The Bluetooth Burglar Alarm
By Mike Masnick, Wed Jul 07 22:45:00 GMT 2004

It turns out Bluetooth may be good for more than just Bluejacking and Bluesnarfing, as some researchers are using the technology as a simple theft prevention system.


Sometimes the most interesting uses of a technology have little to do with what it was originally intended to do. Bluetooth, after some initial stumbling, is now shipping over 2 million chips per week. While there have been some random security issues, it looks like some researchers are coming up with unique and unexpected ways of using the technology now that it's gone mainstream.

Researchers at Leeds University have worked out a way to determine the distance between two Bluetooth-enabled devices, which they believe can be useful as a cheap theft prevention mechanism. While it probably could work with another already Bluetooth-enabled device, a more interesting concept would be to build specific theft-prevention (or, realistically, movement-prevention) systems that could be glued to a desk somewhere. This way, for example, if you placed this device under a desk next to a computer, someone could be immediately alerted if the computer were moved.

They also say it could be used to check whether or not a certain item was moved when it was supposed to stay put, and could present useful evidence in a court case. That may seem a little extreme, but it is certainly a different way to use the technology. On a larger scale, such a system could be used to track locations of certain products in an area where a number of Bluetooth enabled devices all keep tabs on each other. While some may point out that these are the types of applications RFID chips are supposed to solve as well, it looks like RFIDs still have a little way to go before they're ready for certain applications. Bluetooth may offer a simple alternative for the time being while RFID bugs are worked out. Whether or not this actually turns into a useful Bluetooth application, it does demonstrate how technologies, once they begin to catch on, often get put to use in very unexpected ways. While it's easy to predict that a new and "better" technology may come in and replace an older system, these unintended applications can often extend the life of existing technologies. Never underestimate the staying power of a technology that has been widely implemented.