Mark Allewell, the man behind two South African startups, Zapacab and Tourism Radio, has spoken about his latest startup. It’s called Leash and it’s a way of tagging your stuff so you never lose it again.
Leash is a low-power Bluetooth tag which you can fix to something like a handbag, which then syncs its location with your mobile phoen whenever you’re nearby. At heart, it’s a way of quickly remembering where you put stuff – simple and effective, but a bit of an indulgence. Where Leash gets interesting, however, is in its crime fighting abilities to help prevent and detect theft.
For a start, the app monitors the Bluetooth tag, and should your item start moving when it shouldn’t you’ll get a notification on your phone. Unfortunately Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) doesn’t have a very long range, making tracking the fleeing object from your phone or tablet a little bit tricky. The true magic behind Leash is its use of “the crowd”, or as they’re more commonly known, “other people”.
If you report a Leash as lost in the app, the Leash will begin communicating with other Leash tags and apps in the area, and through this you’re able to track its movements. Allewell says that this also opens up the possibility of identifying crime hotspots as areas where lots of Leash users have reported losing stuff.
This opens up some privacy implications, of course, and the possibility that someone could get your location data out of the Leash servers but Allewell says that the company is working hard to anonymise data as it comes to them.
“Data will be synced with [our] server if a certain action happens,” he says, “For example, 17 users in Kloof Street report tags as missing. We aim to set up certain criteria within the app, for example ‘warn me if I’m in a high theft area’.
In the coming weeks 1 000 Leash tags will be tested by the public in a closed beta. Should feedback be favourable, Allewell hopes to release as many as 15 000 more Leash tags.
If you want to help Allewell test his invention, you can sign up for the closed beta on the company’s website.