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Apple wins patent on motion-based theft detection [u]

updated 12:20 pm EDT, Tue July 26, 2011

Technology already used by many third-party apps

(Updated to reflect win) A newly-granted Apple patent suggests the company's interest in deterring theft of its devices. Titled Acceleration-based theft detection system for portable electronic devices, the filing describes a hardware/software system in which a motion sensor could be used to trigger an alarm if a device is suddenly taken. The system could, critically, be set to ignore motions which are uncharacteristic of stealing. Users could also tweak its behavior, by adjusting sensitivity or leaving it off completely.

The invention is credited to Paul Wehrenberg from Palo Alto, California, and the application was originally submitted by Apple in May 2009. The concept though is already widespread on the iOS App Store, employed by many third-party apps of varying price and quality. Apple could in theory be looking to make anti-theft integral to iOS and/or OS X, although the feature does not appear to be in iOS 5 or OS X Lion.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Gazoobee

    Joined: Dec 1969


    seems silly

    ... on the face of it. What motions are there that are "indicative of theft" but not indicative of anything else? If I pick up my iPhone and leave the room quickly does that equal giant alarm going off? :-)

  1. Jeronimo2000

    Joined: Dec 1969


    My sentiments exactly

    Sometimes, when I'm late for a meeting, I just grab my iPhone off the desk and storm out the room - just like a thief would do it. Then again, when I'm deep in thought, I lift up my iPhone almost unconsciously, rather slowly - just like a very sneaky thief would do it.

    And now you tell me how the iPhone is supposed to know the difference. :)

  1. Tralthamidor

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I think their next patent should be large pieces of glass that resist cars driving through them...

  1. yticolev

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Alarms if prototype is set down in bar.

  1. SockRolid

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Just in time for Grand Central

    Maybe Apple just wanted a better theft-deterrent system for the Apple Stores. The display units will rarely need to be moved more than a few inches. Store-wide alarm if they're moved more than a few feet without the theft detector being turned off by an employee.

    Could be useful when Apple opens that Grand Central Station store in NYC...

  1. JEB

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Good one.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I seem to recall many a piece of software that utilized the PowerBook's hard drive motion sensor to perform this same task.

    Oh, but this is for 'portable handheld devices' vs. the other's 'portable laptop devices'.

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