Don't Steal This iPhone

By Matthew Harwood

How could he have known?

Dubbed the "unluckiest thief" by many in the media, 31-year-old Horatio Toure allegedly rode his bike by a young woman in San Francisco two weeks ago, gingerly plucked the iPhone she was holding out of her hands, and made a break for it.

Toure's critical error was his target choice: the woman he had stolen the iPhone from was an intern working for Covia Labs, a two-year-old California start up that was demonstrating its GPS tracking application to a client. Using the tracking software enabled on the iPhone, Covia Labs CEO David Kahn was able to tell a 9-1-1 operator the exact location of the thief as he peddled through San Francisco, which the operator then relayed to police. Ten minutes later, Toure was in police custody.

While the Web has been abuzz with this hilarious story of instant karma, not much attention has been paid to the technology that nabbed Toure.

Alert & Respond, the product demonstrated that day, offers "blue force tracking" as one of its features.  A term coined by the U.S. military, Blue force tracking is a GPS-based system that allows troops to pinpoint the location and movement of friendly forces on a map. (In U.S. military parlance, blue is the color assigned to friendly forces and red the color of hostile forces.)

But GPS-tracking isn't all Alert & Respond can do, says Covia Lab's Spokesman Dave Fonkalsrud.  Leveraging the company's own proprietary software platform, Alert & Respond enables the creation and deployment of what it calls "connected applications."

"These are programs that can run across diverse devices, regardless of operating system or hardware," Fonkalsrud said. "Our software operates on everything from an iPhone to some of the sophisticated drones and weapons systems used by the military."


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