Theft Deterrent? Coded chargers for portable gadgets...

A recent patent filed by Apple would make the a portable device (iPod, iPhone, iAnything) "keyed" to the charger it originally came with, so that any other charger won't work with it. So if the device is stolen without its original charger, as the image at left (an excellent thief-taunting quip from Engadget) proclaims, it'll soon be dead for good.

A fascinating idea - but how well will it work? Two issues come to mind:

What about lost chargers? This happens! Chargers are left behind in hotel rooms, lost in the mess of a home, and stolen by the charger gnomes at night. In that case, Apple is perhaps unknowingly putting itself in the role of law enforcement - when a user cries "lost charger," Apple plays judge, jury, and executioner to decide and act on whether it's a real or bogus claim. And for that matter, what will become of the gargantuan industry of iPod accessories that interface with and charge the devices? Obliterated with a single patent app? I don't buy it.

Will thieves get it? The effectiveness of this idea as a theft deterrent is determined by the potential thieves understanding of it - and they're not an easy crowd to whom to explain clever technological tricks. It does a user no good if the thief only discovers this whole system after the theft - except, I suppose, for the consolation prize of revenge. So, will thieves get it? Will they be burned enough times by stealing iPods that then become useless (or are they already reading gadget blogs and discovering this new threat to their trade)? One example of this kind of theft deterrent has already been on the market for years: car stereos which won't work without a code after being removed from their cars. In that situation, the cars and/or stereos are marked with a message to thieves, in the form of a small logo or blurb on the car window. Not much opportunity to deliver a pre-emptive message on an iPod...

...Even if it's that clever message in the photo, Engadget.

4 comments:

Kouri said...

What about a password protected charger. Every time you plug in the device you enter a 4 digit password. Hmmm... that could work... I think.

Dave Gustafson said...

Good idea, Kouri! To extend it a little bit, I'm thinking of a password that needs to be entered on the iPod to allow it to charge - but any charger could be used. Better than locking the iPod all the time when not in use, which most people probably either won't remember to do or will find too much of an inconvenience. And it solves the problems of lost chargers and charging accessories! Of course, the news still needs to be spread to potential thieves...

ttrujillo@supernerdio.com said...

Yeah, that is a good idea. But, it seems to present more problems than good perhaps.

ttrujillo@supernerdio.com said...

I would rather just have the generic charger--not password protected!