Tile is looking to make its Bluetooth item-finders more powerful with ultra-wide band technology and by adding augmented reality to its mobile phone app, reports TechCrunch.
Like Tile’s current trackers, the new UWB trackers will also use short-range, wireless communication protocols, but they will reportedly be way more accurate than Bluetooth—and even wifi. UWB measures distance and location more accurately than both Bluetooth and wifi, pinpointing an object within 5-10 centimeters as opposed to several meters, according to Electronic Design. It’s the difference between knowing your keys or TV remote is somewhere in the living room versus in between the couch cushions in your living room.
That’s where the AR portion comes in. If you can’t hear the ping from the Tile tracker—say, if your lost item is in your car or if your cat is laying on top of it—the new app feature will literally guide you to your lost item with directional overlays. (I’m imaging videogame-like waypoints directing me on my quest to find my lost keys, which I lose all the damn time.)
Concept art obtained by TechCrunch from anonymous sources shows the new app feature could looking something like this:
The trackers themselves look similar to Tile’s existing trackers, like the Tile Mate and Tile Pro. They’re square in shape and can attach to a keychain or stick on a larger device via an adhesive back.
According to the same anonymous sources, Tile plans to release the new UWB trackers later this year and will support iOS and Android devices that are also UWB-capable. The price of these new trackers is unknown, but they could be more expensive than Tile’s current offerings based on the technology alone.
Yet because they’ll still be short-range, Tile’s reported UWB trackers still won’t be that useful if you forget something like your laptop at the airport terminal’s Cinnabon and then get on your flight to the other side of the country. Additionally, few phones are equipped with the new tech—you’re limited to Apple’s iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 models, and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy Z Fold 2. (Both companies are also reportedly coming out with their own Bluetooth trackers to rival Tile.) UWB is still new tech, and it will take a while for it to become standard on every phone.
But the idea Tile has for its new trackers is, honestly, better than the status quo. A device that uses UWB combined with AR could be more accessible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and find audio cues unhelpful, and also for individuals with dementia or other memory loss conditions.
As for people like me who tend to misplace everything, the new tech could cut down on the amount of time I spend trying to find something. The UWB and AR won’t exactly help if I misplace my phone, though, and it doesn’t seem 100% accessible for individuals with other types of disabilities—like those that affect sight, for instance—but it might be a useful improvement over Tile’s current trackers.