V-Bag by Vodafone: Electronically tag your bag – or your child

This device is keep tabs on your belongings. I tested it on a flight-risk four-year-old

V-Bag by Vodafone

Product name: V-bag by Vodafone

Price: €4.0

Where to buy: https://shop.v.vodafone.com/IE/

Website: shop.v.vodafone.com/IE/

Thu, Aug 23, 2018, 05:00


V-Bag by Vodafone

I’m a fan of Bluetooth trackers. I own several Chipolos because finding my car keys and wallet (and various other items) is one of the biggest time hogs every time I try to leave the house. But they have their limitations. Go outside Bluetooth range – 30ft or so – and you are depending on a network of other Chipolo users to find your item for you. So good for short-range stuff, not so good for longer range.

But confession time: I lose stuff. Not permanently, unless you count the time I lost my passport on a plane while en route to Portugal (10 years on and the trauma of that episode still runs deep), and usually it’s less a case of me losing things and more of me deciding to put them in a really safe place for a while and forgetting. But that lurching feeling of dread is one that I could do without, quite frankly.

A solution may have presented itself. V-bag by Vodafone is intended to keep track of your bags – laptop bag, handbag, luggage, whatever – using a combination of a small Alcatel Move Tracker, a holder that attaches to your bag and a Vodafone V Sim, which is intended for use in IoT devices. It costs €2.99 per month to get the data plan activated, which means for about the price of one coffee (in a Dublin-based chain, let’s not get too carried away here) you can track your bag across the world. Or at least in areas where Vodafone’s V-sim plans work.

The Alcatel tracker device itself is easy to set up. You need to activate the V-sim inside it first, currently something that needs a Vodafone sim right now because it charges the monthly fee to the number. But you can use a prepay sim for that, topping it up occasionally. Once that is active you can set up the tracker through the MoveTrack app. The whole process should take less than 10 minutes, provided you have decent data coverage.

The MoveTrack app is very simple. You can geofence areas, so if the tracker moves outside a certain area marked on the map, you get an alert (and when it returns). It displays the location of the tracker on a map, and it is integrated with Apple Maps on iOS to get directions back to your bag. There’s a location history function, so you can track where your bag has been over a certain time period.

Family fun

You can also add users to your family group, so you can all watch the location of your tracker – a worse night’s entertainment than someone else’s holiday photo slideshow – and change both the accuracy of the GPS and the frequency of the updates between three minutes and 60 minutes. If you really want to save on battery life, you can change the location mode to manual so it only sends the tracker’s location when you click the icon in the app.

The battery life doesn’t seem to be an issue though. On normal mode with fairly frequent updates, it barely made a dent in the battery over a few hours.

But bags are a bit boring and usually stay reasonably static. There isn’t much work for the tracker to do; most of the time it was rebroadcasting the same location as 10 minutes or an hour before. So I decided to give it a bit more of a challenge: one flight-risk four-year-old, on her first trip to Disney. The combination of an excitable small child, the first trip to Disney and a frankly huge area to cover should push the tracker a bit, especially when all the settings are changed to the most accurate possible.

The holder is intended for bags, and the glittery fire hazard of a princess costume she insisted on wearing was a little short on pockets – clearly Rapunzel ended up with enough minions to carry her things for her – so we drafted in the accidentally-Disney-themed backpack into service. It’s the type with a tether on it, that you hear some people sniffing they’d never put on their imaginary child because it reminds them of a dog leash. Well, yes it’s exactly like one, and it’s amazing how your views change when you have to try to keep tabs on a toddler who moves with the speed and silence of a ninja when she’s determined enough. In this case, it was a handy place to stash the tracker, and it served as a fail-safe in a very crowded space. Thankfully, it wasn’t needed for emergency locations, though it did help me find my way back to the group after taking a wrong turn on a food run.

And battery life? After 24 hours with the tracker set to its most accurate location and most frequent updates – and therefore the hardest on the battery – the battery life was still over 55 per cent.

The good

Battery life is solid, and the set up process is simple. Plus the tracker was accurate enough for me to hunt down family members loitering near the Star Tours ride instead of Hyperspace Mountain. Roaming isn’t a problem with the V-Sim either.

The not so good

It’s accurate as long as you have good mobile data signal. Also if the item being tracked isn’t clearly visible, there’s no alarm to activate to help you pinpoint the tracker in a small area. So basically don’t lose the tracker.

The rest

You’ll need a monthly subscription – but it’s €3. You can attach the tracker to just about anything – there’s a pet holder, for example – you want to track. So while it may be called V-bag, you aren’t limited to just bags. Think outside the box.

The verdict

Smart, useful, easy to set up and does the job – as long as you have data signal.