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Laptop thief caught by technology November 15, 2011

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Hardware.
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This story in the Daily Mail demonstrates a couple of interesting principles, that your hi-tech equipment is never really offline and just how easy it is to control a device remotely across the Internet.

Analysts call this concept of everything being accessible, the Internet of Things. It refers to almost any electronic device having an Internet Protocol (IP address) so it can be uniquely identified, and of course to also be connected.

In this case, the man who lost his laptop computer to a thief was able to connect to the computer and use the built-in webcam to take a picture of the thief. After this was sent to the police, he ended up being able to recover the stolen equipment. Of course the newspaper presented it as a good news story – all the more remarkable as distances of thousands of miles were also involved.

But we don’t think of distance when sending an email. Using the Internet is not like the old days of making a fixed line telephone call, with a different price depending on the physical distance between the two fixed points.

Thanks to tools such as Slingbox, it’s becoming fairly normal for many to access their own TV and video collection from anywhere. Your TV might be in London, automatically recording shows you like while you are away in Hong Kong on business. With remote access enabled, you can use a laptop to hook up to the TV allowing you to watch your recorded programmes.

This is all normal now. But the Internet of Things goes far beyond just being able to access TV programmes remotely. Imagine if every lock in every door was IP-enabled, if every security access in every office was IP-enabled, if every financial transaction was made on an IP-enabled device… the list goes on.

Soon, almost every electrical product will be IP-enabled and the possibilities for applications are endless. Soon the newspapers will be full of ads for fridges that can let you know whether you need any butter or not, not just computer engineers getting their stolen computers back. What may seem fantastic is about to become normal.
Laptop stolen

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