Everyone has done the tear-apart-the-house search for things like lost wallets or keys. On April 20, Apple announced a nifty new Bluetooth-enabled device called the AirTag that seeks to take the worry out of such situations. It’s small enough to easily slip into a wallet, purse, or dangle from your keychain without issue, and at $29 it’s way cheaper than a LoJack system. But could it be used to actually track a car?
That’s a question posed by the team at Cars Direct, and it caught our attention as well. Size certainly isn’t an issue, as the small AirTag can slip into just about anything. It uses a standard battery with an operational life of about a year, and it pairs via Bluetooth to your Apple device. Of course, Bluetooth only works in very short distances so if your car leaves the driveway, you won’t be able to “see” where it’s headed.
However, AirTags also work through Apple’s Find My network. In short, any Bluetooth-enabled Apple device close to the AirTag will detect it and send an encrypted signal to the network that only you can see. It’s the same setup Apple uses to locate missing devices, and it secretly works in the background so the only device that displays the location is the one originally paired with the AirTag. So in theory, as long as the car is somewhere relatively public where at least one Apple device is present, you’ll be able to find it. That’s pretty cool, if a bit creepy.
Speaking of creepy, here’s where AirTags may not be a viable tracking solution. Apple says the AirTags are designed to recognize when they’re in constant range of a device not paired with it. After a while, the AirTag will send a notification to that nearby device, and if the connection remains longer, the AirTag will emit a noise. This is designed to discourage unscrupulous activity, like slipping an AirTag into a stranger’s coat to see where they live. Ideally, that person would be notified of the AirTag’s presence, but if that person happens to be the thief who stole your car, it’s game over.
According to Cars Direct, Apple makes no claims about AirTags being used for tracking cars. However, with LoJack systems starting at $695, we suspect a $29 investment in an AirTag could be an attractive alternative for some folks.