Harnessing IoT Technology for Stolen Vehicle Recovery

The battle between car thieves and those committed to preventing vehicle theft is an ongoing struggle. Every day in the UK, an average of 159 cars are stolen, and the culprits are often professional gangs of thieves. This figure represents a 20 percent increase from the previous year in 2022. In this high-stakes game, the role of IoT technology vehicle recovery has become increasingly critical for police and investigation teams.

While established tracking technologies such as GPS have been widely used to combat this, they are not without limitations, and can often be thwarted by savvy criminals. Gareth Mitchell, UK Partner Manager, Heliot Europe, discusses the role of Sigfox’s sub-gigahertz (OG-Wan) radio technology in providing a discreet, robust, and effective solution for stolen vehicle recovery across Europe.

Challenges of Modern Car Theft

The audacity of car thieves is not to be underestimated. They keenly observe parked vehicles in garages, noting their locations and identifying the optimal time to strike. In a matter of minutes, a thief can pick a lock and short-circuit the ignition, making off with the stolen vehicle without leaving a trace.

New car proximity keys can be cloned using cheap software, allowing theft in under five minutes. Trucks, trailers, and construction site equipment, such as excavators and power generators, are also prime targets for these organized gangs, with this criminal activity costing the construction industry around £800 million annually.

In 2022, 130,389 vehicles were stolen in the UK, per the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Thieves swiftly move stolen goods across borders, necessitating timely responses to combat this criminal activity.

Investigation teams and police forces play a crucial role in locating and securing stolen vehicles before they cross international borders, where they are often dismantled to bypass border controls.

Evolution of Tracking Technology

Commonly known systems such as GPS tracking, LTE, WiFi, GSM-R, and passive tracking have been in use for some time among investigation teams and police to aid in the recovery of stolen vehicles. These systems offer various advantages but also have their limitations. A relatively new alternative, Sigfox’s Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology, is gaining attention for its efficacy in stolen vehicle recovery.

Sigfox’s LPWAN signals are undetectable and less prone to interference compared to GPS and WiFi, known to thieves. Professional car thieves have access to devices that can quickly detect and disable GPS, LTE, and WiFi signals using jammers.

Such jamming equipment is readily available and is relatively inexpensive. In contrast, OG-WAN-based sub-gigahertz technology is more robust, transmitting signals reliably and conserving energy at the same time. LPWAN’s unique properties enable secure transmission of small data packets over long distances, aiding in IoT vehicle recovery.

Undetectable & Energy-Efficient

One crucial aspect of IoT stolen vehicle recovery is the ability of tracking systems to remain undetected by thieves. Criminals locate and disable transmitters in obvious vehicle spots like the glove compartment or fuse box.

Traditional tracking technologies, including GPS, have a disadvantage in this application due to their comparatively high energy consumption. Transmitters require constant power and thieves typically know their easily reachable installation spots.

OG-Wan radios are compact, with low-energy transmitters lasting up to four years without maintenance or reliance on the vehicle’s battery.

Hidden installation in less accessible areas, like underbody cavities or the engine compartment, aids in thieves’ detection evasion for faster vehicle recovery.

Wide-Spanning Network Coverage

Sigfox network covers most of Europe, including DACH, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Czech Republic, Croatia, and the Baltic States. Sigfox is continuously expanding its network, even into Eastern European countries like Poland, Romania, and Hungary.

One notable initiative includes the expansion of the Sigfox network along the Trans-European Rail Corridor. Sigfox’s expansion in Denmark and the UK enhances international stolen vehicle tracking capabilities for investigation teams.

The frequency range in which Sigfox operates, 868 MHz, enables signals to cover distances up to around 30 miles. This wide reach particularly benefits rural areas where the standard mobile network often has limited expansion.

The signals penetrate materials like concrete and steel, proving highly effective in challenging environments. Sigfox’s network enables cross-border tracking of stolen vehicles, bypassing disabled tracking devices within the car.

Multi-Layered Security

In the realm of IoT stolen vehicle recovery, diversifying tracking technologies is key. Multiple technologies should be relied upon because thieves adapt quickly and find ways to circumvent them.

Sigfox’s radio technology and LPWAN stand out as a valuable addition to the arsenal of tracking systems. It excels precisely where thieves feel most secure, making it a particularly intriguing technology for the investigation and insurance industry.

Continuous Battle

The battle against car theft continues to evolve and is on the rise, with criminals becoming increasingly sophisticated in their methods. However, as technology progresses, investigators and the police are becoming better equipped to locate and recover stolen vehicles.

Sub-gigahertz radio tech discreetly tracks stolen vehicles, aiding investigation teams in high-stakes scenarios effectively. Sigfox’s widespread coverage and resilience locate stolen vehicles in remote areas and across borders.

As car thieves adapt, the multi-layered security approach that incorporates Sigfox technology proves to be a vital tool in the fight against vehicle theft. With the right technology and tools, it is possible to retrieve stolen cars more effectively, providing car owners, leasing companies, and insurance firms with a better chance of recovering their prized possessions.

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