Lost item finder Tile expands partnership with Comcast, as Apple’s competitor looms

Bluetooth-powered lost item finder Tile is expanding on its two-year-old partnership with strategic investor Comcast to help customers find misplaced items around their homes. The two companies first announced their intention to partner in early 2018, and later that year introduced a way for Comcast users to locate lost items using their Xfinity X1 Voice Remote. Now, Comcast is adding more set-top boxes and xFi Gateways into the mix as access points.

The companies announced today that select Comcast X1 and Flex set-top boxes as well as xFi Gateways will be able to work as extensions to the Tile network. Specifically, this includes the newer Xfinity devices like the xFi Advanced Gateway, and Xi5, Xi6 and XG1v4 devices, Tile tells us.

This means Comcast’s boxes can supplement or even take the place of the Tile mobile app in terms of being an access point used to look for a lost Tile device, when an item goes missing.

This could be useful for those who don’t have the Tile app installed on their phone, whose phone is not within easy reach or has run out of battery, as well as for those who just want the added convenience of having another way to search for their lost item.

Previously, Comcast Xfinity customers could use their X1 voice remote to see a Tile’s last-known location on the screen. Now, not only can Comcast users ring their Tile directly, the Flex set-top boxes and xFi Gateways can also work as finding extenders in the home.

Tile devices themselves come in a variety of form factors, including keychain or luggage dongles like Mate and the more powerful Pro, a Slim device ideal for wallets, and Tile Sticker for anything else — like laptops, bikes, tools, cameras and more. In the home, Tile devices are often used to find small items like car keys, purses or even a child’s favorite toy that’s always getting misplaced.

Alongside the support for Comcast boxes, the companies also updated the existing X1 remote functionality to include a new feature to directly ring missing items. Now, customers can say things like “Xfinity Home, find my keys” to have the Tile make its distinctive ringing sound so the lost item can be found.

“The average person spends about 15 minutes a day looking for lost items,” said Tile CEO CJ Prober, in a statement about the expanded partnership with Comcast. “We’ve been working with Comcast to alleviate this daily disruption. By allowing Comcast Xfinity customers to use their xFI Gateways and X1 and Flex set-top boxes as finding extenders, the Tile network becomes stronger and ensures users will quickly and easily find lost or misplaced items, bringing convenience to their daily routine,” he said.

Tile claims to now locate some 6 million items daily across 195 countries worldwide, with a 90% success rate in finding lost items. To date, it has sold 26 million Tile devices.

However, the company is preparing to face steep competition. Apple has effectively confirmed its plans to release a Tile competitor called Air Tags that are more deeply integrated into its iOS operating system and have special privileges that aren’t offered to third-party apps. Tile has gone on the offensive about Apple’s plans, arguing to Congress that Apple’s behavior is anti-competitive and needs regulation.

This month, Tile told a congressional panel that Apple has failed to live up to promises aimed at resolving their dispute, noting Apple did not reinstate the “Always Allow” background permission. This permission would allow Tile to compete on a more even playing field with Apple’s own “Find My” app, which doesn’t have to continually remind users that it’s using their location data like third-party apps do. Tile also spoke about how Apple planned to allow its own Air Tags to use UWB (ultra-wideband) for better location finding, but not open that up to competitors like Tile.

The fight for regulation will be a long-term battle. In the more immediate future, Tile’s partnerships are how it will continue to grow its customer base and device usage.

In total, Tile now works with over 20 partners across audio, travel, smart home and PC categories.