IDev | Device of the Week (IoT): Tile

Tile is an Internet of Things product/savior that we all need in our busy, fast-paced lives.

More often than not on a daily or weekly basis, we’ve all experienced misplacing a certain belonging somehow, somewhere – be it a phone, watch, stationery, bag, pouch, wallet, keys (the list goes on) – and one thought always comes to our modern minds – if only I can ping it and find it immediately. Well, Tile let’s you do just that – more easily and seamlessly than you think!

How It Works
Relying on Bluetooth connection and crowd GPS tracking, Tile is a pocket-sized portable device with a built-in speaker. It comes in a variety of product variants in the form of keychains, cards, and stickers that can be attached to virtually any material belonging – toys, car keys, wallets, laptops, phones, bags, remote controls, etc.

When paired with the free dedicated Tile app available on iOS and Android, the user just has to simply open the app and ping a search for the item. Once detected, the Tile device attached to the object pings back a chime with a GPS location in the app for the user to locate it.

The device also works in reverse order: if the user has to find their phone (which without it they cannot access the app to search), the user simply has to double press any of their nearby Tile device that they own to make their phone ring even when it’s on silent mode. Problem solved both ways!

With crowd GPS tracking, Tile also enables other users to search for your Tile(s) if you recognize it as lost on the app. It even notifies you when another user in the/your community has retrieved it on your behalf. In the event you’re the one who finds another user’s Tile, you can share location and updates.

Here’s a user video demonstration showcasing what I’ve elaborated above:

Tile has been so successful since its launch in 2012 that it currently boasts 6 million finds per day, with accessibility in 195 countries, and a successful find rate of 90%. The products’ success has seen recent collaborations with Skullcandy, an audio-centric/headphones company, as well as smart home devices such as Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa, amongst other world-renowned mass consumer technological brands.

Pros of Tile
• Bluetooth-connected, thus no reliance on data/wifi
• Crowd GPS allows for a community of users to rely on each other
• Premium feature allows for curated list of approved users to access one’s Tiles
• Simple, easy to use with little to no learning curve
• Wide range of product variants to suit different lifestyle/object needs
• Free, dedicated app available on iOS and Android
• Multi-directional communication; does not rely on 1 master control
• Seamlessly connects to smart home assistant devices
• Uses less power due to use of Bluetooth Low Energy 4.0 radio technology
• User-replaceable batteries (in newer product models)

Cons of Tile
• Limited range of reach due to Bluetooth (~150ft – 400ft / ~45m – 122m)
• Effective range varies upon environment and location due to Bluetooth connection
• Requires battery replacement approximately every year

Final Thoughts / Takeaways
I’ve always had the thought that someone should invent a microscopic implant that could be inserted into any material device and sends/receives a ping when the user is finding it. I’m glad Tile is the someone who did it, albeit trading “microscopic” for pocket-sized stickers/keychains/cards.

I feel this product is a dream come true and solves a universal bane of misplaced belongings. However, I do question why this product is not as popular in Singapore despite its clear capabilities and convenience it provides. One consideration could be the price point – the ‘cheapest’ product sells for about S$34 for a single Tile keychain. Although relatively affordable, considering Singaporeans’ investment in consumer technology, perhaps the idea of spending that amount on a temporary inconvenience (you will find the remote eventually, even if it takes 4 hours) is not justified. At least for me, this would be my reason for not already owning one. If the price was a little more economical, I’d have a Tile pasted onto every device and belonging I own!

Also, it is a pity that the device relies on user-replaceable batteries and not rechargeable ones, but I guess that’s the limit of current technology in such a small-fit device; you can’t have your cake and eat it too. I do think this is a brilliant, yet simple and effective product that hasn’t seen much competition in the market after almost a decade (apart from TrackR which boasts a less-appealing visual/product design), which also goes to show how much can this be innovated before reaching a plateau.

Official Tile website
Wikipedia on Tile
Article on Tile’s new user-replaceable batteries 

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