Thursday, January 10, 2008

Protection features should be built into mobile devices

I once left a camera on a train and it was never returned to me. Why not add protection features to mobile devices that allow the user to enter name and contact information visible in the startup screen, thus facilitating an easy return should a device be lost and found?

Not sure if you realize this, but the person who "found" your camera was pretty happy to find it and not know how to get in touch with you. In fact, I've had a couple of similar experiences where the person who found my stuff was unable to return it even though it was pretty easy to track me down.

Between high school and college, I spent a summer backpacking through Europe. Being a poor college student, I didn't have much money, so when we got into Berlin late one night, we ended up just sleeping on the floor in the train station. Like most people, I don't sleep with my shoes on but instead took them off and set them on my bag between me and the wall. The guy who found them stepped over my friend and me and grabbed my shoes and walked off with them. Given that they were right next to me, I think it was pretty obvious who they belonged to. And yet they were never returned. Did I mention that I didn't have enough money to even pay for a bed in a hostel let alone a new pair of shoes? Yeah, I'm pretty sure whoever took them needed them more than I did given that it was day three of a 30 day walking tour of Europe.

Or what about the time when someone found the CDs and sunglasses I had in my car? I'm sure that if I'd had a high-tech LCD display with my name and address on them that the person who found them would have known they were mine and left them there or returned them to me. But being as they were inside my vehicle, there was no way for this person to know who they really belonged to, so I never saw them again. I was pretty bummed about that one, too.

The best lost and found experience I've ever had, though, was in my high school gym class. Thinking that my sweaty gym clothes were not that valuable of a find, I didn't bother to put a lock on my locker. But one day I walked in to get dressed for class, and my shorts were missing. A couple of days later, one of the guys in my class shows up wearing these shorts. Apparently he had found them in my locker but didn't know who to return them to. I mentioned that they looked an awful lot like the shorts I was missing, but he insisted that he had purchased them at a big box retailer that didn't actually carry that brand of shorts.

I'm sure that had a technical solution been available, none of these found items would have stayed lost for very long. Because people are just that trustworthy. Think of it this way: if every found item were returned to its owner, all those folks who make their living selling stuff on eBay would be out of work. And what would that do to our economy? Thanks for the suggestion!

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