Remember Apple's AirTags? Working in sync with the Find My... app, the tags can be placed on items that you do not want to misplace and lose. The app will lead the owner of the item to its location using the U1 Ultra Wideband chip that Apple introduced under the radar during its September new product event. A leak last year revealed that the AirTags (codenamed B389) are small, round, and have the Apple logo on them. They also can be attached to a key ring. Kuo says that he expects the supply chain to produce 10 million Apple AirTags before the end of the year.
In a report to TF Internationals clients (via 9to5Mac), analyst Ming-Chi Kuo stated that the AirTags will be introduced during the second or third quarter of this year. If that timeline is correct, there is the possibility that Apple will be demonstrating the new trackers during the 2020 iPhone event expected to be held in September. On the other hand, WWDC will take place first (either June 1st through June 5th, or June 8th through June 12th) and we could see the new product introduced during the annual developer's event.
The AirTags will use the iPhone 11's U1 chip, the Find My app and AR to find tagged items
The U1 Ultra Wideband chip (UWB) found in the 2019 iPhone models sends out short-distance radio waves that can help track down missing dogs, keychains, suitcases and more. The signal is pushed out in a manner similar to a Time of Flight (ToF) depth sensor. A company involved in UWB says that done right, the technology can help pinpoint the location of a UWB compatible tag within four inches.
A leaked image of the AirTags UI includes drawings of a key, a suitcase, and a bicycle. When an item with an AirTag attached is lost, the user can have the tag sound an alarm to help him or her find the missing item. And a notification will tell an iPhone user when he or she has moved away from a AirTag. Safe Zones will allow a tagged item to be placed in a certain area without a notification coming up, and the location of certain items can be shared with friends and family members.
The beauty of Apple AirTags is that if you've misplaced an item, you have the entire iPhone community helping you find it in Lost Mode. This will allow another iPhone user who finds a tagged item to discover who it belongs to. Contact information is released so that the owner of the found item can be notified of its discovery. And it appears that Apple will turn to Augmented Reality (AR) to help users find tagged items. A 3D red balloon and a 2D yellow balloon will be used to lead an iPhone user toward the location of an Apple AirTag. A string of code discovered last year in the Find My... app reveals that users will be told to "Walk around several feet and move your iPhone up and down until a balloon comes into view (on the screen)."
Apple seems to have plans for Ultra Wideband that go well beyond helping iPhone users find a misplaced suitcase. The company's website said last year, "The new Apple‑designed U1 chip uses Ultra Wideband technology for spatial awareness — allowing iPhone 11 Pro to understand its precise location relative to other nearby U1‑equipped Apple devices. It’s like adding another sense to iPhone, and it’s going to lead to amazing new capabilities." Currently, the U1 chip can put an iPhone user at the top of another user's AirDrop list so they can share files faster. Pointing a 2019 iPhone at another 2019 iPhone will do the trick.
What does the future hold for UWB and the U1 chip? We don't know right now, but we look forward to finding out.