(Pocket-lint) - Tile is best known for its Bluetooth trackers. You can connect to Tile and use it to keep track of your possessions - the classic example being your keys, for example.
But there's a lot more going on with Tile as the company looks to expand its offering, making it easier to keep track of your possessions or find items you misplace.
Here's how Find with Tile works and everything you need to know.
What is Tile?
Tile is a company offering trackers that connect via Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE or BLE), allowing the owner to use a smartphone app to locate those trackers on demand.
The company sells a range of different trackers themselves - Tile Pro, Tile Mate, Tile Slim (and several older models) - as well as working other Bluetooth-enabled devices, for example headphones.
In the case of headphones, you won't need a separate Tile tracker for it, the system will run using the device's native Bluetooth hardware - which is known as Find with Tile, as long as that technology is supported.
There are 26 million Tiles out there (based on 2019 figures), with 6 million location requests every day - and Tile reports that it has over 90 per cent of the US Bluetooth tracker market - so it's a pretty expansive system.
What is Find with Tile?
As we've just mentioned above, Find with Tile expands the Tile system beyond just its own trackers. It enables other Bluetooth devices to be included in the Tile ecosystem, meaning you can find and locate those devices just as you would a Tile tracker.
For example, there's support from Bose, meaning you can register the SoundSport headphones in the Tile app and you can use the app to find those headphones. The Sennheiser Momentum wireless also offer the tech. There's nothing to add to the hardware, it's all software-based and uses the headphones' existing Bluetooth chip and battery. It's also been adopted by companies like HP for some laptops and most recently, by Fitbit.
The Find with Tile system is designed to link up a lot more stuff, meaning that you can keep track of a whole range of different items, with over 20 partnerships already announced.
Tile's aim is to link-up all your devices so that you can easily locate something you lose at home, leave at the gym, on a bus or anywhere else.
How does Tile location work?
The Tile location system uses BLE to connect to devices - all it needs is Bluetooth and some battery life. When a device is in range, you can simply open the app on your phone, tap the Tile and find it - the Tile then plays a tune so you can locate it.
If you're out of range you can see the last location that was registered (which is taken from your phone's location at that time), so you can retrace your steps to find that lost item.
But there's also a much bigger community play here. If you're no longer in that area, you can tap the button in the app to notify you when your device is found, and the rest of the Tile community comes into play. When your lost item is detected by another Tile user, the location is passed back to you.
It's all anonymous, so you don't know who detects your item and they don't know they've detected your item, you will just have the location passed back to your app so you can go and find your missing possessions.
It's using this wider community that Tile has a big advantage - if you live in any sort of urban or suburban area, there's likely to be thousands of Tile users around you - so locating things you might lose becomes easier. As the community grows through more partnerships, the density of the Tile community will increase, again boosting the likelihood of your missing item being found.
The system also works in reverse - you can use any Tile to find your phone with a double press of the button.
What devices and companies work with Tile?
There are two sides to this question. Firstly, Tile can run in software form when it knows what Bluetooth hardware is in a device. Going back to those Bose SoundSport headphones, for example, it was a software solution added when the headphones were already on sale.
But Tile has also worked on building partnerships to integrate Tile functionality with Bluetooth hardware providers. Those companies include:
- Dialog Semiconductor
- Silicon Labs
- Nordic Semiconductor
These companies are among the biggest Bluetooth providers in the market and this means that if a company is manufacturing a new device - a fitness tracker for example - they can opt to have Tile location as a feature of their headphones as it's natively supported by the Bluetooth hardware. Nordic Semiconductor, for example, is used by Garmin and Polar, so could feasibly offer Find with Tile features in future devices.
There are some big brands already working with Tile, including:
Some products from those brands will include Find with Tile functionality making it easy to locate those items in the home or when out and about.
Tile and the smart home
Locating your devices doesn't stop with your phone. Tile also has partnerships with Google and Amazon, meaning you can use Google Assistant or Alexa to find devices too, meaning you can use your voice. You can also use Siri Shortcuts.
Tile will also be supporting Assistant Connect, which is Google's feature that allows interaction without using Google cloud. In this instance, you'll be able to locate a Tile using your Google Home or Nest Hub and no information needs to go via the cloud - it can be point to point within your home.
Using Amazon Alexa you have to enable the Tile Skill, sign-in to your account to link them up - then you can simply say "Alexa, ask Tile to find my keys" it will find and ring the device on your keys.
There's a bigger home play with Tile too. Comcast is both an investor and partner in Tile and yes, Comcast's set-top boxes can also be used for Tile functionality, searching for lost items from your TV.
For the UK, since Comcast has bought Sky, it's likely that the same functionality will expand to Sky's own set-top boxes in the future. Not only could that help for locating something you've lost in the house, but helps expand the Tile network across domestic locations to again widen the net of the Tile community.
Most of the Tile functions are available to you without paying anything extra - it's covered in the cost of buying the device in the first place. But there is a subscription offering with a Premium tier, which unlocks some additional features.
For a yearly cost of $/£29.99 (or $/£2.99 a month) you can access a range of other features:
- Unlimited sharing of Tile devices with friends of family
- Smart Alert to inform you if you're leaving home without something you normally take
- 30-day location history so you can see where you Tile has been
- Free battery replacement for the Tile Pro or Mate
- 3 year warranty on your Tiles
- Premium customer care
What about alternative devices from Apple and Samsung?
Apple recently announced that it was merging Find My Friends and Find My iPhone into a new Find My app, which recently announced support for third-party devices. There are rumours that Apple is interested in launching a tag of its own, similar to Tile.
Apple's Find My service currently uses location services on its iPhone, Watch and other devices to help you locate them, something you can do through iCloud or on your iPhone or iPad.
Although Apple hasn't made any announcements about a tracker, this would be entirely separate from Tile's system - we doubt Tile would work within the Find My system.
Samsung has also launched the Galaxy SmartTag, which only works with Galaxy devices, via SmartThings Find, but essentially offers similar functionality to Tile. Again, the downside is that it's limited to Samsung devices only, with no plans to support other phones.
What about future plans for Tile?
Rumours suggest that Tile is working on a next-gen Tile device that will introduce new ways of finding your list devices. It's thought that Tile will be launching a device in the future that will use ultra-wideband technology, UWB, which is a short-range wireless protocol that's great for precise directional location. UWB is supported in the iPhone 12, as well as the Samsung Galaxy S21+ and S21 Ultra devices.
The technology would, for example, allow you to locate an item more precisely than the current Bluetooth approach and use augemented reality - AR - to find that device via the screen on your phone. Samsung has also announced that it will be launching the Galaxy SmartTag+ offer this exact same functionality.
There's no word on when we might see this new device from Tile, but Samsung's equivalent will be available later in 2021.