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Locally developed app helps prevent users from losing their phones

Chaperone is currently designed for Android devices only
phone_with_chaperone
Courtesy of the University of Waterloo

A new app created by a PhD student at the University of Waterloo could help prevent you from losing your phone.

Jiayi Chen is the mastermind behind the app. 

"I was in a restaurant and after I finished my meal, I left without taking my phone, I was out the door and heading toward the bus stop when a waiter ran out and said, 'Hey, you forgot your phone.' I was lucky, but it got me thinking. What if a smartphone could detect whether it's about to become unattended and then could alert the owner while the device was still within reach?"

Chaperone uses a sonar-type method known as "active acoustic sensing" to detect a smartphone owner's movements and will alert them if it believes they are walking away from their phone 

The app, currently only for android devices, simply uses the phone's microphone and speaker to track the users moving pattern. 

In a release, the university breaks down the process.

"When Chaperone is installed on an Android phone, it uses the device's speakers to emit an inaudible high-frequency acoustic signal. It then detects the echo of that signal - its reflection from the phone's owner as well as other people and nearby objects - using its microphone. Based on the changes in the reflected signals, Chaperone can distinguish nearby moving people from static objects. Then, Chaperone extracts the owner's moving pattern and determines if the owner is about to leave the device unattended."

You don't have to worry about loud alarms going off if you do start to walk away, the app is able to adapt to the environment the phone is in. So, if you are for example in a library, a gentle ringtone would be used to get your attention.

The app has had pretty good success so far. In 93 per cent of tests cases, it positively detected a user leaving their phone.  
 

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