Throughout history, there have been many examples of innovations that started as commercialized products and were later adopted by governments. Seatbelts are today regulated in most countries. Yet, the first seatbelts were offered as an extra protection, not as a requirement. The same goes for airbags decades later. Or, if we want an example outside the automotive industry, the same happened with fire alarms in residential buildings. Trackers like Apple’s AirTags might be on the track to follow this trend after a new security measure was taken by Washington D.C. to distribute them in an effort to combat car theft.
Track every step
Every time a tracker enters the Bluetooth range of another compatible phone, it sends its location to the owner. This creates a reliable tracking system in the long run. Trackers like Tile predate AirTags and are available on Android, too. They, however, never quite reached the same mainstream attention. Apart from the power of Apple’s brand, the device has the advantage of using ultra-wideband technology for precision tracking.
Airtags have been used for a variety of purposes, from proving logistics companies sometimes lie about losing packages to unwanted surveillance. But at their core, all these trackers are meant for security. In places with a high percentage of theft, like Washington D.C., they could really help the community.
Today, we announced a pilot program to provide DC residents with free digital tracking tags for their vehicles.
We'll continue to use all the tools we have, and add new tools, to keep our city safe. pic.twitter.com/moFcg4Cav4
— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) November 1, 2023
The initiative and other possibilities
Washington D.C. is a city that has proven its dedication to safety with many initiatives already. The Tracking Tag Distribution Program is just the latest addition to its long-running track record towards safety. Citizens within service areas 106, 501, 502, 603, 605, and 606 (areas with a high percentage of car theft) will be distributed free AirTag or Tile trackers. In addition, citizens will be helped to connect the trackers to their personal phones. The police will not have direct access to tracking for privacy reasons.
MPD is giving away Tiles and AirTags to help our residents track their vehicles.
If you live in PSA 106, 501, 502, 603, 605, or 606, you are eligible for this initiative.
— DC Police Department (@DCPoliceDept) November 7, 2023
The same legal adoption of seatbelts and airbags may soon apply to trackers. This initiative has the potential to prove having a tracker is a need for every car. Of course, that’s if it is not trackable by third parties without consent. Beyond the automotive industry discussion, this can set a precedent for trackers like AirTags to be used officially in other situations. For example, a legal requirement for a tracker in each baggage at the airport or with all packages at logistics centers will only benefit customers. For now, we can only wait for time to tell if trackers will be the next airbag.