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No refunds: F-Stop Gear cancels crowdfunded RFID camera-tracking system

Imagine a system where photographers could keep tabs on their gear by using RFID tags. That’s the concept behind KitSentry, and if it sounds promising, a lot of people thought so too. Developed by respected camera bag manufacturer F-Stop Gear, the project began over a year ago with a successful Kickstarter campaign that easily blew past its modest $18,000 goal, raising over $27,000 in total. Now, after a year and a half of no progress being made, F-Stop has officially canceled the project. Worse, backers won’t get their money refunded.

F-Stop broke the news in a letter to backers on Kickstarter. The letter mentions issues with suppliers and problems working around patents as the primary reasons for the project’s failure. It also admits the company underestimated how much money was needed to develop the product, saying the fundraising goal was “much too low to get a project of this nature off the ground.”

KitSentry, as it was planned, would use unique ID tags that photographers could stick on each camera body, lens, flash, or other piece of a gear. A “Field Device” placed in a camera bag would then detect the presence of each item. The system was controlled via an app, and photographers could check to make sure they had all the required gear for a shoot simply by looking at their phones. The system could also be set to “Sentry Mode” which would send a notification to the photographer’s phone if an item was removed from the bag.

Related: PeakDesign raises $750K on Kickstarter in two days for new camera bags

The project seemed like a genuinely useful innovation, but it may have also been too good to be true. The announcement of its failure comes just a week after Resource Magazine published a report citing an anonymous inside source who alleged that F-Stop was plagued by numerous problems. The source believed KitSentry was likely dead in the water even before it launched on Kickstarter.

Backing Kickstarter projects involve a bit of caveat emptor – buyer beware. Interestingly, failed crowdfunding projects are decidedly rare. Kickstarter claims just nine percent of funded campaigns don’t deliver on their promises, although the company is clear about stating the inherent risks of using its platform. There are no guarantees in crowdfunding, and precedent certainly exists in the photography industry for failed projects. Last year, the palm-sized Zano camera drone became Europe’s most popular Kickstarter campaign, raising over $3.5 million, only to collapse in on itself after delivering just 600 of the 15,000-plus promised drones.

As for KitSentry, backers are basically out of luck at this point, although they will receive a credit equal to the amount of their pledge good toward any F-Stop product. This is likely of little consolation to people who were eagerly anticipating a revolutionary device, however. Unsurprisingly, there are plenty of angry backers making themselves heard in the comments page – many of them already upset at the company for not updating them on the project’s status.