How Accurate Are AirTags?


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Written By Dinu Sri

Dr. H. T. D. S. Madusanka is an electronic enthusiastic, involved in research and development.

Apple have always been in the front line when it comes to releasing smart devices. Almost all their devices solve issues that we didn’t know they could be solved easily. In 2021 Apple launched Apple AirTag a tracking device used to track items that lack smart features like car keys, wallets and pets.

Aside from a few issues that you might experience when using AirTags to track your items, AirTags are very reliable and accurate. You can trace your misplaced keys within seconds from your iPhone provided it is within the required range. But how do they manage this level of accuracy?

Apple incorporated a number of technology that allows transmission of radio frequencies from the device to your iPhone which enables the tracking process. The phone then combines a number of features offered by Apple to make the process as accurate as it can be.

To understand more about how AirTags work, keep reading this guide to the end.

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Are AirTags accurate?

Apple AirTags are made through the combination of various technologies that allows the transmission of radio frequency signals in seconds to an Apple device. Since AirTag is not a smart device, it will need another Apple device to receive and display the signals sent in form data. There is a lot that happen in the process that ensures that the data receives is 100% accurate and reliable.

First inside the AirTag under the battery compartment there is a U1 chip which uses Ultra-wide band technology (UWB).  UWB is a type of technology that transmit radio frequencies over a short-range. It usually transmits about 1billion pulses in a second making it the most fast and stable data transmitting agent. UWB is also a low energy technology therefore you do not have to worry about your battery being drained fast.

For signals sent from the AirTag to be translated as data, you will need to connect to a device that has a U1 chip in it. It is for that reason, you can only connect an AirTag to iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad with iOS 14.50 and latest versions.

Another technology used in AirTag is the Near-field communication (NFC). NFC technology is what allows the AirTag to communicate with nearby devices to send your location update.

If you happen to lose your AirTag in the public and you set it in lost mode, the person who finds the AirTag can reveal your contact information.

To allow you access the AirTags owner contact information, you need to tap the right side of the AirTag with the top center part of your iPhone. The good thing about using an AirTag embedded with an NFC chip is that even an Android phone with and NFC chip can send help you recover your AirTag.

Another technology used to ensure that the signal are accurate and fast is Bluetooth. Every AirTag is embedded with a Bluetooth chip which is used as a beacon for communication between the AirTag and the iPhone.

Since AirTags lack a screen and cannot connect to the internet, you will need a form of connection between the AirTag and iPhone.

For you to create a connection between the AirTag and your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad you will need to turn on the Bluetooth during the connection.

Bluetooth connections are not very powerful. Once you are out of range from the Bluetooth, the connection becomes weaker and you might get the notification that AirTags is not working. If you get that notification, you will need to move around until you are in range. AirTags are detectable within a range of 100 feet inside and 800 feet outdoor.

Aside from the technology used in the AirTag that ensures the tracking process is as accurate and precise, some other aspects of the connection will protect you from stalking and theft.

1.      Find My app

Apple Find My app ensures that the tracking process is easier. Before you start using your AirTag, you must download Find my app which will be used to track your lost AirTag.

Find my app has a section where you can see all the AirTags you own. If you lose one of your AirTag, Go to Find my app, select the item that is lost and check it’s where about.

  • If the item is in the required range, the app will provide some instructions that you can use to retrieve your AirTag. You will be provided with the direction, and the exact distance you will have to move to reach your AirTag.
  • If the item is not in range but you are sure it is somewhere in the house, you will get a notification popup “ AirTag not reachable move around to connect”.

Find My app also offer some other icons where you can use to check your AirTag battery charge.

  • Go to find my app
  • Tap on the item bar
  • Select the item you want to check the battery charge.
  • Tap on the battery icon
  • You will get the charge in percentage. If your battery charge is low, you will get a notification.

You will also get a touch and a speaker icon that also aid in the tracking of your AirTag at night.

With the accuracy offered by the combination of all the Find My app features, it is impossible to lose your AirTag.

2.      Find My network

Find My network is a feature that allows people who have iPhones to keep track of their AirTags and help others retrieve their lost AirTags.

This feature works in a way, if there is a lost AirTag closer to you and you have an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad with iOS 14.50 and latest versions, you will get a notification that there is a lost AirTag. If the owner has set the AirTag on lost mode, you can tap on the right side of the AirTag onto the top center of your iPhone to find the contact details of the owner.

But how accurate is Find My Network?

Suppose there is an AirTag in a train and there are several people using compatible devices, will the devices trigger the AirTag to make a sound.

No. Devices that are compatible with AirTag can only be triggered if the AirTag is outside the pocket of the owner.

For example, if your AirTag drops on the train seat, and the owner leaves it, the person seated next to the AirTag will get the notification of a lost AirTag on their iPhone. Immediately the AirTag will update the location and as the owner, you will use then use the location history to they your AirTag.

If there are several people who have compatible devices, the AirTag will update the location and trigger the closest iPhone to produce a sound thanks to Near-field communication technology.

Find My Network relies on the large community of Apple devices users. So, if your AirTag gets lost in a place with Android users, you might never recover it.

3.      Precision finding

If you have iPhone 11 and the latest versions of iPhones, you can take advantage of the precision finding feature. Precision finding gives you the most accurate and precise direction and distance you will need to find your AirTag.

Take an example where you don’t know where you places your car keys but you are sure they are inside the house. If you have a device that supports precision finding, you can retrieve your AirTag very easily.

  • Launch find my app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
  • Go to the items bar
  • Select the item you want to find
  • Then tap find.
  • If you are using Apple device that supports precision finding, the device will pinpoint where exactly your AirTag is.
  • It will display the exact direction in an arrow form and the distance in feet.
  • Follow the instructions provided to reach your AirTag. Once you get to your AirTag you will get a notification to stop. You can the retrieve your AirTag.
  • If it is at night and you can’t see your AirTag, precision finding allows you to use the flashlight icon on the screen to aid in finding your device. It also features a speaker icon that when you tap it, the AirTag inbuilt speaker will be activated to make a sound. You can then follow the sound to reach your AirTag.
How Accurate Are AirTags - social media flyer

4.      Built-in privacy

Aside from the tracking accuracy, Apple invested a lot of time in making sure that AirTags are safe for their users.

Since AirTags don’t have a screen of their own, it is hard to know whose AirTag it is if you happen to find one. This way, there is no way you can see the location history of the AirTag or contact information of the AirTag.

 Apple allows only one person to connect to the AirTag through their Apple ID when setting it up. This way, you are the only person who can see the location history of the AirTag. Even Apple cannot access your location history.

5.      Anti-stalking feature

Apple is still improving their products with any slight issue encountered. For example, people were complaining about their AirTag being stalked by other people. Although this allegations were not verified to be true, Apple still released a new update on AirTag firmware that ensures you cannot be tracked by anyone. The firmware update is automated provided you are in close proximity to an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad with iOS 14.50 and latest versions. You can use this guide to know more about AirTags firmware update.

If you are using an AirTag, you can be assured your safety is guaranteed and that you will never lose your AirTag provided there are a lot of people using Apple devices. You can also subscribe to this page to learn more about AirTag and related technology.

Conclusion

Despite of AirTags being very small, there are very accurate and precise.

Apple combines several technology to make sure that your AirTag collects data in form of radio frequencies and the data then transmitted to compatible devices for interpretation. The good thing is that the data is always interpreted for you. You only need to know how to use the AirTag and the associated apps and features.

You can follow the guide above to learn how an AirTag achieves it’s preciseness and subscribe to this page for more information on AirTags.

References

  1. Li, Q. (2021, December). Analysis of Innovation Opportunities for AirTag. In 2021 3rd International Conference on Economic Management and Cultural Industry (ICEMCI 2021) (pp. 1496-1498). Atlantis Press.
  2. Mesquita, G. P., Mulero-Pázmány, M., Wich, S. A., & Rodríguez-Teijeiro, J. D. (2022). A practical approach with drones, smartphones, and tracking tags for potential real-time animal tracking. Current Zoology.
  3. Heinrich, A., Bittner, N., & Hollick, M. (2022, May). AirGuard-Protecting Android Users from Stalking Attacks by Apple Find My Devices. In Proceedings of the 15th ACM Conference on Security and Privacy in Wireless and Mobile Networks (pp. 26-38).