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4 min read
When Eric Sanchez first bought a Tile — a Bluetooth-connected tracking device for absentminded consumers — he initially did what many people do: He stuck it on his wallet. “I’ve been late to meetings because I can’t find my keys or wallet, and that’s terrible,” he says.
Then Sanchez realized Tile might solve an even larger, more personal issue. He is the CEO and cofounder of Revl, a video company that uses AI to record personal highlights in fast-moving environments like skydiving, and he has done more than 200 jumps himself. Now he plans to stick a Tile on his parachute so he can find it if he ever has to cut the line and use a backup.
“It means less anxiety and more productivity,” he says.
Everyone has some version of Sanchez’s anxiety — whether it’s losing a parachute or just a laptop or phone. That’s why multiple electronics companies are now releasing a trackable device.
They all work in roughly the same way. The device, which is the size of a button, sticks onto any object and connects to an app, allowing a user to pinpoint the item’s exact location with a smartphone. But they have differences, too. When you double tap a Tile tag, for example, it will make your phone ring, even if it’s on silent. (I tried it. It’s very useful.) Apple’s version, called AirTag, can be located simply by asking Siri where it is.
The products offer more than convenience, which is why many tech experts expect the tool to catch on. “How can we measure ‘peace of mind’?” says Horace Dediu, analyst and cofounder of Micromobility Industries. “You won’t spend as much time looking for things, but you also won’t waste time worrying about where things are.”
But the benefits come with a trade-off: There are genuine security concerns. You may not realize if someone plants an AirTag on you, and manufacturers are grappling with how to stop abuse. Some devices are programmed to buzz after eight to 24 hours, for example. With Apple, your iPhone will alert you if there’s an unknown AirTag close to you. But many holes in the system remain. (If you see an AirTag in your bag or car that you didn’t place there, call the police.)
As with every new product, predicting exactly how these tags will do in the market is difficult. “There are some products that AirTags are just not a good fit for, like eyeglasses,” says Ross Rubin, a technology research analyst. “That said, they are relatively inexpensive devices in the Apple ecosystem, and it’s easy to see them being purchased almost as an impulse buy.”
While the future of tags isn’t certain, one thing is for sure: The next time Sanchez leaps from an airplane, losing his parachute will be one less worry on his mind.
Cost: $40 for a two-pack
Best feature: They’re designed with an adhesive side that sticks easily to bikes, electronics, and even remote controls.
Best feature: The “precision finding” feature allows you to see arrows on your phone, pointing you to the exact location of your AirTag.
Best feature: It works with Apple’s Find My network, so you’ll be notified if someone with the app walks by your missing tag.