Turning a cold war spy secret into a cheap anti-theft device

By Paul Michael on 27 April 2007 (Updated 9 June 2007) 2 comments

shhh

In the days of old, when spies passed messages to each other, they used many hidden messages. One of these methods was to hide the information in a dot of plastic or microfilm about the size of a pin head, and then end a sentence with it.

To the spy in the know, they could scan the page for the dot, pick up the tiny information and magnify it. Since the emergence of more sophisticated technology these methods had all but vanished. But now they've found a new use...marking your valuables.

These little gadgets are called DataDots . And they're tiny. About the size of a grain of sand, made of a polyster substrate and laser etched with a unique code. A code that can be traced right back to you, the owner.

DataDot

HOW ARE THEY USED?
Simple. The dots come pre-mixed in a UV adhesive and can be applied anywhere on any product or valuable. It can be as big as a car or as small as a piece of jewelry. From an earring to a truck, you now have peace of mind knowing that your unique tag is almost invisble to the naked eye.

When you receive a kit from DataDot you register the code in a database that can be accessed by national law enforcement agencies. That way it can be traced straight back to you.

BUT HOW DO THEY PREVENT THEFT?
The following information comes straight from the source of the Datadots...

DataDots have been tested by insurance and Government agencies world-wide as to their theft deterrent capabilities. Theft deterrence is established by:

  • The dot size and quantum applied with 1,000's of dots often applied to assets
  • Use of warning stickers to highlight that an item is marked
  • National registration
  • Police awareness and ease of reading any dot

These factors combine to ensure that the chance of a thief stealing your items and either being caught re-handed with those items or having on-sold those items, escalates considerably. By simply escalating the chance of being caught, drives the theft deterrence. Police need to find only 1 dot to prove ownership and make an arrest.

When an independent study looked into Datadots and theft, they found a 60% reduction in professional theft on cars including BMWs and Subarus. I also suspect it will be a way to get a reduction on your auto and home property insurance.

WHAT'S THE COST?
For such great technology, I was surprised to find a home starter kit is under $25 . Some car manufacturers are also planning to apply Datadots on the production line, which is great news for consumers everywhere.

I think perhaps the most impressive thing about this whole story is the recycling of an outdated idea into something tangible and beneficial to modern-day life. No need to reinvent the wheel, just find a new use for it. Great stuff.

Photo by Spike55151

A note to my readers:
I will be on vacation until March 5th, so please excuse my absense from Wisebread for the next week. Fortunately, there's always a stellar amount of great stories available every day from the other top writers. So, you won't miss me. I promise.

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Jessica Okon's picture

Have a good vacation Paul. Good post, I like the whole spook factor about these dots. I think I'd go dot crazy with these things, even dotting my favorite pens at work.

Guest's picture
Guest

These microdots are a cool way of identifying and protecting assets.

Microdots and other identification technologies are now being used to protect cars, motorcycles, laptops, and other assets. The rate of theft on the parts of these items continues to grow as outlined on www.parts-marking.com

DotGuard International has also combined microdots with GPS tracking to provide both a part-marking and identification package for all types of asset classes including agricultural materials.