A few times a week for years, this was the scenario: I stumble out of bed, casually glance at my phone, and suddenly realize that I’m going to be late if I don’t run out the door! I speed through my morning routine (admittedly skipping a few steps), get dressed, and head to the front door, when…
“Nooooo! Where the hell are my keys? My wallet?”
Try as I might to keep these things (and many other things) where I can easily find them and grab them quickly before heading out the door, I am not up to the task–especially when I stumble upon rare situations, like when my keys fall out of my pocket and slide under the couch. Enter TILE, a smartphone app (available for both Android and iOS) and a small, square hardware device, which I can easily attach to my keyring, place in a backpack, or on just about anything that is likely to be misplaced or lost. The device’s dimensions are larger than a postage stamp, but smaller than a matchbook, and it weighs approximately the same as a writing pen. My smartphone communicates with each TILE device using Bluetooth Low Energy 4.0 (BLE), a wireless communication protocol in all Android and iOS smartphones.
Let’s rewind back to that scenario: “Nooooo! Where the hell are my keys? My wallet?”
Now, I open the TILE app on my phone and it shows that my keys are nearby, and my wallet was last seen 10 minutes ago.
TILE helps you easily find your belongings! Simply press the item’s picture in your app and click the “FIND” button. This will cause the TILE attached to any item to continuously play a jingle. In addition to the audio feedback, the app has a signal strength meter indicating an item’s relative proximity: “a few steps away” or “within arm’s length.” I find it to be very helpful in locating my day-to-day things, as they are strewn about my apartment. Conversely, if I’ve misplaced my phone, I can double-press the “e” on any of my TILEs and it will automatically play the TILE jingle on my phone (even if the phone is on vibrate or silent mode).
In the event that I actually lose something (on the street, for example), the TILE community can help me find my lost item. From its inception in mid-2014, TILE was crowd funded and, keeping in that spirit, location of your truly lost items is anonymously crowd sourced through other TILE users. There was a report from San Francisco of a man whose Ducati motorcycle was stolen. He marked it in his TILE app as “LOST.” That silently alerted the apps of all TILE users to be on the lookout for the TILE assigned to the motorcycle. One TILE user happened to be within range (about 150 feet in open air) and, without even knowing, his app reported the location of the motorcycle back to the owner (using Cloud technology). In this case, the motorcycle happened to be 300 miles from where he originally left it. The authorities were called and the motorcycle was returned to its rightful owner.
TILEs can be purchased for $25 each and there are discounts for buying in bulk: 4 for $70, 8 for $130, and 12 for $180. The battery in each TILE lasts a little over a year; the app will warn you as that time approaches and give you the opportunity to purchase reduced-cost replacements. You can even recycle expired TILEs!
It may sound like a hefty investment, at first, but it breaks down (in my case) to about $1.35 per item per month. I have not had any noticeable decrease in my smartphone’s battery life and have, most certainly, avoided a great deal of unnecessary stress looking for misplaced items!
As a supporter of crowd funding, I initially purchased 4 TILEs and, now, I am up to 8. I’ve given several away to friends and family as gifts and secretly smile as I know they could potentially (and anonymously) be helping me locate my lost items in the future. As the TILE user base grows (the company reports over 4.5 million TILES sold, as of February 2016), the likelihood of finding a lost item is greatly increased!
The top 5 cities in the U.S., in terms of TILE ownership, are:
1) New York
2) San Francisco
3) Los Angeles
The TILE community has come up with some pretty ingenious uses beyond the obvious “missing keys and wallet” implementations. Everything from briefcases, handbags and laptops to family pets, asthma pumps and remote controlled drones have been TILEd.
About Timothy Assam III
Timothy Assam is a New York-based lifestyle/tech writer and DJ. He was previously a product reviewer and writer for Skratchworx.com (now DJWorx.com), the preeminent source for DJ gear and lifestyle.
When he’s not reviewing the latest technology, he can be found spinning for dancefloors large and small.