AirTag Technology: UWB, Bluetooth, and Encryption for Location Tracking
- by enInSiOU
What Technology Does AirTag Use?
Apple’s AirTag is designed to act as a key finder and help people locate personal items like keys, bags, and small electronics. The device uses Bluetooth Low Energy, NFC, and a custom U1 chip to enable its location tracking features.
Anyone with an iPhone that runs iOS 14.5 or later can receive a notification if a tagged item becomes separated from its owner. However, precise location tracking requires an iPhone with the U1 chip to ping the AirTag.
The Apple AirTag and Samsung Galaxy SmartTag devices use a new short-range wireless technology called Ultra-Wideband (UWB). This technology uses radio pulses to accurately locate objects. It works by calculating how long it takes for a signal to travel from one device to another.
UWB is similar to Bluetooth, but it operates at a higher frequency. This allows it to send signals more frequently and provide more accurate tracking information. It also works through barriers, meaning it doesn’t need a line of sight to function like Bluetooth.
While UWB has a lot of potential, it’s not without its issues. Some people are concerned that it could be used for unethical tracking, such as stalking or tracking employees without their consent. However, it’s becoming more popular to include in mobile devices, and ZDNet predicts that it will be the basis of future smart home technology.
Apple’s AirTags are little tracking devices designed to help you find your keys or luggage. They’re powered by a 3 volt CR2032 battery and have careful engineering to make them IP67 water and dust resistant.
Each one pairs with its owner iPhone via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), sharing a crypographic seed. Then it broadcasts time-sensitive, encrypted BLE advertising messages to any nearby iPhone that can hear them.
When an iPhone detects an AirTag, it uploads a record of its unique identifier to Apple’s servers. This is how the “Find My” network can zero in on a lost AirTag within a couple of centimeters.
While this reliance on everyone else’s iPhones to track things like AirTags and Tiles is great for finding your stuff, it opens the door for stalkers or criminals to use it for nefarious purposes. The influx of stalking cases involving these devices should be a reminder that we need to remain vigilant about our privacy with these kinds of technologies.
Apple says the AirTag is designed with privacy in mind. A person can only use the device to find their own items, and all location reports are end-to-end encrypted.
The first few bytes of the BLE messages are not encrypted, and the operating system of new iPhones and Macs can use them to identify which AirTag they’re listening for. This global network then relays the AirTag’s location up to Apple’s servers, so the device owner can search for it in their Find My app.
However, the AirTag’s hardware does not have an encryption mechanism that meets industry standards for this kind of sensitive data. It uses a Nordic nRF52832 chip, which is capable of supporting encrypting identities but does not have a dedicated secure memory. In fact, a user’s serial number is one of the parameters used to generate the ID for a given AirTag in this URL, which can be reverse engineered and accessed with a small piece of software.
Apple AirTags use a combination of technologies for wireless identification and location tracking. They use Bluetooth to communicate with your iPhone and the distributed Find My network, and they have a UWB radio for precision finding. These features make AirTags a popular choice for locating items such as wallets, keys, and luggage.
When an AirTag becomes separated from its owner, it displays a notification on the screen of any compatible Apple device in range. This feature can help you locate a lost item in a crowd or on a busy street, and it can even work from a distance.
To set up an AirTag, you need an iPhone and the Find My app. When you open the app, a prompt will appear to name the tag and connect it with your Apple ID. Then, you can find your AirTag with a tap. The app will display its location and give you on-screen guides to get there.
What Technology Does AirTag Use? Apple’s AirTag is designed to act as a key finder and help people locate personal items like keys, bags, and small electronics. The device uses Bluetooth Low Energy, NFC, and a custom U1 chip to enable its location tracking features. Anyone with an iPhone that…
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