February 17, 2006

Internet Resources

Korky Koroluk

Boomerang uses GPS to hone in on your stolen equipment

It’s been a while since I wrote anything about equipment theft, but a recent note from Boomerang and a chat with my friendly neighbourhood auto mechanic reminded me it’s time to look at the subject again.

With my car in for a little work, I was passing a few minutes with the service centre’s manager, Derek Atwill. He mentioned that his shop had lately installed quite a few Boomerang tracking devices, little gadgets designed to help recover stolen cars. Then, almost as an afterthought, he added: “You know, we’ve been putting a lot of those things into construction equipment lately as well.”

Later the same day, my email yielded a copy of Boomflash, a monthly bulletin from Boomerang, in which the company outlines recent successes in recovering vehicles and equipment that have their devices installed.

It turns out December was a busy month for them, with 59 recoveries on the books. That total represented $2.8 million in assets recovered in one month alone. Included were a few pieces of construction equipment.

In 10 years the company has recovered more than 4,000 vehicles, representing more than $200 million, in assets. Last year alone, it led police to more than 100 arrests for vehicle theft.

Equipment theft has long been a problem for the construction industry. Daily Commercial News has written about it many times and various construction associations and insurance companies have run awareness campaigns and incentive programs. Still, stuff gets stolen.

Simply put, the Boomerang system is a small transponder secreted somewhere on your vehicle or equipment. You get a couple of high-tech key fobs and some peace of mind. If the vehicle’s engine is started without one of the key fobs being present, the transponder sends a signal to the company’s tracking centre. The owner and the police are informed, and, since the tracking centre can determine the vehicle’s location within a few metres, police can often find and recover the vehicle within an hour or two of the theft.

The company also sells a cheaper system with fewer bells and whistles.

For this you will pay about $700 for the cheaper system, about $900 for the fancier one. That includes installation and the first year of service. The service fee in subsequent years runs about $10 to $15 a month.

Many insurance companies offer discounts for Boomerang-equipped vehicles, so there are savings over the long term.

Boomerangs operate on a wavelength close to the band used by cell phones, which means the locating signals can continue to be sent even if the vehicle is in an underground garage. In fact, one vehicle was tracked down after it had been placed in a shipping container.

It’s an unobtrusive system, with no wires or antennas visible to give its presence away. The transponder installed on your equipment is not much bigger than a pack of playing cards.

Boomerang began as a Canadian company, and still is, although it has been bought by LoJack Corp., of the United States. The two firms operate separately, each with its own technology.

LoJack’s system uses a global positioning system to locate vehicles, which means the vehicle can’t be followed into a parking garage, for example.

Although LoJack operates in much of the industrialized world, neither its system, nor Boomerang’s can yet be applied everywhere. In Canada, for example, Boomerang’s service is available only in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, although expansion to other parts of the country is in the works.

Korky Koroluk is an Ottawa-based freelance writer. Send comments to editor@dailycommercialnews.com

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