Hearth & Homeland - How Sanyo's new "Pocket Snitch" Phone Will Fight Terrorism and Protect Your Children

by Ted McOwens
October 14, 2003

There are a lot of exciting technologies that will be making their ways into consumers' hands this holiday shopping season. One of them that I'm sure will get a lot of attention from patriotic moms and dads is the Sanyo S2100 "Pocket Snitch" phone, as industry magazines have dubbed it. The S2100 will bring together useful and pernicious technologies such as GPS tracking, digital video capture, and wireless broadband connectivity into an affordable four-handset package, targeted at families who want to stay connected to their children.

Each S2100 handset comes with a GPS tracking system, a digital video camera, a digital still camera, and 802.11b wireless Internet access all built into a unit no larger than current cellular and PCS phones on the market. While the benefits of having all of these technologies bundled in one mobile, pocket-sized device may be somewhat blurry to consumers just yet, Sanyo's vision for the future of the cellular industry is crystal clear. James Stader, Sanyo VP of mobile research, explains that the new class of phone will be useful for everything from keeping an eye on your children while you're at work to reporting suspicious activities to the police. 

"If you were a concerned parent," as Mr. Stader told me in a telephone interview, "you could look up your child's geographic location at any time of day through the Sanyo web site, and see a map of where they have been, and how long they were there, for the last thirty days." I suggested that as parents, a technology like he described would be a godsend to my wife and myself for keeping track of our teenage sons, without having to be overly involved in their lives. 

"It goes much further than that," he told me, and he went on to explain that now that this technology is making its way into mobile devices coupled with a GPS tracking chip, "parents could enter the GPS coordinates of where their child is supposed to be and when, and set their phones to alert them via email when the child arrives near the destination point." Wow!

The 2100 cell phone can be can also be used as a webcam to stream live video over the Internet, without having to make use of a desktop or laptop PC at all. "You could set up a few of these cell phone cameras around your house and in places your children are supposed to be, and then essentially watch your kids grow up over the web," Stader said. 

He went on to say that by early next year, you will also be able to use the statistical features on Sanyo's web site to analyze data gathered by the phone, in order to spot trends in your child's behavior and monitor his habits. Thanks to this background information, sudden changes to a child's daily routine can prompt the phone to send an automatic notice to parents. As a side benefit for Sanyo's partners, the child will also be much easier to market to.

As a dad who's had it up to here trying to communicate with two distant and moody teenage sons, with phones like these in their hands I honestly have no idea why I would ever need to talk to them again. I would know where they are, and a small phone placed in the trunk of my Taurus would let me know its whereabouts at any given time as well. I would have all the information I need, automatically, with timestamps and coordinates. Lying to me would be useless. I'd be a digital Super Dad! 

My only question is, how long till I can get this on an injectable chip like the ones the vet puts in our cats and dogs? I know that's the stuff of science fiction, but a guy can still dream. 

Even more than being a parenting tool, I also think that getting a network-connected digital video camera with GPS into the hands of every American will open new avenues of law enforcement and protect the country against domestic terrorism. Imagine the scenario: Next time some highway terrorist cuts me off, speeds and drives crazy between lanes without even signaling, I could use my phone to record live video and send it directly to the police right from my phone. Officials would have the coordinates and timestamps they need to make a citation, thanks to Sanyo. 

This scenario is a logical extension of the stoplight cameras already in place in many cities, only these cameras will be mobile, and in the hands of everyone. Anything suspicious that my neighbors are doing, I can investigate and log thanks to my phone. The Magnum P.I. aspect of this alone is enough to make me pick up four S2100s right now. 

Mr. Stader also told me that another way S2100 enhances personal privacy and security is through the use of wireless Bluetooth networking technology, which makes the phone automatically aware of any other Bluetooth-equipped device within 200 feet of the unit. Not only can you know where your children were and when, you will also be able to know the phone numbers of whom they were with or near, as long as they are carrying Bluetooth-enabled phones as well. 

Think of this: Law enforcement will be able to not only pinpoint a local drug dealer, but instantly pull up data regarding his travels, who he as had had contact with and for how long. They will be able to bust entire networks of dealers and buyers, and put thousands more Americans in jail, making our streets safer.

Everything from traffic violations to drug use to teenage rebelliousness stands to be greatly reduced by these phones. I'm reminded of a 20/20 piece I viewed way back the early 1990s, when black-and-white video surveillance cameras had just begun to be placed in school busses around the country to curb discipline problems. The report showed a video taken before the children riding a camera-equipped bus were aware that they were under surveillance; it showed absolute chaos--children, talking, yelling, laughing, moving around and just being generally rowdy. Then viewers were shown a video of the same bus, taken weeks after the children were told of the camera and a few example punishments had been handed out. I probably don't need to tell you that the children were all seated politely, facing forward, completely silent, as obedient as little lambs. 

Few people are aware that a transformation of this type is about to happen to our society as a whole, on the widest scale ever seen, coming to a Best Buy shelf in time for Christmas. Thanks to the Pocket Snitch and an onslaught of other products like it, concerned parents, law enforcement, and American freedom all are in store for a very happy new year.

Ted McOwens is an technology manager with a degree in Business Management from OnlineUniversity.com.

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