Techies’ new app seeks to arrest mobile phone theft


Techies’ new app seeks to arrest mobile phone theft


Xecure CEO Charles Opondo (left) and Chief Operations Manager Ibrahim Bari during an interview on October 13, 2023, at Sarova Stanley Hotel in Nairobi. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG

Two years ago, a video showing a boda boda rider brazenly snatching a mobile phone from a traffic police officer on a Nairobi road went viral. For most Kenyans, the video provided enough fodder for laughter to last them weeks.

In Charles Opondo’s and Ibrahim Bari’s fertile minds, however, the incident planted a seed that has grown into a solution that promises to help tame phone theft, which has become rampant, especially in Nairobi streets.

A fortnight ago, they released their application (App) dubbed Xecure Anti-Theft Alarm to the market after two years of extensive research.

Read: Kenya’s mobile phone uptake falls for first time

“When I saw that video, it got me thinking: if the people who are supposed to keep us safe are not safe with their gadgets, maybe something is missing in the market. How can we improve the security in our devices?” recalls Mr Opondo, who now sits as the CEO of Xecure Technology Solutions, a firm he co-founded with Mr Bari, currently the chief operating officer (COO).

So, how does the application work?

Mr Bari explains that the app has a range of features that help detect unusual activity and sound a distress call to alert the owner or deter the thief from proceeding.

“Once you download the app, it will request you to allow notifications. You will then need to choose a language, enter your email address, and set a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN), ensuring that only you can disable the alarm,” explains Mr Bari.

The app has facial recognition and fingerprint reading capabilities to enhance security.

“If picked by a different person other than the user, the alarm will immediately go off and will not stop until the set PIN is input, and its volume can’t be reduced by the usual phone buttons,” states Mr Opondo.

He adds, “The phone will also take the person’s photo and immediately send it to the owner’s email address, making it easy for them to obtain assistance from the investigative authorities.”

Additionally, the CEO explains that if an unauthorised person attempts to change the phone’s SIM card, the owner will get an email with the culprit’s actual phone number.

Switching off the phone could temporarily silence the alarm, but the loud ringing will resume immediately after the gadget is powered on again.

There’s, however, an option of disabling the security feature when one is in familiar and safe surroundings.

The duo has set a monthly fee of Sh99, which they say is an introductory charge for the initial three months of promotion, which will after that be increased to Sh199 with additional annual and biannual packages.

“We’re charging for the application because maintaining an app is not a cheap thing to do. But we’re currently running a promotion after which we’ll be charging a monthly, a biannual, and a yearly fee,” says Mr Bari.

“We are also looking at a lifetime payment plan, which will ensure that you pay just once and access the service for a lifetime.”

Users are, however, able to enjoy a three-day free trial following the installation date, after which the charges will start to be levied.

Apart from targeting phone holders seeking to prevent theft of their devices, Mr Opondo says the app will also be helpful for high-end clients holding privileged information in their gadgets.

A government official could feel threatened after losing their phone because it contains privileged information. This class of people will also find the app helpful as they will get pointers to how they can get back their lost data,” he notes.

Read: How smartphone evolved from luxury to a necessity

The app, available for download on the Google Play Store, is the latest add-on to the list of previously unveiled apps to either help deter theft of or recover stolen mobile devices. They include the Cerberus App, Phone-Thief Guard Security Pro, Prey Anti-Theft, and Where is my Droid.

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