AirTag and UrbanTracker: latest improvements and technologies of tracking devices

In recent months the world of tracking personal objects and goods has been in the spotlight with the introduction of Apple's AirTag. In these days, there are many devices on the market that stand out for the different technical features and strategies used to locate objects, animals and everything that has value to you. They can be used in different situations, like indoor or outdoor and have different precision depending on the surrounding environment. In addition, the pairing with a companion mobile application makes the use of these tools quite intuitive and simple.
For all these aspects, the demand in this sector is growing year after year and according to the latest statistics issued by Research Reports World, it is estimated that this market will reach USD 970.1 millions at the end of 2026, with an annual growth rate of 13.3%.

Nowadays, the main technologies used in this field of applications are GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi and UWB. The latter, exploiting radio frequencies, has greater precision than the previous ones in determining the position, especially in indoor environments.
Recently, Apple has introduced a new range of devices that integrates the UWB technology in association with Bluetooth; the use of bluetooth for locating objects is not a novelty on the market, as Tile bluetooth tags have been using it for years.

So, why did the AirTag cause so much clamor?

Obviously, because it is an Apple product! Thanks to Brand Identity and Brand Awareness, AirTag was already very popular even before commercial launch and the whole Apple Community was eager to try and use this new tool since its first announcement.

But let's see better what characterizes it and what are the peculiar aspects that have triggered discussions and are today under deep scrutiny by law makers and influencers.

AirTag’s design is characterized by small size and round shape, covered in polished stainless steel and customizable with different emoji or initials.
Like any Apple product, this dispositive is fully integrated into the captive ecosystem and cannot be used by other platforms like Android. AirTag can be associated only through the “Find My" Application, which comes pre-installed on iPhones and iPads starting from iOS 14.5 and higher. As mentioned, Android world has no access to this device other than the possibility to identify the AirTag's owner, using NFC technology, in the event that it has been lost.

How does this tracker work? 

Once the AirTag is associated with the companion app, when the object is in the bluetooth range, you can just use the "Find My" app to make the AirTag emit a sound and locate it. When the object is outside the bluetooth range of the owners iPhone, the larger Apple installed base of “Find My” app, co-operates and contributes, without any human activity, in locating and keeping track of the lost AirTag and sends the position and relevant data to its owner. All this happens in the background and in an anonymous and confidential way.     

This aspect of the community, which greatly increases the effectiveness of the AirTag, is not a new idea; the same functioning was already foreseen by the Tile and Chipolo trackers, as they rely on a "head to head community locator".

In addition, using UWB technology and, thanks to the "Precision Finding" function available on the iPhone 11 and 12, it is possible to determine the distance and the approximate direction of a lost AirTag, while if it is within the bluetooth range. Moving according to the “Find My” app instructions, "Precision Finding" collects and refreshes positioning data and guides the user to the lost device.

About Privacy Issue 

The most discussed backlash about AirTag and trackers in general is on the Privacy Issue.

What happens if I lose the AirTag? In this case, Apple claims that the data collected by the device remains anonymous, secure and cannot be stored on the device. But what has been the subject of the most animated discussions is the case of “Unwanted Tracking”. First of all, it should be remarked that these devices are made with the sole scope of tracking objects and not people, as in this case it represents an improper use, punishable by law in most countries.

For example, it is assumed that someone puts an AirTag in your bag, if you had an Iphone this would immediately receive a notification about AirTag presence, but this does not happen if you have an Android. In this last case, if android users don't immediately notice this device with their own eyes, do they continue to be tracked without any warning?

Apple, which has always cared about its customers' privacy issues, assured that the AirTag emits a sound after 3 days, when it is separated from its owner. It has been this long time before an alert is activated the main point of discussion issue, as it may be used to track and stalk people. Just days after these considerations raised public concerns about possible improper use, the company has considered making changes to the alert policy. In detail, Apple reduced the time from 3 days to 8-24 hours and is considering to create a mobile application also available for Android, which is able to identify the presence of the AirTag and then any other accessory in the “Find My” network too, such as the Chipolo tracker.

What we see, despite this future precaution to protect the privacy of those who have an Android device, is that Apple aims once again to strengthen its exclusivity, which, while increasing the security and protection of data and associated devices, on the other side is limiting.

And outside of the Apple ecosystem? 

In addition to the already named trackers commercialized by Tile and Chipolo there are also trackers that are 100% made in Italy such as UrbanTracker created by the Stetel Things team; as a mix between new technology and great ease of use and installation. UrbanTracker works on both Android and iOS systems.

The tracker can locate objects by receiving information from a variety of public and private radio networks. It works mapping visible network transmitters and the geolocation details available from open and commercial information sources. For this reason, unlike GPS trackers, it also works indoors where satellite signals cannot be received. 

The device works everywhere in the world thanks to the in-the-box provision of an activated International Sim, for as long as it is under GSM coverage. 

The absence of GPS module also allows optimal life-management of the integrated rechargeable Urban Tracker companion mobile application, offers four working modes

  • Online mode: find it immediately, whenever you want;
  • Tracking Mode: follow it on a map;
  • Motion Alert Mode: alerts you when it senses movement;
  • Airplane Mode: find your luggage immediately after a flight.

In particular, the Airplane Mode, thanks to the internal presence of a barometer and accelerometer, allows you to locate the baggage once it has arrived at the destination airport and is disembarked from the aircraft; this occurs thanks to the recording and processing of the atmospheric pressure’s variation and the baggage’s movements during transportation. This technology is very useful as it allows an efficient and consequently effective operation of the tracker.

The tracker has a small size and is covered by a plastic box certified by UL International for: CE - FCC - RoHS and is developed in compliance with the recommendations issued by FAA, EASA and IATA (relating to airport regulations), as well as being in compliance with the material recycling legislation.

It is also possible to use UrbanTracker for the tracking of goods in the business-to-business market using the JustFollow.it service. Thanks to the provision of the tracking set and personal credentials to access the online platform, any company and logistic operator can track shipments in an easy way and always be updated on movements and positions.

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Stetel Things

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