Philippines is a country infested with unsuspecting thieves lurking in the street s, mostly going after devices of bystanders such as smartphones.
According to a study commissioned by software company Galileo Services Inc., there is a 41% cellphone robbery rate in the country – something that calls for an ingenious solution.
This situation has triggered a group of Filipino developers led by top electronics engineer Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada who has come up with a smartphone app that combats the smartphone theft problem.
“Ano ba ang worrisome? [You know what’s worrisome?] Identity theft,” says Lozada. “We are now a smartphone society. Opportunity for thieving rises.”
For this, his team made an app called TARA, or Theft Apprehension and Asset Recovery Application.
“We need to feel safe whenever we go out. This is why we developed TARA,” Lozada tells during the app’s formal launching. “It’s like a seatbelt for your mobile phone.”
The app is aimed at letting the smartphone users lock, locate, and wipe out files when their device gets stolen, so it will be rendered useless in case the stealer uses it for criminal activity or reselling.
It is the first telco-enabled emergency stop app. The user has to make sure that he or she is using a Smart, Sun, TNT, or Globe SIM that is slotted on SIM1 if using a dual SIM phone.
TARA is fairly easy to use. After downloading the app on a separate phone, the user has to register with an 8-digit PIN. Once the phone theft happens, the user should be alert to text these keywords to 5161 for Smart, Sun, and TNT subscribers and to 21585161 for Globe users:
LOCK (space) PHONE NUMBER (space) eight-digit PIN
Doing this enables the stolen device to lock and ring an alarm to get the attention of people nearby. The thief cannot get away with replacing the SIM card or removing the battery as the smartphone will still ring the alarm when switched on. The app also locks the phone’s controls so there’s no way to turn down the volume or divert the sound to a headset.
Notably, it can even work when the stolen smartphone is without load.
TARA can be activated for only P15 a week, P50 a month, and P500 a year after being downloaded from the Google PlayStore.
Its makers are looking at expanding the app to nearby nations in the Southeast Asia. However, they are securing a strong Philippine market to check if the technology is indeed reliable.