Friday 24th September 2021

The benefits of IoT in stolen vehicle recovery

Published on April 13th, 2021

As we experience a rapid global rise in the use of motor vehicles for citizens and businesses alike, the rate of theft has also been increasing consistently and auto manufacturers are adapting new technologies to protect vehicles.

Even though the owner of the vehicle is often the most negatively affected, as Nicolas Andrieu, SVP Europe, Middle East and Africa at Sigfox says, insurance companies are also impacted financially.

Despite the efforts made by vehicle manufacturers to improve security, motor vehicle theft remains very common and the use of the Internet has contributed to a dramatic increase in the resale of illicit automotive components.

Additionally, methods used for stealing cars are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are now able to override anti-theft devices. As a consequence, the Stolen Vehicle Recovery (SVR) market is expected to grow between 5%-6% by 2023.

Stolen vehicle recovery (SVR)

Today, 85% of thefts are carried out with the help of electronic means. Most anti-theft cellular solutions are connected to the central command of the vehicle in order to power the device, 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 which can be bought on the internet and leaves no trace of a break-in. In France, for example, 80% of stolen vehicles were already using an anti-theft device.

When car owners notice that their cars are gone, it is often too late as only one in five are recovered, and 30% are damaged. Even if the car is found, insurers can refuse to compensate the victim if there is no trace of 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 counter-measures 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, however their cost, 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 are seeking 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 are able to meet three essential prerequisites to facilitate stolen vehicles 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 the need to replace 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 thus 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.

Nicolas Andrieu

IoT solution providers have developed geolocation capabilities based on network triangulation which can provide an estimation of 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 is attempting 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. Solutions to safeguard cargo transportation assets are becoming necessary, and asset-tracking solutions based on IoT are offering 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.

The author is Nicolas Andrieu, SVP Europe, Middle East and Africa at Sigfox.

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