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Technology is changing the way people find lost items. Tile offers insights into how people can use technology to keep track of valuable possessions.

According to the Unclaimed Baggage Found Report, people left 2 million items behind at airports in 2023. Only 10% of lost item requests are found.

Whether it’s a beloved piece of jewelry or car keys, misplacing items is a stressful and time-consuming part of life. A 2023 Lostings survey found that on average, a person spends 2.5 days a year searching for lost items. But new technological innovations could drastically reduce that number.

Tile, a Bluetooth tracking company, has compiled travel industry data, news reports and product information to illustrate how technology is changing the problem of lost items.

When Andrew Jensen and Meredith VanAcker’s car was towed to an unknown location without warning, the couple spent a week cycling the streets of their Brooklyn neighborhood, keychain in hand, trying to find the car. The couple joined the ranks of tech-savvy people who wanted to put an end to lost items: They equipped their car with an e-tag to track its location in real time.

But it’s not just private individuals: Hotels are also relying on digital lost and found technologies. New apps can simplify the otherwise laborious process of inventorying items left behind in rooms. Employees can use the app to photograph lost items. The image is then tagged with auto-tags that can even recognize brand logos. The item is also linked to a GPS location that is stored in the app’s database and can be quickly accessed by other employees.

Next time you’re out and about, think about the following hacks that will help you use technology to keep track of your most valuable possessions.

Use Bluetooth trackers for protection, but be aware of the limitations of their range and battery life. Valerie Szybala’s lost luggage fiasco went viral in late 2022 when the tracking device she had attached to her suitcase showed her lost luggage taking a detour to get back to her – including stops at a McDonald’s and an apartment complex that did not belong to Szybala. An airline spokesperson claimed at the time that the luggage was in a safe location.

Tracking devices can locate objects using Bluetooth technology. This technology sends an encrypted, anonymized SOS-like signal between nearby mobile devices to determine the location of the tagged object.

Different products are compatible with different smartphones, computers and apps. No matter which product you use, check the battery life of the e-tag. Some products have a battery that lasts a year; others promise three years of use. Likewise, each product has a different range, with GPS trackers offering the greatest detection range without relying on a phone, which must be relatively close to maintain a Bluetooth connection.

Using Bluetooth technology, users can know the location of their product-tagged items when they are within range. It works with Amazon’s Alexa system, so you don’t have to look into an app. Instead, you can just say, “Alexa, find my…”

If e-tags don’t make sense, stick a Bluetooth or QR code label on it. You can add QR code stickers to bike helmets, reusable water bottles, hard-shell luggage, and other small items that, when scanned, display a custom message and contact information to make it easier to return the item. The stickers are less bulky and less expensive than e-tags.

According to the Uber Lost and Found Index 2024, luggage, headphones, wallets, laptops and tablets are among the 10 most commonly forgotten items. All of these can easily be tagged with a QR sticker for easy return.

Travel with an airline that uses RFID tag tracking. In 2016, Delta became the first major airline to deploy RFID tags. RFID tags are more efficient than barcode trackers, but are only used at 27% of airports, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Aviation technology provider SITA reported that the number of mishandled bags that were delayed, lost, stolen, damaged or misappropriated doubled across all airlines and airports from 2021 to 2022. The majority of mishandled bags were due to post-COVID staff shortages.

Globally, 44% of airlines have adopted an international resolution to provide baggage tracking systems to track luggage from check-in to arrival. According to SITA, 67% of airlines plan to offer real-time information on travelers’ luggage by 2025 – up from 25% in 2023.

Make it easy by using your phone’s settings. Instead of simply retracing your steps, many mobile phones offer easy ways to remember where an item was left behind. If you leave a certain location, you can use the reminder app to be reminded of items you must remember.

Google Maps and Apple Maps allow users to save their parking location in the app, but sometimes just taking a photo of the street signs where you parked your car is enough to jog your memory—and save you a run around the neighborhood—to remember where it was.

Story editing by Nicole Caldwell. Editing by Kristen Wegrzyn.

This story originally appeared on Tile and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.