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October 2022    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 48, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Electronically Tagging Your Dive Bag so You’ll Know Where it Is

from the October, 2022 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

We all know that sinking feeling you get when you've arrived at your destination airport baggage hall and your checked bag has not appeared. Usually, bags turn up, but what a problem if yours is on its way to Sydney while you're waiting for them in Sorong? Since the pandemic, airlines have been in disarray, and newspapers are replete with stories of missing bags piling up in airport terminals. The airlines can't find them, and the travelers are without them for days.

But, there is a way to find your dive bag even if the airlines can't help. It's an Apple Air Tag. A good friend, Saeed Rashid, a British underwater photojournalist and university lecturer in technology, has tried a few baggage trackers in his diving travels. For him, an Apple AirTag is tops.

About the size of a thick half-dollar coin, it attaches inside your luggage. It piggybacks temporarily (momentarily and surreptitiously) on any nearby iPhone - or any blue tooth-equipped Apple device - to relay to your own iPhone the location of the Air Tag (and, therefore, your bag). When Rashid was in Male (Maldives) and missed a bag, he knew it had gone to Mumbai.

The downside is, of course, if your bag ends up somewhere where no iPhones are nearby (not many of those places anymore), you'll not get a location notice and be out of luck.

If this sounds rather sinister, it could be. Saeed Rashid explained that people have used the tracker to track people covertly. There are stories of women finding trackers in their handbags or people finding one inside their car. Their iPhones relay the tracker's position back to the tag owner, who may be up to no good. Apple now gets around that problem by alerting any iPhone through which a specific tag position is consistently relayed and offers that user the option to disconnect from that tag. So, it somebody stashes a tag on you, Apple will eventually alert you.

There are other brands of tags available, but Saeed said he'd had a less positive experience with two others: TrakDot technology changed, so they stopped working after a few years. Gego worked well but needed to restart service after the pandemic, which cost the same as buying another tracker.

Other tags, which use short-ranged Bluetooth signals, as do headphones and tablet keyboards, are TSA approved. They are also helpful for locating mislaid keys, wallets, and the like (new iPhone models can provide more precise locations.) Tile Mate easily attaches to your keyring. The Samsung Galaxy SmartTag has an impressive range approaching 130 yards, which may be good for locating a bag at the airport terminal you're in but has no advantage if your bag is in another country.

Some tags, like LandAirSea 54 GPS Tracker and Tracki GPS Tracker use a GPS signal and Google Maps to indicate where they are; you pay an annual fee for the service.

The Apple AirTag costs around $100 for a pack of four. They won't make your baggage magically reappear, but they will at least tell you where your lost bag is and follow it as, hopefully, it makes its way back to you. Or, if the airlines can't find your bag, you can at least tell them at what airport to look. Finally, if someone grabbed your bag mistake, you might be able to catch him before he reaches that liveaboard and is gone for a week.

- John Bantin

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