One of the coolest gadgets to emerge in recent months is the small Bluetooth tracking device. The most popular such item is the Tile item tracker. The device can be attached to almost anything and then tracked via a free app on a smartphone or tablet. The main purpose is to help you find things that are often misplaced, but can also be used to locate things that have been lost or stolen – making it a useful gadget for a private investigator.
How Does the Tile Item Tracker Work?
The second-generation Tile tracking tools that are on the market today use Bluetooth Low Energy (also called Bluetooth LE, BLE, and Bluetooth 4.0) technology to help you locate items. Bluetooth Low Energy consumes significantly less energy than classic Bluetooth while maintaining the same power range. This conserves battery life and extends the life of the Tile trackers. Inside each Tile tracker is a Bluetooth transceiver, an ARM Cortex-M0 core, a mini-circuit board, a speaker, and a long-lasting lithium cell battery.
Bluetooth has become the standard for connecting electronic devices together wirelessly. Instead of using cables or wires, Bluetooth uses shortwave UHF radio waves in the 2.4 to 2.485 GHz range to connect devices. By placing a Tile on an item, you can easily use the free Tile app on your smartphone to communicate with that item.
The app can be used to find something that has been misplaced by doing a search. If the item is within range, the application graphically shows how close you are to the item in a green circle. If the item can’t be found using the search feature alone, you can have the gadget emit an easy-to-hear special tone. If the item still cannot be found, it may be out of range. In this case, the app provides the last known location of the item.
There is also an option to place the item on something called the “Tile Global Network”, which allows any smartphone running the companion app to communicate with that item. This is helpful in locating items that are lost or stolen.
There are two sizes and designs of trackers available, which work exactly the same and use the same app. Here is a description of the two designs:
1. Tile Mate
A perfect thin square. The exact dimensions are 37 millimeters x 37 millimeters x 5.3 millimeters. 37 millimeters is just under one and one-half inches. 5.3 millimeters is about one-fifth of an inch. The mate comes with a cutout hole in one of the corners so it can easily be attached to most key chains or on hooks, clasps, or chains.
2. Tile Slim
A super-thin version that fits perfectly inside a wallet or passport. It can also be easily hidden in or on items that might be particularly attractive to a thief such as under the seat of a bicycle or under the protective covering of a camera. The exact dimensions are 54 millimeters x 54 millimeters x 2.4 millimeters. 54 millimeters is about 2 and one-eighth inches and 2.4 millimeters is a little less than one-tenth of an inch, or the thickness of about two normal credit cards.
Custom adhesives can be used to attach Tile trackers to just about anything, including laptops, tablets, cellphones, and TV remotes. This capability opens up many opportunities for Private Investigators, who may wish to track objects used in a sting operation such as packs of money, purses, or valuable packages.
How To Find Lost Items
There are two features on the free app to find lost items. First, you can use the “locate” feature to see if the lost (or just misplaced) item is within the range of your smartphone. If so, you’ll be able to use the tracking feature to move around and visually see on the app when you’re getting closer or further from the lost item. You can also retrace your steps and keep checking to see if you are within range. Another great feature of the app is that you can request the last known location of the item. This will generate a map and show you where your smartphone last communicated with the item. This will help you pinpoint where you may have left the lost item behind. You can then go back to that spot and use the locate feature.
How To Find Stolen Items
If you think an item may have been stolen, you can use the crowd finding feature to report it as lost. This activates all “nodes” on the Tile global network to be looking for your item. Everyone running the app is a node and if they come within range of your lost or stolen item, you will be immediately sent an alert and an email showing you the place it was detected on a map.
You can then potentially go to that place and use the search feature, call the place(s) it is indicating, and or call the police and inform them of the location of the signal and ask for their help in recovering your stolen item. As the size of the Tile global network continues to grow, this feature will become even more powerful.
Advantages Over Other Bluetooth Trackers
Tile is by far the most popular Bluetooth tracker which gives it the decided advantage of having far more people on its global network of users running the Tile app. This is very important if you lose something or have something stolen. Under either of these scenarios, the more people on the network, the more likely you will be to recover the lost or stolen item! This is because the more people there are on the network, the more likely it is that someone will come into the range of the lost or stolen item.
Furthermore, the size of the Tile network is growing more rapidly than the network of its competitors, especially since they actively encourage their users to ask their friends and family to download the free app and run it on their smartphones. They also encourage their users to ask store clerks, baristas, waiter persons, library attendants, postal carriers, police, security officers, park rangers, people located close to pawn shops, and many others to download the free app and run it. In this way, they extend their global network far greater than the actual number of people using the gear.
When independent testers tested the range of trackers, the range is about 120 feet, which is about twenty feet more than they actually advertise, and far better than other Bluetooth trackers currently on the market. This longer range also gives you an advantage when using the crowd finding feature as it will be more likely for someone with the app running to come within range of your lost or stolen items.
Although the gadgets are not waterproof, they are sealed very tightly and are the most water-resistant of any Bluetooth trackers on the market. This means they can withstand dampness, rain, and snow. In fact, many items have been recovered under many feet of snow using Tile trackers.
What Kinds Of Items Can Be Tracked?
Some of the most obvious items include keys, laptops, iPad, cell phones, cameras, purses, wallets, backpacks, gym bags, luggage, and bikes. However, the possibilities are endless. They can be placed on drones to help locate and or speed up the recovery of these expensive items. They can be hidden on construction equipment or on items at fairs and festivals that are notoriously stolen. They can be placed on life-saving medical equipment such as inhalers, EpiPens, and blood glucose monitors.
They can be hidden in office supplies or other business supplies to ferret out which employees or customers are stealing from a business. They can be hidden on expensive scientific equipment in the field to track if stolen. They can be used on sentimental items like a child’s favorite stuffed animal or doll, especially when traveling.
Keep an Eye on Children
When you take your kids to parks, shopping malls, festivals, and other large venues, you can lose them if you turn your head for just a moment. Placing a tile tracker inside their jacket, shirt pocket, or inside other clothing will give you peace of mind that you can quickly find them if they wander out of sight. You could also thread one of the gadgets on a chain to hang around a child’s neck like a pendant on a necklace.
Know Where Your Pets are Located
It is easy to hook a Tile Mate to the collar of your dog, cat, or other animals. If you have a pet that tends to break loose and run around the neighborhood, this is a great way to track them down before they get lost or hurt. Also, the gadget could be especially useful when traveling with your pet, as it is so easy for them to wander off and get lost in unfamiliar surroundings. (See also: Pet Detectives).
Tile item trackers are easily the leaders in Bluetooth tracking devices. They have several distinct design and technological advantages as well as the advantage of having the largest global network. The use of these cool gadgets will very likely continue to explode on the marketplace for some time to come, especially for the purpose of locating stolen or “permanently” lost items.
If you have any questions about the Tile Item Tracker, please leave a comment below. View other types of spy gear for investigators.