Bluetooth trackers help to locate personal items

Bluetooth-enabled tracking devices are slowly becoming more mainstream after Apple released its Airtag in April of 2021. Locating keys, bags, apparel, devices and even vehicles has never been easier than it is now with this technology available to the public.

Other Bluetooth tracker manufacturers like Tile have been available for a few years, but with any Apple product, the innovative company has a loyal consumer base that’s eager to get their hands on any new product the company releases, opening the door for Apple fans to keep tabs on all of their belongings.

“It ranges from keeping tracking of things like keys and wallets, down to backpacks and personal goods,” said Jim Raber, Executive Director of Support, Infrastructure and Research Technology in Kent State’s IT Department. “If you lose it, it provides wayfinding; depending on which type of device, it can provide guidance to get your goods back.”

Kent State’s Jim Raber is always looking into the newest technology that Apple and other companies develop.

While the uses are ideal for anyone trying to keep track of their belongings, the potential invasion of privacy is a downside to this type of technology, according to Raber.

“Some companies are a little bit more proactive around protecting privacy than others,” he said. “The Airtags in particular have seemed to have put a lot of effort into making sure that they can’t be used for nefarious reasons.”

Trey Schleifstein, a junior economics major at Kent State, was the victim of one of these nefarious reasons when he found a tracker device in his backpack after leaving it unattended in his hometown library in Pennsylvania.

“I went to the bathroom, came back to pack my backpack up, reached in and pulled out a little device that was not mine,” Schleifstein said. “It was a little tracker the size of a key fob.”

With these tracking devices, Raber said they use an element of GPS tracking, by using a smartphone to triangulate the location of the tracker, which is what the owner of this tracker was attempting to do to Schleifstein.

Schleifstein immediately discarded the device, squandering someone’s attempt to potentially stalk him.

Pennsylvania native and Kent State student Trey Schleifstein had a negative experience with a Bluetooth tracker, but he still sees the benefits of using them for what they were designed for.

“Whoever dropped that tracker in my bag did it with the intent to follow where I was going and know my location,” Schelifstein said.

When asked if he believed it was targeted for him specifically, Schleifstein didn’t believe that to be the case.

“I’d say just be aware of your surroundings at all times, always check your bags after being in a crowded area or if you left them unattended for any period of time,” Schleifstein said.

As these tracking devices become more prominent in our everyday lives, Raber suggested Apple’s Airtag is already ahead of the game involving situations of potential stalking.

“With the Airtags, they have really gone out of their way to make sure that that sort of thing is mitigated,” Raber said.

As Schleifstein suggested, keeping an eye on your surroundings can potentially eliminate a situation like the one he experienced. Raber’s suggestion can also reduce the possible negative scenarios that might arise with the use of Bluetooth trackers.

“Privacy is probably the biggest concern, and the recommendation there is if you’re looking at investing in something, whether it’s Airtag, whether it’s Tile or another company, is to get an understanding of what they do with the data, who has access to the data, and what controls you as a user have to make sure that it’s limited,” Raber said.

Multiple attempts to reach Apple for comment were unsuccessful, but Daryl Amargo from Tile Customer Care did respond.

“Tile is a Bluetooth device that helps you locate everyday essentials during your daily routine, removing little inconveniences, and helping you stay organized so you can do your best and focus on what matters,” Amargo wrote via email. “Our versatile finders can slide, stick or attach to anything from your keys to your wallet, phone, passport, laptop, pets, and more.”

These Bluetooth trackers have a variety of uses in everyday lives and were created to benefit society. With any piece of technology, it is possible they can wind up in the wrong hands, but taking Raber and Schleifstein’s recommendations, the negativity associated with these Bluetooth trackers can be dramatically reduced to a rare occurrence.