I remember back in the summer of '79 (no, this is not some knockoff Bryan Adams song), when I was heading to Bermuda with my parents. As a rebellious 18-year-old, there were a million other places I would rather have been, but hey, it was Bermuda, and it was free. So, I kicked back in my seat on Eastern Airlines out of Philadelphia and lost myself in the high-tech world of my brand-new Sony Walkman. With this piece of technology, along with eight or nine cassette tapes and a pocketful of AA batteries, I could drown out the world of my family and wallow in the sounds of ELO, Styx and Boston. After we landed in Bermuda, my self-absorbed Utopian interlude came to an end — I left the Walkman on the plane!
My, how times have changed. Today, we have dozens of gadgets and bags to leave behind — iPods, cameras, cell phones, laptops, Blackberries, flash drives, keys, projectors, satchels, duffels and more. Enter EZFind.
Protection against loss, identity theft and access
There are plenty of services out there that produce a tag or label for your stuff. Heck, the hotels of yesteryear had their labels right on their key fobs — along with your room number. But with today's technology, the stakes are very different. For me, any loss would rise only to the level of major inconvenience. But for someone carrying sensitive information on a laptop or Blackberry, a misplaced device can quickly become a critical situation. EZFind relieves some of the anxiety of being a forgetful person in today's high-stakes world of business.
In the simplest terms, EZFind issues permanent labels and tags that you can affix to your gear or luggage. If you lose a tagged item, the finder can call a toll-free number and you will be reunited with your property at no additional cost. The system also gives some protection against identity theft, as there is no identifying information on the tag for the criminally minded to see.
But there's more to EZFind than that. Vincent Moro, EZFind's president, says the company is working on technologies that would prevent anyone from accessing your laptop or your USB drive after an EZFind safeguard had been installed on the device.
"Say your laptop is lost or stolen," Moro explains. "As soon as you report it missing, the safeguard system would go into effect. The next time the laptop boots up and makes a connection to the Internet, the IP address and Internet Service Provider would be identified and local law enforcement can be called to make the recovery."
The safeguard could also work in reverse, sending a message to the laptop that would effectively disable it. Similarly for a misplaced USB flash drive (one of the "most lost" technologies out there): If someone tries to access the drive, a splash screen comes up alerting the person that the device is protected and inaccessible — and offering instructions on how to return it to its owner. With the number of U.S. government computers going AWOL, maybe the government ought to invest!
The EZFind system works for low-tech losables, too. Have you ever lost your passport while traveling? Trust me — it is a hassle to get a replacement. In the past, I have always recommended that my clients travel with a photocopy of their passport for just this reason. With EZFind's technology, you can tag your passport and scan the document into your online profile. If you lose it, you can log into your profile and get a copy immediately, or call EZFind and they can have one on a consulate desk in a matter of seconds.
What about making a police report? Do you remember the serial numbers of all of your "stuff" so the police can alert local pawn shops? Again, a quick log-in to your account or a call to EZFind's call center will have that information to you virtually instantly.
Just the facts
So, how does the service work? After you pay a one-time charge of $25, you will receive unique labels and tags to mark your property. You activate the tags online and then assign them to your items. At this point, you can upload photos of your property, input serial numbers, scan your passport, etc. When you discover a loss, you report it online (toll free or global collect) to the EZFind call center, where a real, live person (in the U.S.) will answer the call - huge selling point for me (are you listening, airlines?) Once your property has been recovered, EZFind will work to get it to you in the most expeditious manner — usually without any cost to you. EZFind also rewards the honest folks who turn in your property with a free EZFind starter kit — again, at no cost to you. If your property is particularly valuable, you can even enter a reward of your own into your online profile.
The system is really simple and, as far as I'm concerned, a "must have" for travelers. Heck, it's a great tool for soccer moms and baseball dads, too. I am a huge fan of volunteering, and I sit on the board for my local Volunteer Center. So when I found out that EZFind offers fund-raising programs for schools and organizations, I liked them even more.
This column is not intended to be a sales pitch. I am just passing along some info on a new service I discovered and in which I find value. If $25 sounds like a bargain to you (as it did to me) go and buy a set of labels. If not, just file this in the back of your mind for later. I just finished activating my tags and putting the labels on our passports, cell phones, laptops, briefcases, key rings, suitcases and iPods. I was thinking about stickering the kids themselves, but then I figured that if I lost them, it could just be "finders, keepers."
Now if EZFind would only come up with a way to find the countless hats and sunglasses that I have lost to the cause of travel. (Note: Vince Moro just sent me a dish of crow to eat: EZFind does have some sunglass labels. OK, so now what about the hats?)
If you would like to check out the program for free, we are sponsoring a contest on our . You can win a starter pack!