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Technology to Prevent Tool Theft

10 March 2023 | Updated 16 March 2023

According to Direct Line insurance, a tool is stolen from a tradesperson every 17 minutes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Can more be done to safeguard their livelihoods?

Insurance claims for theft can be complex, especially if it's deemed not enough was done to deter the attack, and for the self-employed, this could be a very stressful process. Last year, Herts Tool Company studied data of toll thefts in London for previous years – TWinFM reported on the hotspots, types of tools taken, and recommendations for avoiding the identified risk.

That said, it’s simply the case that even the precautious operatives can and will be targeted. Smart security technology could see a reduction in these incidents, however many in the industry feel that something needs to be done to uncover what happens to the stolen tools.


"It's indicative of a market within the building industry that is rife. Where are these tools going?"


– Brian Berry
Chief Executive, Federation of Master Builders


Keeping Track


Identity-locking technology has long been a common feature in the smartphone industry for hindering unauthorised users, as well as services to locate the devices. Given the value of some power tools, tools boxes or other general and specific items for work, it stands to reason that similar guards could very well be worth implementing, even if it involves attaching digital functionality to analogue equipment.

Back in 2016 tool manufacturers Milwaukee announced ONE-KEY, the first digital platform for job site tools. By integrating industry-leading tool electronics with a custom-built cloud-based program, ONE-KEY provides a new level of control and access to information.

It uses sensors either built inside over 50 utility products or clipped onto many other-brand tools that can then link to the owner's smartphone via Bluetooth. While no biometric access is offered, you can set a geofence that enables an alarm when the tools are removed from an area.

The concerned tool owner can then track the kit if it is in range for one of 400,000 smartphone users that have the app across the country. Some of the Milwaukee tools can also be temporarily deactivated remotely at this stage.


Building Evidence


The tactic for technology against theft is, for the most part, data collection for crime investigation. This is not to say that security is a secondary – the more locks the better, with many opting for cages and secured boxes in their vehicle – but that this is exactly the hurdle a thief is preparing to overcome with tools of their own.

It stands to reason then that it is important to catch anyone in the act if they do get away with it. Devin Chawda and Stephen Holland spoke to the BBC about the interest they got from tradespeople wanting something mobile, at a show where they were advertising a security camera. This led them to found ARMD, specialising in equipment and insurance for commercial vehicles.

It offers a motion sensor and location tracker, as well as a SIM hub connected to a phone network to alert the user.

“In the event where someone breaks in, you instantly get alerted, you can take action, you can record, you can alert the police," said Mr Chawda.

This alone isn’t always enough to follow up on the crime or even claim on some insurance policies, which is why ARMD offers a bespoke package and smartphone app for it. Users can build a digital itinerary that reflects their physical one, and the service shows the claim value of each tool – this is lowered over time, but not below 50 per cent.

There are other solution companies, such as uWatch that also use a tool inventory application and a similar security device. Yet even with many choosing to build their own suite of property safety measures with everything from aesthetic deterrents to tracking chips and web-eye, it’s clear there’s a criminal industry of selling the stolen goods to be tackled at the source level – could this be achieved through tighter regulations at the point of tool use on work sites?

"It's indicative of a market within the building industry that is rife. Where are these tools going?" said Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, to the BBC.

You can find the full data here.

Picture: power tools. Image credit: Pixabay.

Article written by Bailey Sparkes | Published 10 March 2023


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