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

Sounds too good to be true...

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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 of more than 9,000 enthusiastic backers.

However, amid the excitement of what apparently promises an end to mislaid keys, there are are serious doubts about the product's credibility.

A trawl of the Kickstarter comments reveals considerable scepticism about the device. There are plenty of doubters regarding the iFind's claimed "EM harvesting" capability, but that's not the only problem. Commenter Errys Frondarina summarised the main objections thus:

  • The reports the team has posted are using numbers that aren't really possible. (that's the talk about the wifi routers, etc. they do not output 300/500mW like the report states)
  • No videos of a working prototype. That little clip in the video they show isn't real. You can see on the top of the iPhone screen that the Bluetooth system is off, which you would definitely need to have on to pair a Bluetooth device.
  • The dimensions they give are too small to house the surface area an antenna would need to pick up all the EM's they claim. Also, they report that the device uses/needs other EM sources but never say what those other sources will be.
  • All "testing" has been done themselves. No one outside the company has seen anything.

WeTag is also accused of failing to respond adequately to backers' queries. Among its 14 updates (as of Monday) is this technical report backing its EM harvesting claims, and this message from WeTag co-founder Dr Paul McArthur, in which he outlined his credentials.

We thought we'd ask WeTag about the iFind. We wrote to him and said:

Do you have a working prototype of the iFind, which functions as you claim, specifically in the area of wireless charging? I assume you are at an advanced stage of development, given that you intend to ship the product in October.

I think it'd be beneficial for you to provide more technical information than is currently available on Kickstarter. The comments suggest a growing amount of scepticism regarding the iFind's viability.

At the time of publication WeTag has not responded. We also emailed Kickstarter, asking for a comment, saying:

There are serious concerns that this is a scam. The makers have no prototype, and have not provided answers to sceptics' perfectly reasonable queries regarding just how the device will work in practice.

To date, iFind has raised over $500,000 - a considerable amount of money. However, in doing so, it has apparently broken one of your fundamental rules: "Projects must be honest and clearly presented."

As part of that requirement, you state: "When a project involves manufacturing and distributing something complex, like a gadget, we require projects to show a prototype of what they’re making."

A Kickstarter representative replied: "We've received reports about this project from our community and are reviewing them. Feedback like this is an essential part of the Kickstarter system."

The rep pointed us in the direction of the "Trust & Safety" page. This warns:

When you back a project, you’re trusting the creator to do a good job, so if you don’t know them personally or by reputation, do a little research first. Kickstarter doesn't evaluate a project's claims, resolve disputes, or offer refunds — backers decide what's worth funding and what's not.

So, it's a case of caveat emptor. With just a few days left on the fundraising campaign, undecided potential backers are directed to a recent This Week In Tech broadcast, which casts a critical eye over the iFind (from 10 minutes). ®

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