New and improved nio Bluetooth tag keeps track of your belongings

Last year, Gadling was one of the first sites in the world to bring you a full review of the nio Bluetooth property security tag. Since then, several other companies have popped up with similar products, but nio remains the first to market, giving them quite a bit of street cred. Almost a year has passed since that review, and this week, nio released version 2.0 of their tag, along with upgraded software options.

In the original review, the tag hardware worked perfectly, but the software appeared to be a tad buggy – I’m happy to report that those issues are long gone. I’ve taken the original nio tag on a couple of trips with the latest Android app, and it hasn’t failed me once.

If you missed the review last year – let me remind you what nio can do. The tag tethers to your mobile phone, and stays in constant contact with the software app. As soon as the two are separated, alarms sound on the tag and on your phone. This makes it ideal for monitoring luggage, digital cameras and even kids. Inside the nio tag is also a motion sensor, which allows you to keep an even closer watch on a bag – perfect if you think you might take a nap in an airport lounge.

The new nio tag looks slicker – the original nio tag looked a little “industrial”, but the new 2.0 nio is more rounded and just looks nicer. Weight and general size are the same.

As I previously mentioned, the software used to be a little buggy – but the new apps are brilliant. Apps are available for Windows Mobile (up to 6.5) Blackberry, Symbian S60, Java and Android. Inside the software, you can monitor up to two tags at the same time.

The software controls every aspect of the nio tag – the only button on the tag is a small reset button. Powering tags on or off, resetting alarms, creating a monitoring schedule and enabling the locator beep or motion detector is all done inside the app.

Using nio on a trip

On a trip, using nio is very easy – before you leave, you turn nio on, and your phone keeps in touch with the tag. As long as you and your bags are not separated, you’ll be fine. But as soon as the distance between the two is too great, it’ll set off the alarm.

This obviously means you run the risk of an alarm mid-flight – which means it is very important to turn nio off when you board the plane. If you follow the crew member instructions, you’ll be turning your phone off, and the loss of Bluetooth means the tag will think you’ve abandoned it, setting off the alarm. So – open the app, and turn off the tag as soon as you board the plane. Alternatively, you can set up a scheduled alarm which will turn the device off during your flight.

Nio charges off MiniUSB, and a charger cord is included (but no AC charger) so you’ll need to use an existing AC adapter or plug into your computer.

Final thoughts

The original nio was very good, but the newly designed tag and updated software make it a real winner. At $59.95 it is well priced (apps are free to download) and a worthy investment if you regularly travel with expensive gear. The tag is reliable, and in my tests, it triggered an alarm every time it was expected.

To learn more about nio, or to purchase your own tag, head on over to


Gadling gear review – nio Bluetooth property security tag

It was back in March when I posted a product announcement for the nio Bluetooth security tag, and as with many gadgets, I’ll admit that I was losing faith in the product actually hitting the market. So, imagine my surprise when I was contacted last week asking whether I wanted to review the actual product. Obviously, I owe nio an apology for doubting them!

Today, nio arrived, and as is customary with any new gadget, I immediately unpacked it, put the user guide aside and started playing with it.

But first a quick reminder of what nio is – the product is a small “tag” that can be attached to your personal belongings. Inside the tag is a complete Bluetooth radio, a loud buzzer and a battery pack.
The tag itself is very small, and it weighs next to nothing. It has no visible buttons (there is a small reset button hidden behind a hole).

The battery is behind a cover with a screw, so there is no risk of it falling off. The nio tag can be recharged using MiniUSB, and a charger is included. Thankfully, MiniUSB is so prevalent nowadays that most people will already have a charger in their bag.

The idea behind nio is that you “pair” it with your mobile phone, and allow the two to stay in constant contact. If you attach the tag to your suitcase or laptop bag, both the tag and your mobile phone will start beeping loudly if they move too far away from each other.

At the moment, nio supports Java enabled phones, Blackberry devices and Windows Mobile. For my review, I took it for a spin on a Windows Mobile phone (the Sprint Touch Pro).

Getting the software installed is pretty easy – you can point your mobile browser towards the nio download site, or you can have nio send you a text message with the download location. The application itself is 1.12MB, so on a 3G network, it’ll be downloaded in under a minute.

Once installed, the first step is to have your phone search for the nio tag. This involves putting the tag in pairing mode (by pressing the small reset button). You’ll need a paperclip to do this.

Once paired, the application allows you to configure a number of settings on the tag. The most important settings are 3 different security “zones”, enabling or disabling the motion sensor in the tag and activating the “locate me” beacon on the tag.

The security zones are pretty simple – you pick how far away your tag can move before it warns you. I found the high sensitivity setting to work to about 5 or 6 meters, and the lowest sensitivity let me move about 20 meters away before setting off the alarm.

The alarm on the tag is loud enough to be heard by anyone around it, but don’t expect to hear it from the other side of the airport if someone walks off with your bag. I do suspect that any thief will drop whatever he or she stole if the item starts beeping loudly, most thieves don’t like drawing attention to themselves. In order to hear the tag, you’ll need to have it on the outside of your bag.

The Windows Mobile software client was a little tricky – my first installation was on an HTC Touch Pro2, which did not work, most likely because this newest HTC device uses a different Bluetooth stack than other Windows devices (Broadcom versus the Microsoft stack). In nio’s defense, the Touch Pro2 is not listed as being compatible, so I can’t really hold this against them.

So, now of course it is time for the most important part of any gadget – does it work? Well, I’m happy to report that it does, and it actually works very well.

Separating the tag and my phone set off an alarm every single time I tested it. My phone also connected to the tag every time I turned it on.

That covers the important parts – the hardware appears to be rock solid, and very well designed. The software on the other hand needs some work. At one point I ran into an issue where the application would no longer start, and I had to uninstall, manually remove some stuff, and then reinstall in order to get things working again. This is obviously an early stage of the product, and software can easily be fixed (unlike hardware), so I’ll not hold this minor issue against them.

Update: The software appears to be a little buggier than I initially realized – last night (at 3 am), the nio software decided that I’d slept long enough, and set off its alarm (note; only the phone alarm, not the nio tag itself). The “silence alarm” button did nothing, so in a semi-asleep state, I had to pull the battery from my phone.

The practical applications of the tag are pretty easy to spot, though they may not be applicable to everyone. In my personal setup, I could really benefit from having a nio tag on my laptop bag, I’ll often have over $4500 in equipment in that bag, so anything that can keep us from becoming separated is more than welcome. Tags could also be great on a handbag, a purse, keys or a camera. And finally, you could even pop a tag on your kid(s). The tag has everything you need to prevent your kid from getting too far away, plus you can activate the locator feature if you want to scare them.

The software version I tested did not have a timer or scheduling feature, so you will need to manually disable the tag any time you voluntarily become separated (like having to gate check your bag). If you don’t, the tag will assume it is being stolen, and will start beeping.

The same applies to putting your bag in the overhead compartment of the plane – if you are out of range, the tag may start beeping during flight, and a federal air marshal will shoot you if you try to disable it (ok – just kidding there, but seriously, a beeping bag mid-flight is probably not a good idea).

So – is $70 for a nio tag a good investment? Only you can be the judge of that. If your belongings are worth enough, then yes, I could certainly see people investing in it. That said – software support is still rather limited, and is currently only offered on Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Java devices. This means people with an iPhone, Palm (PalmOS or WebOS), Android and anything else out there are going to be out of luck.

There are plans to release versions for other platforms, but this obviously requires support from the manufacturer, and the ability to actually communicate over Bluetooth. Some devices (like Android and the iPhone) are limited in what they’ll allow over Bluetooth, so it may take some till till they offer nio support.

Final thoughts

I really like nio – I think the concept is brilliant, and I think it is surprising that it has taken this long for someone to embrace the concept of a Bluetooth enabled luggage tag.

The hardware portion of the tag is very good, and works perfectly, but the software obviously needs a little more work. For $69.95 (and $8 shipping to the US), you get a tag, a MiniUSB cable and a USB charger. Surprisingly, no attachment hardware is included, so you’ll need to recycle a keyring, or make a trip to the local hardware store.

You’ll find nio, and how to order one, over at their web site.

Nio – using the power of Bluetooth to protect your belongings

On a weekly basis I probably read about 100 new product announcements, but every now and then I run into something that grabs my attention. Nio is such a product.

Nio is a Bluetooth enabled, motion sensing alarm tag.

The device attaches to your belongings, and when combined with the included software, can trigger an alarm if it moves outside a predetermined radius (up to 20 meters).

The Nio tag has an internal rechargeable battery capable of powering the device for several weeks.

To use the tag, you simply install the Nio software on your mobile device, versions are available for most Blackberry and Windows Mobile devices as well as most phones that can run Java applications.

Once installed, your phone will be in constant contact with the tag, and an audible alert will sound on your phone and on the tag if it moves out of range.

The software is pretty smart – you can setup specific times of day you want to enable (or disable) the alarm, which is perfect if you only want protection during your commute. In addition to this, the software can keep track of multiple tags, and can activate a “find me” function on the tag – which is a heck of a lot more advanced than those old “whistle to find” key tags.

Nio should start shipping in April, no price has been released yet but I’ll be sure to bring you a full review of the product as soon as it become available.