[Summary Technology of the Week] ‘Mobile Crowdsourcing through the Internet of Things’ TrackR vs. Tile

For the Technology of the Week assignment, team 10 has analyzed and compared two business models of very similar US based start-up companies. The two companies examined are TrackR (www.thetrackr.com) and Tile (www.thetileapp.com) respectively, which both make use of Bluetooth and Internet to locate missing personal belongings. TrackR and Tile both offer small Bluetooth transmitting devices that can easily be attached to personal belongings (e.g. keys, laptops, pets etc.). The transmitted Bluetooth signal can be picked up by smartphones and can be passed on through the Internet, to the owner of the missing object. This is a good example of device-to-device interaction, which is a characteristic of ‘The Internet of Things’ (IoT).

The Internet of Things permits sensor-equipped devices to be located and controlled throughout an existing network infrastructure. It is needless to say that the exponential growth in Internet usage has enabled this development and that the accuracy and efficiency of the Internet of Things is strongly dependent on the amount of users whom, in this case, have a TrackR or Tile app installed on their smartphones.

TrackR is the first analyzed company, which is founded in 2009. It received over $ 1,000,000 in funds from the crowd funding website indiegogo.com. It develops a Bluetooth transmitting device, attachable to practically anything. It makes use of the ‘mobile crowdsourcing’ technology, which means that the Bluetooth signal transmitted by the device gets picked up by the complementary TrackR application (installed by TrackR users on smartphones). The phone however, must have an active GPS signal in order to pass this signal through to the respective owner of the missing object. Stolen objects can now be detected through the use of crowdsourcing, even though the TrackR transmitter can only send signals up to 30 meters.

Tile is the second company, which is analyzed in this report. It was founded in 2012 and it raised over $ 2,600,000 in funds from crowdsourcing initiatives. In the past years it raised another impressive $13,000,000 from, amongst others, the Chinese software developing company Tencent. It works with a similar ‘mobile crowdsourcing’ technology as the TrackR. However, the Tile requires an active Internet connection, instead of the GPS signal mentioned above. The initial downside of the Tile is that it only offers a complementary TileApp for iPhone users. This immediately eliminates the accessibility of large amounts of Android and other operating system users.

This paper analyses companies’ value propositions, their relevancy and their unique differentiation. It also identifies each company’s key activities, its key resources and its key partnerships. Together with a detailed SWOT analysis and Porters’s five competitive forces model, an in-depth analysis of each company is made.

Multiple similarities arise after the analysis of both companies. Amongst others:

– Very similar Product and Value Proposition
– Mobile Crowdsourcing Technology
– Started with Crowd-funding
– Both companies lack transparency in their supply chain and distribution explanation
– Both companies mainly focus their E-Commerce efforts on B2C retail

Multiple differences arise as well:

– Segmentation: Difference in product offerings (TrackR: multiple products vs. Tile: one product)
– Difference in raising funds for growth and development of the company (TrackR: Crowd-funding vs. Tile: Crowd-funding + Private Equity)

For the future, the writers of this paper expect that there will be a rise in demand on a corporate level. If demand increases on the corporate side, it will automatically attract new entrants that, due to the low entry barrier and unpatented technology, may be hard to defend. At this point in time, both TrackR and Tile benefit from their first mover advantage by owning the majority of the users in this market segment. However, if new entrants are attracted due to the rise in demand, competition may cause a diminishing market capacity of both TrackR and Tile (e.g. by the introduction of disruptive technologies from new entrants). Therefore, the writers of this paper see an opportunity in TrackR and Tile joining forces. By combining their expertise, their network, their liquidities, and by benefiting more from economies of scale, TrackR and Tile combined may become too hard to compete with.

Team 10:

Erik Klein Getlink – 437664
Colin Blonden – 437130
Shanise Abhelakh – 345268
Nienke Hoogeveen – 372147
Jessica Dooper – 358278


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