Apple granted patent on accelerometer-based anti-theft system

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple this week secured a patent that described an accelerometer-based anti-theft system, meaning that future iPhones and iPads may very well be able to sound the alarm if a thief tries to run off with them.



U.S. Patent No. 8,531,296 describes an "acceleration-based theft detection system for portable electronic devices" that relies on the acceleration sensor found in an iPhone or iPad "to determine whether a theft condition is present." In the case that the system determines that the device is being stolen, it will issue an alarm to draw the attention of the user or bystanders.

The system described can also include a filter mechanism. That filter is responsible for determining when the system is receiving input that doesn't indicate a theft condition. Such input would include acceleration due to dropping or impact, as well as other scenarios.

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The filter measures normal movement input for the device and generates base parameters within which the device will assume it is not being stolen. It also retains a number of acceleration profiles previously determined to indicate a theft event. When the filter encounters motion that matches one of those profiles, it sounds the alarm.

The system is not entirely self-contained, though. It also allows for user input by way of a graphical user interface. That interface allows users to tweak the settings of the anti-theft feature in order to get reach a level they are comfortable with.

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Apple filed the patent more than a year ago, and observers noted at the time that it seemed indicative of Apple's commitment to keeping its devices in the hands of those that bought them.

Apple has continued to push forward with such concepts for some time now, first with the Find My iPhone feature built into iOS, and most recently with the Activation Lock feature built into iOS 7. That feature ? which has garnered praise from a number of governmental officials concerned with smartphone theft ? can completely shut down a stolen device to the point that a thief cannot even wipe it clean and restart it.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12

    so much for carrying an iPhone during my old timers 4x100m relay competition;-)

     

    But really, can 'theft' be measured purely by a motion filter?  and if so, how accurate is it.  

    -Palming a phone as you pass by a restaurant table

    -vs mugging someone and dashing away

        - or getting in a getaway car

        - vs you running to a cab and then taking off

     

    Somehow that's gotta be pretty smart.

    ....Then again, what else does the M7* chip have to do when it's not moving... may as well be a security guard.

     

    *seems that the 'Controller (ASIC)' now has a name.  And if it has Theft Detection logic in it... I can't wait to see the secret sauce.

  • Reply 2 of 12
    Looking at these simple design patents reminds me of Homer Simpson's secret formula for Coke: water, sugar, bubbles, and ???
  • Reply 3 of 12
    I hope it's smart enough to avoid false alarms when you're running to catch a train, or going deep for a pass in touch football.

    Also, over time, it will be interesting to see if iPhone 5S and subsequent Touch ID-equipped iPhones are stolen less. No value if they can't be cracked.
  • Reply 4 of 12
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post



    I hope it's smart enough to avoid false alarms when you're running to catch a train, or going deep for a pass in touch football.



    Also, over time, it will be interesting to see if iPhone 5S and subsequent Touch ID-equipped iPhones are stolen less. No value if they can't be cracked.

     

    Given the current 50% stated to not being locked at all the convenience of the TouchID could very well have an impact.

  • Reply 5 of 12
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post



    No value if they can't be cracked.

    Absolutely right there, although that does rely on thieves knowing what they're stealing. I suppose the theft-deterring features that are being introduced will help to dissuade professional phone thieves (do such people exist?) but might have less of an effect against opportunistic shiny-snatchers.

  • Reply 6 of 12
    Hi had my iPhone 3GS stolen in Kuala Lumpur. It was stolen on a crowed train station platform. If the thief ran, it would have drawn attention to himself. So I don't know how an accelerometer-based alarm would help.

    The Touch ID and being able to locate a wiped iPhone will do more to deter thieves.
  • Reply 7 of 12
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,020member
  • Reply 8 of 12
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member

    Hint: iWatch

     

    I'm not sure how this patent fits in with its motion settings, makes no sense to me how they can possibly equate "motion" with "theft"

    But I can see deep integration with iWatch and iPhone/iPad as a MAJOR loss and theft prevention.

     

    If the iWatch is worn, and the iPhone with you, and the two communicate as we know they will, and we have M7 inside both devices...

     

    Imagine: You're sitting a cafe and put your phone down, only to get up and walk away without it. Or worse, someone walks by and swipes it without you having seen a thing. When the iWatch detects that the iPhone has gone a specified distance from you, both devices sound alarms. Forget losing your iPhone ever again.

     

    Combined with Touch ID security, these things can all but vanquish iPhone theft.

  • Reply 9 of 12
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,020member
    pmz wrote: »
    Hint: iWatch

    I'm not sure how this patent fits in with its motion settings, makes no sense to me how they can possibly equate "motion" with "theft"
    But I can see deep integration with iWatch and iPhone/iPad as a MAJOR loss and theft prevention.

    If the iWatch is worn, and the iPhone with you, and the two communicate as we know they will, and we have M7 inside both devices...

    Imagine: You're sitting a cafe and put your phone down, only to get up and walk away without it. Or worse, someone walks by and swipes it without you having seen a thing. When the iWatch detects that the iPhone has gone a specified distance from you, both devices sound alarms. Forget losing your iPhone ever again.

    Combined with Touch ID security, these things can all but vanquish iPhone theft.

    That's reportedly a feature of Sammy's Gear Watch.
    "Auto Lock which will automatically lock your smartphone the moment it gets more than 1.5m away from the Gear creating a handy anti-theft deterrent."
  • Reply 10 of 12
    patsupatsu Posts: 430member
    That's doable via BT LE already.

    The Acclerometer approach gives it one more dimension.
  • Reply 11 of 12
    lilgto64lilgto64 Posts: 1,147member
    What we need is a certain percentage of people using this http://www.yellowjacketcase.com with remote activation of the taser. that'll slow em down.
  • Reply 12 of 12
    dunksdunks Posts: 1,254member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TheOtherGeoff View Post

     

    so much for carrying an iPhone during my old timers 4x100m relay competition;-)

     

    But really, can 'theft' be measured purely by a motion filter?  and if so, how accurate is it.  

    -Palming a phone as you pass by a restaurant table

    -vs mugging someone and dashing away

        - or getting in a getaway car

        - vs you running to a cab and then taking off

     

    Somehow that's gotta be pretty smart.

    ....Then again, what else does the M7* chip have to do when it's not moving... may as well be a security guard.

     

    *seems that the 'Controller (ASIC)' now has a name.  And if it has Theft Detection logic in it... I can't wait to see the secret sauce.


     

    The combined inputs from a M7 motion coprocessor and potential loss of proximity to a paired iWatch would cover a lot of theft scenarios. You can still have a watch stolen but it's going to be much more difficult.

     

    Edit: Interesting to see others drawing similar conclusions.

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