App that helps track, control stolen phones wins award

A mobile phone application that helps owners recover stolen units and protect private data was chosen as this year’s winner of the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (Sweep) Innovation and Excellence Awards, which closed last Saturday at the SM Mall of Asia.

The application, Smart Phone Guard, hides itself whenever the phone’s SIM (subscriber identification module) is replaced. It then sends an alert to the phones of friends registered by the owner into the application.

Sweep award PHONE GUARD. Rexcel Balatbat, lead student of the Smart Phone Guard project, explains features of the application to Mon Isberto, Smart and PLDT public affairs head. Smart Phone Guard won this year’s Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (Sweep) Innovation and Excellence Awards. Click on photo to view larger image. (photo by Smart PA)

The alert message contains the new phone number being used by the unit and its new IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity), if this has been changed. The application, created by students of Bulacan State University, won P500,000 for the student team and another P500,000 in grants for the school.

The phone software can help save lives because it makes it easier for people to give up their phones during robberies, knowing they can track it later and, more important for kinky folks out there, delete private data such as messages, contacts, photos, and videos.

When the phone is stolen, the owner can just use a phone he or she registered with the application earlier to control or track the unit. The owner can send a command to the application to delete photos and movies stored in the phone. The owner can also command the phone to give its location via the locator service of Smart.

All these are being done by the application without the robber or, in cases when the phone has been sold, the new owner noticing it. The phone can also be commanded to emit a high-pitch tone, a feature that helps forgetful owners find missing units.

Smart phone guard SMART PHONE GUARD. This application hides itself whenever the unit’s SIM is replaced. It then sends data back to help the owner trace the unit. Click on photo to view larger image.

Rexcel Balatbat, lead student of the project, says he finished programming the application early this March. He said initially he wanted to do it using Java Micro Edition but he couldn’t find a way to get the phone’s IMEI and the SIM’s IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity), in order to get the phone’s new number.

Balatbat eventually decided to write the program in Series 60 2nd edition. Balatbat said he’ll be working to port the phone on other systems. To make the phone commercially available, he said the operator must ask manufacturers to include the application in the index file to protect it from deletion during a master reset.

Taking the second place is a home security system controlled by SMS or short messaging system. The project by Systems Plus College Foundation students, Smarthouse, won P300,000 for the team and another P300,000 in grants for the school.

Smarthouse is a system that consists of sensors that detect intrusion, alarms that warn intruders, and a server that sends messages to the owner of the house and law enforcers whenever unauthorized entry is detected.

The system also allows the owner of the house to switch on and off lights and electrical appliances.

Ateneo de Davao University’s entry was picked third, winning for its students P150,000 and for the school, P150,000 in grants. Their project, Vehicle Emergency Locator (VEL), sends an alert message whenever the car’s airbag system is deployed during accidents. The message contains the last known location of the vehicles, as plotted through GPS (Global Positioning System).

VEL also has a manual button that the car driver can press to send a distress signal to seek help for minor car troubles. The system continually updates its location data via GPS. VEL communicates using a paired Bluetooth-capable phone. But for the system to work, the owner must turn both the application and Bluetooth connectivity on.

(Disclosure: I was one of five judges of the event. In the coming days, I’ll be writing about the other applications shortlisted for the finals.)