Quiet Airtags

I didn’t post several years ago about the GPSes I installed on our farm vehicles. It felt like painting a target on my back. It took quite a bit of figuring out to set up Particle.io‘s early asset trackers. They’ve since created a dedicated preprogrammed and well polished device, seeing an opportunity in the success of the early hobbyist version I suppose. I never posted my setup, code, or experience but let’s just say it worked well for a few years, for very cheap. Unfortunately, the 2G network they relied on was eventually retired, and that forced me reconsider options.

And well, an obvious contender these days are Airtags. I bought a few for testing, and they quickly became the obvious choice. I replaced bulky cellular GPSes with them and folded them into home monitoring. Watching for geofences, battery status, and last contact.

While I can’t wire them directly to the vehicle’s battery, their battery does seem to last a good year (Vermont winters wear them down faster). And they come with several huge advantages over GPSes.

  • A mesh network of people’s iPhones has a lot better coverage than cellular in a rural area. Cell phones will report them when they finally get to a tower or some wifi.
  • They aren’t subject to tree or cloud cover.
  • They are tiny! I went through great lengths to paint and find a place for bulky GPS boxes. Airtags on the other hand will live anywhere.
  • They are cheap, and have no recurring cost (except the cell battery once a year).

These advantages led me to significantly lower the bar to what I stick them on. It’s no longer reserved for the expensive vehicles. If it costs money and isn’t fastened to the ground, it gets an Airtag.

Of course when used as theft tracking, their chirping is problematic. And so I finally bit the bullet and gave them the surgery they need to make them quiet. And it was very very trivial, I should have done this much earlier.

Open them up, I used a stronger blade than the exacto for prying. Note the 3 sharpie dots to point tabs.

I simply snipped the 2 wires going to the speaker

Still works!

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