SA firm uses tech to turn tables on hijackers - TechCentral

SA firm uses tech to turn tables on hijackers

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A South African vehicle tracking and fleet management company, Pulsit Electronics, has developed a system it believes could help weaken the scourge of truck hijackings in Southern Africa. It works by countering the signal jamming devices criminals use to block vehicle tracking systems.

Pulsit Electronics chief financial and information officer Bokkie Fourie explains that hijackers use a range of jamming systems — some of them quite sophisticated, others less so — to block tracking systems from communicating via the cellular networks or via satellite. Once jammed, they typically either hijack the vehicle or work in cahoots with the driver and move it to another location where they offload its precious cargo.

But Pulsit’s system, which took about six months from conception to final development, is able to identify when frequency jammers are being used and, if detected, will put a vehicle into a disabled state in which it can’t be driven.

Though the driver is still able to control the vehicle’s power steering and brakes in this state, he isn’t able to accelerate until the jamming signal is switched off. An alert can also be sent to a central office, prompting an agent to try to call the driver and, if necessary, to call in a response team.

Fourie says signal jamming is a big headache for logistics companies in Southern Africa. Pulsit installed its first commercial version of its jamming mitigation system last month and Fourie claims a number of logistics firms have approached the company interested in using it in their fleets.

Fourie explains that the system is able to determine when tracking signals are being jammed. It does this by measuring signal characteristics to determine if there is deterioration through noise in the frequency bands they use.

“When jamming happens, we induce the disabled state, which inhibits acceleration. The truck can idle — it can gear down and park — but it can’t go anywhere.”

If the tracking system is able to filter through the noise sufficiently, it will transmit its normal position and a distress signal with details of the jamming event. Even if the tracking device is unplugged, the vehicle will remain in the disabled state. Fourie says it’s virtually impossible to disable the limp mode, but he declines to explain in detail how it works, saying it’s a trade secret.

Fleet owners can decide whether or not to alert potential hijackers that their trucks are fitted with the system by placing a notice to this effect on their vehicles.

Pulsit Electronics is now developing a similar system for trailers for instances where hijackers, for example, remove the trailer and hook it up to another truck and then force the driver to drive his now trailer-less vehicle along his usual route to fool the tracking system and those monitoring it.

“If they split horse and trailer, we’re looking at various options to immobilise the trailer,” explains Fourie.  — © 2014 NewsCentral Media

3 Comments

  1. CharlieTango on

    It would have been helpful to get comment from tracking companies to validate the claim about jamming devices.

  2. Géraud Droster Kirjool on

    Hijacking and truck hijacking in particular is not the simple violent crime it is made out to be. The syndicates involved is quite sophisticated and use various technologies to facilitate their criminal endeavors.

    The image of a violent unsophisticated hijacker suites the racial stereotypes prevalent in South Africa. It also shields the Organized crime figures and corrupt senior SAPS members who are involved, as well as serving the interests of the ecosystem of security companies that feed of these crimes.

    Most of the hijackings taking place in South Africa are highly organized in which information on vehicles are first collected from the logistic companies in the case of trucks and from insurance companies in the case of private vehicles. Information on the security system of the vehicles and how to neutralize them are also collected. The hijackers then depend on a network of businesses that facilitate the disassembly of the vehicle or sale of its goods.

    Various networks (often in competition with each other) of corrupt SAPS members facilitate the movement of vehicles across the borders or around South Africa in either disassembled or complete form by providing information to the syndicates or even escorting the vehicles.

    This is common knowledge among all involved, both businesses targeted and the various security agencies whether private or government. Indeed a certain amount of loss to hijacking has been included in the business models of these businesses and is covered by their insurance as a normal part of their business.

  3. Bokwe Mafuna on

    Generally tracking compnies would not comment to confirm the weaknesses in their own systems; but would take note of the developments.

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