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Valuable Gear Can 'Phone Home'

If your jet-ski or other trailer-carried item goes missing, it can now phone home to tell you where it is.

A small Auckland company has developed a new technology that operates on a standard global system for cellphones to tell you where your valuable property is if it falls into the wrong hands.

The system depends on three things to work – a GSM network, a phone, and a personal computer with a map. If your property is stolen, the phone-like device rings you. The nearest GSM network transmitter will pick up the call and send it on to a computer that will show the phone's location on a map.

Kerry Harris of Network Technology Ltd says a working prototype has been produced, with the assistance of investment from Technology New Zealand, the Government agency that invests in research into new products, processes or services.

He says the idea grew out of a request from a contractor that parked fuel-tank trailers on streets at night.

"They were disappearing so the company came to us to ask what we could do," Mr Harris says.

The answer is a small tracker device that can be fitted into the trailers. "So when someone takes off with the trailer, it will simply ring you up, and by going to a special Internet map, it will tell you exactly where it is."
He says the device is armed with a cellphone.

"It sits there on the trailer or jet-ski or whatever, and all the time it is sensing its position in relation to the transmitters around it. If it moves, the sites change and the phone rings.

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"We simply adapted what was already available," he says. "Cellphone networks have always been able to locate cellphone calls to within a few kilometres, just by tracing them to the nearest transmitter. Our technology can locate a device down to 100 metres."

He says his Secure-Net Unit also has other commercial applications such as automated truck-logs, refrigerated container monitoring, and personnel monitoring for security. It can simultaneously receive and transmit data that will enable conditions to be monitored and equipment controlled from any distance.

"We've been talking to some big software companies and car-makers overseas, and some of the big phone manufacturers, because we're looking at how this can be included into software."

Mr Harris says the project and Technology New Zealand funding has increased his company's technological capability enormously.

"This has now made us one of the leading developers of low cost AVL [automatic vehicle location] technology," Mr Harris says. "We've gone from something the size of a shoebox filled with complex electronics to software that can be put straight into a phone."

The unit can provide 24-hour coverage almost anywhere, because GSM networks have been installed in most countries throughout the world.


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