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UK firms tout camera phone blinding tech

Creates wireless privacy zones

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A pair of British companies today teamed up to market a technology that allows camera phones or digital cameras to be disabled in a localised environment.

Iceberg Systems, a developer of Internet and mobile systems, claims its Safe Haven technology effectively prevents the misuse of camera phones. The company has appointed audio technology licensing firm Sensaura to promote Safe Haven.

In recent months, the widespread adoption of camera phones has provoked concern among child protection agencies that the technology could use by perverts to surreptitiously snap pictures of youngsters.

The increased availability of digital cameras of all types has also raised concerns about possible industrial espionage among some corporates, as evidenced by Samsung's recent decision to ban camera phones from its premises.

Meanwhile, Japanese youngsters are increasingly snapping away at magazines and books in shops, then printing out the pictures at home - all to save themselves the cover price.

David Blagden, an IP Broker at Sensaura, said that as camera phones become the norm rather than the exception, banning them will become an increasingly cumbersome approach to such problems. Sports Centres would have to collect a large number of phones and businesses concerned about camera phones would end up prohibiting many people from using mobile phones on their premises.

By contrast, Safe Haven technology allows the camera functionality of the phone or other electronic devices (such as camera PDAs, digital cameras and multi-purpose MP3 players) to be disabled without affecting any other usage of the device.

Safe Haven works by transmitting a signal in a localised environment such as a school, swimming pool, office facility or factory, which "disables the camera functionality of devices in the nearby environment", the companies claim.

The snag is that Safe Haven technology needs to be integrated at the time of manufacture into new devices or installed as a Java download update to suitable equipment already in the market.

"You need to have an approved camera," Blagden admitted, adding that the incorporation of Sade Haven technology is unlikely to affect handset prices.

Safe Haven sends out a signal announcing the presence of a wireless privacy zone. When this signal is received by the phone, it disables its imaging system. Each Safe Haven node would have a range of around 300m and cost a "few hundred dollars" (pricing is yet to be set).

Blagden was reluctant to go into much detail on the workings of the technology, so we can only guess at how easy it might be to defeat.

Sensaura and Iceberg Systems are currently in negotiation with the world's leading mobile handset manufacturers to implement the technology, along with blue chip companies, organisations and governments worldwide, they claim. The companies expect the technology to start arriving on the market from the beginning of next year. ®

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