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No More Lost Keys, Wallets? Nokia's 'Treasure Tags' Expected to Join Tile in New Market

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The cell phone company's new gadget isn't one of a kind, but it addresses a market that its Selfstarter competitor didn't.

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Selfstarter-funded Tile beat everyone to the punch in creating a homing beacon of sorts -- a small "tile" a person can attach to an object and track by GPS -- for easily lost items like wallets, handbags, keys, and credit cards. Now Nokia (NYSE:NOK) has joined the traceable tag market race, according to rumors.

Tile Pre-Orders Skyrocket

With nearly 50,000 backers, California-based Tile had raised more than $2.6 million as of July 24, having launched its Selfstarter on June 12 with the goal of raising only $20,000.

Prior experience with software and crowdfunding certainly played a role in Tile co-creators Nick Evans and Michael Farleyn's overwhelmingly successful campaign: Evans has previously worked on the Pebble SmartWatch and Lockitron, which allows users to lock or unlock their door via smartphone; Farley has experience with Green Hills Software and ACD Systems.

The range of the Tile devices is 50 feet to 150 feet, depending on the environment. This means that whenever a phone is within range of an item with an attached Tile chip, the Tile app will be able to mark its location via GPS. Additionally, the app can let the user know when they are closer or further from the object once in the specified range.

While this limited distance seems to make Tile relatively useless unless an item is misplaced in a confirmed space, like an office or home, it is the community aspect of Tile that brings forth its true value.

Any time a Tile user is within range of an item with a Tile square attached to it, the GPS location of that item will be updated. This means that an item lost on a city street could unknowingly be passed by a random Tile user and it will provide the item's owner with new info as to its location. Only the Tile user that owns the item is able to see its updated location, so there is no threat of mischievous users seeking other people's lost items.

With each additional Tile user, the likelihood of an item's location being updated becomes greater, thus making the service more useful with each additional member.

The device's battery lasts up to one year and individual Tiles can be ordered for $18.95, though shipping isn't expected until late 2013 or early 2014. Ten Tiles can be tracked by the Tile app with any one account.

There's only problem with Tile, right now, however. Currently the devices are only compatible with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) products, which leaves room for competition.

On the Tile website, the company has announced that the development of an Android-friendly model is on hold right now, since phone must be compatible with Bluetooth 4.0 in order to work with Tile. On July 24, however, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) announced the release of its Android 4.3 OS, which will be compatible with Bluetooth 4.0., as should the Nexus 7 phone. That should make Tile accessible to the 51.5% of the smartphone market currently using an Android operating system.

Windows (NASDAQ:MSFT) phones -- which account for only 4% of the current smartphone market -- aren't addressed by Tile, and that's where Nokia joins the fray.

Nokia Said to Be Joining the Race

With Nokia Lumia phones set to receive Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility when Microsoft releases its "Amber" update for all of its phones in August, rumors have started swirling about the phone company's plans for a Lumia-compatible "Treasure Tag" for tracking possessions.
The update is also expected to add FM radio to phones as well as improvements to the Xbox Music and Skype applications.

It is currently unknown if the Treasure Tag will be made for use on all Windows phones, but such a device will certainly aid the lifespan of Nokia's current Lumia line.

Treasure Tag would offer a similar application and feature set as Tile, capitalizing on the same community-based advantage for finding lost items. The rumored product is also said to feature Nokia's LiveSight augmented reality view. This means that along with marking the item's GPS location on a map, Treasure Tag would be able to display the exact location of the phone within a room or area on screen if the user were to point their camera in its direction.

The battery on the Treasure Tag is expected to last six months, a step down from Tile, though it is assumed that Nokia's item tracker will launch before its competition, which could provide it with the jump start it needs.
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