Tile: Crowdsourcing Lost Keys Or Pseudo GPS Stalking On The Cheap?

Tile - Hero Shot - Flat

Tracking devices are not a new thing. You’ve seen them in film, where a secret agent (or Batman) bugs a criminal and traces where they go.

What if you took that same technology to finding your keys or which pile of discarded magazines your laptop is hiding?

While researching this topic, I found Tile, made by Reveal Labs, a great new device that helps you find lost things quickly using simplicity combined with technology.

This device presents itself as a cool way to keep tabs on things you care about, like your keys, or your laptop, or your bike. This little Tile can be paired up to a phone, registered with an online service, and it allows you to make it emit a sound, when misplaced, and report on it’s position to other tile users when lost.

I must admit that I am intrigued by it. The ability to track down my keys by making a little fob emit a whistle is nothing new.

Showing up at the doorstep of a bike thief’s house is.

This sounds both incredibly tempting, and very, very dangerous. Presumably a user would have the good sense to involve law enforcement at that point.

This is where my tinfoil hat interferes with my hand, reaching for my wallet.

There is significant potential for abuse with this product. For example, how can you confirm the purse you put a tracking device in, such as this, belongs to you?

In the past the high prices of a full blown GPS tracking device may have acted as a deterrent, and a cursory web search shows prices are still pretty high — $300 to $400 at spy shops, limited battery life, monthly fees.

Tile’s website touts this as an inexpensive solution, available at $18.25 per unit, introductory price.

This type of device will only be really effective as a pseudo GPS tracker if enough people participate, as the location mechanism relies on other tile users with a smartphone, being close enough to a tile that has been flagged as lost, to locate it.

The website advertises this as 50 to 150 feet distance. My past experience with Bluetooth devices tells me that 150 feet is a little optimistic.

I wonder what Reveal Labs stance is if law enforcement requests the location logs of a particular tile, lost or not?


Jean Taggart

Senior Security Researcher

Incorrigible technophile who loves to break stuff and habitually voids warranties.