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Proximo Proximity Monitoring System (Starter Kit) review: Simple and effective, but pricey

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I'm no stranger to losing things. From leaving my bag on a park bench, to sifting through all my coats in the closet just to find the one pocket I last left my keys in, it's common for things to go by the wayside.

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7.0

Proximo Proximity Monitoring System (Starter Kit)

The Good

The <b>Proximo Proximity Monitoring System</b> is a cinch to set up and its polished iOS app is intuitive to use.

The Bad

Proximo's app doesn't allow you to preview phone alarm sounds, and you must launch the app in order to dismiss a triggered alarm on the handset.

The Bottom Line

The Proximo Proximity Monitoring System is reliable and very easy to use, but $60 is a high price to pay just to keep track of your belongings.

To help with this, Kensington's Proximo Proximity Monitoring System provides a way to keep track of valuables via Bluetooth. With its key fob or tag attached to your items, you can monitor and locate your belongings via an iPhone app. Likewise, you can use its key fob to make your handset sound off in case you can't find your phone either.

The system's Starter Kit (one fob and one tag) costs $60, and you can purchase an additional tag at $25. While this is steep, it's cheaper than the ZOMM Wireless Leash, and the entire system is easy to use.

Design
The Proximo Starter Kit contains one oblong key fob and a circular tag. Due to small metal arcs up top, these can attach to most anything you want to keep track of -- your keys, backpack, or camera bag. They're both lightweight, made out of black plastic, and small enough to hold in your hand. The fob is around the same size and shape as a dog tag, and the tag is slightly bigger than a dollar coin. Both pieces run on a CR2032 lithium coin battery.

Proximity fob and tag
The Proximo key fob (left) and additional tag. Both are small and lightweight, but not particularly chic-looking. Josh Miller/CNET

On the tip of each of these Proximo attachments is a small green light. When you use the app to locate either piece, the green light will blink on and off. Lastly, on the front of the fob is a central black button you press to locate your iPhone. Once clicked, your device will sound an alarm.

Keeping tabs with Proximo (pictures)

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Features and setup
The Proximo alarm tags allow you to monitor and locate your belongings via a Bluetooth connection and an iOS app. Depending on how many tags you buy, you can keep track of up to five devices.

To get started, install the batteries in your fob and tag and then download the Proximo app. The app works on iPhone 4Ses running iOS 5, iOS 6 or later, and iPhone 5s running iOS 6 or later. Once it's launched, there is an intro video you can watch to get you pumped up about the $60 system you just bought.

Hit the Dashboard tab on the upper left to get out of the introductory area, and then hit the plus sign on the upper right to start setting up your monitoring system. Making sure your iPhone's Bluetooth is turned on, and hold down the black button on the fob until the green light starts flashing. On the circular tag, use a pen to press down on a small rubber button in the back. Once the devices are connected with the phone, you'll hear a little celebratory alarm sound from the tag pieces.

Proximo screenshot
The left screenshot displays the settings I can choose from when monitoring my keys with the key fob. On the right is the proximity range spectrum. Lynn La/CNET

From the app, you can customize a few options, like the sensitivity range for each individual tag, which lets you determine how far you can wander off until the alarm will sound. You can also turn off the alarm altogether, and choose your alarm sounds, both the one that'll emit from the tags and the one that'll blare away on your phone.

One feature I found useful was that you can customize the picture of the fob and tag in your app, so you know exactly what object belongs to what tracking unit. You can either use a photo from your camera (it'll later let you crop and adjust the picture), upload a saved photo from your gallery, or choose a simple preloaded icon like a key or a camera.

To locate an item, tap the magnifying-glass icon next to the object you want to find. If you wander too far or the connection is lost between your handset and the fob, the magnifier icon will change into a pin that says "Locate" and bring up a map of where your tracked piece was last located before it got disconnected.

General app settings include turning off "background operations." This is a nifty toggle that lets you turn off the entire Proximo system quickly. You can also set the app to override your phone's alarm volume altogether.

Performance
In general, the monitoring ecosystem works well and consistently. After I tapped "Find" in the app, the corresponding tag's alarm sounded off almost a few seconds after. And I, as well as those who sit near my desk, can attest that the alarms are loud. I could easily hear it from the other side of a small apartment, in another room, even when it was buried inside a backpack.

Furthermore, the "last seen" module was accurate in pinpointing the general area where my item was last. But don't expect a lot of details. While it's useful if you use a tag to keep track of your car (and where you last parked it), you can't see where in a building you left your keys, and so forth. However, it can show you how far away (in feet) you currently are from its last known location.

Proximo screenshot
On the left are the belongings I want to keep track of (my keys and camera bag). The right screenshot shows you where one of my items was last seen and how far away I am from its last reported location. Lynn La/CNET

In addition, compared with the ZOMM Wireless Leash, setup was much easier. I didn't have to wait for the iPhone's Bluetooth to search for a Proximo device, there was no multifunctional-button pressing, and the green light made it clear whether or not pairing was successful. I only needed to do one long-press per tag to be up and running.

The app itself is also intuitive and easy to use, and has a very polished look to it. Menu items and icons are easy to read, and the fact that each tag shows information about its battery status is helpful. There are also troubleshooting and help tabs handy in case you run into any difficulties.

However, the Proximo system does have a few problems. For one, there is no way to sample different phone alarm sounds. You can play a preview of your tags' alarms, but not of your handset's, for some reason. There are about seven tones you can choose from, and the only way you can hear them is if you manually set each one off after selecting it as your alarm.

Second, when you page your smartphone using the key fob, a notification will pop up on your iPhone, but you'll need to launch the app to turn off the alarm. This doesn't take much time, but it would be better to be able to immediately dismiss the alarm without having to open up Proximo, especially if you've enabled a lock screen code.

Lastly, while I find the proximity graphic colorful and sleek, it gives you absolutely no information on how far these ranges measure. There are five sensitivity fields: lowest, low, medium, higher, and highest sensitivity. Kensington reps told me that the maximum range of the monitoring system (so, lowest sensitivity) is 50 feet. In my personal experience, when the Proximo was set on highest sensitivity, alarms would sound once I walked a few steps away. But the exact distances of the ranges in between those two are unclear. However, just on general calculations, it's safe to assume then that the "medium" range would be somewhere around 25 feet.

Conclusion
Whether or not you need a device such as the Proximo Proximity Monitoring System depends entirely on how forgetful you are and how important your belongings are to you. If you're already in the market for an electronic leash, this ecosystem of tags and key fobs is simple to use and I'd recommend it over ZOMM's monitoring system (despite it having a built-in speaker) just based on sheer ease of use and because it's cheaper. But if you're generally diligent about keeping an eye on your items, hold on to your $60 instead.

35603106-5.jpg
7.0

Proximo Proximity Monitoring System (Starter Kit)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7