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Technology That Can Help You Track and Find Your Lost Items

No more pacing the parking lot, checking the couch cushions, rifling through drawers

Photo of Tourist, Unrecognizable Person using map in phone app to navigate and find her parked car

Getty Images

En español | You don't consider yourself the forgetful type, yet somehow you can't seem to find your car keys — er, on a regular basis.

Misplacing your phone or your reading glasses isn't unusual. And just where did you leave your wallet?

OK, so maybe you've had a lot on your mind, or you can't remember small details as well as you used to. No worries, technology can help you find your stuff.

From tiny trackers and handy apps to personal assistants that can lend a helping hand, today's software and hardware might be all you need to locate everything from your car in a crowded mall parking lot to the TV remote stuck between sofa cushions.

Keep track of items tiny, even furry

Wouldn't it be great if you could attach a teeny thingamajig to all your things? If you couldn't find something, you simply could open an app to see where it is.

These trackers are available now. And they work quite well.

Findster Duo pet tracker

Findster Technologies

Findster Duo+

The Tile family of trackers is probably the best known. Attach the square Tile Mate ($20 each or $50 for a package of four) onto everyday items such as house keys, a purse, suitcase or wallet.

If you can't find something, open the app and tap the name of the item, such as “Marc's keys” or “Kellie's purse.” The Tile will ring loudly up to 200 feet away and show you the item's last known location on a map.

On the flip side, if you can't find your phone, double-press an activated Tile Mate to make your lost phone ring — even if you've set it to silent.

The Tile Pro models ($35 each or $80 for a package of four) also use Bluetooth, are more durable and have a range of up to 400 feet.

The newest members of the family are Tile Sticker ($40 for 2 or $50 for a package of four), which are much smaller, waterproof, adhesive-backed trackers that work up to 150 feet — ideal for TV remotes — and Tile Slim ($30), a thin credit card-shaped tracker to slip into luggage tags, wallets and other hidden spots. It works up to 200 feet away.

While your odds of finding lost stuff drops considerably if it's out of the house, the community of Tile owners can be leveraged to help. Once an item is marked as lost, if any opt-in member spots the missing item, the owner automatically is notified with its location.

Other trackers, such as the Nutale Focus Smart Tracker ($25) and Samsung's SmartThings Item Tracker ($100), also use cellular connectivity to locate items outside the home.

For pets, you might opt for a GPS-based solution, such as the Findster Duo+ ($149), a real-time dog or cat tracker that shows your distance from your pet. In fact, you can add an invisible “geo-fence” around your home, so you'll be notified immediately on your smartphone if your pets leave that space.

Find phones out of your grasp

Smartphones aren't cheap. Plus, you likely have sensitive data on them. Thankfully, locating a device can be easy.

Free services such as Find My iPhone on iPad and Find My Device for Android phones and tablets can help in a pinch.

Should your phone become lost or stolen, you can remotely lock it if you don't have a passcode on it already; display a message, “Please call me for a reward"; wipe its data clean; or track it on an online map. But you need to set this up ahead of time.

When you realize your phone is missing, you'll need to log in on another device or web browser on a computer with the same account name and password as your phone.

For the tracking to work, the device will need to be turned on; connected to the internet, either through a cellular carrier or Wi-Fi; and operating with at least some charge remaining in the battery. If all is set up correctly, you should see its last known location.

If your phone was stolen, never try to retrieve it on your own. Instead, contact police with the information, such as the address where your device was located.

Stride confidently through parking lots

Mobile phone display of Apple iPhone's "Find Your Car" feature on a map

Apple, Inc

If you've ever had trouble remembering where you parked your gray SUV in a shopping center lot, outside a concert or at an amusement park, free apps can help you retrace the steps back to your vehicle. iPhones allow you to use the built-in Maps app to do the job, but you'll need to set up the feature ahead of time.

In a nutshell, you'll need to enable Location Services and Significant Locations: Go to Settings | Privacy | Location Services | System Services | Significant Locations. Next, you'll want to enable Show Parked Location by going to Settings | Maps | Show Parked Location.

Make sure that your iPhone is paired to your vehicle's CarPlay or Bluetooth. If you can't find your car, open Maps, tap the Search field, then choose Parked Car from the suggestions list. Tap Directions and choose DriveRide, Transit or Walk.

For Android or iPhone users, Google Maps can do the trick. You can save your parking location so you can remember where you left your car.

Open the Google Maps app on your phone or tablet, tap the blue dot that shows your location. Tap Save your parking.

Your parking location will be saved in Google Maps until you remove it. You also can add notes about your parking location, such as typing in the spot number, and share your parking location with others.

When you need to find your vehicle, open the Google Maps app, tap the search bar and select Parking location. On the bottom right, tap Directions.

If you choose, you also can get notifications for parking information, such as where you parked and for how long, useful if you've been feeding a conventional meter for downtown street parking.

Let smart speakers take on brain overflow

You might use your smart speaker, such as an Amazon Echo or Google Nest (both starting at $35), for playing music, setting kitchen timers or reading the news. But these devices also will remember where you've squirreled away things — if you tell it while the location is fresh in your mind.

Say something like “OK, Google,” or “Alexa,” and then “Remember my passport is in the small drawer in the kitchen.” In the future, ask “Where's my passport?” and your smarty-pants speaker will tell you where it is and on what date you mentioned the reminder.

Even if you didn't put away your smartphone on purpose — perhaps it slipped out of your pocket as you wrestled with the dog — you can ask your personal digital assistant to find it. When you set up your smart speaker via the proper app, it became linked to your phone.

If you're the only one set up to talk to Google Assistant, you're ready to roll.

Say, “OK, Google, find my phone,” and listen for that sweet sound. Your phone will ring even if you're set to Do Not Disturb.

Pat yourself on the back. You've just saved 15 minutes in your day.

Marc Saltzman has been a freelance technology journalist for 25 years. His podcast Tech It Out aims to break down geek speak into street speak.

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