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

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, […]

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.

 

Amazon announces a record-breaking holiday, ‘tens of millions’ of new Prime subscribers

Amazon had another record-breaking holiday season, the retailer announced this morning. The company says it added “tens of millions” of people who signed up for Prime memberships, both paid and on a trial basis. Its worldwide customers also shopped and ordered more items than ever before, including “millions more Amazon devices” compared with this time […]

Amazon had another record-breaking holiday season, the retailer announced this morning. The company says it added “tens of millions” of people who signed up for Prime memberships, both paid and on a trial basis. Its worldwide customers also shopped and ordered more items than ever before, including “millions more Amazon devices” compared with this time last year. The device best-sellers, as on Black Friday, again included Amazon Echo speakers and Fire TV.

Specifically, Amazon said its top devices sold over the holidays were the Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick 4K and the Echo.

Millions of Fire TV devices, Fire tablets and Kindle devices were also sold. Smart home devices sold in record numbers as well, with best sellers including Amazon Smart Plug, Ring Video Doorbell 2, TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Mini Outlet and the iRobot Roomba 690.

The lower-cost Echo Dot has consistently been an Amazon top seller thanks to its lower price point and Amazon’s hefty discounts that help push undecided shoppers into impulse buys.

Over Black Friday weekend this year, for example, Amazon’s Echo Dot became the No. 1 selling product across Amazon from any manufacturer, not just Amazon’s own best-selling device. That speaks to Amazon’s ability to leverage its retail site to push its own hardware — a potential competitive advantage as the smart speaker markets heats up between companies like Google, Apple and Chinese manufacturers like Alibaba and Xiaomi.

In the U.S., Amazon currently leads the smart speaker install base, but internationally it’s losing ground to Google and others.

In addition to smart speakers and other Amazon devices, consumers this year also bought top sellers like L.O.L Surprise! Glam Glitter Series Dolls, fashion items from Carhartt, Bose QuietComfort Wireless headphones and more.

The retailer doesn’t share its sales numbers, but often announces new records have been set. To some extent, these continual “record-breaking” sales can be attributed to Amazon’s expansion of Prime, which most recently became available in Australia, Singapore, Netherlands and Luxembourg, in addition to the U.S., U.K., Spain, Mexico, Japan, India, Italy, Germany, France, China, Canada, Belgium and Austria. More Prime memberships, simply put, will translate into more Amazon sales.

That’s why Amazon’s larger goal is not just serving online shoppers as any other e-commerce site does, but wooing these shoppers with other services — like Prime Video, Prime Music, free e-books and more — to become Prime subscribers. This holiday season, the retailer said that tens of millions of U.S. and international customers signed up for trial and paid Prime memberships.

Though Amazon had traditionally kept the number of Prime members under wraps, this April it finally announced having hit the milestone of more than 100 million paid Prime members. Some analysts now expect that number will continue to grow at a rapid pace — as much as 35 to 40 percent per year. Over the next decade, Citigroup predicts Prime subscribers will reach 275 million.

A large part of Amazon’s Prime strategy today is its ability to reliably ship products on ever-tighter time frames. Over the holidays, for example, Amazon was offering up to Christmas Eve delivery in select markets where its same-day delivery service Prime Now is available.

Amazon shares were up this morning as a result of its holiday sales announcement.

Nielsen: the second screen is booming as 45% often or always use devices while watching TV

Americans are regularly checking a second screen while watching TV, according to a new report from Nielsen which examined the media consumption habits of U.S. adults in the second quarter of 2018. Today, 28 percent of adults say they “sometimes” use a digital device, like a phone or tablet, when watching TV. A much larger […]

Americans are regularly checking a second screen while watching TV, according to a new report from Nielsen which examined the media consumption habits of U.S. adults in the second quarter of 2018. Today, 28 percent of adults say they “sometimes” use a digital device, like a phone or tablet, when watching TV. A much larger 45 percent report they use a second screen “very often” or “always.”

The figures go to show how addicted U.S. consumers are to their smartphones – we don’t even put them down when tuning in to a favorite show or to watch a movie.

In fact, very few people – only 12 percent – reported they “never” use another device while watching TV.

Of course, there are other reasons why some people want to actively use their smartphone while watching television, beyond the need to scroll through Instagram during the commercial breaks.

Sometimes, people may want to actively engage with other fans or participate in an online conversation if they’re watching a TV program or other event live. For instance, they may want to tweet out their support for their team during a football game, or may want to react in real-time to a shocking turn of events on “Game of Thrones.”

Nielsen’s report noted this, as well. It said digital devices have actually impacted how we consume and interact with media today. That is, we’re using the second screen to augment the overall TV viewing experience, not detract from it.

In fact, most of the activities that take place on our devices while watching TV are related to the content.

For example, 71 percent said they use their device to look up something related to the TV content, while 41 percent said they text, email or message someone about the content. 35 percent said they shop for a product or service being advertised and 28 percent write or read social media posts about the content they’re viewing.

15 percent even use the device to direct them to a new program – meaning, they’ve tuned to different content after seeing something posted online.

Digital devices aren’t the only ways people simultaneous consume media. Surprisingly, a small handful of people listen to audio while watching TV, the report also found.

But this is a much smaller group, for obvious reasons – it can be difficult to process two different sources of information at the same time. Still, 6 percent said they often watch and listen to different content simultaneously – which is arguably an impressive, if very odd, skill to possess. But over half said they would never use TV and audio at the same time.

The report also looked at how people consume media – which hasn’t changed as much as you would think, despite the increased use of digital devices.

Instead, “prime time” is still a popular time of time for watching TV, including live and time-shifted programming as well as TV-connected devices like media players and game consoles.

In Q2 2018, U.S. adults spent 38 out of a possible 60 minutes on media consumption from 9 PM to 10 PM, including live and time-shifted TV, TV-connected devices, radio and digital devices (computer, smartphone, tablet).

9 PM was also the peak TV hour, with over half of consumers watching linear TV or interacting with TV connected devices like game consoles or streaming content through Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast or Fire TV.