Archive for Tile

Tile Launches Their Own Anti Stalking Features

Posted in Commentary with tags on March 18, 2022 by itnerd

Tile has announced their Scan and Secure feature. Which is their version of what Apple has done to discourage the use of AirTags as tracking devices in situations like stalking. This feature allows anyone to check for the presence of Tile devices in close proximity to them that don’t belong to them. Instructions on how to use it can be found here, and it can be used by anyone simply by downloading the Tile app. I took a look at the instructions and it seems a bit of a chore to use. I say that because of this:

The scan requires you to walk/move or drive a certain distance away from your original location (the feature does not work properly if you circle around one location, such as walking inside your home). Your safety while completing the Scan and Secure feature is very important to us. Please use caution while walking/moving/driving when using the feature. If you choose to drive during the scan, please avoid looking at your phone while driving.

Once started, the scan will continue and your phone will not go ‘to sleep’. When the scan is complete, please park your car in a safe place before reviewing the results.  If you choose to walk or use a bike (or any similar transportation mode such as a scooter) while running the scan, please remain aware of your surroundings and be careful around traffic.

That really sounds like any user who thinks that they might have an unwanted Tile tracker on their person has to hop through hoops to confirm or deny that. And I truly wonder if this will truly work as designed as Apple’s solution to this problem seems way more elegant. The only way to find out is to test this for myself. Now I checked my Tile app and I didn’t have this feature. But it is apparently rolling out over the next couple of weeks. Thus when I do get it, I’ll test this out and let you know how well this works or doesn’t work. Stay tuned for that.

Life360 Says Tile Sales Are Down…. But It’s Apple’s Fault

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 28, 2022 by itnerd

Here’s a new one. Life 360 who now owns the Tile Bluetooth trackers say that sales are down, and their stock value has fallen. But it’s all Apple’s fault because of the fact that AirTags can be used to stalk people. This is what Life 360 CEO Chris Hull said:

“We’re watching the privacy concerns relating to Apple AirTags and stalking risks,” Hull told investors on a call on Thursday.

“The scrutiny Apple is facing in the press is moderating growth of the category overall.”

While Hull was careful to point out the news does not change Life360’s ability to drive subscription growth through the Tile integration, he noted it could slow down the company’s hardware sales strategy and had in fact already hit Tile’s sales numbers.

“This may be a headwind for standalone hardware sales until the situation resolves and the category is able to more fully emerge,” he said.

I call BS on that because this is the same company that sells the precise location data of their customers as part of their business model. And when that came to light they had to alter what data they sold because of the blowback from the public. So perhaps the truth is that it’s not Apple’s fault, it’s the business model that is at fault. Because while Apple doesn’t disclose how many AirTags they sell, anecdotal evidence suggests that they are selling just fine unlike Tile trackers. So maybe Mr. Hull needs to get his house in order as clearly the purchase of Tile isn’t paying dividends.

Tile Owner Life360 To Stop Selling “Precise” User Data

Posted in Commentary with tags , on January 28, 2022 by itnerd

You might recall that Bluetooth tracking device Tile was bought by a company called Life360, who it was discovered had a very bad reputation for selling all the data it could to make the most amount of money possible. I was wondering this at the time:

So Tile users, this is who has purchased your location tracking service. They don’t sound like the best people, and I for one would interested to see how Life360 responds to this so that their purchase of Tile doesn’t go down the tubes.

We have a sign of how Life360 is going to respond. They’re going to stop selling “precise” user data:

The family safety app Life360 announced on Wednesday that it would stop selling precise location data, cutting off one of the multibillion-dollar location data industry’s largest sources.  The decision comes after The Markup revealed that Life360 was supplying up to a dozen data brokers with the whereabouts of millions of its users. 

In a quarterly activities report released to its investors on the Australian Securities Exchange, Life360’s founder and CEO Chris Hulls announced that Life360 will phase out all of its location data deals, except with Allstate’s Arity. Life360 is a San Francisco–based company publicly traded on the Australian exchange, but it has plans to go public in the U.S. this year. 

And:

Life360’s report described the arrangement as a “new data partnership” that “significantly advances privacy initiatives.”

“Life360 recognises that aggregated data analytics (for example, 150 people drove by the supermarket) is the wave of the future and that businesses will increasingly place a premium on data insights that do not rely on device-level or other individual user-level identifiers,” Hulls said in the announcement. 

He said that selling aggregate location data would mean “reducing business risk” for the company. Hulls did not elaborate on what those risks were. The deal with Placer.ai does not include data from the companies Tile and Jiobit, both of which Life360 announced acquisitions of last year.  

To be honest, I am not sure if this will put Tile users minds at ease. Assuming that they still use Tile as there have been reports of Tile users dumping the product when these issues came to light. But the flip side to that is that at least Life360 recognizes that they have a problem. Let’s see if that recognition pays off for them.

The Markup Details How Much Life360 Relies On Selling Data…. And What Might Be In Store For Tile Users Now That They Own Tile

Posted in Commentary with tags on December 6, 2021 by itnerd

Last week I wrote about Life360 and their purchase of Tile. In that writeup, I mentioned this:

But I suspect that Tile users may want to be ready for Life360’s rather craptastic privacy policy. Life360 data harvests and sells your data (including location data). My sense is that this will mean that Tile users will likely defect to other solutions. 

Well, there are more details about the way they handle data. And the details don’t paint Life360 in a positive light:

Through interviews with two former employees of the company, along with two individuals who formerly worked at location data brokers Cuebiq and X-Mode, The Markup discovered that the app acts as a firehose of data for a controversial industry that has operated in the shadows with few safeguards to prevent the misuse of this sensitive information. The former employees spoke with The Markup on the condition that we not use their names, as they are all still employed in the data industry. They said they agreed to talk because of concerns with the location data industry’s security and privacy and a desire to shed more light on the opaque location data economy. All of them described Life360 as one of the largest sources of data for the industry. 

And this doesn’t help Life360’s cause either:

Meanwhile, selling location data has become more and more central to the company’s health as it’s struggled to achieve profitability. In 2016, the company made $693,000 from selling data it collected. In 2020, the company made $16 million—nearly 20 percent of its revenue that year—from selling location data, plus an additional $6 million from its partnership with Arity. 

So Tile users, this is who has purchased your location tracking service. They don’t sound like the best people, and I for one would interested to see how Life360 responds to this so that their purchase of Tile doesn’t go down the tubes.

BREAKING: Tile Selling Itself To Life360 For $205 Million

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 22, 2021 by itnerd

On Sunday, I read an article where Tile claimed that they were doing well against AirTags. And that their business is doing well. Well, 24 hours later, the news is out that Tile is selling itself to Life360 for $205 million. To put that in perspective, Apple has $1.2 billion in revenues a day. So read into that what you will.

Here’s why Life360 bought Tile:

Life360 bills itself as an overall family safety app, with location sharing between family members, crash detection, and other features. Over the summer, it announced that it has over 1 million paying customers and reported its valuation had crossed $1 billion. It also acquired another item locating hardware startup, Jiobit, which makes cellular-connected trackers for kids and pets. 

Life360 expects the deal will increase the global footprint for both companies, Tile’s non-Bluetooth Finding Network, and create a larger combined subscriber base. Currently listed on the stock exchange in Australia, Life360 says it has plans for a “potential dual listing in the US” next year.

In a blog post announcing the Tile acquisition, Life360 CEO and co-founder Chris Hulls says, “The combination of Life360 and Tile means safety just got a whole lot simpler for millions of families and individuals around the world. We’ll be bundling Tile devices as part of our Membership plans, and Tile will offer Life360 Membership benefits to its customers. We’ll also start work on integrating our technologies so Tile devices, Jiobit wearables, and Life360 app customers will show up on a unified map – people, pets, and things all in one place.”

So clearly Life360 seriously wants to to up their game in terms of location tracking. And Tile clearly fits into that. But I suspect that Tile users may want to be ready for Life360’s rather craptastic privacy policy. Life360 data harvests and sells your data (including location data). My sense is that this will mean that Tile users will likely defect to other solutions. We’ll have to see how this plays out. In any case, at least Tile has a backer to help it to better complete with Apple’s AirTags.

How Tile Can Avoid Being A Footnote In History

Posted in Commentary with tags on May 10, 2021 by itnerd

With the release of Apple AirTag, Tile is under pressure as evidenced by them being vocal about wanting “fair” competition and going to congress to complain about it. That pressure is being driven by the size of their network which is meant to help you to find your stuff when you lose it. It is a drop in the bucket when compared to every Apple device on the planet which totals about a billion devices. Which means that if you want to find your stuff, Tile can’t help you with that. This was reinforced by an experiment that I wrote about yesterday where the Apple AirTag was found within minutes and the Tile was never found. And further reinforced by this video done by Zone Of Tech who conducted a comparison of Apple AirTag, Samsung SmartTag, and Tile. Tile largely came out on the wrong end of that comparison as well. Specifically Tile was only found once in their experiment while the other trackers were found frequently during their experiment. That highlighted that there’s basically three silos when it comes to the tracking device space:

  • Tile who clearly doesn’t have a big network of devices to help you to find your stuff.
  • Samsung who has a much bigger network made up of Samsung devices.
  • Apple who has a huge network made up of Apple devices.

Now Tile did cut a deal with Amazon to try and expand their ability to find stuff, just like they cut a deal with Google for the same reason. But that really isn’t going help them to compete with Apple, or Samsung for that matter. So the question is, how does Tile quickly increase the size of their network so that they can be a player in a market that until very recently they’ve dominated?

My suggestion is this: If I were CJ Prober who is the CEO of Tile, I would sell the company to Google. Then Google should promptly integrate Tile functionality into Android so that it has the same scale in terms of finding things based on the fact that there are maybe a billion or more Android devices out there. That would instantly make Tile a competitor against Apple and Samsung as this functionality is built into Apple’s OSes as well as Samsung devices which instantly makes their respective tracking devices very useful. One other thing that I would note is that Google in this scenario should also keep the Tile iOS app. That way they don’t orphan the Tile users are who are on iOS, and it insulates them from any potential anti-trust issues. That wouldn’t be unusual for Google as they already do something like this with WearOS.

The fact is that there is zero chance that Tile can grow their network on their own to the scale that they need it to get to so that they can go up against Apple and Samsung in some meaningful way. In fact I fully expect that if Tile does nothing, they will lose market share to both Apple and Samsung. And if Tile joins the Find My network that is run by Apple, seeing as they’re presently not part of it, the Tile network will likely shrink anyway. So Tile’s best shot is to sell themselves to Google as quickly as possible. I say quickly because you have to believe that Google is working on a Tile like product to compete with Apple and Samsung. I base that on the fact that it is rumored that Google is looking to put an ultra wide band chip into their next Pixel phone. Samsung and Apple have those chips in their latest phones which helps their trackers to work better. Thus it makes sense that Google must also be working on a tracking product of some sort and buying Tile would save them a whole lot of time and effort. And time is not on Tile’s side because if Google ships that tracking product and that phone, then you might as well stick a fork in Tile because they will be done.

Thus in light of the above, CJ Prober should get on the phone with Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai ASAP and play a game of Let’s Make A Deal. Because quite frankly, it’s Tile’s only chance for survival as I cannot see any other scenario where Tile survives in the long term.

Apple AirTag VS Tile…. Which One Can Help You To Find Your Stuff Better?

Posted in Products with tags , on May 9, 2021 by itnerd

After I posted my Apple AirTag review, I got requests asking me to compare the AirTag to Tile. The question that was being asked was simple. Which one can help to find your stuff better. I suspected that I knew what the answer was going to be. But before I get to the experiments and the results, let’s first get some background.

Tile according to their “About” page have sold 30 million of the devices worldwide. But that doesn’t mean that they have thirty million active users who run the Tile app and can help you to find your stuff should you lose it. In fact, finding an active user count is pretty impossible. So it’s an open question as to how many users can help you to find your stuff. Having said that, according to the Tile app I have 2676 Tile users in my area of Toronto. Contrast that with Apple who has a billion or so Apple devices out there. All of whom can passively find an AirTag whether the owners of those devices know it or not. So in theory the advantage goes to Apple. But that’s theory and reality are often very different. So let’s look at the contenders before I speak of how I tested this.

On the left is the Tile Pro and on the right is the Apple AirTag. The idea was that I would drive them to a location that had a lot of people which was a busy parking lot that was in the middle of the Old Mill Parkette which is part of the Humber River Trail in west end Toronto while my iPhone was in airplane mode. I then parked and walked at least 1 kilometer away. Next I would take the iPhone out of airplane mode, place both devices into lost mode and see which one was found quicker. Now this was a good plan, but something really interesting happened. When I took my phone out of airplane mode 12 minutes after walking away from the car, the Apple AirTag was already spotted by an Apple user 10 minutes before. So I didn’t even have a chance to put it into lost mode before it was located. But in the interest of science, I put the Tile into lost mode and waited to be found. Except that it was never found. I walked away from the car and back in a walk that took over an hour and it never was found. Except when I walked up to the car. That was the only time that I was alerted that the Tile was found.

I was thinking that I didn’t give the Tile a fair shot. So I changed locations and repeated the experiment. This time I tried the experiment in Downtown Toronto. Specifically Yonge-Dundas Square which even in the middle of a semi-lockdown was pretty busy. Again, I brought the devices there with my phone in airplane mode and hid them. Then walked away at least 1 kilometer. Yet again by the time I got to that distance and took my iPhone 12 Pro out of airplane mode, the Apple AirTag was already found. This time it was found within 2 minutes of it being left. Again I put the Tile into lost mode and waited for it to be found. But again it wasn’t found. I waited an hour before I finally gave up.

I believe that seeing as I got similar results twice speaks to the fact that Apple AirTag is the tracker to use if you want to find something. Tile simply couldn’t deliver a result in either location. And I suspect that if I repeated this in other locations, I would get the same results. This likely highlights why Tile is so freaked out about Apple entering this market. Apple can clearly dominate this market without trying. That will benefit Apple users and keep in mind that you can likely copy and past this result for any other tracker that leverages the Find My network. Which means it might be game over for Tile.

Tile Teams Up With Amazon To Try And Fight Apple AirTag… And In My Mind It’s A #Fail

Posted in Commentary with tags , on May 8, 2021 by itnerd

Clearly Tile is feeling the pressure from Apple AirTag. So much so that according to CNBC, Tile has cut a deal with Amazon:

Amazon’s partnership will allow it beef up its tracking network, called Sidewalk, by letting Tile and Level devices tap into the Bluetooth networks created by millions of its Echo products. Tile will start working with Amazon’s network beginning June 14.

It needs the help because from what I can tell, Tile has a network of roughly has sold 30 million users Tile trackers, but their actual network size isn’t known. Compared to the billion or so Apple devices out there, it leaves Tile at a significant disadvantage. Amazon will sort of help with that. I say sort of because:

Amazon said Sidewalk will also strengthen Tile’s existing in-home finding experience with Alexa. Customers can say, “Alexa, find my keys” and their Tile tracker will start ringing from a coat pocket or from under the bed signaling where to find their lost item.

Amazon also said users with multiple Echo devices connected to Sidewalk will be able to find misplaced items around their homes even faster. Alexa can tell users which Echo device their Tiled item is closer to, whether it is the kitchen speaker or their bedroom speaker and the day and time it was last seen near that device.

In other words, this won’t help you find your keys in Downtown Toronto. Which means Apple likely still has the advantage here. But I guess Tile had to do something to stay in the game. And this qualifies as something. So let’s see how far this deal gets them.

Does Tile Have Anything To Worry About When It Comes To Apple’s AirTags? Yes…. But It’s Not For The Reason That Tile Is Focused On

Posted in Commentary with tags , on April 22, 2021 by itnerd

Earlier this week at the Apple “Spring Forward” event Apple finally announced the long rumored AirTags tracking device. I did a story on why Tile can’t or won’t jump onto Apple’s Find My network which allows third party devices to work within the Apple ecosystem. But the real question is this. Now that AirTags actually exists, does Tile have anything to worry about?

Tile clearly thinks so. Almost the second that the “Spring Forward” event was over, Tile called Apple out:

Our mission is to solve the everyday pain point of finding lost and misplaced things and we are flattered to see Apple, one of the most valuable companies in the world, enter and validate the category Tile pioneered.

The reason so many people turn to Tile to locate their lost or misplaced items is because of the differentiated value we offer our consumers. In addition to providing an industry leading set of features via our app that works with iOS and Android devices, our service is seamlessly integrated with all major voice assistants, including Alexa and Google. And with form factors for every use case and many different styles at affordable prices, there is a Tile for everyone.

Tile has also successfully partnered with top brands like HP, Intel, Skullcandy and fitbit to enable our finding technology in mass market consumer categories like laptops, earbuds and wearables. With over 30 partners, we look forward to extending the benefits of Tile to millions of customers and enabling an experience that helps you keep track of all your important belongings.

We welcome competition, as long as it is fair competition. Unfortunately, given Apple’s well-documented history of using its platform advantage to unfairly limit competition for its products, we’re skeptical. And given our prior history with Apple, we think it is entirely appropriate for Congress to take a closer look at Apple’s business practices specific to its entry into this category. We welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues further in front of Congress tomorrow.

Let’s think about this for a second, Apple has opened up the Find My network to third parties. Sure that might be an optics exercise. But it also shows that if Tile really wanted to, they could join the party. But they’re either choosing not to, or they can’t. Something to consider is that if they did participate in the Find My network, they would have to have at least the trackers that are part of that network exclusively inside Apple’s ecosystem. Which means that they would be excluded from the Tile network. Something that I am sure isn’t palatable to Tile.

The other thing that I will say on this front is that Apple would be completely stupid to not allow Tile into the Find My party given how much scrutiny that they’re currently under from the US Congress among others for anti-trust reasons. Thus I have to wonder if this is all about the fact that Tile has just seen their life flash before their eyes because Apple just came out with a product that is potentially better.

Now if you ask me, here’s what Tile should really be worried about. Privacy. Apple as part of the Find My network has some pretty extensive privacy features. Here’s a paragraph from the Apple press release announcing AirTags:

AirTag is also designed with a set of proactive features that discourage unwanted tracking, an industry first. Bluetooth signal identifiers transmitted by AirTag rotate frequently to prevent unwanted location tracking. iOS devices can also detect an AirTag that isn’t with its owner, and notify the user if an unknown AirTag is seen to be traveling with them from place to place over time. And even if users don’t have an iOS device, an AirTag separated from its owner for an extended period of time will play a sound when moved to draw attention to it. If a user detects an unknown AirTag, they can tap it with their iPhone or NFC-capable device and instructions will guide them to disable the unknown AirTag.

Tile has nothing like this to stop unwanted tracking. And unless they get something like this as privacy matters to users these days, they may face mass defections of users that exist inside the Apple ecosystem who care about privacy. In my case, this feature alone is making me consider switching over my investment in the Tile ecosystem to AirTags because I care about privacy. But I will have to get one in house and test it out before I pull that trigger. Which if you clued in that this means that I will be reviewing AirTags, you get to move to the front of the class.

If anything, Tile needs to worry about being one step behind Apple in terms of privacy rather than go to congress and complain about any perceived anti-trust issues that it has with Apple. If they worry about the former, they have the chance to go head to head with Apple because:

  • Tile was in this market first and has sizable lead.
  • Tile has a cross platform product while Apple has a Apple centric product with limited Android support in the form of tapping an AirTag with an NFC enabled Android device to get directions to kill it or return it.

Let’s see if Tile chooses to do the right thing and match Apple in terms of privacy, or go down a path that will likely end in doom for them.

So Why Wasn’t Tile Included In Apple’s Find My Network Announcement?

Posted in Commentary with tags , on April 8, 2021 by itnerd

Yesterday Apple announced Find My Network integration with third party products including products from Belkin, Chipolo, and VanMoof. But weird thing to many was that Tile who by far was the originator of creating trackers that can be found using crowdsourced info, and by far has the largest network to help you to find lost items if you use their trackers. You have to wonder why that was the case as surely there are tens of thousands of Tile users out there who would love to have this functionality. So why isn’t it there? Well, seeing as Apple isn’t the type of company to be forthcoming with this sort of information. So that leaves us to guess what the reason why this might be.

My first guess, and the most likely reason in my mind is this paragraph from Apple’s announcement:

Today Apple is also announcing a draft specification for chipset manufacturers that will be released later this spring. With this, third-party device makers will be able to take advantage of Ultra Wideband technology in U1-equipped Apple devices, creating a more precise, directionally aware experience when nearby.

Tile devices use Bluetooth. So it appears that based on the above, Tile devices won’t work with the Find My Network as they don’t support Ultra Wideband technology. At least not at present. Perhaps that will change in the future. And to add further weight to that argument, Chipolo has a new tracker that is shipping in June that supports the Find My Network. There’s few technical details that I can find about this tracker. But their existing trackers use Bluetooth so it suggests that this new tracker is Ultra Wideband enabled. Which also means that if Tile came out with an Ultra Wideband enabled tracker, they too could jump onto this bandwagon.

Now that’s the non-sinister reason behind this. Now over the sinister reason. Tile has accused Apple of anti-trust behavior because of some of Apple’s requirements that users give permission for the Tile app to track items in the background among other things. Apple may not have been thrilled about that and decided to exclude them from this announcement to send a message to Tile.

Finally a number of people online have suggested that Tile might have some sort of privacy issue that Apple wasn’t thrilled about. I did some research on this and didn’t find any evidence of this. For example, Mozilla has a privacy report that didn’t ring any alarm bells with me. So I doubt that’s the reason.

Whatever the reason, the omission of Tile is curious. And it will be interesting to see if Tile ever joins this program. This will be something that I will be be watching very closely.