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Old Dec 5, 2012, 03:25 PM   #1
Squilly
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Another Business Idea

Thought of this one an hour ago; this one might actually work. I haven't seen it around anywhere but here it goes - feel free to give any and all suggestions: A protective case with a chip inside. It charges just like any other battery case, but it's not a battery case, it's a lost phone type of device. Directed towards people who are suseptible to losing their phone or something. Location services are always enabled and something (haven't figured this part out yet) would be needed to take the case off. Just like "Find My iPhone", it would connect to a server and you'd enter credentials you set on the phone when you first get the case. Thus, phone found. The only flaw would be when the case dies, but since it wouldn't need much power consumption, it would last a while.
So, what do ya think?
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Old Dec 5, 2012, 03:28 PM   #2
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Where will the chip send the signal to?
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Old Dec 5, 2012, 04:01 PM   #3
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Where will the chip send the signal to?
The server
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Old Dec 5, 2012, 04:01 PM   #4
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What if someone just takes the case off?

Edit: just reread and saw you didn't know how to prevent that. Not a bad idea but obviously not much good for the iPhone since Find my iDevice already exists.
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Old Dec 5, 2012, 04:47 PM   #5
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What if someone just takes the case off?

Edit: just reread and saw you didn't know how to prevent that. Not a bad idea but obviously not much good for the iPhone since Find my iDevice already exists.
But people can shut off location services.

----------

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Originally Posted by chown33 View Post
If it's a "case", it needs to be very thin. That's a significant constraint on the battery. It's also a significant constraint on what kinds of circuitry you can embed in the case. Extreme thinness is not cheap, in either batteries or circuitry.

What kind of price range do you expect to sell this for? I'd be amazed if you could get the manufacturing cost below $30-$50 in large quantities. And that doesn't count initial costs for circuit design, RF testing and licensing, case design, case molds, etc.


What kind of radio? Cell? Wifi? Something else? If it's wifi or something else, what happens if there are no joinable networks (i.e. ones that don't require a password you may not know) near enough to connect to?


Battery power (hence lifetime) is generally proportional to volume (LxWxH). So thin batteries tend not to last long. But a radio transmitter (which is what the circuitry is) takes a lot of power to transmit. If it's transmitting regularly, in order to be tracked, that means repeated bursts of fairly high power. This is not something I would expect a thin battery to be well-suited for. So it would need a lot of recharging, and where does it get that from?

What is your experience or familiarity with electronics or radio engineering? Or are you just throwing things out randomly and expecting everyone else to handle the engineering feasibility?
Not sure on price range, maybe $40, which is the average price for a good case these days anyways. Gave me a good idea, would run on a Qualcomm chip intertwined with the phones' internet capabilities, with a Lightning (or 30 pin, micro USB or mini USB) port built into the bottom of the case to connect to the phone. Charging via USB, very similar to the Mophie case (port on the side of the case to charge it). Eventually, maybe even solar. Not much experience in engineering, I'd probably hire someone for it.
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Old Dec 5, 2012, 04:50 PM   #6
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But people can shut off location services.
A thief can't as long as you turn passcode lock on. Of course Find My iPhone still has weaknesses: DFU mode can restore the phone back to normal easily and taking the SIM out will stop the tracking from working.

But taking a case off a phone is easier. And how would this case connect to the network in and of itself? Will it have a separate SIM in it? And will it have a GPS too? How will all of this stuff fit into a case that's meant to stay on the phone 24/7?

This is a good concept but your suggested execution is fatally flawed. A better way to do this would be to have a chip built into the phone which runs a separate low-level OS, separately from anything else. The main OS can control it but only with authentication, for which you need a passcode. You'd need to lock this down hard to make sure it can't be easily hacked. This system would not be reset when the phone is restored either. This chip would act as a backdoor if you provide authentication remotely through Find My iPhone and let you control the phone, track it, etc.

A system like that would be very hard to crack, certainly beyond the skills of your average phone thief. If you can make a concept that works you might be able to license it to Apple, you never know.
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Old Dec 5, 2012, 06:09 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Squilly View Post
Not sure on price range, maybe $40, which is the average price for a good case these days anyways. Gave me a good idea, would run on a Qualcomm chip intertwined with the phones' internet capabilities, with a Lightning (or 30 pin, micro USB or mini USB) port built into the bottom of the case to connect to the phone. Charging via USB, very similar to the Mophie case (port on the side of the case to charge it). Eventually, maybe even solar. Not much experience in engineering, I'd probably hire someone for it.
You have a whole lot of non-trivial engineering constraints here. Starting with the price (yes, an engineering constraint, because if you can't acquire parts for less than the expected selling cost, you don't have sustainable a business).

What do you know about Qualcomm chips? How would it "intertwine" with the phone's internet capabilities? How does that communicate over the external connector (be it Lightning, 30-pin, or whatever)?

What's the energy density of "maybe even solar"? How much time does it have to remain under what light intensity in order to get a worthwhile charge? How likely is it to obtain that charge if it's mostly in pockets, purses, or facing the ground because the user is reading the screen?

Have you done anything like a marketing-demand analysis? Who would want this? How would it be better than competitor products, i.e. how is it better than software-only Find My Phone services? How much would the expected customer really be willing to pay for the value-add above software-only?


In my opinion, with parts I know are on the market or expected to reach market any time in the next few years (based on projected chip fab capabilities), I don't see even a glimmer of hope that this would be viable for anywhere close to the stated price. Sorry if that bursts your bubble.

I think the engineering alone, without taking price into account, would take extraordinary skill in order to make it thin enough and capable enough to even be marketable. To hit a price point of even $150 retail would take exceptional skill and talent. You can't just hire that out to a random engineering team.

Last edited by chown33; Dec 5, 2012 at 06:16 PM.
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Old Dec 5, 2012, 04:21 PM   #8
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If it's a "case", it needs to be very thin. That's a significant constraint on the battery. It's also a significant constraint on what kinds of circuitry you can embed in the case. Extreme thinness is not cheap, in either batteries or circuitry.

What kind of price range do you expect to sell this for? I'd be amazed if you could get the manufacturing cost below $30-$50 in large quantities. And that doesn't count initial costs for circuit design, RF testing and licensing, case design, case molds, etc.


What kind of radio? Cell? Wifi? Something else? If it's wifi or something else, what happens if there are no joinable networks (i.e. ones that don't require a password you may not know) near enough to connect to?


Battery power (hence lifetime) is generally proportional to volume (LxWxH). So thin batteries tend not to last long. But a radio transmitter (which is what the circuitry is) takes a lot of power to transmit. If it's transmitting regularly, in order to be tracked, that means repeated bursts of fairly high power. This is not something I would expect a thin battery to be well-suited for. So it would need a lot of recharging, and where does it get that from?

What is your experience or familiarity with electronics or radio engineering? Or are you just throwing things out randomly and expecting everyone else to handle the engineering feasibility?
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Old Dec 5, 2012, 05:50 PM   #9
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The server
How would it connect to the server?
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Old Dec 5, 2012, 05:55 PM   #10
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how would it connect to the server?
3G/the Internet connection
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Old Dec 5, 2012, 08:32 PM   #11
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I have put some thought into the idea, just don't have the engineering experience. The whole idea of it is to track the phone when location services are disabled. It doesn't matter if the phone is on or not. If location services are disabled, Find My iPhone is 100% useless. That's when the case comes in. It provides the "GPS" chip. The only thing missing is the Internet capability.
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Old Dec 5, 2012, 08:52 PM   #12
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I have put some thought into the idea, just don't have the engineering experience. The whole idea of it is to track the phone when location services are disabled. It doesn't matter if the phone is on or not. If location services are disabled, Find My iPhone is 100% useless. That's when the case comes in. It provides the "GPS" chip. The only thing missing is the Internet capability.
So your case needs: A power source, GPS (or other location capability), internet link.

Since you're outside the phone and thus limited to user space applications and Apple's restrictions on what kind of tasks can run in the background and devices that can be attached via the dock/lightning connector (without requiring a JB). Essentially, you're stuck providing your own data link since you can't easily leverage the phone's connection.

If the case's battery runs down, the GPS stops working and it can't tell where it is anymore, so the utility of this function is limited to the battery life of the case. The longer that is, the heavier it is.

The Garmin GPS tag I linked to earlier in the thread has all of these features, including its own cellular link including a $49/year service from AT&T. What exactly do you propose to do differently than it to cut the cost of the device by a factor of 5?

FWIW I've been involved in the hardware/firmware design of several "last gasp" and theft/tamper detection hardware features and they all suck.

B
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Old Dec 5, 2012, 09:08 PM   #13
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So your case needs: A power source, GPS (or other location capability), internet link.

Since you're outside the phone and thus limited to user space applications and Apple's restrictions on what kind of tasks can run in the background and devices that can be attached via the dock/lightning connector (without requiring a JB). Essentially, you're stuck providing your own data link since you can't easily leverage the phone's connection.

If the case's battery runs down, the GPS stops working and it can't tell where it is anymore, so the utility of this function is limited to the battery life of the case. The longer that is, the heavier it is.

The Garmin GPS tag I linked to earlier in the thread has all of these features, including its own cellular link including a $49/year service from AT&T. What exactly do you propose to do differently than it to cut the cost of the device by a factor of 5?

FWIW I've been involved in the hardware/firmware design of several "last gasp" and theft/tamper detection hardware features and they all suck.

B
Hopefully, the owner finds out it's lost before the battery on it dies, which shouldn't take long to figure out. Then, just like in Find My iPhone, you'd sign in and figure out where it is. Similar to that, but it's a case. That Garmin device you showed me can be taken off with ease as well...
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Old Dec 5, 2012, 09:18 PM   #14
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Similar to that, but it's a case. That Garmin device you showed me can be taken off with ease as well...
As chown33 said. That's a small matter of packaging.

What are you going to take out of the Garmin to get down from $199 list to $40 list?

B
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Old Dec 5, 2012, 09:23 PM   #15
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As chown33 said. That's a small matter of packaging.

What are you going to take out of the Garmin to get down from $199 list to $40 list?

B
Beats me... unless everything was assembled on one chip. It would have to communicate with a satellite too (probably one of Garmin's)
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 05:27 AM   #16
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idea seems good, but it needs a lot of work and development.
This is the thing though, anyone can come up with a good idea. People come up with good ideas every day. An idea is utterly worthless. The implementation of that idea is what counts.
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 09:42 AM   #17
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After putting some more thought into it, it doesn't seem very logical after all :/
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 10:38 AM   #18
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After putting some more thought into it, it doesn't seem very logical after all :/
Perhaps you can post your reasons for coming to that conclusion.
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 10:52 AM   #19
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Perhaps you can post your reasons for coming to that conclusion.
Did further research, saw that there are other ways to prevent Location Services from being disabled. Would be expensive to manufacture and maintain a steady profit from a limited market.
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Old Dec 6, 2012, 12:04 PM   #20
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FWIW I found the G Shock article timely: http://www.macrumors.com/2012/12/05/...k-smart-watch/

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When paired with an iPhone, the Casio smart watch can automatically set its own time, alert you to incoming calls and email, and locate your iPhone from the watch.
I would think that something like this might actually be a fair alternative to your idea. A low power wearable BT device that tells you when you are being separated from your phone and helps you locate it.

Find your phone is great, but the few times I've used it to notice that my phone is home, but I still don't know WHERE at home.

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