Are you forever losing your keys, phone or bag? Worried about your valuables being stolen while on vacation? Bluenio believes it has the answer, offering a compact Bluetooth-powered proximity tag with a wide range of security features.
I reviewed its usefulness for travelers over the course of a few weeks. Here’s how it fared.
There’s not much to the nio Tag, with the small box containing a USB charger, clip, three lanyards and the tag itself. At 1.8” x 0.9” x 0.4”, the slim white tag is relatively discreet, and small enough to hang off a keyring.
After charging the tag and downloading the free nio app, pairing the device with a phone only took a few seconds before it was ready to use.
In conjunction with the large suite of apps, the nio Tag provides users with several ways of keeping their possessions safe and secure. The basic idea is that you attach the tag to something you value – your keys, laptop, daypack, suitcase or even your child – and let your phone or tablet do the rest.
If the two devices get too far apart (between two and 25 meters, roughly 6-80ft), they’ll both start vibrating and sounding an alarm. There’s also an inbuilt motion sensor, as well as a locator function.
Surprisingly for something so small, the tag has an estimated battery life of around four months. This was borne out in testing – after a full charge, the device was reading around half-full several weeks later. Only needing to charge the nio Tag a few times a year makes it much more usable, and is definitely a point in its favor.
If, despite your best efforts, your nio-attached valuables do get lost or stolen, not all is lost. You can quickly report the loss using either a web form or the nio app, and any other user of the nio service can get in touch if they find the tag.
How the nio Tag Performed
I tested the tag in three different scenarios, some or all of which a traveler is likely to find themselves in at various times.
1: Lost Keys
The first test was the simplest – burying the tag underneath a pile of clothes in the corner of the room to simulate a set of lost keys. I loaded the nio app in a different room and, after several false starts, connected to the device and let the sound and vibration guide me to the tag’s location.
The app has a hot/cold proximity indicator on it, which gives a rough idea of how far you are from the tag if you can’t hear it.
2. Stolen Bag
For the next test I put the nio Tag at the bottom of a daypack under my table, and set the ‘nioChain’ (essentially, distance) slider to its lowest point. After walking a few feet away, my phone started to alarm loudly. The tag was also audible, albeit muffled, from the bag. Walking back within range silenced both alarms automatically.
Turning on the motion sensor I then pulled the bag gently away from its starting point, but that wasn’t enough to trigger an alarm at the default settings. After changing the slider to its most sensitive position, however, it didn't take much to set things off.
3. Wandering Child
For the final test, I enlisted the help of an unwilling participant – my seven year old nephew. Slipping the tag in his pocket at a nearby playground, I set the range slider to its furthest position and sent him off to play.
An alarm sounded on my phone when he wandered out of range a few minutes later and, although I couldn't hear a sound from the tag, the look on his face when he returned with it in his hand said it all.
The bluenio nio Tag is a genuinely useful device, but it’s not without its quirks. I regularly had problems connecting, often needing to restart both the tag and my device to get things working properly.
Only a small range of Android phones are specifically supported, and none of my three test devices are currently included in that list, so that's likely the issue -- an iPhone that I borrowed had no such problems.
While the maximum distance between phone and tag is listed at 55 yards, my testing suggested this was a best-case scenario. Indoors, especially without direct line of sight, the connection usually dropped within 20 yards.
That’s fine for proximity alarms, since you don’t want your gear any further away than that anyway, but less so for using the locator. One other minor concern is the volume of the tag’s alarm – it could definitely do with being a little louder. When stashed inside a bag or under a cushion, it’s not always easy to hear.
Ultimately, though if you have a supported smartphone and are concerned about lost, stolen or forgotten valuables when you’re on the move, the nio Tag is a worthwhile, relatively inexpensive investment in your security.
Download the nio Tag companion app (free) for iOS or Android.