Tracking devices

I Have been looking around at the options for locating misplaced keys such as the Tile. There are competitors and the choices leave me to hesitate to purchase such devices upon reading reviews that yet another app installation might be required. And I’m over buying things designed to be incompatible. Before making these purchases I am now starting to evaluate integrations, rather than just reliability. Also other family members have be able to comfortably use these automations which is always a reality check.

With these considerations I seek any recommendations on what to get, what can be done from say home assistant to directly work with such a device via a bridge. Unique or compatible frequencies?

Hi @Brikpilot, welcome!

Systems such as Tile are based on BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) and use signal-strength measurements to determine proximity. Many people use this same method for presence detection in home automation, using either a BLE tag or a mobile phone as the target and tracking the signal strength from fixed position receivers.

This can be done using a Raspberry Pi, for example.

There used to be a system called Happy Bubbles that was an Open Source system to do exactly that. I have it set up in my house, but I haven’t used it much. Unfortunately the company behind that system is based in the US, and they had to close up because Trump’s import tariffs killed their business. All their designs and code are still online though if you want to dig into it:

Home Assistant has support for a BLE-based location tracking system, but I’m not a Home Assistant user so I don’t really know anything about it.

What I’ve written above might sound like it’s off-topic if you just wanted something simple to attach to your keys, and then find them using an app. However, the critical point is integration. The important thing to understand is that the magic little tags you attach to things aren’t magic, and they’re not unique to a specific supplier. They’re just a simple Bluetooth beacon.

My advice is to start by looking at the integration side, and work towards the tags, not the other way around. Look at what home automation system you’re running and what BLE support it has, then what you need as receivers to provide it the data, then what tags you should get to work with your receivers.

This is a really interesting topic that I’m planning to do a video about, but it’s some time down the track. Too many other topics to cover first :slight_smile:

Thanks Jon
Some very interesting comment just as I hoped for.
I am a little lost as to what I could “make” that would be durable enough to survive what the typical key ring experiences. I will remain grudging to thought of installing yet another phone app. Maybe a personality disorder appearing there :blush:

Asides the personal satisfaction of DIY, there is then the reality of the whether the home made is really a cheaper solution. Time is always an issue, as it is not just the making time, it is the keeping time. Sometimes it is just worth spending more on someone else’s solution.

My perspective here is that once you build an automation it becomes just one more thing to break. Obviously not immediately, but my rule is all things break, the variable is when. For example after a home/office break in I set up what should be simple Sonoff sensors covering different approaches via a bridge to a a four way wireless 12v switch with four old doorbells. Their different sounds tell office staff where a customer is approaching from (4 sensors to four doorbells). Does it work…yes…does it work every single time…no. Further sensors return to an alarm as these cover customer no go areas.

Despite my beliefs in wired links over wireless I’m using this. Sensors find plants, birds, insects, reflected light, or other. Occasionally wireless links go for a lunch break when I’m not there. Automation is not about getting phone calls “please come back to the office and fix this” from the staff.
So arises the real costs in time.


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What is your use case? Do you want HA to be able to tell you what room your keys are in? Or turn on and off lights based on when you walk through rooms?

I have been using OwnTracks to do geolocation on a broader scale to turn on and off my home security system automatically and that sort of thing, but it doesn’t work on a per-room level or resolution.