Join Team Tile to Secure Your Smartphone

In 2008, I attended a talk by the late (great) Eddie Greenspan, Q.C. at the Law Courts Inn. His topic was digital security, in particular public CCTV, email, and smartphones, especially those with recording devices. He despised all three. Public CCTV, because of the invasion of privacy by the state (I can get behind that to a certain extent). Email, because it meant he received so much more communication that it took ages for his assistant to print and for him to scrawl shorthand replies for her to type. Smartphones were especially problematic in his view. He suggested that a lawyer who lost a Blackberry should, without question, be cited for professional misconduct and suspended. He was totally serious.

Of course, digital data security is a serious matter. Every digital security expert will tell you that it will happen (although it might not be you, it will be someone else). Mr. Greenspan was right about the importance of maintaining digital security. But, he was not particularly well-versed in the possible security measures present.

There is a lot of effort devoted to password protection and data encryption. Both are fundamental measures. Being able to remotely “wipe” a device is also a crucial part of any security plan. But, there is not much said about physically locating lost devices.

For my Apple devices, I use its “Find my iPhone” app, which lets me track, locate, and wipe my devices so long as they are turned on.

One particular security measure I have adopted is the Tile for devices or things that do not have GPS capability built in. I first used it for my keys, but some people even use it for their dog.

The Tile is a tiny little square – a bit smaller than a book of paper matches (1.45”x1.45”x0.24”). It has a little hole for things like keychains. It connects to a smartphone or tablet through the device’s Bluetooth connection and is used through a user-friendly, proprietary app. If I want to find my phone, then I double-tap the button the tile and my phone will play a sound. To find the Tile itself, I use the app to make the Tile play a sound. I can link several Tiles to my phone, each with a description and photo of the item it is attached to. I currently have keys, a barrister’s bag, and a laptop bag with Tiles linked to my phone.

Although range is limited to Bluetooth range (about 30 feet in practice), it is effectively extended by the Tile “community”. If I lose a Tile and it’s beyond Bluetooth range, then I am immediately alerted to its location when another Tile user’s device with the app comes within Bluetooth range of my Tile. I can then use my app to go to the Tile’s location and, when within Bluetooth range, make it play a sound.
I have not tested it, but here’s some anecdotal information. This morning, when I opened my Tile app to write this piece, I was advised that there were 1,124 Tile users in downtown Vancouver. Yesterday, I was sent a congratulatory message because my app had helped another user find his or her Tile. Our paralegal was running an errand and I sent her away with my tile. About 30 minutes later, I received a notification that my Tile had been found.

She returned within Bluetooth range of my phone.

It’s certainly not perfect, but at $69.99 for a 4-pack of tiles, it can’t do any harm. At least you’ll find your keys (or your dog) faster. If you do lose something precious, then it gives you an extraordinarily better chance of finding it.

-Michael McCubben

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