7 Stories about Using GPS to Recover Stolen Mobiles


GPS is playing a major part in our lives these days and it is a brilliant tool to protect us from crime, or at the very least recover things that have been stolen and catch the people who stole them. In the USA 113 mobiles are stolen EVERY MINUTE and most of them are sold overseas. In many areas including New Zealand, iPhones are as good as cash for someone wanting to make a quick drug buy. 

BakkumOften we don’t realise how easy it is, despite the fact that we pretty much all have one or more GPS and location enabled devices on us. My iPhone and iPad both have SIM cards which are on all the time. If either of them went missing, I can trace them, create an audible tone to help me or police locate them and I can wipe them forever so they can’t be reused if someone stole them. We all use GPS apps of some sort, even if it is just the mapping application on our phone. We just don’t think about other ways that we can use this technology, or how the tech can be used to catch people who want to deprive us of our property and our safety.

The good news is that when people are smart and use an application like Find My iPhone, if not the thieves, then the receivers can be caught and often Police find a lot more than just your mobile. Let’s not make it easy for them.

If I went missing and I had my mobile on me, I could be found. Of course the Police would need a warrant to achieve that, but bottom line is they could. I also check in with Foursquare and other applications, so often my last known location can also be pinpointed.

If you follow my blog, you’ll know I love stories where GPS catches people in the act of, or following a crime. Here are a few recents.

  1. A drive by shooter gets caught within half an hour, by the GPS in his rental car in Providence R.I.
  2. Aspen Police leave bikes as bait with GPS trackers on the ready.
  3. Find my iPhone helps recover stolen iPad and bottle of whisky, 3 people arrested in Scottburgh.
  4. Utah Police recover $200,000 worth of tequila using the GPS in the stolen truck. 
  5. Here are 3 more stories from Techtrace, a company that sells an app that helps you protect your data and recover your mobile.

Can the NSA track you on your prepay mobile?


The recent news about PRISM and NSA surveillance on people based on their Internet usage and mobile usage is fascinating. The concept of being able to monitor people’s activity based on their mobile is nothing new, although of course we all thought that it would only happen under a warrant, or in emergency circumstances such as when someone makes a 911 call or perhaps in a SAR emergency.

USA 162Commercial vehicles are being tracked as a normal process, in some cases to ensure staff are working, but more commonly for more practical purposes, such as driver behaviour and safety, making sure that refrigerated trailers maintain correct temperatures and in countries like New Zealand to allow diesel truck operators to claim Road User Charge rebates when they are not driving on public roads, which can save businesses a truck load of money if you will pardon the pun.

As a fan of TV programs like Person of Interest and 24, which I hear is making a comeback, I often wonder why it seems so hard to track criminals, but if you follow my blogs and tweets you will see that more and more criminals are being caught, especially after stealing iPhones or other devices containing GPS and communications. I love those stories.

So, to the question of this blog. What we know is that government agencies (and businesses with their clients’ approval, such as finance and insurance companies) are tracking people and monitoring their behaviour. By monitoring Big Data about the location of people’s mobiles, algorithms can identify information such as where people live, work and play. They can identify associations with other people through this same data. For example if you monitor a person and establish their home (where their mobile is most nights of the year) and identify other mobile devices that are also at that location during most nights of the year, then you can identify that they also probably reside at that location.

If those people were criminal suspects of any kind, you could thereby potential make some assumptions that those people might also be criminals. This would be very useful, not only with terrorists, which we thought were the prime reason for being able to spy on people, but also gangs, drug dealers and manufacturers and more. I guess part of the issue there is whether this evidence is admissible in a court of law. But again I digress.

If you are able to monitor mobile phone radio connections using GPS or less accurate technologies and identify unknown devices such as prepaid mobiles that frequently appear at the same locations as known devices, that would suggest that you could infer the identity or characteristics of a user. If, for example, a person had a mobile for normal use and an anonymous prepaid mobile for more nefarious purposes and they were carried around together, you could infer that the user was the same person.

This could mean that effectively the use of a prepaid mobile, being used for the purposes of criminal activity, on the basis of its implied anonymity, could be fatally flawed. Not a bad thing in my opinion. The problem is more in the assumption that a governmental agency has the right to spy on its citizens without recourse and without obtaining a warrant from a court first, a bit like apologising after the event.

I am all for keeping law abiding citizens safe, but there should be transparency on how that is done, especially in countries that we consider to be enlightened democracies. Anyway, the answer to the question in my opinion is that using a prepaid mobile will not by default prevent you from being tracked or identified if an agency has the power to track radio devices. the technology is certainly easy to access.


Luigi Cappel:

Locating people via GPS has been a hobby horse for me for many years as you will know if you follow my blog. Perhaps crises like these will help us get funding to develop suitable solutions.

Originally posted on Imersia NZ:

The bushfires are raging in Australia, temperatures are breaking records daily and the traditional hottest months haven’t even arrived yet. Meanwhile Imersia has been developing a technology that can reduce stress, improve efficiencies, information flows and potentially save lives in future.

It seems ironic watching this BBC News clip after watching a story on BBC News a couple of nights ago claiming that global warming is slowing down when in Australia the record books are being broken almost daily. Temperature maps on TV are being upgraded with new extreme grades and fire warning signs on the road now include Catastrophic as a condition. Catastrophic

First of all we want to wish all the best to our Australian cousins across the ditch who are personally involved or have friends and family in areas affected by this year’s terrible bushfires. I can’t imagine what it must be like, other than horrific and very frightening. Whilst we…

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I want a Segway Puma


I’ve been meaning to cancel my NZ Herald subscription, but every time I think about it, I find a nice little snippet that I might not have read, or at least till much later. In this morning’s paper (and online yesterday!) was news about a new version of the Segway designed to solve problems with urban traffic. Now first of all I have to say that I love Segways. I’ve only been on them twice and I am hooked.

A friend of mine, Steve Simms is involved with Segway Polo in New Zealand and makes me jealous every time I hear about the competition, which attracts tech leaders from around the world. I asked Steve how I could join in and he replied “Buy a Segway”. Unfortunately my wife didn’t like that idea very much.Anyway, if you go to YouTube and search for Segway Polo, you’ll find some examples.

Segway’s are used a lot in the US. When I was in Los Angeles earlier this year, I saw airport police similar to the ones in this image using Segways to get around the massive complex. I could have used one myself, having set off in the wrong direction to change airlines. If you are in Auckland and want to try one, go to Devonport Wharf and you can go for a 2-hour tour of Devonport and historic locations for only $75, cut that in half for US dollars.

So what caught my attention this morning was a story about the new Segway PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) which is a 2 man Segway with little trainer wheels on the front for safety and a roof that looks a bit like a roll cage. Looking like something out of a futuristic Science Fiction movie, this is for real. Once again an example of Science Fiction becoming reality, I guess its about this time that I appreciate the value of all those It is designed to haver a range of around 55 km at 55km an hour according to the NZ Herald. On the site I found that it also has features such as regenrative breaking, which means that it uses the inertia from stopping, to help charge the batteries. I’m not sure where the rest of the story came from because it wasn’t mirrored on the Segway page, but it said that it could ultimately drive itself using GPS and by monitoring traffic around it, being able to stop in a hurry if there is an incident ahead of it.

Given that I’m into LBS, I had a couple of issues with that concept. It would work if there were roads or paths that were only to be used by Segways but otherwise there could be a fatal flaw, because the concept of vehicles driving themselves and being aware of other vehicles (which will definitely happen one day) will only work if all the vehicles on the same stretch of road also carried the same technology. In New Zealand, the new RapidcV that GeoSmart is driving around New Zealand could certainly provide the data that would support this type of technology, because it is gathering full road and lane information nationwide at sub 20 cm accuracy. What is also nice is that as well as camber information it is also gathering inclination data, which could be used to identify routes that would support the Segway by identifying the range based on hills it has to climb up and downhill where it can recharge itself.

Anyway, bottom line, I want one:)

Whos Looking at you on Facebook?


Sometime ago I wrote a couple of blogs about What can they find out about you on Facebook. In the second blog I did some digging into a random person who hadn’t managed her privacy settings. You will find many references to Facebook and other social network applications in my recent blogs, but here’s the thing, I wrote about what they could find out about you, but not so much about who’s looking.

I have also often blogged about how Science Fiction has a way of becoming reality and it seems that many of my favourite writers were foretelling the future. Some of these blogs were: A San Francisco Artist wanting a bionic eye, Living Longer with Cryonics, using In-Vitro to feed the future, Sky Scrapers and High Society, and tracking people with RFID.

Whether it was Orwell, Bradbury, Philip K Dick, Heinlein or any of my other favourites, they often had a common thread. That is a police state environment where privacy and personal freedom becomes something for people to fight to win back. Where for whatever good reason, governments gave themselves the right, initially with good intentions, to spy on the public or restrict their ability to communicate their personal beliefs. That was what the 5th Ammendment was all about. Of course some countries, like New Zealand don’t have a formal constitution and we generally have the attitude that everyone is trustworthy and honest until proven otherwise. I’d have to say that in many ways this has also served us well downunder, in that even though crime is rising at alarming rates, especially violent crime and the police now charge people for using unreasonable force in defending themselves, we are a much safer country than many I have visited in recent years.

Just on that topic of self defence. What actually is reasonable force. If you are faced with someone with a gun or other weapon, who knows how to use it and has experience with violence and you don’t, the situation is very different for a law abiding person who has never had to defend themselves before. If you know someone else will use whatever means they can to hurt you, possibly even kill you and are unpredictable. At what point does self defence become unreasonable. If the person who attacked you is o the ground but you are afraid they will get up again and running isn’t an option. If you are afraid and your heart is full of adrenalin, how can you be expected to know how or when to stop? Police are trained in the use of restraint and know how to deal with difficult situations, where the public are not. I don’t have the answer, but I do feel that criminals need to know that they won’t always get away with violent crime and that victims should have the rigt to defend themselves. But I digress.

Anyway, what prompted this reminder, that I hadn’t focussed much on who would want to look at your personal information on Facebook, was a story in this morning’s NZ Herald (which I couldn’t find online), with the Headline Govt plans to spy on social website users. I did find a story from the Daily Mail yesterday which in essence says that they plan to be able to monitor all email, social networking sites etc, because it is fertile ground for terrorists to communicate and plan.

Now I don’t have a problem, providing information is monitored under a search warrant, but blanket ability to go through all Internet usage of everyone is pushing it a little too far don’t you think? They are wanting the right to not only read everything you write, publish or comment on the net, but even to get a record of every single URL or website you visit.

I’ve always worked on the basis that I have nothing to hide, and indeed if you Google my name, you will be able to find out pretty much anything you want to know about me and my life. Maybe that’s a good thing because it makes me kind of transparent. But by giving government organisations rights beyond what anyone can do on the internet, the ability to intercept everything you do on the web, must be an invasion of good citizens privacy and I hope that there will be restrictions put in place, just as is required in most countries for telephone taps etc. The fear is that in any society there are corrupt individuals who could abuse their position. That is where we need protection.

There is no doubt that the threat of terrorism means that new measures must be put in place to locate terrorists, terrorist training grounds and do whatever is necessary to keep us safe from harm. But like any law and order legislation and policies, there must be reasonable suspicion and controls. Otherwise the risk that more of the Science Fiction writers stories about oppressive states undermining the rights of its citizens could become a reality in the ‘developed world’. I want to feel safe from harm, but I also want to know that my individual rights to freedom of expression and belief are protected.

 

Could a San Franciscan Artists lost eye instigate the next disruptive technology?


This will no doubt do find its way to TV and all the media will pounce on it, not the least because most people will think it is pretty weird. I found the story by accident when following a tweet from NZStuffEnt about a new NZ ICT Body.

So the story on Stuff goes like this. Tanya Vlach, an artist in San Francisco lost an eye in a car accident in 2005 and has asked for someone to replace her prosthetic eye with a Web Cam with Bluetooth connectivity. She also wants a 3x optical zoom and an SD slot and the ability to take still photos. She told the NY Times that she could be used for a reality TV show or as a life recording.

As she said, this kind of thing has been in Science Fiction stories for decades and would be a logical extension one day, so, just like with my Location Innovation Awards, why not make one day, today?

This would fit quite nicely with recent topics I have been blogging about such as Haptic VR suits. If they can make prosthetic limbs that are controlled by the human nervous system, it shouldn’t be hard to create an eye that can be controlled directly, either through optic nerves, or by blinking to allow her to zoom, focus, switch it on and off (there are obviously times when you do want some privacy) and dilate to cope with bright light.

There are obviously some technical details such as the power required to run it and the Bluetooth Communications. Having done a lot of photography I know how much power is involved in zooming and adjusting shutters etc, but I’m sure there is a way, after all they can implant pacemakers and other technology that requires a modicum of reliability.

As to what to do with it. She would make a fortune just from telling her story, but the opportunities would be huge. Espionage might be unlikely because of a high profile and metal components, but chances are the military would be very interested in her experience as would other security services, irrespective of how discrete the new eye is or isn’t.

The company that gives it to her will be gifted a huge business opportunity. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of this technology doesn’t already exist. I have previously blogged about contact lens displays for computing which are already under development. Some 30 years ago my grandfather became snow blind and was a guinea pig for a technology of experimental prosthetic eyes. They were big many faceted things that didn’t work very well, but instead of seeing nothig he could see shadows and knew when I was walking in the room. So this concept can’t be new. The big difference is that the technology development that I have been aware of was designed for the user to regain vision, not as a camera to be transmitted elsewhere.

So like the 6 Million Dollar Man, wouldn’t it be better if she could see everything a well as transmit it?

So if you have the technology and want to help her and yourself, she has a blog where she has her wish list specifications and you can make contact with her.

This is so cool on so many levels. Firstly from adversity comes something potentially better than she had before. She might hanker for more privacy one day but it sounds as though she is smart enough to sign a contract that will give her what she wants and let the people who develop it get what they want.

I could think of so many uses for this technology. I was interested to note that she did not list a microphone but I guess at times when she is recording for others, she could always wear a seperate microphone, somewhere, perhaps built into her watch or jewellery.

As well as law enforcement and military use, it would be great for all sorts of news reporting. I wonder how many situations are lost because people wouldn’t allow cameras into a scene of activity. William Gibson would probably see it used for marketers looking for the next big fad or selling the experiences of people wearing them to others, Philip K Dick would have had people rebelling against the Big Brothers who were wearing them and trying to find ways to shut them off.

Imagine using them in a sporting environment. How would you like to see exactly what your favourite sportsperson sees when they are playing? Bring in the Haptics again and you could see and feel what is happening. It’s not unreasonable, they already using sensing technology on top athletes to understand exactly how their bodies work.

Marketers are always looking for the next Christensens Disruptive Technology and if Tanya is successful, this could have a huge impact on so many technologies that people will adopt in the future. I wish her every success.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Observations on Web 2.0 and hive culture


I was sitting in my daughter’s unit and reading the prelaunch draft of Gordon Dryden and Jeanette Vos book which is about to launch, called Unlimited.

I wanted to take some notes, but I couldn’t find a single pen in the house. There was a wireless keyboard and mouse and the PC was connected to their TV, but no pen.

In the Preface to the book they wrote about how interactive the web now is. with “mass innovation, mass participation, mass co-creativity, mass personalisation.” I think the key word is ‘mass’. Most of the things we do today have been possible for a number of years, but there were only a small number of people doing it. I don’t think we were even called geeks yet.

Now with applications such as FaceBook, MySpace, Bebo and others, a huge percentage of people around the world are sharing information, ideas and their personal space on the web.

Having an encyclopedia on the internet was a logical extension of Encarta which was wonderful for the multimedia and interactivity, but who ever thought there would be something like Wikipedia where everyone has the ability to have input as well as the ability to edit or add to what other people create.

It seems to me that we are evolving into a sort of community consciousness, like a hive, where we all interact with each other becoming part of an interactive organism. For now it is a semi-optional environment where we can choose to participate and the degree of participation from tangential to immersive. I say semi because even if we don’t interact directly, what we say and do often is still recorded in quotes and other forms of data such as photos and video.

Neural interfaces, such as haptic is not the norm yet, but having already celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the mouse, connections between the brain and nervous system and other devices whether physical or optical are realistic. Car manufacturers like BMW are monitoring eye movement and many people with amputated limbs or other disabilities are now able to manipulate devices without physically doing so by direct motor control.

Police and military have for some years been working with communication systems incorporating helmets with monocular displays and voice activated communications. Conventional communications adopted as normal by the masses include text messaging, where it is not unusual for Generation Y’s to conduct multiple concurrent conversations.

The same concept applies in social networking on applications such as Facebook. The networks are also now being merged and instead of having separate networks, it is now quite normal to have family, friends and work colleagues, associates and clients all in the same network with  in many cases access to the same information.

The Ubermens concept is reemerging, mentally anyway, but we also have a collaborative effect which has little to do with IQ or EQ and makes us more powerful and at the same time more transparent. People who are open, honest and happy to share are in a way evolving because honesty becomes a biproduct of the intercommunication.

As I get older and am more open to viewing and understanding the world, nature and nurture, the more I see the amazing symbiosis between all things, living and inanimate. The only thing that really stood apart were human beings who have tried to transform the natural order of things to create a new reality that suits our higher needs as described by Maslow in his hierarchy of needs.

As a hypothesis for consideration, could it be that we have a growing segment of humanity  becoming more connected and in doing so taking more responsibility for each other and our environment. Could this be a factor in how a black president was recently elected in the US? Could this have to do with why more and more people are starting to consider sustainability in their lives and taking responsibility not only for themselves and their community.

Is Truemanity an advanced outshoot of this concept?

Will this continue to evolve as more and more people have access to the same forms of communication, where state censorship is circumvented and a ‘for the hive’ mentality overides the individuals who feel they are more equal than others?

How will it evolve. Will groups of people continue on this path becoming more cohesive and if not with parapsychology but through technology become more intimately connected?

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

It’s going to be a tough Christmas


With the state of the economy,things are going to be tight for a lot of people this Christmas. According to the NZ Herald this morning, “The trend in supermarket and grocery sales have been declining since March , the longest trend since the series started in 1995.”

First of all I need to admit that I got it wrong. I thought that with petrol prices going up that we would be like frogs who get thrown in a pot of cold water, that we just put up with the rises, but the reduction of cars on the road in Auckland is clearly noticable.

Last year the newspapers were full of stories of domestic violence at Chistmas time and womens refuges were overflowing with people hiding from their partners or other family members. I suspect this year will be much worse. The retailers are suffering as are many sectors of the public, who won’t be able to spoil their families this Christmas. The pressure on low income families will be particularly bad, and as I have blogged before, the retailers have been giving delayed payments and interest free terms for so long that many people are in debt up to their eyeballs already.

There is also likely to be an increase in burglaries as those who can’t provide for their family or young people whose hopes for cool presents are dissapointed decide to help themselves to other people’s property. Most at risk will be people who leave their homes vacant while they head to their batches or camp grounds. I’d recommend they look at their home security and communicate their plans with their trusted neighbours.

Is there anything you can do to help? There will no doubt be many Christmas Charity events. Why not check out your neighbourhood and see if there is anywhere you can help. My brother in law alway made his children pick on of their brand new presents and take it to the City Mission.  Auckland City Mission is already well organised in their campaign to help people have a better Christmas. Each person who gives something at Christmas is going to feel much happier than those who didn’t. The Auckland City Mission will be hosting a Christmas dinner for 1200 people and need gifts and support. They have a page were you can find drop off points where you can leave a gift. So when you are off doing your shopping, buy something extra and feel good about putting a smile on someone’s face. I will.