Unlucky Thief Steals iPhone Used in GPS Tracking Tests

Thief steals iPhone being used to test real-time GPS tracking program, but is caught 10 minutes later.

I should be so lucky! What are the odds that your iPhone is stolen during a demo showing how to track a phone's location in real time?

I should be so lucky! What are the odds that your iPhone is stolen during a demo showing how to track a phone's location in real time?

In perhaps what was one of the unluckiest moves of his career as a petty thief, Horatio Toure stole an iPhone on Monday afternoon. The irony? The iPhone Toure stole was being used to demonstrate a program that tracks GPS location in real-time--it took the police all of ten minutes to pin down his exact location and arrest him.

Thirty-one year-old Toure, a resident of San Francisco, was riding his bicycle down a street in the South of Market (SoMA) neighborhood when he happened upon a young woman with a loose grip on her iPhone. He rode his bicycle up next to her, snatched the iPhone out of her hands (perhaps she was holding it loosely in order to retain full reception?), and rode away.

Unfortunately for Toure, the young woman happened to be Jordan Sturm, an assistant at Covia Labs of Mountain View--a company that designs communications technology. Sturm was, in fact, wandering the streets of San Francisco because she was demonstrating a new product called "Alert & Respond"--an app on the iPhone designed to track her GPS location in real time.

David Kahn, CEO of Covia Labs, was but minutes away from Sturm, in an office building, demonstrating to his Public Relations team how he could track Sturm's location from a laptop. Toure chose this exact moment--as Kahn and his PR team were watching Sturm's dot move across the screen--to swoop in and snatch the iPhone.

Suddenly, it appeared as though Sturm was hightailing it down the road.

But, of course, she wasn't--she was hightailing it back to the office so she could call the police. The app worked well enough that Sturm was able to give the police the thief's exact location--and Toure was intercepted about ten minutes later, and arrested on suspicion of grand theft and possession of stolen property.

Despite its usefulness in this particular situation, Alert & Respond is not actually intended to catch iPhone thieves--rather, it's designed for police and the military (to track officers and other persons). The software has other features, which Kahn considered using--such as turning on the phone's camera to remotely take a photo, or turning on the phone's microphone to remotely record what is being said. Kahn decided not to use these features in this particular chase, lest the thief realize that he was being tracked.

"This reminds me of the bank robber who arrives during the security test," Kahn told The San Francisco Chronicle, "What are the odds that you would grab someone's cell phone during a demonstration of the ability to track a phone's location in real time?"

Tags GPS technologyAppleapple iphoneconsumer electronicsGPSsmartphones

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal

PC World (US online)

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