The problems at Schiphol and other airports in Western Europe are the order of the day. Due to a lack of staff, it may just happen that your suitcase does not reach the plane, or does not end up with the luggage delivery after unloading. In other words, your luggage is somewhere – but where?
A bluetooth tracker like Apple AirTag can help with that. An AirTag is actually nothing more than a disk slightly larger than a 2-euro coin, which continuously spreads a bluetooth signal. That signal can be picked up by other Apple products nearby, such as iPhones.
If there is an AirTag in or on your suitcase and you are close to it with your iPhone, the location of the suitcase can be seen in Apple’s Find My app. But the range of such an AirTag is a maximum of 80 to 100 meters.
Each iPhone as an automatic hatch
The big trick happens when you yourself are outside that area. If someone with an iPhone or other Apple device comes near AirTag, AirTag will pass on its location via the strange iPhone. This happens automatically and unnoticed. The Find My app then shows you exactly where and when the AirTag last contacted another device.
Even if the AirTag itself does not have GPS, the small disk can still be useful. After all, as long as an iPhone regularly passes or is nearby, the location will stay updated. And in busy places such as an airport, there is a very good chance that someone with an iPhone will come by regularly. In addition, the AirTag has a battery life of up to a year on a normal CR2032 battery, which you can easily replace yourself.
More precise search
If you have more or less found the location of your AirTag, you can search even more accurately with a newer iPhone. AirTag has ultra-broadband technology, a signal that iPhones from iPhone 11 can search for. The iPhone will then tell you which direction to look and tell you exactly how close you are to the meter. You can also make the AirTag beep, even if that sound is not very loud at 60 decibels.
Useful, but with limitations
However, the above scenario is the best case. The range of an AirTag is highly dependent on obstacles. In practice, the reach is hampered by walls, doors and other luggage.
It’s also just a matter of where your lost luggage ends up. If your suitcase is in a remote corner of the airport, you are less likely to receive a location update on a regular basis.
Also, the AirTag itself should not be in constant motion: it turns out to be very difficult for an AirTag to make contact when it is on a rotating luggage belt. So you usually do not get a signal when your suitcase almost rolls off the belt.
An AirTag is certainly no guarantee of finding your lost luggage. Nevertheless, in many cases it pays to put an AirTag in the suitcase. There is still a significant chance that the AirTag will come in contact with an iPhone during loading or unloading. That way, you at least know which airport your luggage is at. This is information that can also make it easier for staff to help you.
Apple has a large search network
The Apple AirTag is far from the only Bluetooth tracker on the market, but it is the one with the largest search network. According to Apple, there are currently 1.8 billion active Apple products in the world, including over 1 billion iPhones.
The biggest downside: AirTags are only useful if you own an iPhone, or are traveling with someone with an iPhone – otherwise you will not be able to see the location. An AirTag costs between 30 and 35 euros.
Samsung has a similar tracker: SmartTag. Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones make up the search network. Samsung recently reported that the network now consists of more than 200 million devices. A smaller number than Apple, but in an airport there is still a good chance that someone with a Galaxy phone will walk by. A Samsung Galaxy SmartTag costs around 30 euros each.
Tile is the company that once popularized these types of search labels before Apple and Samsung came out with their own versions last year. Tile has advantages and disadvantages. The Tile trackers come in several shapes and sizes, and the beep is quite loud, but the batteries cannot be replaced.
Plus, Tiles search network is much smaller. The company does not say exactly how big, but the network consists of Android phones and iPhones with the Tile app installed and set up correctly. This reduces the chance of someone passing by who can automatically signal where your suitcase is.
In addition to Bluetooth trackers, there are also more expensive GPS trackers that continuously send their GPS coordinates via a mobile network. GPS location determination requires more power, making these devices somewhat larger and more expensive. One drawback is that GPS trackers sometimes have difficulty determining their position in enclosed areas of buildings.
There are GPS trackers with a battery life of several weeks, which can send their exact location every few minutes. Examples are the tracker from Invoxia from 99 euros (including 3 years connection) or Tracki (monthly subscription of 20 euros). But to find your suitcase at an airport, bluetooth trackers are often the better and affordable solution.