I can count on the fingers of two hands the times my film and photography gear has been stolen over the years. I can count on one finger the times an insurance company loss adjuster has, in my humble opinion, made a decent job of an insurance claim and offered fair compensation.
Losing your gear can put a serious dent in your career especially if rare or custom-made equipment is involved. Then there is the psychological cost, the crushing sense of having been violated in one of the most intimate ways possible. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
I felt echoes of experiences I would rather forget when an email from f-stop arrived to announce its KitSentry Kickstarter campaign. “We’ve developed something exciting you’ll want to see,” was the headline. I am excited and I do want to see a successful solution to this all-too-common problem.
I’ve lost film and photo gear under varying circumstances – mostly from theft and sometimes by leaving items behind on location shoots:
- An unhinged studio sub-leaser who cleaned the place out then vanished with the lot.
- A borrowed studio the owner swore was impregnable, except for his ex-partner bent on revenge by stealing everything he could lay his hands on one night.
- A share house within distant sight of a tower block and a flatmate who swore she was only dashing off to the shops so really didn’t need to properly lock the front door ‘cos she would be away for just half an hour.
- A couple of all-day, all-night mine site shoots in the outback when gear was forgotten or left in the path of an oncoming dump truck by a bleary-eyed assistant.
I’ve tried several different solutions:
- Unique IDs impressed into plastic labels to be attached to your gear with MilSpec epoxy resin.
- Motion sensor alarms, stainless steel labels and cables thick or thin.
- Steel mesh netting enclosing your camera bags so they can be padlocked onto a pole or a column if you can find one.
All ad hoc solutions cobbled together from whatever I could lay my hands on. All of them abandoned in the end. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t epoxied those labels on! They never came off and I finally sold the much-loved gear they were stuck to. Pity.
KitSentry’s solution looks far more promising and way more contemporary. A three-part system comprising ID tags, a field device and a sentry app. An app for organizing, tracking and managing gear makes sense in an age when none of us can survive without our eyes glued onto our smartphones or tablets most if not all the time now.
Even better is a system based around some of the best-made, most intelligently designed camera bags I have seen so far. I don’t own an f-stop backpack yet. Key word “yet”. But I plan to.
As a brand f-stop is new to Australia and supplies have been hard to come by according to my favorite inner-city pro photo retailer. What I have seen and laid hands on there has certainly impressed.
f-stop’s system of internal camera units – ICUs – enclosed in soft outer shells accounts for the realities of needing different gear on different days. You can store all your equipment in range of ICUs then load just the ICUs and thus just the gear you need for that day. Quick, easy and efficient.
And now that KitSentry will be adding its own KitSentry-enabled ICUs into the mix, with each ICU containing gear with with NFC tags attached, trackable and manageable.
KitSentry is in its early days yet and this KickStarter campaign looks like it is just the beginning. The f-stop/KitSentry guys have set a goal of USD18,000. Given what this system promises, that is a small investment in security and peace of mind.
KitSentry – The Next Generation Smart Bag is here
KitSentry is a revolutionary, first-of-a-kind ecosystem of products designed to track, manage, and protect all of your gear. Many photographers and film makers carry expensive equipment. The peace of mind that users will get from always having the gear necessary for the task ahead, never leaving anything behind, and never again having to worry about their gear being stolen, is priceless.
KitSentry has many breakthrough features:
* Auto-connection and communication to App or Cloud via Cellular or extended range Bluetooth to protect goods across the room as well as across the world.
* In addition to Plug-N-Play, any of the millions of components on the market with NFC/RFID can be automatically populated.
* Even if your components don’t have NFC/RFID, you can use simple aftermarket NFC/RFID stickers/tags to add any device (camera, lens, stack of files, golf clubs, etc). Anything you can put a sticker on can be part of your KitSentry package.
* Range of operating modes to adapt to your circumstances for optimal efficiency.
What if my entire bag is taken?
Even if your entire bag is taken, as long as you are in range of the Bluetooth or you have the Cellular version, you will be able to locate and find your bag and all your gear. The Sentinel Mode provides extra protection that tells you if your bag moves even a few inches.
Can you tell me more specs?
The field Unit: both units are about the size of a pack of cards and weigh about the same as a mobile phone. There are some variables because we are testing multiple batteries to get the right balance of weight, performance and cost. We are also testing several different types of plastics to get the weight and durability right. You can easily store the Field Unit in any pocket you would normally put your mobile phone on your pack. Some of our integration partners are building special pockets just for KitSentry.
The NFC/RFID tags: right now they are about the size of a quarter, but we are working on custom tags we hope to be as small as a dime. They are flexible like a sticker and we are actually working on some that will work on clothing in addition to hard surfaces. Of course if you device already has a tag built-in, there is no need to add a second one.
What is SentryApp?
SentryApp is our mobile device application that connects to your Field Unit(s). We are currently developing SentryApp for iOS, Android and SmartWatches. Everything can be managed directly from your Mobile Device if you prefer to keep everything local. Some of the advanced features related to Component Management are not available if you do not also have a SentryCloud Account. SentryApp is included with every purchase.
Read the rest of the FAQ and more info about KitSentry in their Kickstarter Campaign page
(cover photo credit: snap from Kickstarter)
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