Apple AirTag as a theft/robbery tracking device?

Hello friends!

I was wondering if the newly released Apple AirTag could be used as tracking device in case of theft or robbery.

It seems to me that, although not perfect, it can be used in such application considering that there’s milions of Apple devices as part of the Find My network that can anonymously detect Bluetooth signals from a lost AirTag and relay the location back to its owner.

What do you guys think?

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If it fit inside my frame, I’d toss one in there. Definitely will have one in the downtube storage of my FUEL EX but not sure where it could go on the road bike where I could easily access it for battery changes. I wonder how the range is, like could it not locate it if it’s far away from the phone

Lots of third party mounts already so I’m sure something bike friendly will be out soon. I really like the idea. I already have a Tile but due to coverage I only use it at home for my keys and wallet. The ubiquity of iOS devices makes this really attractive. Although if activated, I think it alerts the phone nearest so it’s not foolproof compared to a dedicated GPS tracker.

It uses other people’s iPhones as well, so could be miles away and you can pick up the location.

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The jury is still out on how this will work. We dont have tons of information from Apple.

For instance, Apple keeps marketing these as “find items” tool and not an anti-theft tool. The difference is very important. Apple has put a huge amount of thought into the Privacy side of things and therefore some features will prevent or work against the anti-theft portion.

One feature that is concerning to me is the fact that your iPhone will identify if there is an airtag (that is not yours) that is traveling with you. At this point, you can disable the airtag. This is mainly to prevent stalkers and somebody tagging you, but at the same time, it also means that if you grab a bike and ride around for a bit, your iPhone will tell you there is an airtag on the bike and you can disable it. The timing of this is not super clear, but the apple website shows an example:


Using their own example, we could assume a bike was stolen at the airport at 8:50am and you rode it around an at 9:41am, your iPhone tells you there is an airtag following you. You can then make it play a sound or disable it. I think this assumes that the owner has not reported it lost. What is not clear is the timing the owner has to report it lost before it notifies the thief that it is tagged.

I have also heard that the tag will play a sound if it is moving without the owner. Not sure if this can be disabled or not. I would hate to lend my bike to somebody (not that I actually do) and then have the beeping start…

Like I said… I need a bit more information from Apple or reviewer on how the actual system works.

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This could be a privacy problem…

It’s not. It’s all encrypted with rotating keys so you can’t discern any of the who/what/where unless you have the appropriate key.

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Cool… Hope is not… the fact that apple is using my devise to transmit data from other users is a bit problematic IMO.
As long as there is no way to see the actual data, I guess it can work…

This is a reasonable description of how the technology works.

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This is how a lot of these services work. They transmit their “bluetooth tag” to any device that is willing to listen and once a device picks it up, the device transmits it to the cloud with its location.
The amount of data that your device is transmitting is negligible.

From Apple:

How does it work?

Your AirTag sends out a secure Bluetooth signal that can be detected by nearby devices in the Find My network. These devices send the location of your AirTag to iCloud — then you can go to the Find My app and see it on a map. The whole process is anonymous and encrypted to protect your privacy. And itʼs efficient, so thereʼs no need to worry about battery life or data usage.

Privacy is built in.

Only you can see where your AirTag is. Your location data and history are never stored on the AirTag itself. Devices that relay the location of your AirTag also stay anonymous, and that location data is encrypted every step of the way. So not even Apple knows the location of your AirTag or the identity of the device that helps find it.

It works the same as the Tile and Milwaukee OneKey, but with MANY more touchpoints. The use what’s basically a BLE signal, so you need a touchpoint within 3ft.

I looked into this when I needed to ship my bike. The GPS -cell network trackers only work for a couple of days. The Tile/OneKey/Misc trackers don’t have enough touchpoints in an airport/warehouse/network reach environment. Tile seemed to be the best way to go, but the privacy is sketchy. The AirTag would be the way to go, and I’ll be using on on the bike and one on the case for my next trip.

You’d need to put it someplace where the signal can get out, so I’d jam one inside the crank spindle and one taped into the bar tape.

It seems like putting it inside a frame or crank is going to severely limit range.

3 feet? Think you meant 30 or 300. Our experience with using Tile to rustle up the cat at night is the practical range outside is 50 feet. Part of that is the cat might be hiding in a bush and the water in leaves will reduce the strength of 2.4GHz radio signals.

I think much range would be lost by placing Airtag inside carbon frame too. Somebody need to test and post here;)

As best I can determine carbon fiber is a pretty good shield to radio signals at 2.4GHz. So putting it inside a bike is likely to mean its undetectable, except at short ranges. If I was interested in this application, would experiment with putting it under the seat.

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How about placing the tag under the bar tape on a road or TT bike? Seems like a good place.

As best I can tell the radio control folks are able to get ok range with 2.4GHz antenna inside carbon fiber frames, but caution against as its easy to move antenna outside these small model planes. However the carbon fiber is thinner and I don’t know the difference in radio signal power.

Worth experimenting with several places, including inside the bike, and finding a placement that works.

Glue it under the seat??

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Actually im racing drones. In our case receiver antenna is mounted to the carbon arm, it should be mounted that as small as possible surface of antenna goes along with the carbon. So would make it worst if antenna would be inside of carbon part like inside of bike. For 2.4GHz transmitters we use 25mW and 100mW (airtags must be some very low wattage to be able to work for a year on that tiny battery). Producers say that max range is 25km (idk in which conditions;)). I would say few km in line of sight should be archiveable but i never tested how far can i go.
I think mounting under the seat should work best for bike. But would be easy to find and take off:) Not perfect solution for securing the bike:)

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2.4 ghz and 6-8.5GHz @2.8 mW (source FCC docs)
The higher the frequency, the less tolerant they are of obstacles.

Tiles are 12.3mw
A wahoo cadence censor is .3mw

So probably more than my 3ft guess. I think that the Airtag has 1/2 the range of the Tile. 3x the range of the cadence sensor. We know the cadence sensor flakes out at about 3-4 ft from the head unit, so 10-20ft on the airtag and 30-50ft on the tile.

I’d still put my money on the Airtag given the number of reporting “ears”.

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