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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

Roambee leases the Bees to its customers rather than selling them. When a customer needs to track a shipment, it can order the device, which is then placed in that shipment and programmed to begin transmitting data at specific intervals. Customers pay about $1 a day for each device. Once it reaches its destination, the Bee can then be returned to Roambee.

Users can view location and historic data in the Roambee software, or have the information integrated with their own management software. "For pharmaceutical companies, the objective is security," Subramanian explains. The companies do not want vehicles to make unauthorized stops, or for the containers to be opened, as pharmaceutical products could then be stolen or swapped with fraudulent versions.

By attaching a sensor for temperature or humidity, the company has enabled the devices to also provide cold-chain tracking. For instance, perishable products could be tracked while moving through the supply chain to ensure they are stored at the proper temperature.

The Bees also come with a secondary battery, in case the primary battery runs out before it can be recharged. In that case, the secondary battery beacons twice a day to enable users to view their location. The Bees have built-in altitude sensors, so they can understand when they are in an airplane and automatically switch off so as not to interfere with the flight's communication technology. Additionally, the altitude sensor enables users to understand on which floor or shelf level the device is being stored.

"I almost felt sorry for the burglars," Subramanian says. "As soon as they took the Bees, they didn't stand a chance."

Moreno says he has some experience with GPS tracking. The police department sometimes places baited items—such as bicycles or packages that are often stolen—to lure and then follow thieves. With GPS functionality, police can track down the burglars and often other stolen goods. These kinds of operations, he adds, could benefit from technology such as the Roambee solution.

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