Apple and Google have finally teamed up to address a serious problem with Bluetooth smart trackers. The two companies have jointly submitted a proposed industry specification to help combat the misuse of Bluetooth location-tracking devices for unwanted tracking. The move will help prevent trackers from stalking people and high-value items such as vehicles.
The problem with unwanted tracking
The problem with Bluetooth location-tracking smart devices is that they can easily be hidden from people, and objects. These can be used for malicious activities, such as crime, theft, and spying on someone’s location without their consent. Such incidents were reported back in 2021, when Canadian criminals often used AirTags to track high-value vehicles, and later steal them from unsuspected people.
The issue was so bad, that even the Canadian Police force had to issue a video on how to prevent vehicle theft, and Apple later had to release a tool for Android to help combat the issue.
As it stands, Android users are unable to completely detect any of these Bluetooth smart location-tracking devices, despite Apple releasing a tool in 2022. The problem is that none of these trackers can communicate with one another, and they’re rather limited in terms of functionality and connectivity. Apple’s AirTag lets unsuspected iPhone users receive alerts when their device notices an AirTag following them, but it’s not ideal as there are far more Android users out there.
The other problem is that other branded products, such as the ones from Samsung, Tile, and others, can’t detect abusive behavior and unwanted tracking, and they don’t notify unsuspected users.
The solution is backed by industry leaders
Apple and Google have announced the “first-of-its-kind specification will allow Bluetooth location-tracking devices to be compatible with unauthorized tracking detection and alerts across iOS and Android platforms”. The two companies announced that Samsung, Tile, Chipolo, eufy Security, and Pebblebee have all expressed support for the draft specification. The draft offers best practices and instructions for manufacturers, in case they integrate and build some of the proposed capabilities into their products.
“Apple launched AirTag to give users the peace of mind knowing where to find their most important items,” said Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of Sensing and Connectivity. “We built AirTag and the Find My network with a set of proactive features to discourage unwanted tracking — a first in the industry — and we continue to make improvements to help ensure the technology is being used as intended. This new industry specification builds upon the AirTag protections, and through collaboration with Google results in a critical step forward to help combat unwanted tracking across iOS and Android.”
“Bluetooth trackers have created tremendous user benefits, but they also bring the potential of unwanted tracking, which requires industry wide action to solve,” said Dave Burke, Google’s vice president of Engineering for Android. “Android has an unwavering commitment to protecting users, and will continue to develop strong safeguards and collaborate with the industry to help combat the misuse of Bluetooth tracking devices.”
The announcement also makes it clear that feedback from manufacturers are welcome, and they encourage input from various safety and advocacy groups to develop the specification. If and when the new specification is implemented, Android and iOS users could receive automatic alerts when any of these branded and non-branded devices are suspected to be tracking someone.
In the announcement, Apple states that it’ll address feedback and release a production implementation of the specification for unwanted tracking alerts by the end of 2023, and then support it in future versions of iOS and Android. Support for the newly proposed specification could arrive before the end of the year or possibly sometime in 2024.
Check out the Best Bluetooth Smart Trackers
The Apple AirTag lets you easily keep track of your devices, pets, bags, and other items using the Find My app. It’s easy to set up, and it works on all Apple devices, such as iPhones, iPad, and Macs.
Samsung Smart Tag
The Samsung Galaxy Smart Tag lets you track your pets, bags, wallets, keys, and just about anything you can attach it to. It works with Galaxy-branded smartphones, and it’s an inexpensive gadget to help you find your belongings.
Samsung Smart Tag+
Smart Tag+ offers the unique Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology that provides more precise tracking, and Samsung has more AR app features to help you find your tracker. The rest of the features are the same as the non-plus version, although this certainly makes it easier to find your lost belongings.
Tile Mate (2022)
$20 $25 Save $5
Like the AirTag, the Tile Mate is a useful accessory to keep track of your everyday things, be it keys or a backpack. It has up to 250ft of range and a loud ring that makes it easy to locate. Its built-in battery will last 3 years, after which you’ll need to replace the tracker.
$28 $35 Save $7
The Tile Slim is a slim and sleek Bluetooth tracker or item locator that will be perfect for finding your wallet, passport, and other kinds of important things.
$24 $30 Save $6
The Tile Sticker has a three-year battery life, and it’s small and sticky. It can easily stick to any surface, allowing you to provide reliable and accurate tracking of your belongings.
The Chipolo One location-tracker is small, and comes in various color options. It’s useful for finding misplaced items, and tracking pets. It works with both Android and iPhones, and it can alert you when you leave your keys, wallets, and other items behind.
Chipolo Card Spot
Like most other tracking devices on this list, the Chipolo Card Spot works with the Apple Find My Network to help you locate misplaced items. The card can easily fit in your existing wallet, and can be used with Apple devices to track your wallet, luggage, passport, and other items.
The Pebblebee Clip works with Apple Find My, and it helps you track your belongings using the Find My network. It has a range of up to 500ft, and the rechargeable battery can last for up to six months on a single charge.