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What to do about portable navigation device theft

Biometric protection - GoPal P4425I’ve started to see more stories like this one about the rise in portable navigation device theft. It happened to a co-worker of mine. Unfortunately, we tend to see this happen in a number of high-growth, high-ticket portable and mobile products such as iPods and in-dash stereos that led to the development of removable faceplates.

One local TV segment noted that Long Island police have seen a fivefold increase in theft of the devices, which would be consistent with the overall unit growth we’ve seen in the U.S. This problem will get worse before it gets better although the rapidly declining prices of PNDs may remove some incentive..

Some TV segments advise not only removing the windshield mount when you leave your car, but taking care to wipe away any smudges that the suction cup might leave behind! Fortunately, PNDs are getting thin and small enough so that stuffing them into a handbag or even a jacket pocket is becoming more of an option.

Last December, Sanyo introduced a PND with a fingerprint reader. Given the trend toward voice recognition in these devices, voiceprints may become another verification tool that, if broadly implemented, might discourage thieves,


  1. JG Mason JG Mason March 7, 2008

    Ross, I think the solution will come from convergence. A device you never leave behind is one thieves don’t steal.
    As we saw at the Garmin gig, navigation from phones is getting bigger. I use TeleNav on my phone and part of the attraction is not hiding a PND every time I get out of the car.

    Maybe Microsofts Sync could add a screen that displays your phones navigation capabilities, basically making your car a dummy terminal.

    I noted that Sprints $99 “everything plan” offers unlimited navigation making it just another commodity. Navigation on the phone isn’t perfect yet, but it coming very close.

  2. Ross Rubin Ross Rubin March 7, 2008


    Definitely agree that the phone services are improving, particularly on phones that support native development, taking advantage of the two-way connectivity at their disposal. But I think there will continue to be a PND market for the foreseeable future.

    A PND connected via a cellular connection or WiMAX, though, could be remotely tracked or wiped if it were stolen. That could be another countermeasure.

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