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Key finders, also known as keyfinders, key locators or electronic finders, are small electronic devices used to recover misplaced or lost key sets. Their goal is to reduce the time it takes to locate keys or other personal items, while remaining unobtrusive. Some key finders beep on demand.
The first generation key finders were sound-based, and listened for a clap or whistle (or a sequence of same), then beeped for the user to find them. Determining what was a clap or a whistle proved difficult, resulting in poor performance and false alarms. As a result of this low quality and reliability, these early key finders were soon discarded and were unpopular for serious needs.
Second generation key finders eliminate the problem of false alarms, and some have fairly long battery lives. As electronics became smaller and cheaper, radio became viable to locate the keys, which were fitted with a small receiver. A separate transmitter is used to activate the receiver(s). All wireless key finders have to "listen" for a searching transmission, resulting in battery replacement at intervals ranging from 3 months to a year. Some distributors include a cost-effective key-return service that assists in returning the keys should they be lost in a taxi, bus or other public place, provided the customer registered their details. The transmitter can also contain information to help return it to its rightful owner.
Third generation key finders no longer require a separate "base"—they are all functionally identical and based on a peer-to-peer system where each can find all the others individually. The user can, for example, use a wallet to find misplaced keys and vice versa, or a mobile phone to find a lost TV remote control or glasses. In addition, since each has its own transmitter, they can reply by radio as well as beeping and flashing a light to attract attention. The seeking unit can then follow this beacon to find even a buried set of keys. Having a transmitter in each unit also means that, unlike second generation units, losing the single transmitter does not result in total loss of all items.
Typical user experience
A typical usage is to have the key finder device attached to a set of keys, and if these keys are lost or misplaced, an action is performed to initiate the search functionality (such as clapping or pressing a button on the locator device). Modern key finder devices are able to: 1) generate a distinct sound, such as a beep or tone; 2) flash a light, and/or; 3) somehow guide a user towards the lost item.
Key finders have also been found to be useful for the visually challenged, as well as those with memory problems associated with Alzheimer's disease or problems paying attention typical of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are finding key finders useful in combating the memory effects of the disease.
Modern life requires most urban dwellings, cars, and offices to be accessed via a key. The stress, cost, and inconvenience of losing one's key to those environments is high. Key finders are a practical way of alleviating these effects.
- Hospitals – Key finders can be utilized to summon people by attaching a key finder to a person in a ward, such as a nurse.
- Museums – "Museums make use of beacons strategically placed indoors to communicate with their guide app about which room the user is currently in, and therefore display information about the current exhibits."
- Restaurants – Patrons can be given key finders so they can be called back to the restaurant when their meals or seats are ready.
- Travel – Key finders can be placed in luggage or with personal items (camera kit, laptop computer, medication, mobile device, passport) to ensure they are not left behind or misplaced while traveling.
- Treasure hunts for the blind – Key finders can be placed in strategic locations to assist the blind with improving their auditory location ability.
- Animals – Key finders can be placed on the collar of a house pet to keep track of them.
- Bruce, James (November 9, 2015). "With Find My Stuff, Nothing Will Ever Go Missing Again". With Find My Stuff, Nothing Will Ever Go Missing Again.