LOS ANGELES, Calif. (KTLA) – Apple’s $ 29 AirTag could be the best tracking device ever invented. It’s good for your business, not so good for the people.
These tiny little tags will likely help millions of people around the world locate their lost keys, backpacks, luggage, and more. But their good-humored tracking could also be easily exploited in ways we haven’t even thought about yet.
For starters, the AirTag is a small device that comes with a user-replaceable battery, which Apple says will typically last around a year.
You can associate up to 16 of them with an Apple ID. The process is super simple: place it next to an iPhone and give it a name.
Now you can see your item’s location on a map using Find My app.
There’s no monthly fee, and while they don’t allow you to attach to keys or backpacks, there are already plenty of accessories to help you do just that.
There are three ways an AirTag can help you find your item.
First of all, with just a sound. You can ping the device when it is nearby. The sound is loud enough, and it will probably be enough to help you find the little beacon if it’s nearby.
If that’s not enough to get you there, a “precision search” feature on the iPhone 11 and 12 can better direct you to the device. Your phone’s screen can tell you roughly how far away it is and even which direction to turn to find it. Again, this works when you are nearby.
The other way to find an AirTag is to call over the network. The Find My Network, which harnesses the power of nearly a billion Apple gadgets around the world. When one of them detects your AirTag, it anonymously updates its location on your Find My App.
Apple claims that the whole process is private, anonymous and encrypted. I’m sure they’ve done their homework here.
The part where it gets a little tricky is if you want to track someone else using an AirTag. Apple knows some will try to do this, so they’ve built in some backups.
When an AirTag is nearby, but the owner is not, your iPhone alerts you to the suspicious tag. The problem is, it requires an iPhone running the latest software. Android users are excluded from the mix.
In this case, the AirTag will chirp for you to be aware of. The problem here is that this notification can take a while. By then, a person with bad intentions might already know where you live, work, go to the gym, and more.
Ultimately, people will test the limits of these devices, and Apple will learn and update these warranties over time.
But overall, AirTags have the potential to be a really useful ally against losing all kinds of stuff.
Their power lies in crowdsourcing, simplicity, long battery life, and a strong network to locate them.