From the creators of bKey, comes smrtFOB, a somewhat bulky, modular accessory designed to lessen the worry of ensuring your smartphone is charged when on the go.
Similar to the company’s first charging dongle bKey, which is tiny in comparison to smrtFOB, this new device’s main focus is providing users with a portable smartphone charger, though the second incarnation of the Montreal-based company’s charger concept is significantly more customizable.
“We started bKey back in 2012 initially, coming up with the design for a portable smartphone battery that’s on your keychain that you could never leave at home. The pain point we were suffering was that we owned all these powerbanks and every time we needed them they weren’t actually with us,” said Rob Gold, smrtFOB’s co-founder and CEO, expanding on the initial idea behind its first smart dongle.
The company’s new device is an extension of this concept. For instance, smrtFOB is capable of reminding users that the device needs to be charged via its iOS or Android app. The device also recognizes when you’re home thanks to a wireless pad that’s able to charge either side of the dongle, though this pad is unfortunately sold separately from the core smrtFOB.
Calendar-based notifications designed to remind you to take smrtFOB along on an upcoming trip, a situation where the dongle will likely be the most useful, are also programmable through the accompanying app.
The modular side of smartFob comes into play through its USB 2.0 ports, which, according to Gold, is part of why the device likely seems bulky to some. He emphasizes that utilizing USB 2.0 rather than a proprietary connection technology is important to his company’s vision for creating an open, modular device. Including the standard USB 2.0 port that so many devices and cords often use allows any USB cable to be plugged into smrtFOB, even more recent standards like USB-C, which currently isn’t available in the dongle.
“As tech enthusiasts, we think it’s really cool, but on the practical side, this is really a utility play,” said Gold, explaining that he views smrtFOB as a utility anyone will be interested in using. “What we’re trying to do is make people’s lives easier who are busy people, who might not necessarily be tech enthusiasts. We’re just trying to make it so people have one less thing to worry about,” said Gold.
Official smrtFOB mods include an extended battery that gives the dongle an additional 1,200mAh of battery life on top of its built-in 950mAh power. Gold claims that other attachments are in the works and that he hopes other manufacturers will eventually build mods for smrtFOB in the future.
SmrtFOB is also capable of working as a tracker through its app, allowing users to set off an alarm in order to help locate the device. It can also work as a 32GB external USB stick.
Contrary to a lot of recent Kickstarter horror stories, Gold emphasizes he believes his company will be able to deliver on the product and furthermore, that it will live up to his company’s lofty goals.
Gold says smrtFOB will enter production when its Kickstarter campaign finishes next month. The device will be shipped out to the same distributors currently selling bKey, with plans to also get the modular charging dongle in more well-known stores in the Canadian market, most notably Canadian Tire. Furthermore, rather than develop prototypes independently in Canada, Gold says his team worked closely with its manufacturing partners in China over the course of SmrtFOB’s development to ensure that once the dongle hits the production line, the possibility of unforeseen assembly line issues is nonexistent.
A $59 USD backing (which amounts to approximately $77 CAD) gets you a smrtFOB, with a more expensive $109 (about $144 CAD) also including a wireless charger for the device. While SmrtFOB doesn’t have a set release date, it’s expected to ship in April 2017.