Apple intends to use UWB technology (Ultra-Wide Band) instead of Bluetooth-tags, which promises higher accuracy. The U1 chip in the new iPhone is already able to work with it.
Apple Air tag information, obtained from the analysis of the FindMy app in iOS 13, reports that this feature is designed to help users find lost items. In the application, on the “Elements” tab, objects marked by the user with the labels and locations of these elements will be displayed. If the user loses objects, he will be notified about it through the iPhone with a separate ability to make the Apple label attached to the object emit a sound signal.
Moreover, if the user cannot find the item marked with the Apple tag, another owner of the iPhone, who has a UWB U1 chip inside the smartphone, will be informed about the lost item when it approaches it. Then the FindMy application will inform the user who can pick up the lost item. This function will work only after the user places the item in the mode of the lost thing.
All this will be possible thanks to the U1 chip, which is currently only available in the 2019 iPhone family. Currently, the only UWB-compatible chip that supports the 802.15.4z standard is the Decawave DW1000. The Apple U1 chip also supports an advanced pulse radio standard.
According to TechInsights, U1 supports two frequencies: 6.24 GHz and 8.2368 GHz. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission assigns frequencies from 3.1 to 10.6 GHz to the UWB spectrum. Devices can emit a short signal and measure its return time to determine the direction and position of the mark. This technology is more accurate than Bluetooth and Wi-Fi solutions. The nature of the noise the signal encounters does not affect integrity, allowing the UWB to calculate a location with an error of 5–10 cm.
Judging by the potential of UWB, it is unlikely that Apple will be limited to AirDrop tags. Perhaps in the future, users will be able to automatically unlock their car and apply the technology in other ways. No wonder Apple decided to follow the 802.15.4 standard, which indicates the possibility of a more universal application of the technology.