Telstra’s new network helps you locate lost things

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Telstra wants to help you locate the things that matter most. Is it your keys? A cherished pet? Your photography gear? Missing Tools, a lost bicycle or something else?

Later this year, Telstra will launch its consumer focused ‘Locator’ service. Locator is an Internet of Things (IoT) initiative that will leverage Telstra’s latest network technology. There will also be a ‘Track and Monitor’ offering for enterprise customers, which will help track the location of items, as well as their temperature and humidity.

Telstra’s Locator service consists of a few different types of trackable ‘tags’. At launch, there will be a few different types, which vary in size, battery life and utility. You simply place or attach the tags to your possessions (or pets), and, using the Telstra 24/7 app, you can find their location.

What makes Locator different?

While you might be thinking that this sort of thing has already been done, you’re right. There are plenty of Bluetooth-enabled tracking tags on the market.  Telstra’s Locator is very different in one key way, however, and this is connectivity.

Currently, a tracking tag is only as good as its network. So, a common Bluetooth enabled tag can only report its location when in range of your phone. Telstra, on the other hand, is leveraging three different networks so that its tags can report their location, wherever they are in Australia.

The Bluetooth Locator community

The first is a Bluetooth locator community. This leverages anyone who has a Bluetooth enabled phone with the Telstra 24/7 app installed. This, combined with Telstra BT-equipped pay phones, 6000 taxis and some Telstra service vehicles are combined to create a massive network.

The idea is that if your tag is in range of any of this network, it can ‘report in’ and share its location. If you have the Telstra 24/7 app installed, you’ll need to give it permission to participate in the Bluetooth Locator community, and, thankfully, it won’t drain participant’s phone battery any more than usual.

Wi-Fi and Cat 1M

The next level of connectivity is through Telstra’s Air Wi-Fi network. Already spread across the country, this uses participating Telstra Wi-Fi routers in homes and businesses, Telstra’s public payphones and internet cafes. Again, if a tagged device is on the move, it can report its location via Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth depending on what’s available.

The last layer is Telstra’s new IoT network, or ‘Category 1M. LTE equipped tags will be able to report their location thanks to over 3 million square kilometres of coverage, which is Australia’s largest network of this type.

What about the Locator tags?

There will be 2 different consumer tags available initially. The first is a lightweight Bluetooth-only tag which is great for keys, pets, wallets and handbags. This has a battery life of up to 12 months and takes a standard  store bought battery – a CR-2032 to be exact. You can also ping it to make a sound when in the vicinity of the tag.

The second is a Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth tag. It’s a bit larger and bulker and is rechargeable. Telstra expects about 3 months of battery life. It is for more expensive items where real-time location tracking is needed, rather than just the ‘last known location’ of the Bluetooth-only tag. The Wi-Fi tag features an accelerometer to save battery life. If movement is detected, the Wi-Fi modem is enabled to search for networks, but otherwise, it’s powered off.

Coming in 2019 is the Wi-Fi + LTE version. This will have the widest coverage and likely used to track expensive items like photography gear, tradies’ toolboxes, golf clubs, boats, tractors and other valuables.

The Telstra tags can be managed from the new Device Locator feature, which is due to appear in the Telstra 24/7 app in September. In addition to the tags, it can track Telstra Wi-Fi and SIM-enabled devices, such as tablets and phones.

A note about tracking

It’s important to note that the tag location tracking is only accurate up to about 30 meters, so you won’t necessarily be able to pinpoint the tag’s exact location. A Telstra spokespersons said that the tags give you “…a great starting point on where to look if you’ve lost something”.

Telstra Locator will launch later this year as a subscription-based service available to Telstra consumer and small business post-paid mobile customers.