Newspaper article International New York Times

Protection in Form of a Tiny Beacon ; Makers of Opuss Tracker Say Device Can Help Find Jewels Taken by Robbers

Newspaper article International New York Times

Protection in Form of a Tiny Beacon ; Makers of Opuss Tracker Say Device Can Help Find Jewels Taken by Robbers

Article excerpt

The Opuss Tracker is small enough to be hidden inside a watch box and when activated, emits a signal that can be tracked on GPS or a phone.

High-value watch and jewelry thefts in the past two years have left owners of luxury stores in France feeling deeply vulnerable.

Now a new device has come on the market that may help them to at least limit their losses, should the robberies continue.

The device is a tiny beacon, small enough to be hidden inside a watch box. When activated, it emits a signal that can be tracked and plotted using a satellite or cellphone mapping system.

Called the Opuss Tracker, the beacon "is a real-time tracking system that transmits a continuous signal to help pinpoint the trajectory and speed of the beacon via dots on a map," said Michel Tribouillard, a computer engineer with 25 years of experience designing software for the luxury industry.

"Many boutiques are bunkers already, but that has not stopped robbers," said Mr. Tribouillard, whose company Solubee, in Biarritz, France, makes the tracker.

"Onsite security is often highly sophisticated, but ask insurers or law enforcement -- once the robbery is completed, the likelihood of finding the stock is close to nil," Mr. Tribouillard told a conference of insurance and luxury market professionals in Paris in July.

According to Mr. Tribouillard, the beacon can be hidden inside a watch box, put into a dummy watch in place of its movement or carried in a traveling jeweler's briefcase. The GPS satellite tracking system can pinpoint the location of the beacon to within three feet, he said.

It can be triggered manually, or will start automatically if moved beyond a defined perimeter -- that of a boutique -- and starts moving at unusual speed.

Once triggered, it issues an alert to receivers on a pre- established list -- such as security personnel, the shop's owner, or others -- and starts emitting a continuous signal.

"What is innovative about our system is the miniaturization of the beacon and its extended battery life," Mr. Tribouillard said. "It is the smallest beacon on the market with the longest battery life."

The beacon is about one inch long -- a quarter the size of others on the market -- and it has, according to Mr. Tribouillard, a battery life of 12 months on standby and 24 hours in active mode. The cost of the system starts at about 400 euros, or $540.

The timing could not be better for the luxury industry in France.

"We have had several highly spectacular robberies with sizable losses, over EUR 50 million each time, in Cannes and Paris in the last two years," Stuart Wylie, an insurance loss adjuster, said in a telephone interview.

In June, a burglar armed with an assault weapon entered Karatt, a Paris boutique a few steps from the Champs Elysees, and made off with watches valued at more than EUR 1 million, escaping into the Paris underground rail system. …

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