As we experience a rapid global rise in the use of motor vehicles for both citizens and businesses alike, the rate of theft has also been increasing consistently, and auto manufacturers are adopting new technologies to protect vehicles. Even though the vehicle owner is often the most negatively affected, insurance companies are also impacted financially, while the vehicle manufacturers’ reputation comes into question.
Every year, about 3.5 million vehicles are stolen worldwide. In the U.S. alone, about $6.4 billion was lost to motor vehicle theft in 2019.
Despite the efforts made by vehicle manufacturers to improve security, motor vehicle theft remains very common and, according to Interpol, the use of the Internet has contributed to a dramatic increase in the resale of illicit automotive components in recent years, making it a major concern for law enforcement, automotive manufacturers, regulatory agencies and public health organizations worldwide.
Additionally, methods used for stealing cars are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are now able to override anti-theft devices. Consequently, the Stolen Vehicle Recovery (SVR) market is expected to grow between 5%-6% by 2023.
Stolen Vehicle Recovery
Today, 85% of thefts are carried out with the help of electronic means. Most anti-theft cellular solutions are connected to the vehicle’s central command to power the device, thus allowing it to have multiple uses. For thieves, cellular solutions offer an opportunity to find and quickly disconnect the device, ultimately decreasing the chance of retrieving the vehicle. This method, known as mouse jacking, can easily be used by anyone equipped with a portable signal jammer, an inexpensive tool that can be bought on the internet and leaves no trace of a break-in.
When car owners notice that their cars are gone, it is often already too late as only one in five is recovered, and 30% are damaged. Even if the car is found, insurers can refuse to compensate the victim if there is no trace of a break-in. Last but not least, the recovery process is usually lengthy and gives thieves enough time to dismantle stolen cars or ship them to the other side of the world.
Although countermeasures exist, they are often expensive to roll out and maintain. In fact, the SVR market may look to security systems such as biometric technology, radio frequency identification, and ultrasonic sensors, regardless of the cost. However, the potential failure of electronic components and the amount of time needed for the installation are factors that could slow the growth of the global stolen vehicle recovery market and become a barrier to technology adoption.
In this context, SVR companies are facing many challenges as well as intense competition. Therefore, those companies seek technical alternatives that provide the same security as a private network (jamming resistant) at a lower cost and at least the same customer experience.
Using IoT to Facilitate SVR and Reduce Costs
Unlike cellular or Bluetooth networks, IoT networks can meet three essential prerequisites to facilitate stolen vehicle recovery.
IoT devices can provide one solution which will emit signals in different regions for the same price. Since IoT devices require low electrical consumption, battery costs are also lowered, further decreasing overall hardware costs. The battery consumption of an IoT device can also be precisely calculated and monitored. This critical information reduces high maintenance costs and replaces the device when it is not actually necessary.
Unlike traditional security systems, IoT devices and networks offer a new proposition to SVR companies. The devices are small enough to be concealed inside a vehicle and quick and easy to install as there is no need to connect the device to the on-board diagnostics of the car and dismantle the panel, which would be the case with a wired solution, thus eliminating installation costs and faulty installations. Additionally, IoT-based solutions offer a long-life, battery-based device, which can be placed in multiple spots within the vehicle, rendering the detection of the device by a thief complex.
Another advantage of IoT devices is that they are not attached to a specific base station or network and offer a wide range area of coverage. Moreover, they are capable of recovering messages from the faintest signals, while other technologies are affected by jamming, strong interference (e.g., in cities like London or Paris) or the lack of network in underground locations This is important as 43% of stolen vehicles are hidden in enclosed and/or underground locations to avoid being found. In France, this practice has almost doubled between 2017 and 2020, proving that professional thieves have discovered that mobile phone networks and GPS will stop working once underground.
IoT solution providers have developed geolocation capabilities based on network triangulation, which can estimate the stolen vehicle’s location. The network provider receives regular data from the car and, as soon as a jamming attempt is detected, the device switches to recovery mode. This means that the network will estimate the vehicle’s location for every message received, allowing the security company to dispatch the nearest recovery team. Consequently, even if a jammer attempts to block the signal, Stolen Vehicle Recovery companies can monitor whether the vehicle is moving from one place to another or in which area it is parked.
Similar IoT-based solutions can be used to prevent theft across several industries. For example, the logistics industry has witnessed a rise in global cargo theft, with about €1 billion stolen goods each year. In this context, solutions to safeguard cargo transportation assets are becoming necessary, and asset-tracking solutions based on IoT offer a new way to secure goods for a reasonable price.
As the demand for SVR and asset-tracking solutions grows rapidly, stakeholders need to find reliable, easy to install, and cost-effective solutions to meet the needs of their customers. Although many options are available, IoT-based solutions are currently the most suited to meet all prerequisites and best support victims, authorities, and insurance firms when a car or cargo is stolen.