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Tile Review

The Tile is a small, matchbook-sized Bluetooth device that works in conjunction with a mobile app to provide its location. The main purpose of the Tile is to help you keep track of the items to which it is attached. It is small enough to place on your key chain or put on your pet's collar. (My dog has one.) The device is waterproof and permanently sealed, so replacing the battery is not possible. The manufacturer promises a one year battery life, and as my set of tiles is approaching the one year mark, this appears to be accurate. The company has a "reTile" program to replace and recycle tiles at a discount after 11 months.

Setup is easy - the IOS or Android app walks you through the process. Using the app, you can monitor the location of the tiles - with a few restrictions. Mainly, the Tile needs to be within about 100 feet of your phone, although mine seems to top off at about half that distance. You can instruct the Tile to play a tune to aid you in locating it, however the sound is not very loud. 

One interesting note is that the Tile can utilize a sort of "mesh" network to locate missing tiles. In this mode, any mobile device that is running the Tile app will report the location of your Tile if it gets within range, without telling the device's user about your Tile. The effectiveness of this feature of course depends on how many people in the vicinity of your lost Tile are running the app. Luckily, I've never had to test this. Another feature I like is the ability to share Tile locations with another user.

Tiles run about $15 - $25 each depending on the quantity ordered. They work well for finding an item misplaced in your home or within a defined area. If you are trying to locate a Tile lost a few towns away, your success will depend on whether someone running Tile app comes close enough to your Tile to detect it. In many places that may never happen. Visit TheTileApp.com

My Visit to the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES)

I spent a few days last week at the CES in Las Vegas to learn about the latest trends in consumer electronics, with particular attention to items in the "connected home" category. This was my first time at the CES and everything one hears about the show is true: the exhibit floor is massive, it is impossible to see everything, and the products displayed range from innovative to ridiculous.

 

4K televisions were introduced by a number of companies including Sony, Samsung, and LG. These TVs have four times the resolution of HDTVs and look amazing. At this point, the prices for 4K televisions are very high ($20,000+) and there are few sources of programming in this ultra high resolution. Most cable systems don't even have the bandwidth to transmit much 4K programming, but fiber systems might. On the bright side, a number of "upconverters" were shown that extract near-ultra resolution from regular HDTV programming.

 

Above is a 20" Panasonic 4K tablet with an amazing 3840 x 2560 pixel ultra high resolution screen. This prototype runs Windows 8 and gives us a glimpse into the future when tablets might be better suited for high-end technical, multimedia, and business uses.

 

These dancers were part of an extravagant display at the dts booth. Dts is a group of technologies used for surround sound in cinemas and home theater systems. Many large companies constructed impressive display areas. Sony had a 25,000 sq ft area with an immersive, 360 degree video screen encircling the entire "booth." LG had a two story 3D video wall as the entrance to their section.

I did manage to visit a number of companies offering home automation products that included energy monitoring and smart appliances. I'll be writing about some of those in future posts. Mainly, I came away with a lot of ideas and concepts to research in 2013.