Apple’s AirTag is one of their most underrated offerings. The AirTag is a small little $30 fab that you use to track lost items. It uses Bluetooth to find items that are within 50 feet and the FindMy network to find items further away. AirTags also have safety features to preserve privacy and prevent bad actors.
Here are some basic and useful things that you can track with an AirTag:
While listening to a podcast, the hosts praised the new Apple product. At first, the features seemed useful but very limited. But I thought I could get creative with it. That’s how I came to write this post. Immediately I picked one up and got busy thinking and building. It turns out there’s a lot we can do with this little puck! Let’s dive in:
Everyone knows the biggest risk about having a bike in NYC - people opening doors into the bike lane - oh and taxis. Ok but after that, the biggest risk is having your bike stolen. With bikes costing hundreds to thousands of dollars, a little security goes a long way.
Here is the quick hack. Throw an AirTag in your tool pouch, glued it to the underside of your seat, just find a good spot to hide it. Now if someone takes your bike, you can pull out your phone and work with the police to track down your bike! Not a bad backup option for $30.
The AirTag also has another great feature, Near Field Communication (NFC). With modern iPhones, you can tap your phone against an AirTag and trigger things to happen. We’re gonna use this…a lot.
The other thing we’ll be using a lot is the Shortcuts app on your iPhone. This tiny app is powerful and the automations are easily shareable. We can use this app to make our AirTag a lot more useful. Hint: tap the top of your phone towards the white side of the AirTag.
Bike Hack 1.5
So with the bike example we already have an AirTag attached to our two-wheeler, let’s up its functionality! Using Shortcuts we can tap the AirTag with our phone and trigger a new Strava workout and/or then have maps open! With one tap you record your workout and get directions. Find the link to my implementation here.
This hack I love and think this alone is worth the price of the tag. Set your AirTag right by the table where you walk in, right outside your door, or in your garage. Using this Shortcut you can tap your AirTag, and immediately your house is ready for you. It will turn on the lights, play music on your home speaker, and even turn up the thermostat. It can fire off a text to your family group chat, or dispense dog food from your smart dog bowl. It feels like magic when you do it, trust me. There are other ways to do this but we’re getting creative here. Check out my Shortcut here.
When you’re going to the grocery store you often wish you’d kept track of everything you wanted. Living with family members or even alone you need a good system to keep track of that. Paper and pen are annoying and opening apps to the right list is timely. Set up everyone’s phone with this Shortcut. Grab an AirTag and leave it in the kitchen somewhere like on the fridge. Now everyone can add to the grocery list without any hassle. Checkout my Shortcut here and the demo below where I tap my AirTag:
With the help of modern medicine, people are living a lot longer. With that comes a whole array of medical issues that we have yet to solve. One of those is unfortunately Alzheimer's. A scary symptom of the disease is that people can wander in their sleep. This can lead to a grandparent walking the streets in the middle of the night. AirTags can help with that. Go to a local tailor and have them sew a little pocket into all your grandparent's pajama pants. You can insert an AirTag and always know where they are. (Also, the AirTag is waterproof so if you wash it, it’ll be fine). If they ever end up outside or even roaming a larger house you’ll be able to instantly find them.
This is a stretch but also pretty cool. The FindMe network is a Mesh Network. What that means is that each Apple device like an iPhone or Apple Watch acts as a “scout” for lost devices. When another Apple product is in range of a lost item, it relays the lost item's location back to Apple. Almost every Apple product that exists makes the network stronger.
We can take advantage of this. Say you live in a more remote area with a long driveway. We can set up an AirTag in a small hidden location on the way up from the driveway. If we see the location of the AirTag get updated, we know someone with an iPhone is nearby. This isn’t ideal but is a clever way to use the AirTag (and maybe even catch a defiant teen).
The AirTag is such a small device but paired with some creativity it’s a mighty tool!