Apple's new Find My app helps users find lost devices

Apple may have found a way to bring augmented reality to offline tracking, based on a new report.

MacRumors discovered a couple of new things that are probably tied to an oft-rumored, but still unofficial, Tile-like tracking device. The report includes a quick breakdown of some of the new features that Apple announced at this year’s WWDC, which gives Apple products the ability to track other devices even while they’re offline. Going beyond that, it sounds like Apple will help differentiate its tracking device from competitive options.

A little bit of a backtrack here. At this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple announced Offline Finding as part of iOS 13 and macOS Catalina, as part of the redesigned “Find My” service and app. This new feature makes it possible to find devices even when they’re disconnected from the internet, or even when they are asleep.

A background process called Search Party intermittently broadcasts and receives Bluetooth beacon signals so that every nearby online device running iOS 13 or macOS Catalina can relay the location of lost offline devices to their owners. Offline Finding even works if the device is asleep, in which case the device enters a “dark wake” state to broadcast a Bluetooth beacon signal. Apple uses public key encryption and rotates the public key to keep everyone’s location information secure and private.

Now, looking ahead, there is the rumored Tile-like tracking device that iOS 13 itself has hinted at. That device will feature the same offline tracking feature. Future owners could attach that device to something like their keys and be able to find them if they get lost by using their iPhone.

One interesting aspect could be the use of ARKit. The original report indicates that an ARKit “star” was discovered within the Find My app that suggests Apple could be integrating the augmented reality feature into the service. This would mean an icon, like the one pictured just below, would appear over the item you’re looking for.

There’s an additional feature that could be coupled with the tracking element too:

Also according to code strings found in iOS 13, Apple may apparently allow these beacon devices to be “leashed” to an iOS or watchOS device so that the user would be notified when a beacon device is out of range of an iOS or watchOS device. Tile offers similar functionality, which it calls smart alerts and is only included with Tile’s premium monthly service.

This offline tracking feature is one of the more exciting elements that Apple announced earlier this year. If Apple is indeed planning on launching a Tile-like device, and one that can take advantage of ARKit, too, that could be an exciting accessory option for folks who feel like they might need something like that.

Are you looking forward to Apple’s rumored Tile-like tracking device?