On April 2021, Apple has open up their Find My app for 3rd party manufacturers and developers. This allows them to use ‘Find My’ network, which in turn, allows the devices to be discoverable in Find My app. The Find My Network is a part of a larger initiative by Apple called ‘Made for iPhone’ where Apple certifies 3rd party product to be used with Apple product. This includes Lighting cable (a standard which Apple creates and controls), HomeKit, Apple CarPlay and AirPlay Audio.
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3rd Party Launch devices for Find My Feature
During the announcement of the service, Apple introduced two manufacturers that has utilize the ‘Find My’ network feature. Both devices can be registered in Apple’s Find My app. They are bikes from VanMoof and bluetooth tags from Chipolo.
A wireless headphones by SOUNDFORM Freedom by Belkin is also shown but availability for such product is expected to be in Spring.
Backstory: VanMoof spent around 9 months developing the find my feature and work closely with Apple to build such future for launch announcement. The work started after WWDC 2020 and started with a posting in Apple developer’s forum. With both companies has offices in San Francisco, the collabration kicked off with weekly meetings and prototype bikes. Story was found in MacRumors and iCulture (article in Dutch)
Made for iPhone
Made for iPhone (MFi) is a program curated by Apple to allow third party manufacturers and developers to make authorized Accessories for Apple devices such as iPhone, iPod Touch, and Apple Watch. In exchange for such program, Apple will allow the manufacturers to use the appropriate labels, sell them through the both physical and online store. To apply for the program, Apple will scrutinized your company and your product for certification.
In the case of Find My, once the product is accepted, the manufacturer have the right to affix the label ‘Works with Apple Find My’ on the product and also the product can be registered in the Find My app. There is royalty cost being involve in the program, but since the market for iPhone is also significant (more than a billion active iPhones and growing), the manufacturer still sign up for the program.
Find My Network
Now you can add a 3rd party items to be tracked using Find My app. To add such item, first open up the ‘Find My’ app. Click on the items tab and it will be able to automatically detect your item.
There’s also a community find where the device can connect to bluetooth to someone else iPhone updates you the location of the devices. How this works is that the item emits a bluetooth signal. The bluetooth signal is picked up by an iPhone and that internet connected iPhone is updated to Apple server which in turn updates you. The communications between that bluetooth device to your iPhone is encrypted end-to-end that nobody in between will know the location of the item being tracked, not Apple and not the one who picked up the bluetooth signal.
One of the concerns about having Find My is the stalker problem. Potentially someone can put one of the tags in an unsuspecting persons bag and have them being tracked without their knowledge.
First line of defense is accuracy. It is accurate, but not that accurate. The accuracy range around 20 meters for GPS devices like an iPhone, but for bluetooth, the accuracy is worst if using other methods like WiFi, Bluetooth and cellular positioning.
The second line of defense that starting on iOS 14.5, Find My app will notify you if there is a tracked device that is hidden on you. It is part of the Item Safety feature that Apple use as safety checks to ensure that you are not being tracked by unknown devices like a bluetooth tag. The said the device will also occasionally chirps in case the one who is being tracked is not an iPhone / Apple ID user.
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