Uh-Oh: Police Radar Guns Could Soon Tell If You're Texting, Too

September 18, 2014

Privacy is taking a real beating. Every few weeks, another group of hackers nicks our beloved credit card numbers, or a legion of crafty young gentlemen burrow into the online storage accounts of certain female celebrities, proving that iCloud isn't the Fort Knox of data we were promised.

And as if all that weren't bad enough, at least one technology company is working on a device that tells police not just if you're speeding, but also if you're texting behind the wheel.

The company is ComSonics, a firm that specializes in handheld radar devices. While most of its products are targeted at cable companies, it offers a growing number of services for police forces, including calibration of radar guns used to identify speeders.

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Now, ComSonics is using its two areas of expertise to create a new device -- one that looks and works like a radar gun, but that uses cable company technology to spot texters.

HOW IT WORKS

Many of ComSonics' gadgets are designed to help cable companies detect signal leaks, which can happen when wiring is improperly installed or gets damaged by pests. The devices help determine the spot from which digital data is leaking so that repair teams can fix it.

It's not a huge leap to shift from those sorts of gadgets to others that spot digital data leaking from cell phones when text messages are sent. Such devices could prove very, very popular in 44 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where it's illegal for motorists to send texts while driving.  

Making the development process slightly easier for ComSonics is the fact that text messages use a slightly different frequency than other cell phone-related activities. So, for example, ComSonics' gun won't confuse an outgoing text message with music streaming from a phone to a car's stereo system. 

While the technology is fairly simple and straightforward, though, the real-world application has a few kinks left to work out. For example, if there are multiple riders in a car, ComSonics' device isn't precise enough to determine exactly who was sending the text message. It would be quite possible to accuse someone of distracted driving when in fact a passenger was sending a text message -- maybe even from the driver's phone.

Such technological hurdles, though, are probably surmountable. We put people on the moon and cappuccino in our potato chips: anything's possible. You've been warned.

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