My friends in tech like to constantly talk about how fast technology is evolving. I like to remind them the supply side of technology is accelerating, the adoption and implementation of technology lags considerably.
I got a reminder this week, following another earlier in the year how some processes have not evolved much since the time of our ancestors. It’s a process called Lost and Found, which Google can show 54 million results for if you search for “best practices” around it. And many more million search results bragging about the Internet of Things.
I lost my FitiBit One tracker in Miami. I am pretty attached to it given it has been an appendage for 4 1/2 years and nearly 7,000 miles in steps. It is constantly communicating with FitBit servers and I get weekly activity reports and periodic milestone badges. You think FitBit could facilitate interaction between finder and owner like Uber does. Uber says “The best way to retrieve an item you may have left in a vehicle is to call the driver. Here's how:” FitBit has chosen to not get in the middle. So you get comments in their community like this to a finder who was trying to identify the owner “Put a sign on a telephone pole where you found it or found in the local paper. Fitbit will not be able to get it to the original owner”. Actually FitBit does even less. I tried to replace and pair with my wife’s tracker. She has not used it much over the same period. I charged it, and it displayed fine. Once off the cable it would not display. FitBit decided it was a display, not a battery, problem said it was out of warranty and the best they could do was offer me 25% off a new tracker. To add insult they also sent me an email this week about compliance with upcoming GDPR rules. Yes, they have lots of data about you, your location etc. but don’t expect them to help you much if you lose the device.
But this is not just about FitBit. My search for the device and that for my wife’s keys earlier in the year has allowed me to see how different entities handle lost and found. Southwest Airlines has one of the most thorough processes. You fill out an online form and item description, and they send you weekly emails on the search results. AA is similar except they limit the likely place lost you can report to just one location (it could have been lost at the originating gate, on the plane or destination). They text you periodic search information. The two offices I visited in Miami checked promptly and reported back they had not seen it. I dealt with 2 Marriott hotels and they politely took my information but did not call back with any details. Avis has an online form but they don’t communicate back much when a search of the returned car is all they need to do. Tampa airport keeps a digital list of found items but you physically have to go into the office to see if there is a match with yours. The taxi service which my wife used was pretty useless. She is convinced she lost the keys in the taxi but they could not even identify the driver or the car. The café in Miami I was at did not bother to call back. TSA wants you to call a number at each airport you may have passed through to see if they can help with lost items.
Someday we will have tracking tags embedded in everything valuable. Till then let’s just accept we live in a mostly analog world even as we pretend we are in digital nirvana.
Hold on tight to your valuables folks. Even if Good Samaritans try to get your stuff back, processes to facilitate a reunion are pretty poor.