IoT in Stolen Vehicle Recovery: It’s a Steal!

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IoT in Stolen Vehicle Recovery: It’s a Steal!

With the use of motor vehicles still on the rise, auto theft has become an increasing problem. New technologies are needed to protect vehicles.IoT in stolen vehicle recovery

by Nicolas Andrieu

Every year, about 3.5 million vehicles are stolen world wide. 700,000 across Eu rope. During 2020, 121,500 vehicles were stolen in France, which is an average of one vehicle every four minutes. Although the number decreased by 13% compared to 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Coyote Secure’s theft observatory, it is estimated that the value of stolen vehicles is around one billion Euros in France alone.

Even though the owner of the vehicle is often the most negatively affected, insurance companies are also impacted financially, while the vehicle manufacturers’ reputation comes into question.

Despite the efforts made by vehicle manufacturers to improve security, motor vehicle theft remains common and, according to Interpol, the use of the Internet has contributed to a dramatic increase in the resale of illicit automotive components in recent years, making it a major concern for law enforcement, automotive manufacturers, regulatory agencies and public health organizations.

Additionally, methods used for stealing cars are becoming increasingly sophisticated and are now able to override anti-theft devices. As a consequence, the Stolen Vehicle Recovery (SVR) market is expected to grow between 5%-6% by 2023.

Today, 85% of thefts are carried out with the help of electronic means. Most anti-theft cellular solutions are connected to the central command of the vehicle in order to power the device, thus allowing it to have multiple uses.

Cellular Solutions are Great for Thieves

For thieves, cellular solutions are a great opportunity to find and quickly disconnect the device, ultimately decreasing the chance of retrieving the vehicle. This method, known as mouse jacking, can easily be used by anyone equipped with a portable signal jammer, an inexpensive tool which can be bought on the Internet and leaves no trace of a break-in. This is proven by the fact that, in France, 80% of stolen vehicles were already using an anti-theft device.

IoT-based solutions can be used to prevent theft across many industries.
Nicolas Andrieu, Executive Vice President Europe, Middle East & Africa Sigfox


When car owners notice that their cars are gone, it is often too late as only one in five are recovered, and 30% are damaged. Even if the car is found, insurers can refuse to compensate the victim if there is no trace of break-in. Last but not least, the recovery process is usually lengthy and gives thieves enough time to dismantle stolen cars or ship them to the other side of the world. In Europe, thieves generally move cars quickly from one country to another to avoid the police. Although the EU has developed a robust program to monitor the traffic and develop a common database for stolen vehicles, the probability that a stolen vehicle will be moved to another country remains high.

Cost can be a Barrier to Technology Adaptation

Although counter measures exist, they are often expensive to roll out and to maintain. In fact, the SVR market may look to security systems such as biometric technology, radio frequency identification, and ultrasonic sensors. However their cost, the potential failure of electronic components and the amount of time needed for the installation are factors that could slow the growth of the global stolen vehicle recovery market and become a barrier to technology adoption.

IoT in stolen vehicle recovery - Keyless theft

Keyless Theft: Thieves are often harnessing sophisticated technology to hack into your car’s computer, meaning they don’t even need a key fob to start the vehicle and can drive it away in a matter of minutes.

In this context, SVR companies are facing many challenges as well as intense competition. Therefore, those companies are seeking technical alternatives that provide the same security as a private network (jamming resistant), at a lower cost and with the same customer experience. Unlike cellular or Bluetooth networks, IoT networks are able to meet three essential prerequisites to facilitate stolen vehicles recovery.

IoT devices can provide one solution which will emit signals in different regions for the same price. Since IoT devices require low electrical consumption, battery costs are also lowered, further decreasing overall hardware costs. The battery consumption of an IoT device can also be precisely calculated and monitored – this critical information reduces high maintenance costs, and the need to replace the device when it is not actually necessary.

Unlike traditional security systems, IoT devices and networks offer a new proposition to SVR companies. The devices are small enough to be concealed inside a vehicle and quick and easy to install as there is no need to connect the device to the on-board diagnostics of the car and dismantle the panel, which would be the case with a wired solution, thus eliminating installation costs and faulty installations. Additionally, IoT based solutions offer a long-life, battery-based device, which can be placed in multiple spots within the vehicle, rendering the detection of the device by a thief complex.

Most Stolen Vehicles are Hidden Underground

Another advantage of IoT devices is that they are not attached to a specific base station or network and thus offer a wide range area of coverage. Moreover, they are capable of recovering messages from the faintest signals, while other technologies are affected by jamming, strong interference (e.g. in cities like London or Paris) or the lack of network in underground locations. This is important, as 43% of stolen vehicles are hidden in enclosed and/or underground locations to avoid being found. In France, this practice has almost doubled between 2017 and 2020, proving that professional thieves have discovered that mobile phone networks and GPS will stop working once underground.

IoT in stolen vehicle recovery - Quick Escape Europe

Quick Escape In Europe, thieves generally move cars quickly from one country to another to avoid the police.

In fact, IoT solution providers have developed geolocation capabilities based on network triangulation which can provide an estimation of the stolen vehicle’s location. The network provider receives regular data from the car and, as soon as a jamming attempt is detected, the device switches to recovery mode. This means that he network will estimate the vehicle’s location for every message received, allowing the security company to dispatch the nearest recovery team. Consequently, even if a jammer is attempting to block the signal, Stolen Vehicle Recovery companies can monitor whether the vehicle is moving from one place to another, or in which area it is parked.

IoT in stolen vehicle recovery - Statistics Interpol

Unintended Consequences: Stealing cars is often just the first step towards a wide range of criminal activities.

Similar IoT-based solutions can be used to prevent theft across several industries. For example, the logistics industry has witnessed a rise in global cargo theft, with goods worth about one billion Euros stolen each year. In this context, solutions to safeguard cargo transportation assets are becoming necessary, and asset-tracking solutions based on IoT are offering a new way to secure goods for a reasonable price.

As the demand for SVR and asset tracking solutions grows rapidly, stakeholders need to find reliable, easy to install and cost-effective solutions to meet the needs of their customers. Although many options are available, IoT based solutions are currently the most suited to meet all prerequisites and best support victims, authorities and insurance firms when a car or cargo is stolen.

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