What Is Tile And How Can It Be Used In iOS Development? - 29 Oct 2013

Tile is a device created by Reveal Labs that helps you keep track of your most important items wherever they are. Initially only an idea on Kickstarter, the project quickly gained funding from the 49,586 backers that believed in the concept. Each Tile itself is a small square tracking device that links to iPhones via the Tile app. What exactly does this mean for the future of iOS app development?

tile for iphone on suitcase

Tile can be used for anything, from finding your keys when they go missing around the home, to tracking down your bike if it gets stolen. Each device lasts for a full year and never needs to be charged, meaning each time you replace your tile you have the latest version and the best security. Up to 10 devices can be linked to an account, and other users can be invited to track that same device should more than one person use it. This feature is great for a set of keys multiple people use, for example the keys to the shared family car.

If you lose an item with a Tile attached, you simply log into your account, select the device you’re tracking, and the app will act as a tracker, showing you when you get close to the Tile, and therefore whatever you’ve lost. “What if it’s my phone that gets lost” you might say, well you can log into the Tile app on anyone’s smartphone and set your Tile to ring so you can find it, meaning you don’t need to use your phone like a GPS every time you lose track of something. Tile can be used for so much more however.

Bikes, laptops, and phones are all common items that not only get lost or tidied away out of sight, but also stolen. There is a limit to how far a Tile can be tracked via the iPhone app, however, when an item is this far out of range you’re able to report it to the Tile network as a whole. Stolen items are often never found, but the Tile network has an ingenious way of seeking them out. Providing the Tile device on the stolen item still has power, it will be tracked and reported every time it passes someone with the Tile app. This in-turn will alert the Tile network and you via the app. You can then use this information to update the police with the whereabouts of your item, or go and track it down yourself.

tile app

The cloud-based tracking network that Tile has created will change the way people keep track of their valuables, but it could also change iPhone development. If Tile is successful, then many companies will want to adopt the technology for use in their products and even their apps. Businesses selling expensive products could attach Tiles as low-cost security devices meaning items can be tracked if stolen, but also that thieves aren’t likely to find and remove the devices since they’re so small.

Tile devices can be secured on almost any surface with ease, meaning they could be hidden inside products. The added ability businesses will have to track their goods if stolen is something some companies charge a phenomenal amount for, but Tile devices are currently priced at around £15 individually, though there’s no word yet on any bulk-purchasing costs.

Where iOS development comes in is for fast tracking for the company. Developers, using the Tile cloud to alert the company as soon as their Tile devices pass by any user of the Tile app, and could build in functionality to specifically track the tiles owned by that business.

There’s more scope for Tile than security however. There are events all around the world that need to track participants to record their times, as well as keep track of any cheaters. At this year’s Leicester Marathon there was an issue with the chips used to track runners, resulting in all times being estimated rather than the accurate result they usually are.

Leicester Marathon

Should events like this invest in Tile, they could have an app developed and distributed that not only allowed them to track and time participants, but also let family members around the country see an individual’s progress. The more people who have the app, the better the tracking system would be, as each time a Tile device passed a phone with the app it would be updated. Some athletes invest in equipment that facilitates online tracking, but an app that could be distributed nationwide opens up new revenue streams for ads and sponsorship, more than making up the additional cost of using Tile devices as opposed to other, less efficient, time tracking chips. On top of the benefits above, the app could also be free, meaning even more people would be likely to download and use it on the day of an event.

Should iOS developers build an app for one event, then it’s reasonable to think they could build one to encompass all events within a city. Again, this would open up new revenue streams for the city, and bring the community together to share in fun and inspiring events.

Tile will ship this winter and is available for pre order right now. If you’re tired of losing your valuables or even just everyday items you need, then head on over to the Tile website and place your order now.

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