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Apple working on iPhone theft prevention technology

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
A new patent application filed this week by Apple suggests the iPhone maker is looking to use the device's accelerometer to detect possible theft of the hardware.

In a application entitled "Acceleration-Based Theft Detection System for Portable Electronic Devices," Apple describes a system that would analyze movement via a device's accelerometer to determine whether a theft is present. If the system were to interpret fast movement as a theft, it would initiate an alarm.

"The drive toward miniaturization of electronics has resulted in computer-based systems that are becoming much more portable," the application reads. "Current portable electronic devices such as laptop computers, hand-held devices such as cellular telephones and personal media devices, such as the iPod from Apple Computer, Inc., and even devices such as compact disc players, are sufficiently compact and lightweight as to make them easily movable. Unfortunately, such ease of transport also implies ease of theft. While the rightful owner of a portable electronic device may conveniently transport it almost anywhere, so can a thief. "

It goes on to say that traditional theft-prevention methods like mechanical locks are bulky and tether the device, eliminating portability and convenience. In the proposed system, the accelerometer would be used to determine whether the device is currently in a likely theft condition.

"Typically, theft or other large-scale movement of the device results in an acceleration signal having characteristics different from other events such as shock, impact, nearby machinery, etc," the application reads. "The detected acceleration as a function of time is thus analyzed to determine whether it corresponds to such large-scale movement of the device, rather than an innocuous event such as the impact of a book dropped nearby. If so, an alarm is produced in order to alert others to the theft."

The described system would have methods to prevent false alarms through "signal conditioning," which could filter out events such as shock or impact associated with an iPhone being dropped. The system would also allow the phone owner to display a "visual warning" for potential would-be thieves. Such a warning would warn potential thieves that the device "has an active theft detection system protecting it."



The patent was filed by Apple on May 20, 2009 and is credited to Paul J. Wehrenberg of Palo Alto, Calif.
post #2 of 25
That's pretty cool though a taser added would be more effective here in NYC.
post #3 of 25
Cool idea, but I'll think practically for a moment.

I see an issue of those who really go at it with these things when gaming. Sudden moves and turns may trip the alarm. Then again, simple code that says "If game is running, then turn off alarms." could ease that one.

But the biggest issue I would see with the MobileMe iPhone lock out and GPS phone home of the stolen phone's location, along with this idea of sudden motion theft sensing, may place people in a state of false security with the devices. This is by no means Apple's fault mind you (hey, for once I'm giving them credit!) but an issue I can see.

There are special materials out there that will make a phone unusable completely, making it unable to send or receive signals thus making the MobileMe thing useless. I'm sure thieves have employed these things materials already. I'm also sure that once they see things like this, they will work around it by stealing from you slowly... its what they do.

Rule of thumb, know where your stuff is and keep an eye and hand on it.

Also, always watch your kids around water.
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post #4 of 25
So if I'm running to catch a plane, my MBP and iPhone are gonna land me in load of trouble with airport security?
post #5 of 25
This problem has already been solved:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7x1aic74Mg
post #6 of 25
I don't know about this. It makes much more sense to use the microphone to listen for the word "yoink!"
post #7 of 25
I need that for my beer.
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post #8 of 25
speaking as someone with a wee bit more experience with theft than I care to explain in a court of law, thieves rarely run after a theft. It draw attention. If you look at ease and like you're going about your business, people don't even notice you -- best way in the world to avoid witnesses.

the only exception is the random purse-snatcher... but if they've just snatched your purse, having a phone in the purse going, "WooOOOoooOOOOoooOOO" isn't really going to cause them much tro0uble.
post #9 of 25
I wonder if such a patent opens up the potential for some other usage unrelated to actual theft that would be more valuable to Apple. Or perhaps they're just defining the feature in a way that prevents other manufacturers from exploiting their own accelerometer technology?
post #10 of 25
So they're switching from At&T huh.
post #11 of 25
How about a James Bond-esque "Blow Up My iPhone" feature? That would keep the crooks away.
post #12 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by iCarbon View Post

speaking as someone with a wee bit more experience with theft than I care to explain in a court of law, thieves rarely run after a theft. It draw attention. If you look at ease and like you're going about your business, people don't even notice you -- best way in the world to avoid witnesses.

the only exception is the random purse-snatcher... but if they've just snatched your purse, having a phone in the purse going, "WooOOOoooOOOOoooOOO" isn't really going to cause them much tro0uble.

Precisely.

These systems will work every bit as effectively as car alarms do, which is to say, not at all.

Kind of a lame "cover-all" kind of patent also. It doesn't even say how it will work, but merely describes the possibility of it working through proper "signal analysis."
post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by iCarbon View Post

speaking as someone with a wee bit more experience with theft than I care to explain in a court of law, thieves rarely run after a theft. It draw attention. If you look at ease and like you're going about your business, people don't even notice you -- best way in the world to avoid witnesses.

That was my thought exactly.

This is more likely to be a huge HUGE annoyance than any help. I jump out of my chair at commercial break and dash to the bathroom only to have a phone in my pocket start squealing ??? Well maybe it would get people out of my way.

Better methods are available.

How bout a little blue tooth key fob that emits a noise when it gets too far away from the iphone to "see" the iphone bluetooth. As long as they don't steal your phone and your keys it would work find.

(Linux already has a bluetooth lock, so if you walk away from your machine it locks the console when your phone gets out of reach).
post #14 of 25
The simplest way to brick a stolen phone is via registration of embedded physical serial number with the carriers. Anybody who comes with a used phone has to prove they bought it legitimately. I do not know what is the hold up for something like this. It will discourage thieves.
post #15 of 25
Anything helps I suppose.

Sister got her iPhone stolen (along with her wallet), had to pay the FULL PRICE (early upgrade pricing I believe) for the replacement iPhone. Nice insult to injury AT&T.
post #16 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

That's pretty cool though a taser added would be more effective here in NYC.

iPhone - NYC edition - - that'll sell like hotcakes!
post #17 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by camroidv27 View Post

Cool idea, but I'll think practically for a moment.

I see an issue of those who really go at it with these things when gaming. Sudden moves and turns may trip the alarm. Then again, simple code that says "If game is running, then turn off alarms." could ease that one.

But the biggest issue I would see with the MobileMe iPhone lock out and GPS phone home of the stolen phone's location, along with this idea of sudden motion theft sensing, may place people in a state of false security with the devices. This is by no means Apple's fault mind you (hey, for once I'm giving them credit!) but an issue I can see.

There are special materials out there that will make a phone unusable completely, making it unable to send or receive signals thus making the MobileMe thing useless. I'm sure thieves have employed these things materials already. I'm also sure that once they see things like this, they will work around it by stealing from you slowly... its what they do.

Rule of thumb, know where your stuff is and keep an eye and hand on it.

Also, always watch your kids around water.

Thank you for the public announcement on crime prevention.
post #18 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by CU10 View Post

Anything helps I suppose.

Sister got her iPhone stolen (along with her wallet), had to pay the FULL PRICE (early upgrade pricing I believe) for the replacement iPhone. Nice insult to injury AT&T.

As much as I dislike AT&T, you can not expect AT&T to support your sister's issue of getting her phone stolen. Come on now let's be reasonable and rational.
post #19 of 25
post #20 of 25
Apple Computer Inc.? Where are the lawyers?
post #21 of 25
Sucks for joggers...
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post #22 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by AjitMD View Post

The simplest way to brick a stolen phone is via registration of embedded physical serial number with the carriers. Anybody who comes with a used phone has to prove they bought it legitimately. I do not know what is the hold up for something like this. It will discourage thieves.

Its sometimes found in Europe.

But US carriers refuse to do this.

They claim all sorts of nonsense reasons, but basically they just don't want the hassle.
post #23 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by teckstud View Post

That's pretty cool though a taser added would be more effective here in NYC.

Fail. How about an in-built cheese-grater?
post #24 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by presskat View Post

Apple Computer Inc.? Where are the lawyers?

Brilliant post. There's no more "Computer Inc".
post #25 of 25
I want the one in James Bond that zaps the bloke snatching the phone big time, when a certain sequence of numbers is spoken. Of course, accidentally saying the sequence could prove disastrous, especially if the phone was near the family jewels in your pocket! Still waiting for that app where he drives the car from the phone though. That has to be getting close to realistic in some military lab somewhere by now...
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