Co-operators uses cell technology to combat car theft

A pair of Calgary companies are planning a pilot program they hope will put car thieves on the run.

Starting in June, Co-operators General Insurance Co. will install 200 of TimesThree Calgary Ltd.’s Cellocate Beacons in

policy holders’ cars. Larry Swalm, district sales manager for the multi-line insurance company, says the test cars were chosen based on their theft-desirability factor: in other words, only those most likely to be swiped were selected. While he says it would be a long shot for one of them to be nicked, “”It would be great if one of them was stolen and we would retrieve it.””

But only if the car stays within Calgary. Jim George, general manager at TimesThree, says the garage door opener-sized transmitter sends out a signal every minute which is picked up by listening posts. Cowtown is the only Canadian city with listening posts.

The device is powered by two AA batteries and comes with a re-programmed beacon ID. George says the size, internal power source and lack of exterior parts like an antenna make it easy to install and conceal.

“”We’ve gone through the process of understanding where in the vehicle should be placed for best signal reception and transmission. It is a very quick installation because we don’t have to tie into a power source,”” he says.

For the pilot, TimesThree is in charge of the monitoring and notifying police is a stolen car is located. In the future, however, customers could have the option of taking on this responsibility.

“”Right now we want to manage this ourselves internally,”” George says. “”We’ve got a number of process to go through and we want to make sure everything is working 100 per cent before customers take it and do it on their own.””

George also says at the current miniaturization rate the beacons could be placed anywhere. He says corporate devices like PDAs and laptops are good candidates for tracking.

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