Lost and Found

The AirTag sends out a scrambled signal that can be picked up by any iOS or MacOS device, allowing you to track items you’ve tagged.

I misplace things all the time—my keys, phone, tablet, purse. I will admit there are times when I come out of the supermarket and have no idea where I parked my car. I have toyed with purchasing lost item trackers like Tiles or Smart Finders, but I worried I would just end up misplacing those, as well. My interest piqued, however, when I got word of the Apple AirTag launch.

I expected Apple to get into this market back in 2014 when it introduced iBeacon tech, and again in 2019, when the iPhone 11 launched with ultrawide band (UWB) technology. So I was excited to grab my first set of AirTags the day they hit the market!

Getting Started with AirTags

Currently priced at $29 or four for $99, the AirTag is a small, battery-powered stainless steel disc—much smaller than the Tile and other trackers. The design makes it simple to remove the cover and change the battery, which is designed to last about a year with everyday use. The look is everything Apple: a simple logo on one side, and the ability to engrave your favorite emojis on the flip side.

After pairing AirTags with your device, you immediately can start tracking the items you’ve tagged. What’s going on in the background? CNET explains it here:

“The tags and the Find My app take advantage of Apple’s U1 chip with Ultra Wideband technology to use Precision Finding, a feature that relies on camera input, ARKit, accelerometer, and gyroscope to guide you to your AirTag using sound and haptic and visual feedback.”

The Find My app will let you know how far away the tagged item is, and what direction you should head off in. Siri can help you located your tagged items, and Apple’s commitment to accessibility also ensures a voiceover option for those who are visually impaired or blind. If you’re within Bluetooth range, Precision Finding (turn-by-turn directions) kicks in, which gives you a better idea of exactly where the tagged item is. You also can ping the AirTag to make a noise to help you find it.

All of this might sound familiar to those of you who have used trackers in the past. The real magic comes into play with the Find My app and the vast network of close to a billion devices out there. The AirTag sends out a scrambled signal that can be picked up by any iOS or MacOS device. According to Apple:

“Find My works offline by sending out short range Bluetooth signals from the missing device that can be detected by other Apple devices in use nearby. Those nearby devices then relay the detected location of the missing device to iCloud so users can locate it in the Find My app—all while protecting the privacy and security of all the users involved.”

I am a fan of the Find My app. I am not opposed to friends and family knowing where I am. The end-to-end encryption within the Find My network keeps location data private and anonymous enough for me. I embrace the power of this digital ecosystem and trust in its security.

Incorporating AirTags into Work

Locating misplaced things is a part of everyday life. How might we integrate what we’re learning from AirTags into our workplace training scenarios?

I have worked with organizations that used Tiles to tag their most sought-after reference binders (yes, many folks are still using that binder out on the manufacturing floor). I have a colleague who has used Tiles to track their belongings while traveling, only to find the battery dead on the Tile and their luggage lost.

I can imagine the scenario when I get back on the road again with the Training Technology Test Kitchen. There will be AirTags nestled among the learning tech gadgets that I risk placing in checked luggage, and I will be able to track their journey to my Training event destination—my take on turning a regular travel bag into a smart bag!

Lost item trackers are nothing new, but the Apple AirTags have me thinking about other ways we might tap into secure digital ecosystems to shape the way we work. I’ve made a commitment to integrating these AirTags into a few experimental scenarios. After all, what do I have to lose?

If you’re Interested in learning more about privacy and security around the Find My app, I recommend reading this Apple Platform Security Brief:

Phylise Banner
Phylise Banner is a learning experience designer with more than 25 years of vision, action, and leadership experience in transformational learning and development approaches. A pioneer in online learning, she is an Adobe Education Leader, Certified Learning Environment Architect, STC Fellow, performance storyteller, avid angler, aviation enthusiast, and currently training to be a private pilot.