04 August 2014
Could Future iPhones Know If They've Been Stolen?
Mobile-phone theft has been a problem ever since portable handsets were first introduced, with various methods dreamt up over the years to try to combat this pervasive and costly crime. Consumers and law- enforcement organisations have become particularly empowered in their fight against thieves following the arrival of smartphones, which have enough onboard technology to help lost or stolen mobiles remain locatable even after they have gone astray. However, smartphones certainly don't help much when it comes to actually detecting theft, because at the moment there is still a degree of input required from the user. So if you do not know that your handset has been taken, it could be many hours until you realise, by which point the chances of recovery are significantly slimmer. Thankfully, a recent report from AppleInsider revealed that the iPhone manufacturer may be looking into the creation of tools which will actively fight theft by learning about the habits of legitimate users and thus working out whether or not someone else has got their hands on the device. This news comes courtesy of a patent filing which Apple made over in the US, so it is worth pointing out that the company may just be taking the precaution to protect the idea, without necessarily having plans to implement it in the immediate future. Of course, there is a good chance that anti-theft measures will be improved sooner rather than later, because this would be a big selling point for the iPhone range.
The underlying concept of the system proposed by Apple is simple: an iPhone will be able to monitor how the phone is used by its true owner, thus learning common habits and sending out alerts if any anomalies are detected further down the line. Behaviour will not only be detected based on app usage, but also on much more specific factors such as the word choice used when typing messages and the orientation in which the phone is most regularly held. Clearly, people will have their own unique digital fingerprint of usage, which iPhones may be able to harness to detect a theft if and when it does occur. When usage patterns do change, the notifications system will kick in and the phone will lock until the user enters their pass code or uses the Touch ID scanner to unlock it once more. And if multiple people share the same iPhone or iOS device, Apple’s system will be able to keep track of several different profiles so that it is not getting locked unnecessarily.
The application of this system is not purely for theft alone, as Apple’s patent suggests that it might also be useful for elderly users, since notifications can be sent to third parties, such as carers, thus enabling them to respond easily in an emergency. If a usage pattern is not kept up, this might suggest that there is a problem preventing the iPhone owner from getting to the phone, making it a good early warning system. This would presumably all work identically whether or not an iPhone was housed in custom iPhone 5C cases since neither of these accessories will compromise the internal sensors and data-collection capabilities of the device. Theft-averse users will no doubt be hoping that Apple follows through on this patent and makes one of the future generation of iPhones even safer.
Rahima Aktar on Monday, August 04, 2014 · Leave a Comment