Author Topic: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags  (Read 35629 times)

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Offline cybergibbons

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StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« on: May 06, 2013, 07:31:07 am »
I'll prefix this with two things - the tags do exist (I have some) and they do partially function.

These Bluetooth Low Energy tracking tags promised a lot in their pitch:
http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/sticknfind-bluetooth-powered-ultra-small-location-stickers/x/1914325?c=home

Showing applications like keeping tabs on a pet, luggage whilst travelling, alerting you when your wife pulls into the driveway. Range is claimed as 100ft LOS, and they made an announcement saying they had boosted this to 150ft.

They wanted $70k, and they got $931,670, i.e. over-funded by a factor of 13 times.

So - the reality of it.

A lot of the tags don't work and they don't work very well
My 4 tags turned up, and they really didn't work very well at all. One appeared dead, range was poor (20 ft LOS) on the others, operation was intermittent, the radar is mostly useless (a distance estimate), and the leash is totally dysfunctional.
http://cybergibbons.com/2013/04/10/first-impressions-of-my-sticknfind-bluetooth-location-stickers/

3 others I know also got tags - out of a total of 38 tags, 20 of them have never worked or stopped working soon after.

My gut feeling is that several aspects of the design are causing reliability issues (battery contacts, use of piezo as antenna, fragile plastic) and that there are serious QC issues compounding this.

I realise that Bluetooth Low Energy range is limited and that the radar must using RSSI somehow, but I had figured they might have some interesting DSP tricks up their sleeve.

I have since received other BLE tags that work much better than StickNFind (i.e. range of 30-50ft, leash that works).

No Android App
This was just the start though. I'm using iOS, but many people are using Android. Initially there was no Android app at all, and then they released one that only supports a few Samsung phones. This is because the Android OS does not natively support Bluetooth Low Energy - they are "hoping" that an announcement at the end of May will sort this out.

However, the original page showed Android 4.0 as supported. That moved up to 4.1 and now some people suspect it may not be until even later versions. This has left a lot of people with tags they cannot currently use and potentially may never be able to use. A lot of people are unhappy.

They said the Android app was ready in December, but didn't mention it wasn't going to work on most phones. Interestingly, in April they advertised on LinkedIn for an Android developer... too little too late?

They either aren't shipping them, they are going missing or they aren't communicating
At this point I set up a simple survey to see how many people were unhappy. 125 people responded. 110 of those were unhappy (yes, I know it will be biased this way). About half of those hadn't received the tags at all and there are still a lot of people complaining about this.

They are continuing to sell them via retail channels
Their website, StickNFind.com, continues to offer the tags as "Buy now" and they will let you buy tags and pay for priority shipping. There is nothing to say these tags are alpha, beta, pre-release, or not in stock. But then on Facebook they announce the tags are "pre-release". People who have bought the tags retail (yes, they have received them before backers) are seriously unhappy about this.

http://cybergibbons.com/2013/04/26/sticknfind-are-a-dishonest-company-do-not-buy-from-them/

This point really troubles me - they have almost $1m. They shouldn't be selling these when they don't seem to work.

Awful communication
Essentially, if you tags are not working, they ignore you. Posts complaining about the tags are deleted, I was banned from their Facebook page.

They shouldn't be having these issues

We know what we’re doing; We've led the development and manufacturing of more than 2 dozen hardware products for many large companies, so we know exactly what's required to pull this off.

The people behind this are SSI America and claim to be able to do this... it would appear not.

Other projects
The guys behind StickNFind are also behind Blutracker (which has just announced, after a few months of silence, that there are delays) and Meterplug (which is featured here as well).
« Last Edit: May 06, 2013, 07:41:21 am by cybergibbons »
 

Offline dustout

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2013, 09:02:09 am »
I have had about the same experience with my StickNFinds as well.  The recent ios app update admittedly seems to have significantly improved my experience with them.  The UI still has issues (for instance if a tag I am tracking goes out of range then it switches to activating a deactivating tag which is annoying).  I still expect and do encounter false alarms using leash functionality. It's annoying and really makes me not want to use it for that.  I am currently only using 1 tag.  When I have started using more in the vicinity the tracking range goes down exponentially as I introduce additional tags which is a shame.  I may give the others away.  I don't have any other bluetooth devices in my home so they really should be better than this.

They MIGHT be usable for the finding purpose but as distance is like a random number generator that hurts it pretty bad.  I can use my hand and body to try and put myself in between the tag and the phone and that helps with hunting things down.  Outdoors that functionality is slightly better but not as much as you'd hope.  The whole thing is certainly not fool-proof and feels more like a Dealextreme-esque version that has potential but failed in some keys ways, at least so far.

I think for the funding they received they could have done much better.  They could have hired additional consultation to help make this thing better, sourced better developers, gotten some nice bulk discounts to help justify improving some component choices, plastics quality, etc.  The app could use some actual testing. There are obvious little problems in addition to larger ones.  Until recently you had to re-accept the EULA upon each opening of the app. The auto-ranging of the radar can really go wild zooming in and out as the tags sometimes jump from thinking they are  3 "radio feet" from my phone to 150 "radio feet", whatever "radio feet" is supposed to mean. When a tag goes out of range it auto-activates deactivated tags if you pull up the tags list to toggle activate/inactive.  The list goes on...  For the budget these issues should not exist or release should have held.

Some additional things I've noted:
* The light feature is dim and only shines out of the location it is pointing through the feux light pipe.  Diffusion around the ring is poor so it doesn't show up well unfortunately.
* It feels cheap.
* Took mega tapping and thumping to get them to wake up from initial sleep mode -- it hurt my finger.
* Their communication is terrible.
* I did not get my shipping information until after it arrived.
* The giant speaker grille will let water in when my cat dips her head down to drink water.  I was aware of this before purchasing but I wish it was a little more water-friendly but I can't have everything. :)

I'd rather wait for a higher quality product than get rushed crap. A million bucks of backing should have been better utilized.
 

Offline cybergibbons

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2013, 09:45:29 am »
There are a lot of people with issues - I've not seen anyone actually review them positively. There are people saying "My stickers arrived and they are GREAT!" but don't really seem to say anything else.

What I've found incredible is the number of people who want to defend the way StickNFind are behaving. There is really no excuse for continuing to sell a product that does not work and that you do not have stock of without making buyers aware.

I thought the recent iOS app helped but still only 1 tag actually works and it sometimes takes upwards of 5 minutes to get a signal good enough for it to respond. Range (not the distance estimate) is so variable - sometimes it is literally 2 feet, sometimes 10, 20, even once or twice I managed to active it in the room above.

They can only cost a few dollars to make. They should have spent the time and money better, and they should have communicated the lack of Android app sooner.

With two other projects to deliver, I think there is a real need for concern and action here. Clowns like StickNFind run a real risk of ruining the concept of crowd funding.
 

Offline tinjaw

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2013, 01:08:25 am »
The first two posts sum things up quite well.

I purchased a six-pack. The reason I purchase them is that we have a cat that in mostly indoors, but goes out now and then. He sticks around small grove of trees out our back yard. He have trouble tracking him down in the tall grass or, as the underbrush in the trees is too dense to walk through, we have to walk the long perimeter to find him.

I went into this project knowing that with a single transmitter and a single receiver it would be a process of hot/cold to track him down. I thought they might be doing something with some high precision clock data and adding that to a measured battery level to adjust for transmitting power to correlate a better range. Blah, Blah, Blah.

Well, nope. It is a complete waste of money.

Here's what I put as a comment on the project page (limited to 500 characters).

Quote
I had high expectations but the product delivered is no way near what was expected. Difficult to pair. Software app has bugs. LED light is weak and useless unless in near total darkness. Audible beep is too weak to be heard if the tag in a bag or there is less than total silence in the room. The main feature I purchased it for, finding my cat amongst the bushes, was completely misrepresented. The ranges provided are absolutely worthless and wildly inaccurate. Unequivocally a failure.

I understand that not all projects work out, especially as a software developer and maker myself, but I feel I was lied to with this project. I am being vocal in the hopes that three things occur:

1) People don't waste money buying the, now available, "retail" version.
2) The standards are cranked up a bit on Indiegogo to be more inline with Kickstarter for physical products.
3) Either the pressure on them produces a much better BluTracker product or us backers of that project get our money back.

I took some photos, videos, and screenshots of tags showing over 200 feet away when they were 6 feet away. I had five of them sitting with six inches between each. They were all six feet from me and ranged from 20-100 feet on the "radar". All measurements were erratic and could easily be mistaken for random values.
 

Offline cybergibbons

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2013, 07:08:55 am »
Thanks for the post. Your motivations are similar to mine - I'm not bothered about the personal cost (small), but the fact they have almost $1m and are behaving like this is not acceptable to me.

There are a few signs to me that something is badly wrong with StickNFind:
1. Still selling the product retail despite it being "pre-release". Why not change it to "Pre-order"? It really suggests to me there are cashflow issues - this is something you'll see in normal businesses that are near to failing.
2. Suppressing (badly, but still trying to) bad reviews and ignoring annoyed customers. It just looks like they have accepted this is a dead product and want to try and grab as much as they can...

I really don't get why people think that crowd funding means non-functional products, non-delivery, and really poor service are acceptable.

It looks like the tipping point has been reached with complaints though - pretty much all of Facebook, IndieGoGo and twitter is now unhappy people.

I've now seen two reports of the tags splitting in half when on key rings, which means the battery falls out and you can't find the missing tag...

 

Offline Rocket

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2013, 02:01:22 pm »
I have posted several comments on the Indiegogo site.  I ordered six tags, received them yesterday, and tried to pair with an iPhone 5.  One of the tags does not work.  One doesn't light up and beeps every time I pick it up.  Four tags paired with my phone, but the tracker is not accurate.  The buttons on the app to turn the beep and light on and off seem to come and go randomly.  The instructions that came with the box aren't exactly the same as the icons in the app.  There are much bigger companies than this that have buggy apps initially, and I expect that and can live with it.  However, the communication  from this company has been horrible.  I've told them that in my communications with their "customer service".  They are completely tone deaf when it comes to communication and satisfied customers.  I haven't seen anything positive on the comments page.  How can they be shipping such a large percentage of dead tags, and not address the issue?  I've suggested to them that there have been many articles recently about successful crowd funding, so perhaps the press would be interested in an article about crowd funding when things go wrong.  In all of their recent updates, not once have they taken responsibility for the problems, or said they're sorry for all the confusion about Android, or that they need to do a better job of communicating so that they don't have so many unhappy customers.  That is really bothersome, and leads me to believe they don't care.  I've funded several other projects on Kickstarter, and have had a very positive experience, both with the company and with the products. I do not agree with some of the comments that say "Give them a break, they're a new company"  Lots of new start-ups have problems and glitches, but they address those problems, communicate with their customers, and replace defective products. I just had a problem with the speaker on my iPhone 5.  The local Apple store repaired it in less than 30 minutes.  These folks should take a lesson from Apple and other companies that treat their customers properly.
 

Offline Rasz

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2013, 02:22:43 pm »
It was misleading from the start, just looking at that Aliens Motion Tracker screen should be enough to understand they are lyin^^^using more marketing than technology.
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Offline cybergibbons

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2013, 07:14:22 pm »
I was dubious of the app, but I honestly expected some interesting DSP or other techniques to improve range estimates. As it is, they really don't work at all.

The Facebook page is all complaints now. Indiegogo has a few people saying the sticks aren't totally crap. Twitter is full of complaints. I realise unhappy people will be more vocal than happy, but this is really quite bad.

Is it just ineptitude or are they being actively dishonest? It absolutely intrigues me.
 

Offline bluskyline21

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2013, 07:43:39 pm »
Hello all,
I'm in the same boat as most of you and share the same concerns. I followed their campaign for awhile before I bit the bullet and ordered a set. I was excited because the idea sounded pretty cool! I actually received mine in early April, less than a week after the shipping confirmation email. I tried and tried to get it to work with my SG3 but to no avail. I didn't know that since I'm on AOSP, I couldn't use the technology built-into my phone. I then tried my iPod 4G because on their campaign site, it says "new iPod." I didn't know there was an iPod5G and the term "new" is subjective and very vague.

I was blocked from their FB page this a.m and I guess the icing was when I posted the name and email of the PayPal account associated with IGG contributions. This is public knowledge to everyone who ordered the stickers if they look at their PayPal transaction history. I keep asking for a refund, mostly out of principle because people (startup or not) should never NEVER treat their customers how they have. It's disgraceful and just plain rude. I feel we've been lied to and misled from the beginning. Part of me thinks I should've known better, but I expected SNF to at least work with their customers. I mean, we paid them almost $1M! Doesn't that deserve product support? I suggest taking action:


http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0341-file-complaint-ftc#How
http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2011/july/shopping/customer-service/how-to-rattle-a-companys-cage/index.htm
 

Offline cybergibbons

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2013, 07:12:37 am »
Thanks.

I see they have now blocked both of your accounts on Facebook. I really don't understand their strategy with communication - delete some of the vocal complainers, block them on twitter (which literally just stops them seeing what you are doing, you can still see all their tweets).

They hired a social media strategist (Michael Manna) a while back, but if anything, he has made the situation worse. The Android situation became less clear and then the "pre release" announcement was made whilst they were selling them.

The Android app reviews are terrible:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ssia.sticknfind&feature=nav_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwyLDNd

The iPhone app is also awful:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sticknfind/id606702432?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

They just don't work.

Unfortunately, a lot of us with totally broken tags seem to be in Europe (which is odd - possibly higher density of WiFi or an additional channel here?). So it's very hard for us to do anything legal. All I can really do is make sure that everyone is aware how bad the product and company is. With the amount of blogging and news about StickNFind though, it's incredibly hard to get anywhere near the top of the search results.

I suggested contacting them in every way possible:
http://cybergibbons.com/2013/04/30/sticknfind-update-3/

 

Offline Rasz

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2013, 10:06:51 am »
There is always a charge back.
Who logs in to gdm? Not I, said the duck.
My fireplace is on fire, but in all the wrong places.
 

Offline cybergibbons

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #11 on: May 09, 2013, 02:07:07 pm »
Yes, there is. But it normally causes Paypal to get the arse until they are happy you are in the right. It also doesn't fix the other $931455...
 

Offline andyturk

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2013, 02:23:23 pm »
Can one of you guys do a teardown on these? What Bluetooth chipset are they using?

I'm not surprised that this kind of product has issues. Above and beyond whatever problems they have with their own device, the app also relies on the Bluetooth stack of the phone/tablet, and those aren't the most reliable either.
 

Offline cybergibbons

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2013, 02:30:26 pm »
There isn't much to them.

NRF 51822 chip, passives, two crystals, uses piezo as the antenna. Battery clip is dodgy as it uses a small solder bump.

Link to image

Current draw is massively variable on the three partially functional samples I have.

Lettering on the PCB is very fuzzy, obvious remnants of flux, some very near to solder bridges on the IC.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2013, 02:31:59 pm by cybergibbons »
 

Offline cybergibbons

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2013, 03:16:12 pm »
Compare to a competing tag that works (much better)
 

Offline alexjamesbrown

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #15 on: May 09, 2013, 03:39:28 pm »
Asked for a refund for their shoddy product, got this reply:

pic.twitter.com/nZrkkg0Emw

 

Offline cybergibbons

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #16 on: May 09, 2013, 05:16:01 pm »
I've asked for replacement tags, but had no response at all. But 20/38 is a massive failure rate over quite a large sample, so I doubt it would do much.

One other person was asked to send them back, but not told where, and how to do it.

I notice their communication is slowing down even further now...
 

Offline neil Johnstone

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #17 on: May 10, 2013, 05:02:40 am »
This mob are a pack of crooks.

Service is non-existant, they dont respond to emails and you cant even cancel an order.

Disappointed given the potential of their products.
 

Offline andyturk

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #18 on: May 10, 2013, 07:16:54 pm »
This mob are a pack of crooks.
I doubt they intended to rip you off. The design looks viable, but it seems like they chose a manufacturing house that was incapable of building the devices with a reasonable yield. Bluetooth requires a fairly high degree of precision (e.g., a 20 ppm oscillator) and shoddy manufacturing throws that out the window. They probably didn't use any assembly line tests to see what was being built and just hoped that what they got back from the factory was ready to sell.

They probably didn't have enough cash to fix the manufacturing problems and do another run.

 :-//
 

Offline cybergibbons

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #19 on: May 10, 2013, 07:28:53 pm »
I don't think they initially intended to rip anyone off, but it really does look like they are now trying to continue to sell them without making the buyers aware of the sheer number of issues. It's very dishonest to do this and they are fully aware that people aren't happy about it.
 

Offline NeverGiveUp

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #20 on: May 13, 2013, 04:05:57 pm »
I ordered 6 StickNFind stickers.  I sent an email to the email address provided for support asking about the shipment to the US for distribution and if that had occurred, yet.  I received a reply within a couple of hours, along with my tracking number the person had researched for me.

Within a couple of days, my shipment arrived with all 6 of my StickNFinds in the box.  All 6 stickers woke up easily and were easily paired with my iPhone 5.  The range is not accurate for any of them and no one sticker performs better than another.

They are all sitting fairly close to each other, which is how I have them set up, and are all about the same exaggerated distance from my phone, but they are all clumped together, which is how I am testing them.  While they are not as accurate as claimed in their distance from my phone, I can learn to adjust my "internal distance" to the "new distance" readings.  I have tested the stickers for the last 5 days moving them around the house, as a group, and they have shown up on radar reliably and successfully, with one floating away from the location of the rest of the stickers, but finally settling in near the others, with the new "distance" readings adjusted for the new distance.

Not perfect, but an improvement on DOA or "bash to awaken" problems others have had.  Lack of accuracy is the only thing that affects my opinion of them.  Maybe not being among the first to receive the stickers was a good thing as they worked out some of the problems before the ones I received were manufactured?
 

Offline cybergibbons

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #21 on: May 13, 2013, 04:10:29 pm »
It does sound like there are some real QC issues. I wonder if they are using two different manufacturers?
 

Offline NeverGiveUp

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #22 on: May 13, 2013, 08:14:15 pm »
It does sound like there are some real QC issues. I wonder if they are using two different manufacturers?

It makes me wonder the same thing.  Also, the temperatures are relatively accurate, within +/- 5 degrees of each other and also with the temperature in the house.
 

Offline cybergibbons

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #23 on: May 16, 2013, 08:31:55 am »
Google I/O has gone, and there is still nothing concrete on BLE support in stock Android.

I don't think those of you using non-Samsung phones are going to have any luck at all.
 

Offline red

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Re: StickNFind Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tracking tags
« Reply #24 on: May 17, 2013, 05:16:15 pm »
I also order 6 stickers, and received them about a week or so ago.  I had downloaded the beta App on my Motorola HD Razr MAXX, though it never worked.  I tried to find the updated app in Google Play, but I couldn't find it there. I had ordered the stickers because it said it would work on Android with Version 4.0.  I have Version 4.1.  I also emailed their Support but never received a reply.  I did get a reply on their Facebook page saying they were working on a version which would support my phone. Yea, so when??  It seems that they really hyped their product, but cannot deliver at all.  I will wait to see if they actually will support Android.  They should have said that it doesn't yet support it and it was for Apple only.  What a waste of money.
 


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