14 February 2014

Tile's tiles make the Internet of Things real, without even being on the Internet

Heard about the Internet of Things*? Thought it had nothing to do with you? Take the example of Tile, a startup which hopes to become the world's 'lost and found'. 

Rather than it being about your fridge being connected to the Internet to the point where it can send spam to others, it could be about Tile's reality: tiles which are small enough to fit on a keyring, and which never get lost.

Source: Tile website.

Strictly speaking, the tiles don't actually get on the Internet either, but it's close. Compatible iOS devices like iPhones and iPads can check where nearby tiles are via Bluetooth 4.0, and report their GPS locations to the Tile cloud. The actual locations are only shared with the owner of the tile, and there can be up to 10 tiles per account.

If there are enough Tile users, you could conceivably track your tiles and the items they are attached to. Stick the tiles to office property like laptops, and if they are stolen or misplaced, you can still find out where they are if an iOS device nearby your lost tile checked for tiles, noted the GPS location of your tile, and then reported it to the Tile cloud.  

The challenge is that there have to be enough Tile users for the tracking to occur. At the same time, the GPS signal has to be clear; there are cases where there is no signal, among tall buildings or underground, for example. And in a case where a tile is in a skyscraper, you would likely only obtain the address of the skyscraper, and not which floor it is on.

There is still a lot of utility for tiles within a confined space, however. With tiles, anything could be made to show up location-wise, even a non-electronic item like a plastic file full of paper, or a nametag for a visitor. Important files could be tagged with tiles so that it becomes clear whose desk they are on, for example, and you would theoretically be able to track your visitor's whereabouts at all times to ensure he or she doesn't wander into sensitive areas. 

*The Internet of Things refers to non-computer items being given the ability to communicate with the Internet. Prior to Tile, there was little indication about what they might want to communicate, or how useful that communication would be.