Hardware

Tile partners with BLE chip makers to bring its location-tracking technology to more products

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Tile, a company best known for its keychain-style lost item trackers aimed at consumers, is expanding its location-tracking technology to new devices besides its own. The company today announced it has partnered with a number of BLE chip companies to integrate its tracking technology directly onto their chips.

Tile’s new partners on this front include Qualcomm, Dialog, Silicon Labs and Toshiba, the company says.

These companies will produce BLE chips that feature Tile’s location-tracking technology. This, in turn, will allow manufacturers to build devices that work with Tile right out of the box. Those that do so will be able to promote their products as “Find with Tile” enabled.

For some of Tile’s partner manufacturers – like Bose and Skullcandy, for example – this sort of integration allows them to better compete with Apple, whose own “Find My iPhone” technology is now able to track down all sorts of Apple products, including AirPods and Apple Watch.

Skullcandy began working with Tile last summer, and is now one of several audio integrations ahead for Tile, along with Sennheiser, Sol Republic, Plantronics, and Anker, who all have Tile-enabled products planned.

“Knowing Tile’s finding technology will be available for activation at the production phase makes integration fast and seamless, and opens new ideas for how we can use it from product conception,” said Skullcandy CEO Jason Hodell, in a statement shared today.

Tile has been looking for ways to expand its revenue beyond device sales alone for some time. Tile sales have been growing steadily going from 10 million to 15 million units sold from 2016 to 2017, and from 15 million to 22 million units sold from 2017 to 2018.

But the company doesn’t share how many people are active Tile customers nor will it speak to its revenue. It also had to trim its staff in early 2018, due to underwhelming holiday sales.

Being able to license out its tech to others could then be a way for it to expand its business.

The company declined detail its agreements with BLE chip makers or device manufacturers, but the company tells TechCrunch that it has seen a “higher-than-expected” rate of customers who are introduced to Tile through a partner then convert to become a Tile users. Many of these customers then also upgrade to its Premium subscription.

Tile last year began working with Bose and other partners, to start embedding its technology into various devices, including the Bose SoundSport Wireless and QuietControl 30 headphones, which also launched Tile integrations summer.

Other partners working with Tile have also included Samsonite, Propeller Health, Boosted, Starling, Herschel, Away Travel, SuitSupply, Blunt Umbrellas, G-RO, This is Ground, Fossil, Kenneth Cole, Ricardo Beverly Hills, Axiom, Nomad, Keysmart, and Keyline/Bianca, among others.

Tile says its new audio partners will launch Tile-integrated devices in the months ahead, but didn’t have exact timeframes for each.

“With the introduction of our BLE chip partnerships, Tile is becoming a foundational building block for BLE-enabled product manufacturers in a variety of verticals, from audio and cameras, to laptops and wearables,” said CJ Prober, who was named Tile CEO last fall, in a statement. “With over 20 billion BLE devices forecasted to ship in the next four years, ‘Find with Tile’ will soon be a key everyday feature in consumer products.”

BLE partnerships are only one way Tile has been expanding. The company last year took in a strategic investment from Comcast, which been working with Tile by allowing Xfinity customers to locate Tiles using their TV remote. Tile also updated its lost item trackers, the Tile Mate and Tile Pro, to offer replaceable batteries that automatically ship through subscription in the hopes of attracting more customers and creating a recurring revenue stream beyond the hardware.

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