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Burglars Stung by IoT Bees in Santa Clara

Technology startup Roambee helped police locate the company's own stolen goods with its Internet of Things devices used to track assets and shipments via GPS, cellular, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy functionality.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 13, 2017

When burglars broke into the offices of Internet of Things asset-monitoring technology startup Roambee in Santa Clara, they helped themselves to laptops and some unfamiliar devices that looked like cell phone chargers. Those devices turned out to be Roambee's Bees with built-in Wi-Fi, GSM, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and GPS functionalities, as well as sensors and cameras.

Roambee's employees discovered the robbery the next morning, remotely commanded the missing Bees to identify themselves on a per-minute basis and began tracking the devices. Approximately eight hours later, says Santa Clara Police Lieutenant Dan Moreno, the suspects were in custody and the Roambee property had been found, along with goods stolen during previous burglaries. For Roambee, it was the perfect way to put their new technology to the test, says the company's cofounder and VP, Vidya Subramanian.

Lieutenant Dan Moreno
The company's founders, Subramanian and Sanjay Sharma, had originally come from RFID firm KeyTone Technologies. They found that their customers that employed radio frequency identification were interested in a solution offering greater mobility and sensor technology, so three years ago they formed Roambee. They developed the GPS-based tracker device, which is leased to customers, comes with a variety of built-in features to identify location and status, and can connect to sensors for the purpose of condition monitoring.

Thus far, several thousand devices are being used by pharmaceutical, logistics and consumer electronics companies to track goods as they move through the supply chain. The devices, measuring 5 inches by 3 inches by 1 inch, can be embedded in pallets or placed into boxes to track not only their location but also such conditions as light and shock, in order to identify when a door or box is opened unexpectedly, or to track such movement as the removal of a box from a truck at an unauthorized location. The built-in cameras can be programmed to take a picture if such an event occurs.

The Bee device comes with an active GPS antenna to enable it to capture longitude- and latitude-based location data, even within a covered truck. The BLE device built into it also enables users to employ a smartphone as a Geiger counter to identify how close they are to a specific device they seek.

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