A cybersecurity expert in Brooklyn, New York, was able to recover his stolen bike, by tracking it down himself, all thanks to Apple's AirTags that he had hidden inside the bike earlier. Dan Guido relived the story of the search on Twitter and it has quite the drama of an episode of crime scene investigation.
For the uninitiated, Apple's AirTags are small tracking devices that one can put on things that are most likely to be misplaced, such as car keys or wallets. The tags also have a small speaker on them, that the user can activate using their Apple device and located the item, they are tagged to.
Powered by a small replaceable CR2032 battery, AirTags cannot support satellite-based locations, rather rely on other random Apple devices to detect and report the Bluetooth signals they emit. When a user buys an AirTag it is linked to his Apple ID and can be reported as lost. Apple runs the crowdsourced, "Find My" service that can detect and report lost items, with precise locations as well.
Coming back to the story, Guido had placed two AirTags on his scooter, one near the wheel, where it was fairly visible and one under the stem, camouflaged with black tape. Each AirTag is priced at $29, so the obvious question is, why is Guido so fond of his scooter that he placed almost $60 worth AirTags on it?
Guido doesn't ride an ordinary scooter but the award-winning, Ninebot-Kickstarter. This electric scooter is powered by a 551Wh battery that offers a 40 mile (64 km) range. With 18 miles (29 km) per hour top speed and 10-inch pneumatic tires, this IPX5 water-resistant electric scooter is priced at just under $1000. So, two AirTags are easily justified.
Guido also uses $100 handcuffs to secure his prized possession but forgot to cuff one of them the night the scooter was lost. Pressed for time due to an upcoming flight, Guido tried to look for the scooter himself after police officials in the local precinct refused to help since they did not know what AirTags were.
I also had NYPD meet me at the nearest street corner but they were resistant to helping. They weren’t familiar with Airtags, thought I might be enlisting them to steal something, and refused to walk with me if I knocked on a door or into a store.— Dan Guido (@dguido) August 10, 2021
Guido wasn't able to precisely locate his scooter and left the location to catch his flight. He had given up finding his scooter because AirTags begin beeping between 8 and 24 hours if their owner is not around. This feature is meant to prevent stalking but in this case would have revealed the AirTags presence to the thief, who could simply rip them off.
Luckily for Guido, the Air Tags did not move for the whole week he was away, and upon his return, he went to the 79th Precinct to convince the officials to accompany him on his recovery mission. He also demonstrated the workings of the tags to the personnel there, who then agreed to send a patrol with him.
On reaching the location, Guido and the police identified an e-bike store there, and as Guido entered the store, received a notification on his phone.
I received a UWB ping as I walked in the door. It’s 13ft away! I gestured to keep walking, it’s here. The store was unkempt with piles of scooters. There was not a single new scooter in the store, every item on sale was second-hand. pic.twitter.com/89m6CVFQ75— Dan Guido (@dguido) August 10, 2021
Guido was able to convince the police and the store staff about his ownership, using the scooters app but also faced confrontation, when he pointed out a possible source of evidence to find the culprit, using the store's CCTV footage. While Guido received threats from an agitated staff, the police retrieved the needed footage and walked away with Guido in tow.
Apart from the advice to act quickly and involving the local police, Guido also shared some tips on how to best make use of AirTags.
Here are a few lessons learned if you’re using Airtags for theft recovery:— Dan Guido (@dguido) August 10, 2021
1) Use an Airtag adhesive that blends in and muffles noise. It’s clear my thief was looking for them.
2) Do not turn on Lost Mode. It immediately alerts the thief they’re being tracked.
Somebody at Apple needs to talk to this guy and feature him for their AirTags advert.