Keep track of your most important possessions with Telstra's Internet-powered wireless tags.
Telstra is continuing to expand beyond its traditional role as a telecommunications provider, having already established a foothold in the smart-home market with its Telstra-branded energy, lighting and security solutions. In late 2018, it added another feather to its cap with Telstra Locator, a location-based tracking service powered by the Internet of Things.
Telstra Locator is a two-pronged service designed to keep tabs on valued possessions like your phone, your keys and your laptop.
The first prong is the Telstra Device Locator feature in the Telstra 24x7 mobile app. This feature lets you track down compatible Telstra smartphones and SIM-enabled tablets associated with your Telstra account by leveraging both GPS and Telstra's own mobile network. In addition to reporting the location of compatible devices, the service can trigger sounds to play from your misplaced smartphone to assist you in finding it as well as let you send a message to a lost phone informing whoever has found it how to get in touch with you.
The second prong of Telstra Locator involves the use of wireless tags for tracking other objects you want to keep tabs on. After attaching a tag to the desired object, you can view its location at any time through the Telstra Locator mobile app. Three types of tags are available: a Bluetooth tag for smaller objects like keys and wallets; a Wi-Fi tag better suited for pets, laptops and bags; and a top-of-the-line LTE tag intended for possessions like cars and specialised equipment that you can't afford to lose.
Telstra's not planning on stopping there, either, with Michele Garra, Telstra's head of innovation telling finder that it intends to offer Telstra Locator products on its "networks of the future", which will presumably mean we'll see a 5G-enabled Telstra Locator tag sometime in the next few years.
The simplest of Telstra's new Locator products is the Bluetooth tag, designed to be clipped onto a bag or any other valuable. It works via an update to the Telstra 24x7 app, which offers eligible Telstra customers the option to opt in to what Telstra's calling its "Bluetooth Locator Community" in order to find and track valuables, as well as any phone on the Telstra network on their account.
With Bluetooth enabled, any Telstra Locator tags in your vicinity will be identified with a location and shared to the Bluetooth Locator Community. This includes tags belonging to other people as well as your own. It's this automatic scanning that allows you to track down your possessions even when they're out of immediate Bluetooth range.
The tag can also emit a high-pitched beeping sound that can only be disabled from the app itself, making it easier to find whether you've lost your bag in the street or if it's merely slipped behind a sofa cushion at home.
You don't have to worry about pets or kids eating the tag, either, with Telstra stating that it's coated in a bitter substance to dissuade hungry hounds or curious toddlers.
The Telstra Locator Bluetooth tag works off a standard replaceable cell battery and Telstra's estimates are that it should last for up to 12 months before needing replacing.
As the name suggests, the somewhat larger Telstra Locator Wi-Fi tag uses Wi-Fi for location tracking alongside Bluetooth, giving it far wider range thanks to the existing Telstra Air network as well as a variety of other location-aware devices. According to Garra, Telstra will have "around 6,000 location-aware taxis, travelling about 1,000,000km a day" as well as "more than 5,000 Telstra Air payphones, plus 6,000 Telstra vehicles". In other words, Telstra promises plenty of coverage for the Wi-Fi locator tags.
The Wi-Fi locator also lets you define zones your device will typically be located within. If the tag leaves these zones, you'll get an alert informing you as soon as it happens. For example, you could create a zone around your house for your dog's Wi-Fi locator and if it trotted off into the neighbour's yard, you'd get a notification via the Telstra Locator app.
The Telstra Locator Wi-Fi tag features a rechargeable battery and Telstra's estimates are that it should last between 4 and 6 weeks before needing recharging.
The LTE-enabled version of Telstra's Locator tag isn't due to arrive until 2019, but as the name suggests, it adds 4G mobile connectivity into the mix. This allows for an even wider scope of connectivity and location-tracking than the Wi-Fi Locator. Telstra plans on making enterprise-specific variants (including an interesting solar-powered tracker) for business customers, too, though these will not be available to regular consumers.
Accuracy in tracking is always a key concern for any location service and here Telstra acknowledges its limitations. "They're not perfect," said Garra, "but we expect that in most cases it'll be accurate to around 30 metres."
In practice, tracking accuracy depends on both the level of coverage in your area and the type of tag you're using. A Wi-Fi tag isn't going to tell you that you left your keys precisely on the kitchen bench, but it can still give you peace of mind that they're at home and not lost out at the shops.
How much data does Telstra Locator use?
According to Telstra, data sent by opting in to the Bluetooth Locator Community won't count against your monthly quota.
Who can get the Telstra Locator service?
Telstra is currently only offering Telstra Locator to "eligible mobile customers" and in this case, that means postpaid mobile customers only. If you're a prepaid Telstra mobile or Telstra broadband customer, there are no plans as yet for providing you with Telstra Locator services.
Will I be able to get an insurance discount for having Telstra Locator?
Not yet, but stay tuned. Speaking to finder, Telstra's Michele Garra stated that the focus at launch was on "getting the product right" but there were "lots of applications like that we'd love to explore in the future" such as partnering with home insurance companies around Telstra Locator.
Cost is the one area that Telstra is keeping private, at least for now, stating that it intends to announce pricing closer to launch.
Telstra representatives said they were looking at multiple subscription models, with the possibility of either selling devices outright or absorbing them entirely into the subscription cost. Either way, you would need to pay an additional subscription charge for usage of the Telstra Locator service.