Tile: looks like a good idea

I just ran across this device, tile. It looks like it is a tiny plastic (RFID?), personal device that you can attach to any object, then track it with an iPhone or other modern communication gadget. Lost your keys? Misplaced your wallet? Had your laptop stolen? Now you can find it.

This might be a good idea. I’m stoked.

I’m not sure it is on the market yet, but they are taking “pre-orders” at $20.

Any thoughts? Any experience? Is this the wave of the future or a worthless gadget?

Hmm…it “runs out” after a year (presumably the battery dies) and you have to buy another. I don’t know that I misplace enough stuff to invest $20/year into it. Might be nice if you took expensive stuff out in public a lot, like a laptop on the bus or whatever.

So it’s not RFID. Too bad, but a battery-powered device gives a better range. Maybe the next model will last 2 years.

If the battery dies (or it runs out) it’s not RFID. It probably just uses an ad-hoc connection to the wifi signal on your phone.
That is, it uses wifi, but connects directly to your phone instead of going through a router. Which is why it can tell you how close you are, based on signal strength. Could be bluetooth as well, but I’m doubting that since that needs to be paired to a device and these will pair to anything that walks by since it has that whole ‘lost and found’ ability thing (the part where they talk about if your bike is stolen). That wouldn’t work with bluetooth.

Where do you see that? The link I supplied says:

So it looks like it is an RFID device after all.


I guess I won’t be ordering one. Pretty narrow target audience.

An RFID device would never ‘run out’. That would be like a bar code not working anymore.

If it is RFID and they’re telling you it runs out or stops working after a year it’s because they’re deliberately unpairing it from your device in an effort to force you to buy a new one once a year.

Also, I’d be surprised if your phone can read RFID devices without a dongle.

My Bluetooth knowledge is old and rusty - the last time I wrote a BT stack was around 1999, before the spec reached rev 1.0. That being said…

Technically, you can talk to a Bluetooth device without pairing. In fact, you have to, in order to get to the part where you can try pairing. The baseband and LMP protocols come before that.

Also, Bluetooth does allow for multiple devices in a network, active at the same time. It doesn’t get used nearly as often as a paired device like headphones, but the spec allows for it.

In any case…it looks like it is using Bluetooth 4.0. Here’s a comment from the FAQ, explaining why they don’t support Android devices:

ETA: More items from the FAQ mention that they run out after a year, and that it has a built in speaker. Those two together make me believe it has a battery.

But this device needs to do a bit more then just ‘talk’ to it. Any time your phone happens across another Tile device, it has to connect to it, decide if it’s stole/lost, if it is, then it sends a message back to Tile which sends a message to the Owner which I assume tells them where your device is. Most of that is moot…

Actually, now that I think about it, it could work with bluetooth since all the phone needs to do is get the Bluetooth ID and send that back to Tile, the rest can happen on their servers. The device itself doesn’t need to know it’s lost. The problem with bluetooth is, your phone is only on the lookout for other BT devices when you tell it to look for them. It doesn’t just randomly find them like it does Wi-Fi signals.

I’m guessing the battery is needed for the speaker (Can an RFID device power a speaker? I don’t think so.). Maybe this is a hybrid design. The beeper seems to be an option that can be enabled.

RFIDs are passive devices, they don’t contain a battery. They receive an RF signal from the reader and use that signal to power up the transmitter and send out a signal.
Also, as I said earlier, your iPhone wouldn’t be able to deal with RFID tags. It doesn’t contain the technology to read them. It would be like asking it play a record.

Also, from wiki, Tile uses Bluetooth 4.0.

So you’re throwing it out when the battery dies, after about a year. I don’t see something like these catching on in any major way (it’s not the first time something like this has been put on the market), but if they did, it seems like a huge waste.

My WAG is that if you use if for a year, the battery dies, you replace it, and you get a newer model with a longer-lasting battery and updated firmware. Expecting any device like this to be usable without upgrading for 5 years isn’t the way technology works today. So a year life isn’t all that ridiculous. Basically, you’re paying $20 for a year’s functionality. How much do you pay to use your iPhone for a year?

A)If I have 5 of these, that’s $100 a year
B)What does the cost of an iPhone have to do with this. How much do you pay to use your car for a year?
C)Make the battery replaceable. Having a non-replaceable (non-rechagable) battery is almost the very definition of planned obsolesce. They’re getting you to buy a new one each year to bring in some more cash. But it feels like a rip off, how about having a cheap subscription. $2.00 a month feels dirt cheap and would make them more then $20 (gross not net) a year.
After that they could still find reasons to get you to buy better ones every few years.

I should clarify that by ‘waste’ I didn’t mean that it was a waste of money (though it kind of is), I meant that it was a lot of garbage. But then I don’t lose my keys or wallet all that often. Though, for twenty bucks a year it might not be a cheap way to lo-jack your car or bike or laptop. But that’s not going to work until enough people have the app on their phones that you have any kind of hope of some other random person walking near enough of to it that their phone sees it.

In the interest of being pedantic, not all RFID devices are passive. Passive RFID devices don’t contain a battery. There are active RFID devices that are powered, either by the grid or a battery.
As we both point out though, this particular device is not any type of RFID, so that’s probably a discussion for another thread.

Also mostly unrelated, I probably should read up on Bluetooth 4.0. It’s apparently also how the “touch the door handle to unlock your car” technology works.

That I’m aware of, I just assumed it wasn’t the case here. Mostly because I know that RFID can work for a pretty good distance (think iPass) and this seems to be just for trying to find keys lost in your house, not trying to drive down the street figuring out which bar you left your coat at.

Really? I just assumed that was RFID. Actually, I’m almost positive it is, my key, I don’t think, contains a battery. It does make me wonder how the buttons work. FTR, I do have the Smart Entry and Keyless start, but it has a few buttons. I suppose it could be designed so that if hit one of the buttons when I’m within range the power gets routed through a different RFID chip and when the car sees that code it does something (unlocks the doors/locks the doors/pops the trunk) as opposed to just noticing that my key is nearby and giving the car the okay to unlock the doors when I touch the handle.

Now I have to see what the manual says about that. The specs may mention something about whether or not the fob has a battery and what kind of radio signal it uses.

A)My smart key does have a battery, I just didn’t know it.
B)My manual doesn’t say what kind of radio signal it transmits. I’m sure when I push a button it’s just some generic signal like most other key fobs, but when I grab the door handle or go to start the car, I would have assumed it’s RFID based so the car can send a signal to it and it can “respond”.

It says “lasts a year” in the little icon section above the FAQ on the page you linked to, Musicat.

It also says in the same place that they send you a notice to buy a new one and an envelope to send the old one back for recycling. So there’s your waste angle, JoeyP.


$40 for 6. Cheaper than $20 for 1. And just as functional. Well, except for that “cloud-search” thingie. But then, who’s going to steal my TV remote?

Essentially they’re setting up a service, not a product. You get 1 year of service for your payment.
They’re honest and up-front about it so I have no issue with it, it’s just not what I want and I will not be a customer.

If that was the case, they’ll put themselves out of business in a hurry. Their FAQ says “From the Tile community perspective, part of our vision is making Tiles less expensive and longer lasting every year.”

So, right now you get one that lasts a year for $20. In a few years I’d hope it would last 2 years for, say $15. That represents a pretty significant decrease in income for them. Going from $20 a year to $7.5. And, as I said, there are other things on the market like this so it’s not all that likely that’s it’s going to catch on in any huge way. At least not that they’ll be able to make that up in volume.

My guess is that if they’re still around in a few years they’ll have a model with a replaceable battery because “Trying to find the right coin cell battery is a pain” seems kind of silly. Anyone who A)owns an iPhone B)buys Tile and can C)Pair the two devices can probably handle picking up a new coin cell battery the next time they’re at the grocery store.
The Tile people just have to make sure they use Energizers or Duracells so it’s got a normal model number (like CR2032) and not some off brand with a weird number that makes me have to go outside to get a signal so I can google the model number on there to find out what the appropriate model number is for what the grocery store sells. That IS a PITA and if I haven’t used the thing in a while I might just decide I don’t need to buy a battery for it.

ETA, yes they’re selling you a year of service, I just don’t think they’re really being honest about it. I mean, I don’t care since I’m not going to buy it, but I just think enough people that do buy it are going to get annoyed at coughing up $20 a year to (essentially) replace a $2.00 battery.

There was a product called “HayTag” that did crowd sourcing for funds a while ago (2012?) … I’ve been waiting to see it released to see if it would be any good … but it’s been ages and they keep putting back the release date. From what is on their website I like the bigger range vs some of the other products that have already been released (and no ongoing costs).

I’m waiting to see if they can actually get it to work!