Apple patent clears road for theft-proof iPhones, Macs

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
Apple Inc. has successfully patented an anti-theft safeguard for notebooks, phones, and other portable electronics that offers protection simply by sensing the outside world.



Originally filed in March 2004 with company storage chief Paul Wehrenberg as the inventor, the U.S. patent awarded to to Apple this week centers around an "acceleration-based theft detection system" for movable devices.



In the original filing, the company notes that in many cases the theft of a device brings certain movement cues that aren't present for accidental behavior, such as rapid sustained movement. Most unintentional bumps and drops are easy to recognize as sudden stops, it states.



By analyzing the movement of the device over a set amount of time, a device could theoretically tell the difference between a burglar and legitimate users. This would let owners leave their systems alone without a cable lock or other physical security measures while still knowing that sensitive information stored inside would be safe.



Installing an accelerometer and the right software would easily solve the problem, according to the patent. Certain positions or vibration conditions could automatically send a signal to the computer hardware at the heart of the device, forcing it to trigger an audio or video alarm. The device could even be locked entirely and would require a password to return to normal.



One element of the patent observes that software could tune the individual settings, selectively turning on the various warnings or softening the conditions if users trigger the alarm too frequently in everyday use.



A sample interface for controlling the sensor's alarm preferences.



Although Apple has been careful to avoid referencing specific hardware in explaining the mechanism, the California-based firm justifies the invention by pointing out the vulnerability of one of its own devices, to theft -- notably, the iPod. Cellphones and notebooks were also cited as obvious targets for thieves and deserving of the breakthrough.



And while no signs have surfaced that would show an imminent use of the motion-sensing technology, the patent draws attention to the appearance of accelerometers in recent -- and upcoming -- Apple products. The most conspicuous example is the iPhone, which will have an acceleration sensor to auto-rotate the visual interface as the owner tilts the device on its side for media playback.



Macs have also had accelerometers for years. The Sudden Motion Sensor, used first in later PowerBooks and used in MacBooks today, is officially meant to stop the hard disk during a fall but has been used by hobbyists to trigger events within Mac OS X.



No iPods currently feature accelerometers. Apple's only nod to security for the devices has so far been the Screen Lock introduced for the fifth-generation iPod and iPod nano, which hides its controls only through a four-digit combination controlled by the click wheel.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,755member
    I dunno. I think that my PB would think it is being stolen every day with what I put it through...



    I think maybe combining it with GPS so the device could think "I'm moving funny and I'm going somewhere different!" would work better.



    But I guess I would have to see more about it before deciding that it would be too annoying to use.
  • Reply 2 of 27
    amac4meamac4me Posts: 282member
    Interesting patent.
  • Reply 3 of 27
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,217moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Bageljoey View Post


    I think maybe combining it with GPS would work better.



    I agree. Not so much automatic detection but even just being able to know where your machine is and it should be embedded deep in the machine so that a thief would literally have to break the machine to get at it. Sensing movement has quite a few problems. One is that just because a person is moving quickly doesn't mean the laptop will be moving erratically if it's padded enough.
  • Reply 4 of 27
    retroneoretroneo Posts: 240member
    This predates iAlertU by over 2 years.



    I was thinking it was quite similar, but iAlertU was first released in April 2006.
  • Reply 5 of 27
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,098member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post


    I agree. Not so much automatic detection but even just being able to know where your machine is and it should be embedded deep in the machine so that a thief would literally have to break the machine to get at it. Sensing movement has quite a few problems. One is that just because a person is moving quickly doesn't mean the laptop will be moving erratically if it's padded enough.



    Anyone familiar with Wheels of Zeus (wOz)? Jobs and Woz may be back in business (given the right planetary alignment)!
  • Reply 6 of 27
    eaieai Posts: 417member
    I guess the thing is that this would enable some kind of lock - not delete all your work or anything. Imagine an iPod - that gets put through all sorts of strange movements - people running with them, dropping them, stopping suddenly etc...
  • Reply 7 of 27
    aiolosaiolos Posts: 228member
    that's pretty cool, but they'd have to make sure the alarm goes off at the correct times, cause moving around on a bus or something while the computer is asleep could create some problems
  • Reply 8 of 27
    jupiteronejupiterone Posts: 1,564member
    I just wonder how it could tell the difference between these two scenarios:



    1) A thief casually but quickly taking off with your MacBook when you're up getting your coffee refill.

    2) You look at our watch and say..."Oh sh*t, I'm late" and you grab your MacBook and take off running down the block.

  • Reply 9 of 27
    camroidv27camroidv27 Posts: 523member
    What about using the internet to its advantage. If it notices it moves oddly, have it send out a homing beacon like thing that tells people where it is, or what network it is on. I think an alarm itself is pointless since people can easily just re-format a hard drive, or reset the PMU and such to circumvent this kind of system. It would be nice if the system sent out an imidiate beacon before any data was destroyed.



    (Maybe even take a picture with the built in iSight given the lid was open, like some people have scripted on their macbooks when they wake from sleep.)



    Good idea, needs tweaking.
  • Reply 10 of 27
    Heres a question...is there any way to have the MAC address or serial number or ANYTHING linked to me tracked somehow over the internet? I mean, someone stole my macbook pro, it's registered to me, has applecare, etc. etc...i would think that if there was some sort of active search tool where maybe during software updates or something, the MAC address or whatever identifiable to the computer would be linked to an IP address, and some security company (hopefully Apple themselves) could track where the damn thief is? I mean, if it's reported to them, they know the address to look for, and can match it up, it'd be awesome for recovery or something. Maybe eBay could join in and require MAC addresses to be put up (even privately but just to be checked against a security database) so that no one could go quickly sell it there as I'm sure that's where 90% of stolen macs go. I'd pay big money for this service, it seems pretty easy to do? Maybe there's already something that does this? If so let me know, I want it...noooowwww.
  • Reply 12 of 27
    abster2coreabster2core Posts: 2,501member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Apple Inc. has successfully patented an anti-theft safeguard for notebooks, phones, and other portable electronics that offers protection simply by sensing the outside world.



    I like the idea that was discussed and evolved on a previous story on AppleInsider.



    http://www.appleinsider.com/articles...air_depot.html
  • Reply 13 of 27
    dacloodacloo Posts: 890member
    The problem is that the first thing thiefs do is turn off the phone. No more "movement detection".
  • Reply 14 of 27
    Start jogging



    Damn, my iPod locked up.



    Start jogging again



    Damn, my iPod locked up again~!



    ----



    You'd have to be able to shut it off.
  • Reply 15 of 27
    I'll miss you Macbook #1...I hope you're having fun in the wild somewhere, or at least made SOMEONE'S Christmas happy.....
  • Reply 16 of 27
    It sounds nice, but my MBP would think it's been stolen all the time. For a week it sits at home doing nothing but playing WoW, then it's on the road for sometimes.
  • Reply 17 of 27
    Or what if you spill that cup of coffee close to your notebook. I would swoop mine up so fast it would HAVE to think it's been stolen.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JupiterOne View Post


    I just wonder how it could tell the difference between these two scenarios:



    1) A thief casually but quickly taking off with your MacBook when you're up getting your coffee refill.

    2) You look at our watch and say..."Oh sh*t, I'm late" and you grab your MacBook and take off running down the block.





  • Reply 18 of 27
    vulpinevulpine Posts: 69member
    For a really good theft-prevention system, tie all this in with Bluetooth.



    Say I'm carrying a Bluetooth device with me, like my cell phone or my earpiece or even maybe just a small fob in my pocket, and therefore the Mac can sense when it's close to me.



    Then, just sound an alarm when:



    - the Mac is being moved, and suddenly it's not near me any more (somebody took it from me)

    - I'm not near the Mac, and suddenly the Mac is being moved (I left it alone and somebody took it)
  • Reply 19 of 27
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    This is great an all, but Apple really needs to have an accounting system monitored by .Mac.



    What I propose is a web-based .Mac activation system to turn on accounting features such as IP address monitoring with timestamping.



    I can imagine a dozen other features, but I think this peace of mind would go a long way in convincing users to switch to Mac and to get a .Mac account.
  • Reply 20 of 27
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    This is great an all, but Apple really needs to have an accounting system monitored by .Mac.



    What I propose is a web-based .Mac activation system to turn on accounting features such as IP address monitoring with timestamping.



    I can imagine a dozen other features, but I think this peace of mind would go a long way in convincing users to switch to Mac and to get a .Mac account.



    Great idea!



    I think the accelerometer idea is kinda, stupid.
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