Somebody has already used their AirTag to track a parcel across the UK and it actually worked.
Kirk McElhearn – an Apple user from Stratford-upon-Avon in the UK – sent the AirTag from his home to his friend in London. He taped the AirTag to a piece of cardboard and bubble-wrapped it before shipping it across the country.
Using the power of Apple’s Find My network – which crowdsources data from iPhone and iPad devices in the local area – McElheard was able to track the parcel the whole way from point A to point B.
“It didn’t take long for my AirTag to start its journey. At 5:49, it had started moving, going into Stratford-upon-Avon, presumably for it to be loaded on to a truck to go to the next location. At around 6:40, it had left the town, heading north,” McElheard explained.
“At 7:30, it reached the South Midlands Mail Centre, a “highly automated mail processing centre,” a massive warehouse-like site where mail is sorted. The presence of even one employee with an iPhone, with Find My turned on, was enough to register this location, but it’s likely that many of the employees have iPhones.”
Although it’s a pricey way to track your parcels, the system does actually work, which seems like a win for Apple’s Find My network.
While AirTags aren’t designed to track moving items, it’s pretty cool to be able to track your parcel in real-time instead of waiting for those DHL updates that will inevitably give you a “sorry we missed you” notification and send you down to the local depot to pick up your parcel.
“AirTags aren’t designed to track something in movement; this isn’t like a Tom Cruise movie, where spies track a car in a city, seeing exactly where it is in real-time. They are meant to be used to find lost keys, luggage, or other objects. But my experiment shows that you can track these devices to a certain extent,” McElheard wrote.
“The reason for this is the sheer size of the network of iOS devices that can locate AirTags. Apple says that there are nearly one billion iOS devices around the world that participate in this network, and that ensures that you can locate AirTags in most situations.”
However, it’s worth noting that the system isn’t without its flaws, with McElheard noting that his friend didn’t receive a notification to tell him the device was near his iPhone.
“After the AirTag was delivered, my friend left the envelope on a table in his house. He has an iPhone, so I expected him to be notified of the presence of the AirTag after a while,” McElheard explained.
“I therefore expected my friend to get such a message on or after Monday afternoon, three days after I mailed it. By Tuesday, he had still not received any alerts. As I write this article, I just checked in the Find My app, and the AirTag was last seen 13 minutes ago, at his location, but he still has not received any alerts.”
Thankfully, it wasn’t that big of a deal for McElheard because it was simply an experiment, but you’d want to hope that the system would work better if you had actually lost your AirTag (and whatever it was meant to be tracking).