no email address.

Since then, a few others have posted comments on IndieGoGo suggesting similar problems:

So far, I am really not impressed. Unfortunately, I also backed the BluTracker project by the same guys. I don’t know if this is a problem with my specific devices, or the product as a whole. I hope they respond.

Note – please don’t bitch about crowd funding being a risk etc. They have delivered a product that doesn’t seem to work and it is being sold to people not on IndieGoGo now.

42 thoughts on “First impressions of my StickNFind Bluetooth location stickers

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Nigel

    April 10, 2013 at 11:56pm

    I so nearly went for a set of these, same as you, but I baulked at the cost of shipping, which was set insanely high.

    Seems like their greed on the shipping saved me from getting a rubbish product.

    (Just check your RF jammers/fuzzers are all off though before you decide they don’t work! ;-) )

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      cybergibbons

      April 11, 2013 at 5:51am

      Yep, I even got out the spectrum analyser to check there was nothing going on in that area – only normal WiFi. It did seem that proximity to electrical noise sources such as switches, routers and monitors caused a problem.

  2. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Rob

    April 11, 2013 at 12:08am

    It seems like everyone is having problems.
    I am thinking about cancelling my order.

  3. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    James Bailey

    April 11, 2013 at 1:39am

    Hey, I’m the guy from your first quote, good blog post! What a shame they have remained silent over this issue, and how it could have escaped their notice during testing I’ll never know. It seems like an inherent problem using a simple SNR measure to work out distance when our cities are now extremely noisy environments. To make these stickers at all useable will take a far more advanced algorithm (kalman or similar) by the app (and will introduce significant delay/averaging), and to improve on this in future versions would require clever signalling (not likely able to be received by a standard Apple certified Bluetooth chip, it just passes on the SNR to the app before it gets to analyse the signal further). Why do I always assume these designers have sorted out these problems that are so easily predicted…

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      cybergibbons

      April 11, 2013 at 5:57am

      I had assumed some clever DSP was going on. Your observation about it being simple SNR seems to be the case. I wish they would respond though…

  4. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    adi mimren

    April 11, 2013 at 5:16am

    I would recommend removing the thick case you use for your phone. The case blocks a lot the Bluetooth signal per my experience…

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      cybergibbons

      April 11, 2013 at 5:59am

      Thanks Adi. I’ve not had any WiFi or Bluetooth problems with it before, and would not expect intermittent issues. It’s also not the cause of crashing and dodgy temp readings. Doesn’t explain the iPad issue either. I will test this evening.

  5. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Peter Knueppel

    April 11, 2013 at 4:06pm

    Thank you for your informative posting! I also got mine today and just played with them for some time. They are quite unusable right now. I don’t understand why they spend so much effort in a bumping graphical radar screen and other eye candy while leaking some basic functionality. I personally don’t care about an accurate measurement of the distance but a stable virtual leash feature. I want to get to know when I just left the room and forgot my keys or so after some time, so avering and a delay wouldn’t be a problem for me. But this feature is almost broken. Setting it to “out of range” – my preferred option – I won’t get any alerts. Every other option, there will be an alert even if the sticker is just next to my iPhone (4s). Sometimes it even won’t stop ringing. Same for the rest of the app, it’s buggy as hell. Can you change that horrible ringtone? Doesn’t work for me. Nevertheless, pairing worked well at first try with each of my for stickers.

    We should try to collect all those Major bugs … After all I like the hardware … And I think when the application gets reworked they could work quite well for me.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      cybergibbons

      April 11, 2013 at 4:10pm

      Yes – I had a similar discussion earlier. I really just want them to be small, have decent range, and allow remote control of beeping. The temperature is totally superfluous but the fact it doesn’t work erodes the impression of the device.

      Do yours ring? Mine just beep, but the iPhone indicates that you could set a ringtone.

      • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

        Peter Knueppel

        April 11, 2013 at 5:24pm

        The stickers themselves won’t ring, they only have small piezo beepers. Much too quiet in my opinion btw, I hardly can hear them outsides (I want to wear one in my pocket everytime in order to beep when I forget my Phone somewhere ;-) ) So I think the ringtone at the virtual leash page(s) is for the phone only. But you can’t change it – though it looks like you should. And the default one – tinkerbell – is really annoying.

        • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

          cybergibbons

          April 11, 2013 at 5:43pm

          Ah, I had assumed you could change it on the tag as well, you can do a lot even with one tone!

  6. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Peter Knueppel

    April 11, 2013 at 9:20pm

    I had a closer look to my four stickers during the evening and checked all common issues posted on indiegogo so far. Here are my results:

    - Packaging: Yes, they are glued way to strong onto the card. Two of them lost the cover of the adhesive pad while pulling them off and you hardly can remove the remaining glue of the keyring holder part. But this is a minor issue.

    - Battery drain (IPhone 4s): I usually have bluetooth and wifi turned an all the time and my phone has about 20% of remaining charge in the evening. Today, it lasted only until afernoon, then I had to recharge. But maybe this is because of my exhaustive testing. So I cannot confirm a stronger battery usage at the moment for sure, but my feeling is, yes, it drains the battery faster (possibly the leash feature)

    - Activating by tapping: Worked for all of my four stickers without problems

    - Pairing: Also worked fine. I removed and repaired mine a few times without problems. But you have to use the “pair” button on the settings page. Editing (renaming) an unpaired /newly discovered sticker on the radar screen caused the app to crash.

    - App Start: I have to confirm the license on every launch of the application, too. How may this happen after having a beta test? Sigh.

    - Range: I’m using an aluminium bumper on my IPhone since ever … this causes about no problems with any other bluetooth/wireless devices (bluetooth low energy devices as well – speed sensor on my bike). All in all, the range is still ok for me. I get 10 meters line of sight, or one wall, and that’s it. OK so far. But the connection is not reliable at all. Even being perfectly close, connection frequently drops. For instance, I can confirm that my notebook causes inference with the stickers (being close to the sticker, not the phone). But also in my bedroom w/o any other bigger electronical equipment the virtual leash causes an alert once in 5 minutes or so without touching the sticker or phone at all – being both in my pockets, about 30cm away. This is painful. My girlfriend eventually was really upset and told me to “stop that annoying alarm clock”. So I will screw the bumper off tomorrow and see if it helps, but I sadly don’t think so…

    - Radar-Feature: All in all, working. Sort of. I think the reason for the missing unit labels is that you simply cannot tell the distance (see next bullet). But the usability is quite awful. Too small buttons. And it keeps zooming all the time if you have more than one sticker paired – that’s extremely confusing. And if you switch to manual mode, this is bing overwritten on the next start of the application. A simple list, sorted by estimated distance, would be way better. But perhaps, won’t sell as well…

    - Virtual Leash: In addition to the frequent connection drops that cause false alerts, running in the background, it today also often has missed stickers going out of range. This won’t happen if the app is running in the foreground and happens more often choosing “out of range” instead of one of the other options (long, medium, short). Maybe the app crashes when gone to background. Also, you cannot change the ringtone (even though the button with the bell changes its colour when being pressed)

    - App crashes: Yes, plenty of! Can’t tell when exactly, that differs

    - Estimated Distance accuracy: Forget about that. You can distinguish between “close” and “not so close” what may also mean “weak signal because of your microwave oven or bumper” or so. But I can live without that.

    - Lag / Delay: No issue for me here. If I press beep or blink, the sticker blinks or beeps within about 5 seconds, if displayed as connected.

    - Beeper: Hardly noticable in a loud environment (= city / outdoors)

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      cybergibbons

      April 11, 2013 at 10:03pm

      Thanks Peter. It is interesting that some of what you observe is the same as me (dropping connection, crashes, leash unusable), and perhaps a bit reassuring as well. I fear I may have broken tags – I can only get a single one of them to respond now and it normally won’t allow me to make it beep/flash.

      • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

        Peter Knueppel

        April 12, 2013 at 1:04pm

        Yes that really sounds as if they are broken – I don’t experience these huge problems… Are yours ALL dead, finally? Maybe they got damaged during delivery…

        Today I did another testing session:

        - Changing my metal bumper to a plastic one: Had a really big impact! Still connection dropouts, but range increased a lot to about 20m or two (brick) walls.

        - Temperature accuracy: Actual room temperature was 22 ° C (measured using a good digital thermometer with a range of -10…+60°C and ±1 °C). I placed 3 Tags next to the thermometer for about an hour and afterwards, read out the temperature. It was 17,18 and 29°C … well … useless.

        - Reproducable App Bug: Set up a leash for a certain sticker. Then, send the app to background or lock the phone. Afterwards, put the sticker out of range. Sometimes, you won’t receive any alert about this – BUT if you switch back to the app, and go to the virtual leash page, it almost completely locks up – because you will get one messagebox after another.

        • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

          cybergibbons

          April 12, 2013 at 1:19pm

          One of them works if I am not near anything else electrical at all. Not tried the other ones in this situation, they show up as dots on the radar but they are not filled with blue, and the menu to flash/beep is not present.

  7. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Peter Knueppel

    April 12, 2013 at 4:13pm

    Just an idea: have you tried re-installing the app?

  8. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    FutureRoads

    April 13, 2013 at 9:45am

    Just received my tags. Disappointed so far. Box said 4 taps .. website support page says 5 taps .. 2 of my 4 tags will only beep with taps after many tries. Was expecting my note 2 could discover them based on what i had read .. but seems not .. or I have DOA tags. Wish they had worked as I had hoped!

  9. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    jefftagen

    April 15, 2013 at 10:45am

    Any chance you could post similar photos of the bottom of the board? I’m very curious about the tech they’re using and why they’re having so many problems.

    Still waiting for mine to arrive, considering developing several apps for them, but now not too sure.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      cybergibbons

      April 15, 2013 at 2:30pm

      Jeff – the bottom of the board is just the two contacts for the battery, that is it. I can take and post a better photo of both sides though – I’ll do it tonight.

  10. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    FutureRoads

    April 15, 2013 at 2:39pm

    I had some apps in mind too .. but they are on hold until I can see that these devices are more reliable.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      cybergibbons

      April 15, 2013 at 3:29pm

      I might have broken ones, but there are a lot of people with issues and they seem to not be responding to support queries.

  11. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Julie from Denver

    April 15, 2013 at 9:08pm

    Thank you for your fantastic write-up on the Stick-N-Find product. I have not received any information on shipping and certainly no product, but I’m no longer worried about it. Based on your research along with the other poster’s research, it sounds like I’m doing equally well without the product as I would be with the product. Thank you to all the posters for your excellent sleuth work/testing. I’ve bookmarked your page – this was one of the good things that came from Stick-N-Find :)

  12. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    dustout

    April 24, 2013 at 4:18am

    I really would like to get a refund for my unshipped tags as they appear to be junk. But I can’t get any kind of communication from them. :( I wonder if Paypal dispute would help…

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      FutureRoads

      April 26, 2013 at 10:10am

      Feeling better about StickNFind this morning. Received a couple of status emails from them including info about their new Android app. Found it on Play this morning and loaded it on my Note 2. Found one of my tags (working on the 2nd one now). It was interesting .. the app also did an update on the tag itself. Didn’t expect that .. but cool idea. Will be testing the app more over the weekend.

        • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

          FutureRoads

          April 26, 2013 at 10:33am

          i have only been able to pair one of my four tags so far. Seems the process is somewhat trial and error. Continuing to test.

          • cybergibbons

            April 26, 2013 at 10:34am

            :( worse luck than me. Are the beeping when tapped? The battery contacts seem iffy, a firm squeeze woke one of mine up.

          • FutureRoads

            April 26, 2013 at 10:50am

            Two of the four beeped when I tapped on them. The other two never beeped after many attempts.

          • cybergibbons

            April 26, 2013 at 10:52am

            So another person with 50% DoA. This is more than just a few people now.

          • FutureRoads

            April 27, 2013 at 9:01am

            I took the one tag that connected and the SNF app recognized (showed on the radar screen) with me yesterday in my pocket when I went to lunch. Figured I’d play with the app while i was waiting for my food. The phone was about two feet from the tag in my pocket but never connected. No metal in my pocket .. and left my metal pants at home (LOL) so nothing to block RF from the tag. Tried for several minutes and only saw yellow dot on the radar screen. The tag wouldn’t be much help in finding anything as its working now.

  13. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    FutureRoads

    April 27, 2013 at 9:08am

    “The tag WOULDN’T be of much help in finding anything as its working now?

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      cybergibbons

      April 27, 2013 at 9:10am

      I’ve done an an edit to show that, I don’t know how I let you edit.

      Yes – there are a lot of not working tags….

  14. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Joar Guttormsen (@joar79)

    May 8, 2013 at 10:18am

    Got 6 stickers. Put one on my walled, access card to work, keys and one the cat with a fish string. My gf told me that the fish string would never hold. And sadly she was right. But actually I was a little bit happy because now I got the chance to test the StickNFind. So I set the phone app. on “Find” mode. And started walking everywhere my cat uselessly goes. Walked and walked. For 2 damn hours. Nothing! Thought the app. was broken. Tried to sett it on “Find” for my keys. Walked home. And when I was at the front door at my house the phone beeped. So the app. works. Tho I was only 2 feet away from the keys. But the door was between me and the keys. At least I know it was working. But the range on this StickNfind make it totally useless for me. I also loose connection to the stickers all the time. I use a Samsung Galaxy S3.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      cybergibbons

      May 8, 2013 at 10:32am

      Whilst I always knew the range would not be 100ft in the real world, they made a point of extending it to 150ft in a press release. I’m seeing 10-20ft normally, line of sight. The problem is that such a low range with lack of response means that you can’t use them. You need to walk into a room, wait 5-10minutes, move to the next room and so on. With the Audiovox tag, it shows up within seconds of being in range.

      They seem to be very broken. Is the issue that some of us have bad hardware? Is it that some people (the happy ones) have very low expectations? Are all of us with broken tags in Europe?

  15. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Sanjay

    August 22, 2013 at 10:07pm

    As a developer of BLE products I feel bad to hear such comments. I have learnt my lesson – be honest, be patient and ship only when ready.

    Is thetileapp shipping. if they are it would be great to hear people’s review of thetileapp.

  16. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    amy

    July 17, 2014 at 5:10pm

    Well it has been over a year now. Does anyone feel any different? Did you get any responses from the company? I just saw them mentioned on Ask This Old House and was going to get a set to keep track of my cat. But now I’m not sure. I went to website last week and it worked, today it doesnt’. But I work for the gov and they may have a new block or patch so it won’t work here.

  17. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Shay fair

    August 6, 2014 at 7:44am

    These stickers are not worth the plastic they are in! I spent 50.00 in them and the app is crap! The website is always down and I’ve been trying to register the stickers for the past week and I can’t! Their customer service is crap too! I went to the better business bureau and gave them several bad reviews! I also contacted the retailer where I bought them and got them to pull them from their shelves.. They shouldn’t have made them available for retail with all these bugs and the fact they don’t work…

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