Tile Tracking with Lego Minifig shown to scale

Tile Bluetooth Tracker – Quick Review

I recently stumbled on a clutch of Tile Bluetooth trackers in an airport departure lounge. I’d just disappeared down a Bluetooth LE devices security rabbit hole and was using the RamBLE app to discover what was about (who knew there were so many Samsung Smart TVs around?). I’ve been aware of the Tile and it’s companion app  for a while. As they didn’t work with Android until recently, I had resisted purchase. With a imminent family holiday to a large European theme park with a child with a history of legging it; I purchased a pack of four Tiles for £50.

My hypothesis was the Tiles would work well in large, open, and crowded areas where there was a higher probability being picked up by multiple devices; this should result in good triangulation and accuracy. The tiles themselves are perfect for a keyring, and just about small enough to hide in pocket of a small person. They could easily be glued to a laptop or other moderately sized electronics device. Sadly they are much too large to attach to glasses (something I lose embarrassingly often).

In our case, we had one each about our person; the adults also with a smartphone. The logic was that should one or more of us get lost, we’d have some method of finding each other in a huge crowd. Once detected, the lost tile may be rung by its owner (or someone sharing it). The ringer is surprisingly loud given it’s size and ~1 year battery life, but you’d probably struggle to locate it more than a few meters away anywhere with even moderate background noise.

I had no illusions that the Tile would be able to track with any great accuracy; BLE has a short a range and is easily obstructed. It might however give us an idea if our wandering progeny was in the Lego shop or a car heading around the Paris ring road. The only alternative solutions are much more expensive and otherwise limited; essentially mobile phones with the same bulk/battery issues.

Ultimately it never came to that; our cherub behaved himself and never left our side. However, in one embarrassing situation the app (both Android and iOS) failed to locate my car-keys located in a jacket a pocket. They were found the old-fashioned way (turning everything inside out).

The utility of personal tracking solutions is bound to the critical mass of usage; the more devices out there the more likely someone will pick them up. However any such tracking solution needs to be cheap and forgettable. The Tile mostly succeeds on the first count (about £12.50 each) and very well on the second count. The ultimate test of success though will be the day they locate something that would have otherwise remained lost.

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