The market for devices with apps designed to track objects and recover lost items is expanding. A few days ago we reported on Button TrackR, which uses crowd-sourcing to find lost objects. New to the party is Tile, which adds an element of social networking to the mix by connecting to other mobile devices running Tile apps through Bluetooth, extending the search beyond the usual range limitations.
Each Tile account can be used to manage up to ten matchbook-sized trackers. These are attached with an adhesive to important objects such as keys and wallets so the user can keep tabs on them. The concept becomes much more interesting when an object is lost.
According to Mike Farley and Nick Evans, the hardware and software engineers behind Tile, in order to go beyond a typical Bluetooth range of 100 ft (30 m), Tile recruits other Tile apps by sending them signals so they start searching for the lost item. To do this, it’s necessary to be relatively close to other Tile users, but at the same time, it provides an incentive to create Tile hubs with family, friends or work colleagues.
It doesn’t mean users need to give up their privacy, though. The communication between apps happens in the background, meaning that other users don't see it. However, users do have the option to share their Tiles with people they trust. In those cases, each user can watch their own Tiles move on a Tile app map. To make finding misplaced items easier, users can activate a ringtone. Where a user doesn’t have an iPhone or iPad to hand, they can log in using a friend’s Tile app.
For the moment, Tile works with several iOS devices, including iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad Mini, iPad (third and fourth generation) and iPod touch (fifth generation). New iOS devices will be supported as they become available and are enabled with Bluetooth 4.0. According to the company's website, support for Android will depend on demand.
The Tile uses a Bluetooth Low Energy connection and works completely wirelessly. The makers say that there’s no need to charge or replace battery for one year. A month before the one-year deadline, users will be reminded to recycle their old Tiles and of the need to purchase a new one (for the same price). In order to make this process easy, the warning includes a pre-addressed package for free shipping.
The project's recently-launched crowd-funding effort has already more than doubled its campaign target. Prices start at US$18.95 for one Tile, with $56.85 the price for three (plus one bonus unit), and onwards and upwards from there. Shipping is limited to the US and Canada only, and is expected to start during Q4 2013.
The video below shows the Tile system in operation.