Black box for your car, thieves beware

The Karnataka RTO puts the number of vehicles plying on the roads of Bangalore as 36 lakhs, according to a 2008 estimate. This includes 31 lakh two -wheelers and 5 lakh four wheelers. The numbers have only increased since. The city’s automotive abundance is also a haven for thieves who can have a pick at the vehicles they want to drive away with.

Aloka D’Souza, 21, a graduate of Fashion Design from Mount Carmel College became a victim of automobile theft last year when her Scooty Pep was stolen. Her vehicle key was stolen from her when she was playing at the college playground. Thinking she had lost them, she used a duplicate. Meanwhile, the thief followed her to college the next day and after noting the details of her vehicle, stole it when she parked it and left for classes. "My bike was never found again and it was a difficult time for me to get around with no vehicle. If I had known about any anti-theft measures, I would have certainly adopted them," she says.

The top end variant of Micro Vehicle Black Box is equipped with GPS capability. Yogaraj S Mudalgi

Automotive theft is increasingly becoming a concern among vehicle owners. Central locking and alarm systems are no longer sufficient to protect one’s automobile. Thieves now circumvent these systems by breaking in manually through windows and cutting out battery supply to the alarm system. Two-wheelers are at greater risk of theft as there are very fewer security systems available and also because they can simply be carried away.

There are many options available in the market for automotive security – some simple, some hi-tech. These devices can be an add-on to the existing central locking alarm systems to better secure your vehicle.

Gear locks
Not too popular in Bangalore, gear locks are one way that cars can be secured in case anyone breaks in. These devices lock the transmission and the gear lever in reverse position so that thieves cannot speed away with the car. The car only moves in reverse direction if started while the gear lock is still on.  They are secured best when the car is parked with the boot facing a wall.

I-Trans has sold close to 1300 units of T-Cop since 2009 when it was launched. Pic: Yograj S Mudalgi

Gear locks come in two types – U-type and Pin type. There is no difference in the functionality of both and they vary only in their design to fit different makes of gearboxes in different cars.

Xenos, a popular auto accessories company sells gear locks on demand in Bangalore. They cost between Rs 1500 and Rs 1700 with installation charges costing extra.  Govardhan M, marketing in-charge at Xenos in Bangalore says, "Gear locks are popular in North India due to rampant auto thefts there. They are yet to gain popularity here so we supply only if customers request for it."

Another popular accessory maker, Auto Cop too has a range of gear locks but does not sell them in Bangalore due to lack of demand.

Go hi-tech

Thefts may not always be preventable. If in case all security systems are breached, vehicle owners can still track their vehicles and possibly recover them.

Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), the technology that keeps most of us connected through cell phones has found another use. GSM is now being used by companies to help you track the location of your vehicle in case it is stolen. The device, smaller than a pencil box, fitted in any part of the car and under the seat in two-wheelers. It contains a GSM based SIM card which is assigned a cell phone number. When pre-configured messages are sent to the device, it replies with the location of the vehicle, whether it is moving or stationary and in high end variants, even lock the car or cut off ignition. The device replies with a message containing the area location in which the vehicle is located. However, unlike GPS, it cannot provide exact geographical coordinates of the vehicle but only the cellular network provider’s tower address in whose radius the vehicle is located.

A typical SMS alert from T-Cop. Pic: Yograj S Mudalgi

The advantage of GSM based tracking system is that it can be operated even while the owner is out of town, provided there is cellular network coverage at the new destination. However, the system is heavily dependent on the strength of cellular network and if the vehicle or the owner is at a location with poor network, they will not receive any alerts.

There are several GSM based vehicle tracking systems available in the market now. Two of them are – T-Cop sold by a Bangalore-based company called I-Trans and Micro Vehicle Black Box (VBB) sold by Micro Technologies, a Pune-based company.

There are three variants available for T-Cop. The ‘Basic’ model costs Rs 6000 and has siren and SMS alert capability. The ‘Gold’ variant which costs Rs 9500 can inform the owner through SMS, the route taken by the driver, allow the user to add up to 10 additional phone numbers to whom the alerts will be sent and also get information on the routes traveled by the vehicle in the past 72 hours. There is a silver variant also available at Rs 7500.

For bikes, the device has fewer functions. Ranging from Rs 1500 to 6000, the devices can send SMS alerts in case there is unauthorised ignition, send location of the bike through SMS depending on the model.

Nimai Meher, 31, a software engineer at AT&T got the basic version of T-cop installed in his Maruti Swift a few months ago, after seeing an advertisement "I did not want to wait till I heard of a theft incident to take precautions. It is always better to be safe," he says.

MicroVBBs are distributed in Bangalore by Sparta Securities, located near Magadi Road. The device works using GSM platform and offers additional functions but at a higher cost. It is available in three variants Economy, Elite, Navigator, which cost Rs 7300, Rs 12500, Rs 18000 respectively exclusive of tax. The Economy variant can give GSM based location through SMS, lock or unlock the vehicle when an SMS is sent, immobilise the vehicle remotely.

The ‘Elite’ MicroVBB variant has the added functionality of an attached car phone through which registered user can speak to the driver of the vehicle and also alert any attempt to remove or change SIM card. The ‘Navigator’ model packs in the extra punch of GPS tracking system, enabling vehicle owners to know real time location of their vehicle. The vehicle owner is provided a secure Internet link through which he/she can view the GPS coordinates of the vehicle and also view trip logs. This data is available for up to 90 days. The service costs extra 250 rupees a month. Although Micro technology has security systems for two-wheelers, they are not distributed in Bangalore.

For T-Cop, I-Trans has tied up with Vodafone to provide SIM cards. Micro VBB, for its part, requires the buyers to provide a registered SIM card of their choice preferably with free messages. Users need to keep in mind that the SIM card has to be recharged periodically with mobile currency to ensure the cellular company does not deactivate it.

Park wisely

Inspector of JP Nagar police station S K Umesh says that indiscriminate parking on roads and pavements is a risky affair. "Vehicles should ideally be parked in parking lots where there is some security. For a few rupees, people risk having their vehicles broken in to or worse, have it stolen." He says that most vehicle theft are done by the youth who have a taste for a high-flying life and in the past four months 30 cases of two-wheeler thefts and 2 cases of car thefts have been reported within JP Nagar Police Station limits. "Thieves break in to a car steal them and use them for a few days till they tire of it and then abandon it" he adds.

He says that cars and bikes are sold for a fraction of their costs because thieves are just happy with a few thousand rupees. There are slim chances of vehicles being traced as there is no central registry for thefts and a stolen vehicle can be re-registered in another RTO with manipulated documents and driven away under a new licence plate.

Thieves don’t always look to sell the vehicle as a whole. "You can kiss goodbye to your vehicle if the thief decides to dismantle your car and sell it part-by-part. It is illegal to dismantle a vehicle without RTO’s permission but it doesn not matter to them. Tyres, rims, stereo, seats, and engine chassis, anything that can be sold will be sold," says Umesh.

For more details you can contact

Xenos – 080 32941149 or visit www.xenos.co.in
I – Trans – 080 26685811 or visit http://www.tcop.co.in/home.php

Micro Technologies – http://www.microvbb.net/

About Yogaraj S Mudalgi 88 Articles

Yogaraj Mudalgi works in the educational training industry and takes an interest in all things happening in Bangalore.

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