I lost my AirTag and it was found within 30 minutes - but Tile took a whole day

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TechRadar 08 May, 2021 - 02:30am 25 views

What is Airtag Apple?

AirTag is a supereasy way to keep track of your stuff. ... Attach one to your keys, slip another in your backpack. And just like that, they're on your radar in the Find My app, where you can also track down your Apple devices and keep up with friends and family. apple.comApple AirTag

Amazon Sidewalk has set a mid-June launch for its Tile partnership, following's Apple's announcement of its AirTag competitor

Business Insider 08 May, 2021 - 12:00am

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The rollout comes a few weeks after Apple introduced its competing AirTag Bluetooth trackers.

Sidewalk, a network connecting Amazon Alexa devices, will be able to locate the Tile Bluetooth trackers when users ask for help finding them, according to the companies. 

"Tile uses Bluetooth technology to locate lost items, and with Sidewalk, your compatible Echo devices will be able to extend Tile's network coverage even further to help you securely locate your misplaced keys, wallets, and other items," Amazon said in a statement via its About Amazon website.

The agreement was announced in September 2020. Tile said in a press release at the time that it would launch by the end of the year. 

Tile and Apple engaged in mudslinging in late April. In a statement to Insider, Tile said it welcomed competition, but "given Apple's well documented history of using its platform advantage to unfairly limit competition for its products, we're skeptical."

In its own statement, Apple said it "embraced competition."

Tile CEO CJ Prober said in a Friday statement that his company's partnership with Amazon was an "obvious choice."

He added: "Amazon Sidewalk will strengthen Tile's finding power for our devices and Find with Tile device partners that leverage our finding technology, making it even easier to find lost or misplaced keys, wallets, or other Tiled items both inside and outside the home."

Stop Pretending Apple and Amazon's Bluetooth Networks Can't Be Abused

Gizmodo 07 May, 2021 - 03:40pm

At this point, the average person is still probably fuzzy on what exactly Amazon Sidewalk is. It’s a sort of secondary mesh network in which Echo and Ring customers’ devices act as bridges to extend connectivity. It works by “borrowing” a small amount of your bandwidth and adding it to other participating Echo and Ring devices in your vicinity. Likewise, if you turn on Apple’s Find My, your Apple devices act as Bluetooth beacons to help locate other Apple devices—even if they’re offline—and relay that to the owner of the device.

The fact that close to 1 billion Apple devices are part of the Find My network is a big reason why Apple’s AirTags are incredibly precise at finding lost objects. By that logic, Amazon adding Tile, Level’s smart locks, and the CareBand stand will Sidewalk a more effective network to track items, too. Starting June 8, Amazon will flip the switch on Sidewalk, and Tile integration starts June 14. This sounds neat. You get to extend the range of Tile trackers, while also improving device location within your home—Alexa will reportedly be able to tell you which Echo device your misplaced item is closest to.

Tile has had its own mesh network for a while, but it wasn’t very extensive, and partnering with Amazon will give it a massive boost. For the Level smart locks, joining Sidewalk is supposed to enable your smart home gadgets to continue communicating with each other regardless of where your phone is. The CareBand will let you keep track of where older relatives with dementia are without needing to be connected to wifi.

What’s wrong with that? Well, nothing if these are used in the way they’re intended, with the best intentions. It’s what happens when they’re not. Apple and Amazon both claim to care about privacy and both enable encryption for security. In the case of the AirTags, Apple has implemented features to prevent unwanted tracking. Amazon has likewise released a white paper on how it treats privacy and security with Amazon Sidewalk. The problem is we don’t know how rigorously these precautions have been tested and vetted in real-use testing for the worst-case scenario: abusers using these networks to stalk people without their consent. Just because companies encrypt your data, doesn’t mean these products can’t be used in creatively awful ways to violate your privacy.

In both Gizmodo and Mashable’s reviews of the AirTags, the trackers were found to be scarily accurate at tracking people without their knowledge or consent. Users who haven’t updated to iOS 14.5 will not receive alerts that an unwanted tracker is near them, and even if you have updated, you may not see a notification if the AirTag isn’t tracking you for some unspecified length of time. Android users are also at a disadvantage. If they’re being tracked via an AirTag, they won’t be notified until they’ve been physically out of range from their stalker for three days. In many abusive situations, you may never reach that particular threshold. This isn’t tech reviewer paranoia either. The National Network to End Domestic Violence told Fast Company it feared that AirTags could be abused as surveillance tools to discreetly track a partner, and that it is standard practice for halfway houses to thoroughly search through a survivor’s devices for these kinds of surveillance devices.

There’s the temptation to engage in whataboutism. There have been GPS child and pet trackers for years. Tile has been around for ages. It’s not like AirTags were a well-kept secret. Hell, smartphones can be easily be abused this way too. Why make a stink now? The reason why this moment is the exact time to raise the alarm is both Apple’s Find My and Amazon Sidewalk have the potential to make these devices easy to use, affordable, accessible, and extremely accurate, without the need for wifi or GPS.

The myth is these abusive situations are rare; things that happen to other people, in rarefied circumstances. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Abuse and stalking are depressingly ordinary and commonplace. Domestic violence numbers have surged during the pandemic, and the CDC also says one in four women and one in seven men will experience physical violence from a partner in their lifetime. In the U.S., one in six women and one in 17 men, or roughly 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men, will experience stalking in their lifetime. It’s a given that some abusers will use the accuracy and convenience of Find My and Amazon Sidewalk to their advantage—and that they will test the boundaries of whatever protections Apple and Amazon have put in place. It’s for that reason we need to have this conversation now because frankly, opting out is an illusion. If ensuring safety for everyone means you can’t track your items, maybe that’s a sacrifice we should collectively make.

And I only use it when I absolutely need to for work when out in the world. Because the reason it works really well is that it pairs with my iPhone via Bluetooth. When it does this, I can hear all kinds of stuff.

But there is no way for me to set up Bluetooth to just talk to the hearing aid — so I don’t use the hearing aid as often as I probably should, as I use the phone for more than a boost to my hearing.

If Apple really cared about our privacy they would give us a control that let us tell our devices talk to this, and this, and this and nothing else. 

Amazon partners with Tile to compete with Apple AirTag | AppleInsider

AppleInsider 07 May, 2021 - 01:01pm

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Tile will tap directly into Amazon's "Sidewalk" network of Echo products to better compete with Apple's Find My network and AirTag.

Tile has made tiny tracking devices that users can place in wallets and bags for years. After rumors of an Apple-made tracking device began, Tile became vocal against Apple's efforts.

Now, Tile has partnered with Amazon to strengthen its network using Sidewalk. Instead of tapping into Apple's Find My network of over a billion devices, Tile will resort to using the Bluetooth signal of millions of Amazon Echo devices.

Amazon Sidewalk is a new network bridge protocol that will extend the range of smart home gadgets using existing Amazon devices like Echos. The Amazon Echos act as a bridge to the network and enable devices to communicate from much further away than standard Wi-Fi allows.

Amazon made the partnership known via an announcement shared with CNBC on Friday. Amazon claims that Sidewalk is safe and secure, with data shared across the network protected by three layers of encryption.

Owners of multiple Echo devices will be able to locate Tile trackers lost in the home even faster. Alexa will tell users which Echo device is closest to the lost Tile.

"Sidewalk is all about the next billion things that are going to get on the network," Amazon's product boss Dave Limp told CNBC on Friday. "Wi-Fi is constrained, mostly to your home, it just doesn't have the range to go into your backyard into the neighborhood. Cellular may be the future, but it's very expensive today. So Sidewalk kind of splits the difference between those two and allows us to put millions and billions of things on the edge of the network but do it in a secure way."

Amazon's partnership with Tile enables an ecosystem of network-connected devices to act as a bridge for the tiny Bluetooth trackers. This method of tracking is very similar to Apple's Find My network which uses every active iPhone, iPad, or Mac to ping the network if it sees a lost AirTag.

Apple has taken multiple precautions to prevent tracking unknowing people with AirTag. The AirTag will play a sound if it hasn't been near its owner's iPhone in three days. Anyone with an iPhone will be alerted to an AirTag that doesn't belong to them after a period of time as well.

Critics state that these preventative measures aren't enough, and AirTag creates a cheap tracking solution for stalkers. Notably, Tile doesn't offer anti-stalking capabilities in its feature set.

Tile trackers will be integrated into the Sidewalk network starting on June 14.

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Tile to Leverage Amazon Echo and Ring Devices to Better Compete With AirTags

MacRumors 07 May, 2021 - 12:07pm

Tile users will also get the benefit of Amazon Alexa, and those with Alexa-enabled devices can say "Alexa, find my [item]" to have their Tile device start ringing. Multiple in-home Echo devices will allow misplaced items to be found faster around the house, and Tile CEO CJ Prober says the technology will also be useful outside the home.

"Tile helps millions of people every day find their things, and we're always looking for opportunities to enhance the finding experience for our customers. To that end, working with Amazon to extend our finding network by securely connecting to Amazon Sidewalk devices like Echo smart speakers was an obvious choice," said CJ Prober, CEO of Tile. "Amazon Sidewalk will strengthen Tile's finding power for our devices and Find with Tile device partners that leverage our finding technology, making it even easier to find lost or misplaced keys, wallets, or other Tiled items both inside and outside the home."

With Amazon Sidewalk, Tile will be able to better compete against AirTags, which are able to take advantage of the Find My network. The ‌Find My‌ network uses hundreds of millions of Apple devices to help locate lost ‌AirTags‌, allowing them to be found when not in Bluetooth range of an owner's device.

Tile has a similar feature called the Tile Network that takes advantage of other Tile users who have a Tile app, but there are nowhere near as many Tile users out in the wild as there are Apple users, which gave Apple a significant edge. There are, however, tons of Ring and Amazon Echo devices to bolster Tile's network, though people are not carrying these devices with them so it's still more limited than the ‌Find My‌ network.

Tile will join Amazon Sidewalk starting on June 14.

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Amazon will add Tile tags to its Sidewalk device network next month | Engadget

Engadget 07 May, 2021 - 12:04pm

Amazon Sidewalk keeps low-power, low-bandwidth devices connected even if they're out of your typical WiFi range. It uses the 900 MHz spectrum and Bluetooth, as well as hotspots like Echo products and Ring security devices to extend the network. Sidewalk will enabled on all compatible Echo devices by default starting on June 8th, but you can opt out.

This expands on Tile's current setup, which uses phones and tablets running the Tile app and third-party devices like Xfinity set-top boxes to find missing tags. If you lose something with a Tile tag attached while you're out, and a neighbor's Echo device detects it over Bluetooth, you should find it more easily. You can use Alexa voice commands to help you locate Tile tags, too.

AirTags also tap into a massive network of devices. Apple is using more than a billion iPhones, iPads and Macs to detect AirTags and help owners find missing items. Harnessing Echo and Ring products to find tags is a timely, useful move for Tile as it faces sterner competition from Apple.

Tile isn't the only company joining Sidewalk. Level's smart locks will be integrated into the network over the next few weeks. The locks will be able to connect directly to a compatible Ring Video Doorbell Pro device, allowing you to control a lock through the Ring and Level apps even when it's outside of your mobile device's Bluetooth range.

In addition, Amazon is working with CareBand to find ways of improving the quality of life and standard of care for people who are living with dementia. A pilot program will link Sidewalk and CareBand's wearables to bolster features such as a help button, indoor and outdoor activity tracking and analysis of activity patterns.

CareBand devices don't necessarily need to connect to a smartphone or WiFi. The wearables use a low-power network tech called LoRa, which is said to offer a connectivity range of up to three miles.

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Tile’s trackers will work with Amazon’s Sidewalk network starting June 14th

The Verge 07 May, 2021 - 11:41am

The two companies had already announced plans for Tile to join Sidewalk last fall, but today’s announcement gives an actual date and details for the integration. The addition of Tile support comes just a few days after Amazon is turning on Sidewalk support for compatible Echo devices in the US on June 8th, too. Also getting access to Sidewalk are Level’s smart locks, which will be able to leverage Sidewalk to directly connect to Ring doorbells, allowing the locks to be used even when outside of Bluetooth range.

According to Amazon, Sidewalk uses a combination of “Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), the 900 MHz spectrum, and other frequencies” to allow devices to communicate without Wi-Fi. Devices that support Sidewalk — including a variety of Echo and Ring gadgets — can serve as “Sidewalk Bridges” that work together as access points to the Sidewalk network (think of them almost like individual points on a neighborhood-wide mesh router system).

When Tile joins Sidewalk, its trackers will be able to be found using Amazon’s network in conjunction with Tile’s existing Bluetooth network, making it even easier to find your missing devices. Additionally, Tile is expanding support for Amazon’s Echo smart speakers by allowing users to see the Echo device to which the missing tag is closest. It’s not quite on the level of the hyper-localized tracking of an ultra-wideband network, though.

The news also comes as Apple launches its own AirTag trackers, a direct competitor to Tile’s. Apple’s trackers rely on a mixture of the company’s Find My network — which leverages the Bluetooth capabilities of iPhone, iPad, and Mac devices — and its ultra-wideband radio technology to help locate missing tracking tags.

Tile has recently criticized Apple’s trackers, claiming that Apple is using its control over its hardware and software stack for unfair advantages that third-party companies (like Tile) are unable to access.

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Amazon partners with Tile to take on Apple AirTags

CNBC 07 May, 2021 - 10:32am

Amazon is beefing up its network of connected devices to take on technologies like Apple's new AirTags.

Amazon announced Friday that it is partnering with Tile, a company that makes trackers for lost items, and Level, which makes smart locks, to use those devices to enhance its tracking network based on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology.

The strength and number of devices on a given tracking network is key to its accuracy. That's part of the reason why many think Apple's tracking network will be so strong since it relies on more than 1 billion iPhones, iPads and Macs to help with lost item tracking.

Tile has also been vocal against Apple's entry into the lost-item tracking space, recently telling Congress that it and other app developers are "afraid" of Apple's policies for third-party apps and hardware accessories.

Amazon's partnership will allow it beef up its tracking network, called Sidewalk, by letting Tile and Level devices tap into the Bluetooth networks created by millions of its Echo products. Tile will start working with Amazon's network beginning June 14.

"Sidewalk is all about the next billion things that are going to get on the network," Amazon product boss Dave Limp told CNBC's "TechCheck" on Friday. "Wi-Fi is constrained, mostly to your home, it just doesn't have the range to go into your backyard into the neighborhood. Cellular may be the future, but it's very expensive today. So Sidewalk kind of splits the difference between those two and allows us to put millions and billions of things on the edge of the network but do it in a secure way."

Sidewalk rolled out late last year and is billed as a free network sharing service throughout neighborhoods that uses Echo devices as "bridges" to share a small fraction of a users' low-bandwidth Wi-Fi with devices like Echo devices and Ring cameras.

Limp said in a statement that Tile will work with Sidewalk by integrating compatible Echo devices to extend Tile's network coverage even further, in the effort to help users securely locate misplaced keys, wallets and other items.

Amazon said Sidewalk will also strengthen Tile's existing in-home finding experience with Alexa. Customers can say, "Alexa, find my keys" and their Tile tracker will start ringing from a coat pocket or from under the bed signaling where to find their lost item.

Amazon also said users with multiple Echo devices connected to Sidewalk will be able to find misplaced items around their homes even faster. Alexa can tell users which Echo device their Tiled item is closer to, whether it is the kitchen speaker or their bedroom speaker and the day and time it was last seen near that device.

Apple announced its Tile-like product, AirTags, last month. They work in a similar way with iOS devices like iPhones and iPads. Now, Tile will connect through a larger technology ecosystem, pitting Amazon and Apple against each other in a new front of connected devices.

Sidewalk's second partnership with Level allows users to control their locks in the Ring and Level apps without needing to be in Bluetooth range of their mobile device. Instead of relying on their mobile device's Bluetooth connection, a Level lock will be able to connect directly to a compatible Ring Video Doorbell Pro device using an Amazon Sidewalk Bluetooth connection shared only between their two devices.

This means that even if a user is across town, their Level lock will stay connected, creating further functionalities within the Ring app to see and speak with whomever is at the entryway and easily lock or unlock their front door.

Amazon said its new smart-lock Level features are rolling out through updates in the Ring and Level apps and will be available by the end of May.

In response to privacy concerns, Amazon last September released a detailed white paper outlining the steps it's taking to ensure that Sidewalk transmissions stay private and secure.

Amazon said Sidewalk is equipped with multiple layers of privacy and security and that data shared over its network is protected with three layers of encryption. It's only accessible by the devices consumers choose, and data is automatically deleted every 24 hours to protect privacy. Consumers can choose to opt out of the feature by updating their preference in the Ring or Alexa mobile apps.

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Amazon Sidewalk launches June 8 with support for Tile trackers

CNET 07 May, 2021 - 10:02am

On the Echo front, Amazon plans to leverage Sidewalk's low-energy Bluetooth connections as something of a backup network for your home Wi-Fi. Per Amazon, that means better stability during device setup and faster reconnections to your router when you update your network name or password. 

Ultimately, those Sidewalk connections will also help keep things like smart yard lights, mailbox sensors and connected garage door openers online, even if they sit on the fringes of your home's Wi-Fi network. At launch, your options for longer-range connections like those will include Ring's line of outdoor lights and cameras, the Level smart lock and Tile's Bluetooth tracker tags.

"Working with Amazon to extend our finding network by securely connecting to Amazon Sidewalk devices like Echo smart speakers was an obvious choice," said CJ Prober, CEO of Tile. "Amazon Sidewalk will strengthen Tile's finding power for our devices and Find with Tile device partners that leverage our finding technology."  

A Sidewalk pilot program with CareBand's wearable sensors will use the long range connections for better monitoring of patients with dementia.

Amazon is also partnering with CareBand, a line of wearable sensors for people living with dementia, to run a pilot test of Sidewalk-enabled indoor and outdoor tracking, automated analysis of activity patterns and help button functionality.

"Getting to the at-home community has been challenging without a strong, scalable and secure network partner," said Adam Sobel, Careband founder and CEO. "I am extremely excited about the opportunity to work with Amazon and further CareBand's mission to empower people living with dementia."

Connections like those that stretch beyond your Wi-Fi network could potentially bring other people outside your home into the equation. For instance, if you had a Sidewalk-enabled device in your home, and a nearby neighbor's dog wandered into your yard with a Tile tracker on its collar, that neighbor would receive an alert sharing the pet's approximate location.

In order for those out-of-home connections to reach Amazon's servers, Sidewalk also siphons off a fraction of your home's Wi-Fi bandwidth: 80Kb of data per transmission, with a monthly cap of 500MB.

Pitches like that raised immediate questions about privacy and security when Sidewalk was first announced. Amazon answered last year with a detailed white paper outlining the ways in which it protects those transmissions. It reiterated that commitment today.

"Sidewalk was built to keep your data secure and to provide you control of your experience," Amazon's blog reads. "Data shared over the Sidewalk network is protected with three layers of encryption, only accessible by the devices you choose, and automatically deleted every 24 hours to protect your privacy."

"In the end, you won't have any information about your neighbor's bridge, and your neighbor won't have any information about your device," Amazon Sidewalk general manager Manolo Arana told CNET. "So there is always this level of minimizing the information that can go across layers."

You can also disable Sidewalk altogether in the Account Settings section of the Alexa app. Amazon pre-emptively turned the feature on for people with eligible devices late last year, which raised questions of why they were asked to opt out rather than opt in.

"We started notifying existing Echo customers with eligible devices that their devices will be a part of Sidewalk and how they can change their preferences before the feature turns on," an Amazon spokesperson told CNET at the time. "Customers can update their Amazon Sidewalk preferences during device setup or any time from settings in the Alexa app." 

Sidewalk-enabled devices use low-energy Bluetooth radios to send their signals up to 100 meters or so, though select devices -- namely, the spherical, fourth-gen Amazon Echo, the Amazon Echo Show 10, the Ring Floodlight Cam and the wired version of the Ring Spotlight Cam -- also use a 900MHz LoRa radio capable of sending and receiving signals from even farther away, with range of up to a half mile. At present, the only Sidewalk partner devices connecting over LoRa are the CareBand wearable sensors from that pilot, though others should follow suit in the coming months.

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