Latent Wireless

Created in the Corridor: Latent Wireless | Published March 27, 2017

IOWA CITY, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) — According to the FBI, 97 percent of stolen laptop computers are never recovered and thefts of smartphones are costing consumers millions. Right now, an Iowa City police officer is hoping to bring those numbers way down with a new product he Created in the Corridor.

“I was working for an internet provider in the Quad Cities,” recalls Officer David Schwindt, about the time he applied for his first job in law enforcement 20 years ago. He says he secured the position partly because of his tech background. “It was a small agency and they wanted some help with network administration in their department. So they were looking for somebody that met the police criteria and had some computer experience and I just fit right in.”

Fast forward a decade when a new challenge surfaced for investigators like Schwindt. “We were going on scene of a search warrant—most typically for child pornography—and we would get there and collect all of the evidence and take it back to the lab, and lo and behold, none of the files we were looking for were there.”

People had started buying wireless hard drives and stashing them in secret places. But like any wireless device, those hard drives have their own “digital fingerprint” called a MAC address. “So whether it’s a laptop computer, a cell phone, a television, a gaming system…anything Wi-Fi enabled has a global unique MAC address,” explains the 16-year veteran of the Iowa City Police Department.

“So whether it’s a laptop computer, a cell phone, a television, a gaming system…anything Wi-Fi enabled has a global unique MAC address,” explains the 16-year veteran of the Iowa City Police Department.

Schwindt started researching ways to adapt available technology to actively and legally search for and locate stolen wireless devices. Eventually, he received a patent for his Latent Wireless software and did some beta testing last fall. “We had everything from a small, ten-man department up to state and federal agencies that participated in our beta, and some international agencies, too, because there’s just nothing else out there like it.”

Schwindt’s software is designed to run “behind the scenes” on computer systems already installed in squad cars as it detects signals of stolen devices within a few hundred feet.

“It’ll pop up on the screen notifying (officers) what the device is, what agency entered it, any notes on the case, and it’ll open up a Google Maps system where we’ll start plotting pins on the Google Map.”

Schwindt says officers can then use a directional antenna to pinpoint a device’s exact location.

Thanks to Cloud technology, every department running the Latent Wireless software has access to the database of known stolen items. That’s an advantage recognized by Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek. “Somebody could come here from Washington, D.C. that has a stolen device and all of a sudden it pops up in small town Iowa,” says Pulkrabek. The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office is now one of 84 agencies interested in testing the software. “We’re constantly patrolling the towns and if we happen to drive by a residence and (it) pops up that hey, we have a stolen device in there, something that we can work with to start an investigation on, I think it’s just great.”

Latent Wireless just went live a month ago and Schwindt believes it has the potential of going global. You can learn more about Latent Wireless HERE.