AirTags could be Apple’s RFID accessory tracker in new patent leak

A patent leak has provided more evidence to support rumours that Apple is developing an RFID tracking tag. The product would become a major rival to the current market leader, Tile.
Apple Headquarters in Cupertino, California, USA.
There haven’t been any leaks hinting at the design of the AirTag yet. Photo: Joe Ravi via Wikimedia Commons

Rumours surrounding a new Apple RFID tracking product have been picking up steam recently thanks to investigation by a number of tech journalists.

Just as the release of iOS 13 revealed some hints that Apple is developing a new AR product, iOS 13 also provided us with some evidence to support rumours that an Apple RFID tag is also on its way.

Yesterday, with the release of iOS 13.2, 9to5Mac uncovered an asset folder with the name ‘AirTag’.

Apple hasn’t yet revealed any information about the product itself, but one of the files in the AirTag folder is titled ‘BatterySwap’, hinting that the AirTag will have a removable battery.

The AirTag folder discovered in iOS 13.2
A new folder added to iOS 13.2 shows a device called ‘AirTag’. Photo: 9to5Mac/Guilherme Rambo

The trademark application leak

Not only does iOS 13.2 suggest that AirTags are in development, a recent trademark application also provides further evidence.

MacRumours reported yesterday on some recent developments surrounding an application to trademark the term ‘AirTag’.

Back in October 2018, an application to trademark the ‘AirTag’ name was filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office by a Russian company called Intelligent Systems of Business Control Ltd.

The application stalled for a long time and wasn’t approved until August 2019. Once it gained approval, third parties were given a 30-day period to counter the trademark application.

This is where the paper trail potentially leading back to Apple begins. In typical Apple fashion, they made the application through a third party. Once the original application was approved, the name of the applicant was changed to Baker & McKenzie, a law firm which Apple has worked with frequently in the past.

Then, on 1 October, the application was transferred to a different entity once again. This time it was a company called GPS Avion LLC, which was only created in July 2019.

The RFID logo
An Apple AirTag would be a major competitor to Tile’s RFID trackers. Photo: Christiaan Colen via Flickr

What product is covered by the ‘AirTag’ trademark application?

The trademark application contains a detailed description of the specific product the AirTag name will cover:

“Systems of radio frequency identification comprised of RFID tags, RFID tag readers, and downloadable software for operating RFID readers; radio frequency identification (RFID) labels; RFID tags in form of cards, tags or key rings; RFID markers in the form of RFID signal receivers; RFID tag bracelets; RFID tag disks…”

The list of potential product functions goes on to include things like access to banking services, keyless door access and even access to social events.

Clearly Apple is trying to cover all bases the AirTag may eventually be equipped for.

If even half of these functions do end up coming to fruition, it seems the AirTag will be much more than just an RFID tracking tag.

Tile will have a major competitor in the RFID tag market. But as Tile’s Chief Experience Officer, Simon Fleming-Wood, told Tech Radar, Tile sees the coming Apple AirTag as healthy competition.

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