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What is "Crowd GPS" that other companies advertise?

Joshua Lippiner @ 2019-01-07 21:36:58 -0500

CrowdGPS is the notion that a random stranger will walk by a lost device, connect to it, and report in its location. Given there are 7.5B people in this world and less than 10M devices out there, statistically, the odds of this working are pretty low.

I'll be honest - this is one of those marketing "phrases" that really drives me a little crazy due to the amount of confusion and frustration if causes people.  We actually sell a good number of Ping GPS devices to people who fall for the idea of "Crowd GPS" and lose a ton of stop with cheap devices that were sold under false pretense.

So what is Crowd GPS?  The idea is simple - you buy a low cost Bluetooth device, like a Tile or TrackR, and pair it with your phone.  When you do so, you agree to let your phone pair with any other Tile device it comes in contact with.  Now remember, this is Bluetooth, so the range is effectively between 30 - 100 feet.  Let's also not forget about the drain on your phone's battery by allowing this, but anyway...

So you're in a restaurant and you have a Tile on your keys.  You leave the keys behind walk out the restaurant.  A few hours later, you realize your left your keys somewhere but don't remember where.  Luckily, a stranger who also uses Tile happens to walk by your keys in that restaurant and in that brief instance their phone happens to pair with the Tile on your keys and reports in the location so you can get notified.  

That's the idea of Crowd GPS - strangers helping strangers by stumbling upon their lost devices.

But does this work?  We'll let's do the math.  Tile, the largest Bluetooth device company around, has sold 10 million devices.  That's great!  Except there are 7.5 billion people on this planet.  Statistically, this means that .0013% of all people have a Tile, and thus the Tile app that is needed to find your "lost" item.  

Obviously in cities like New York or San Francisco, where a higher concentration of people may have the app, your odds are better, but still, the entire promise of Crowd GPS is based on having enough people in a given area who can connect to a device at any given time.  With 7.5 billion people out there, your odds aren't great!

Does this mean that Bluetooth devices, like Ping Home, which we sell, are worthless?  Heck no.  They are great for things you misplace in your home or office - things near your phone.  But if you want to be able to find things regardless of where they might be, without relying on other people hopefully strolling by your lost object, you will need a cellular-based personal locating device, such as Ping GPS.