By Nate Adcock on Sat, 11/17/2012
There is nothing crappier, in my opinion, than knowing the sinking feeling of misplacing or losing a valuable gadget. You know how this scenario goes (as I certainly do): It might be while on a faraway trip, or the restaurant booth down the street. Once you realize it's gone, the first thing you think, right after you contemplate a suitable way to kill yourself is, "Wow, [explicative]...I just lost my 300+ dollar iPad mini! I should just go shoot myself now!!". You also know it's game over... GONE, period! You also probably feel a bit sick to the stomach. Truth to tell if you lose your new iPad mini, you're probably right, but there is a single ray of hope. A good Samaritan, who (if they knew how to contact you), might actually return your valuable gear. FinderCodes can make this possible through the use of a simple QR code tag, and also lets you sweeten the incentive with a reward. Really, what have you got to lose!
That is a whole lot of marketing mush in the intro there, but there is truth in there nonetheless. Good people (ones that don't steal on a regular basis) might very well be tempted to keep a new iPad mini (or sell it)... I mean, you lost it! Finders keepers, and all that... They probably will never locate you, etc. Of course, in iOS world, we have the excellent "Find My iPhone" app, but that won't cover all your gear, and would only work if the device is powered on and connected. So, the easier you make it for yes even a good guy like me to return your stuff, or give me an incentive to do so, just might make the difference between an eternally lost device and the sweet bliss of being reconnected. To be totally honest, I would feel your pain so much, I qould try to find you, but what if I can't? You need FinderCodes to make that part easy, rewarding and still somewhat safe and anonymous.
QR codes... What are they? I imagine you have experienced one by now, as they can be seen plastered all over magazines, in stores, even on billboards for years now. Square, blocky, black pixel shapes on a white background. Point a dumb camera at one, and you get a, well, picture of a QR code. Truth is iPhone (using the Camera app), will also act just as dumb as that camera. You need a scanning capability or app that will translate the QR into a web link or similarly actionable pointer. There are any number of free QR scanner apps in the app store (just search for "QR Code"). When you actually scan a QR code with a scanner app, the most likely outcome is that your web browser will pop open directing you to a specific web link. In the case of scanning a FinderCodes QR, the web browser will direct you to the page for reporting found items, and in about 3 easy steps, let you send the owner a text/email informing them you have their item.
FinderCodes, once you sign up and purchase a code package, will send you a box containing several different tag form factors. Stickers, keyring tags, etc. Once you have them all in place on your items, you simply download the FinderCodes app to you iPhone or iPod touch (I didn't test the app on iPad mini, but no reason shouldn't run there too), and scan in each code, adding relevant information about the item and assigning a reward as an extra incentive. The web site also allows you to login and register codes manually via a unique text string printed on each tag. If an item is lost, returnees can either scan the QR tag or enter the text string in a browser.
The app or the web site let's you set everything up and effectively manage your device codes, report a lost item, etc. The service will remind you both when you report a lost item, and when someone reports finding one. I tested the lose/recover notification process, and the only problem I had was with gmail dumping the emails into the spam folder at first. The web service and app both are functional but pretty basic.
A worthy enhancement might be to have some kind of status bar that updates via push notifications, or the addition of a status badge to the app icon. When an code is reported found, the alert status could update to a different color or code value. The app did not keep my login credentials cached, but forced me to login each time, which is kind of annoying. Other than suffering from being a bit on the simple side, the service is functional, doing a fine job as proxy for this unique online lost/found exchange.
FinderCodes protects the identity of returnees that are in the process of notifying you (and conversely protects your info as well). You can set various notification settings in the app, like how you can be notified when returnees scan one of your lost item codes. The return web site will present options to allow a returnee to decide whether to share location data with you when they notify you of a found item. If they do allow it, you will receive an email indicating their location on a map. You can also get FinderCodes tags for your pets...
FinderCodes is definitely a service I will use. Affixing and scanning a few QR tags is small price to pay for extra peace of mind, and I think many honest people would definitely return lost items, given that the process was this easy, private and accessible. You can grab a pack of code tags for $24.99 (packages include categories for travel, electronics, pets, etc.), along with the free app at the links above.