back to article iFind: Critics slam Kickstarter campaign for miraculous battery-free phone finder

As the old saying goes: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It remains to be seen if that adage applies to iFind - hailed as "The World's First Battery Free Item Locating Tag". As of Monday morning, iFind - the brainchild of "WeTag" - had attracted over $500,000 of funding on Kickstarter, thanks to the support …

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  1. PCS

    I'm sure Stephen Fry will be able to explain to us all how it works

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No

      The London Plod have got it all figured out already.

      They expect it to be 90% powered by illegal downloads from the Tor network.

  2. Neil B

    If we could please not turn this thread into an anti-Kickstarter, anti-crowd funding tract, that'd be great. TIA.

    1. Lester Haines (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Agreed. This is a specific case, so let's stick to that.

    2. DaLo

      The article is already slightly Anti-kickstarter and rightly so. The way they can absolve all responsibility from this obvious fraud that they are helping to generate half a million dollars (minus the healthy Kickstarter commission of course) is just plain wrong.

      They still have time to pull the plug but leaving scams like this going just damages the long term viability of both Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites.

      I reported this project about two weeks ago https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1690998653/magnetic-hoverboard-i-think-yes as it clearly breaches their terms (they have no plans for a finished product, it's just a scam to use as a marketing opportunity for their other products)

      If Kickstarter just becomes known as being a fraud site for criminals then it doesn't help anyone, especially Kickstarter themselves so they should get off their ass and create some proper safeguards and policies that provide at least some basic protection from obvious scams.

      1. DropBear
        Unhappy

        The way they can absolve all responsibility from this obvious fraud that they are helping to generate half a million dollars (minus the healthy Kickstarter commission of course) is just plain wrong.

        Well, um, yes. Written policies aside, Kickstarter's actual stance in the real world seems to be "we're quite happy to cash in commissions from any scam no matter how obvious (even to the village idiot) it might be, unless someone notices and raises a serious amount of stink so excrement starts hitting the fan, in which case we'll eventually pull the project while trying to look as righteously concerned as we can".

        I'm not sure they could do much more than they offer (nobody could arbitrate without error every single project), but their reluctance to act even in the most suspicious cases is certainly not... enhancing their public image.

        1. BillG
          Megaphone

          Kickstarter's actual stance in the real world seems to be "we're quite happy to cash in commissions from any scam no matter how obvious (even to the village idiot) it might be..."

          That was pretty much eBay's operational policy early in their history. I recall being ripped off by a seller in Florida, I bought a "new" pasta pot that ended up being rusted and encrusted with old food. She responded to complaints with horrible, bigoted insults. This was back when you could message other buyers, and after a few weeks I had about 15 buyers that had been ripped off furiously messaging eBay and logging complaints. She had about 100 items for sale and over 5,000 feedbacks about half of which were negative. eBay did absolutely nothing. 60 Minutes ended up doing a feature on eBay profiting from dishonest sellers.

    3. Captain Scarlet

      Kickstarter for me has been great, I have only ever put towards projects I actually cared about rather than simply trying to buy stuff early (Although unfortunatly I think the majority of been computer games such as Carmageddon).

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Although... how did Kickstarter raise enough funds to get going in the first place?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Next project

    An even more ambitious project has just been launched. It's called "ClueFind" for iPhone Users.

    1. Chad H.

      Re: Next project

      I'd be skeptical about that. The Android and WinMob versions failed to locate any clues at all. Just cluelessness.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Next project

        failed to locate any clues at all

        This calls for ClueDeliver: for a modest fee* I will deliver Clue to backers** of ClueDeliver.

        * Does not include travel expenses, accomodation and hospitalisation.

        ** A Pre-Delivery ClueResistance check must be completed on enrollment, to determine the optimal forcemethod with which the Clue will be delivered.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Next project

      Would it feature Anneka Rice in a helicopter?

  4. TRT Silver badge

    iFind; your lack of faith's disturbing.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dr Paul McArthur

    Notice in his "bio" blurb, he claims degrees but does not say what Universities, so someone trying to do some due diligence can't verify those degrees. A "Paul McArthur of Chandler Arizona" is listed on US patents 6788199 & 7148801 (both titled "Article locator system") as well as patent applications with the same title. These patents pretty much describe what this Kickstarter project wants to do.

    1. Peter Simpson 1
      Holmes

      Re: Dr Paul McArthur

      He does seem to be a bit of a non-person. Claims to have taught at Univ of Utah, worked in management at Freescale and Philips, but of him there seem to be few traces on the net. Claims to have had his identity stolen and that's why he doesn't have a Linkedin page. One would expect such a high flier to have left more of a footprint.

      Perhaps he is not all that he claims to be?

    2. Ken Y-N
      Stop

      Re: Dr Paul McArthur

      Just checked the US6788199; in the introductory summary blurb it says:

      > The transceiver, also referred to as a tag, is battery powered

      Oops. US7148801 also mentions that there is "usually a battery" with active RFID tags. Therefore neither patent involves the battery-free concept. There could, of course, be a pending application, but...

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Dr Paul McArthur

        Supercapacitor?

  6. stu 4

    depressing lack of common sense/base scientific knowledge

    fuckwittery of the unwashed public depressingly confirmed again.

    The time is right for my kickstarter I think:

    Beanstalk Inter-dimensional universe transportation device

    - For your investment of $100 (or one fresian cow in good working order), I will provide:

    - 5 magic beans!

    - a 'tee' thanking you for being a backer!

    If we reach our stretch goal of 5,000,000 we will also provide each backer with their own golden egg.

    1. Egons Proton Pack

      Re: depressing lack of common sense/base scientific knowledge @stu 4

      Shut up and take my money!

    2. Rob

      Re: depressing lack of common sense/base scientific knowledge

      Just a couple of critical questions... what colour are the beans and what magic do they posses?

      1. ItsNotMe
        Happy

        Re: Re: depressing lack of common sense/base scientific knowledge

        "Just a couple of critical questions... what colour are the beans and what magic do they posses?"

        Well @Rob...depends on what type of magic you need.

        Red beans do one thing. Blue ones do something different. The white ones are "magic specific", meaning that each bean will only respond to one wish. Have two white beans? You get two different wishes.

        Now the Pinto Beans are really special. Being that they are multi-coloured, each bean can grant more than one wish at a time...but the wishes must be similar.

        As for the green beans? Ask Jack what they do. He's in control of those.

        Hope this helps.

    3. DropBear
      Devil

      Re: depressing lack of common sense/base scientific knowledge

      You are demonstrating a disappointing lack of ambition - do consider that at some point both the Death Star itself (open sourced, no less!) and the X-wing fighters to match were being pitched for funding (what's a measly 20 meeeeeelion pounds between loyal imperialist...?). Seriously - look it up. It's still there.

      Come on, you can do better than some magic beans, shirley?

  7. Steve Evans

    A fool and their money are easily parted...

    And thanks to the intarweb, it's now possible to separate them, en-masse, like never before!

  8. James Boag

    re Just a couple of critical questions...

    There's always bloody one ! lol

  9. Kanhef

    Very, very fishy

    Claiming that there's no battery, but it "stores the energy in a uniquely designed power bank." Sounds a lot like a battery to me. Somehow it's able to contain all the circuitry, the power-harvesting antennas, the Bluetooth antenna, the not-a-battery™, the accelerometer, and possibly other components. It can somehow tell the difference between being shaken intentionally by a person and being shaken incidentally when attached to a dog's collar. They're able to connect a wired diagnostic interface to it, but it's sealed and waterproof.

    Supposedly they have working prototypes, but there's no clear demonstration or explanation of how they are used. My guess is that it would use some sort of roundtrip timing signal, which would only give a distance to the tag, and no information on direction. If the phone can track its own location accurately enough, I suppose it could do some sort of automatic triangulation. However, AFAIK, GPS isn't accurate to less than about ten feet at best, which is too fuzzy to use for finding something within a house only a few tens of feet wide.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Very, very fishy

      Hmmm. Strange. Some of this is possible, just you'd need the kind of NFC tech used in NFC devices, which not many phone support... do they?

      I saw a RFID tag the other day smaller than a postage stamp, but they don't do half the things this kickstarter is claiming. Though, can the current NFC phones support the kind of range finding needed for this device using a RFID tag alone?

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Very, very fishy

        "I saw a RFID tag the other day smaller than a postage stamp, but..."

        That's what I thought *this* idea might actually be. Just stick an unpowered RFID tag on the phone and put the power on the unit that looks for it. It would work with TV remotes, key-rings, all sorts. All for the price of one "finder tool" and a batch of self-adhesive RFID tags.

        But of course, since that's the point of RFID tags, you'll hopefully struggle to get a patent on the idea.

        1. DropBear
          Boffin

          Re: Very, very fishy

          That's a no go, I'm afraid. The thing many people fail to realize that battery-less field-powered NFC tags need to be either stupidly close to the source of the field (which is why cards generally need to be swiped within 4-5 cm of a reader) or a stupidly large antenna (we're talking square feet of antenna just to read the tag in your shirt-pocket from straight over-head). That makes any sort of locating unfeasible, full stop. Now, obviously, once you power your tag so it doesn't have to rely on the incoming field, it's all fair game - but then you can kiss goodbye to your 'battery-less' status.

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Very, very fishy @Kanhef

      Sounds like a super-capacitor to me.

    3. Peter Simpson 1
      FAIL

      Re: Very, very fishy

      Strike 1 - No demonstrable prototype

      Strike 2 - Back of envelope calculations conflict with claims

      Strike 3 - Principles are reluctant to disclose qualifications and verifiable backgrounds

      Also: size of device is unreasonable, given that they claim RF energy harvesting on multiple bands. It can be done, but antenna size is key. I'll give them the storage medium but the device shown would need to be all antenna and energy storage to work.

  10. Stevie

    Bah!

    Perhaps it works by dowsing like those bomb-sniffers don't.

    1. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      They worked fine - if you remember their purpose was to part idiots from (other people's) money.

  11. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Holmes

    Error in project title

    Tech-free money finder would be more like it

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    battery free phone finder

    -Piece of paper or plastic tag with phone number

    -pick up landline phone

    -dial lost phone

    -listen really hard

    It works for my wife's phone most of the time (except when she didn't charge it)

  13. Arachnoid

    Looks like Near Fiield ID chip

    With much the same range as a wireless swipe card so two to three meters possibly

  14. RISC OS

    What happens if you lose your phone?

    Can ifind help you then? I do I need another ifind app to find my 1st ifind?

    I'm pretty sure people don't spend 3 years of teh whole life time looking for things they have misplaced - where is the evidence for this? Also the woman appears to be blind. The keys were on her table in plain site.

  15. VeganVegan
    Joke

    It's perfectly plausible

    Attach one end of a very long spring to your phone.

    Attach the other end to your belt.

    (The spring stores the energy, no batteries needed).

    Can't find your phone? Just tug on the spring. Voila!

  16. Winkypop Silver badge
    Pint

    Avoid disappointment

    Just send your money to me.

    I'll just spend it on beer, but at least I'm upfront about it.

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