Alert device designed to tackle rural crime

A device slightly bigger than a deck of cards could soon be helping to protect rural property.

Two Saskatchewan technology startups have been selected to develop a prototype system of hardware and software as part of the provincial government’s rural crime reduction strategy.

Jeff Shirley, owner of Rivercity Technology Services Ltd. in Saskatoon, and William Topping, founder of Brand X Technologies also in Saskatoon, will work in a joint venture partnership to design an app and GPS device to alert rural residents and landowners of irregular activities.

Topping is already carrying an early version in his back pocket.

Shirley, who lives on a farm, said the device could be placed in a home or cabin, on an electric fence to monitor livestock or on property such as all-terrain vehicles and tractors.

“It’s a small little box that uses a combination of modern cellphone technology, accelerometers, GPSs, a few other cool gadgets inside and it texts you when something is wrong,” he said. “You can actually reply to it.”

He said it requires at least one bar of cellphone service to operate and people in places without coverage could still use the app by manually entering suspicious activity.

The company will analyze data to determine patterns, such as locations and times of suspicious activity.

It would give property owners immediate notification of something out of the ordinary.

“If you’ve got some sheep out in the pasture with an electric fence, you can actually put it on the electric fence and if the fence loses its power, you will know,” Shirley said.

The property owner could then decide if that is normal activity, such as a farm worker entering that pasture.

He expects that if the assets a property owner wants to protect are all close to each other, one centrally placed device with wirelessly connected ancillary devices would do. More widely dispersed assets would require one device at each location.

Development is still underway but Shirley expects the cost will be low.

“We anticipate being able to push this out to rural people in Saskatchewan likely (for) around $5 a month,” he said. “If you can’t afford that, we still have a version that is free.”

That free version is the app in which property owners would manually enter suspicious activity or events.

He said it might also be possible to work with insurance companies to keep costs down.

“My anticipation is because we’re going to be putting a solution in place that decreases crime and provides better protection of assets from being stolen, hopefully we can partner with insurance companies to get some funding there and make it so people can get it paid for by their insurance policy discounts,” Shirley said.

For the next four months the companies will be working with the justice ministry to fine-tune the system.

Economy Minister Steven Bonk said this is an example of Saskatchewan innovation at work.

About the author


  • old grouchy

    If one takes a look at how the justice system handles crimes of property (if I might call theft that) there is a plethora of wrist tapping, not even slapping, going on. Perhaps there might be a push to educate the judiciary on this aspect of crime being actually that!

    • bufford54

      The pc crowd don’t call it theft anymore, they call it survival. As if that justifies stealing and wanton destruction of private property.

      • Harold

        When theft insurance was introduced the meaning of theft at the same time was softened but not in any sense of the Law but only a softening of our minds. This softness of our minds also softened our police and politicians and promoted our sense of well being amongst residing thieves. Now everyone believes in a well-being among thieves so long as the thief stays out of their own back yard. At one time, theft or destruction of someone’s private property was seen and felt as though the same crime had just been perpetrated against the observer and both minds were sharp and decisive. Today, It is only the soft minded who are calling theft and property damage a misdemeanor that the insurance company is here to correct and that Law and public and police enforcement is no longer valid. The policeman or policewoman of today have not escaped the softening of the mind by the existence of the insurance company and are in-turn the soft approach as well. In the most part, police officers are only the paperwork administration of the Insurance company and paperwork administration of the courts if a perpetrator is caught by falling into their laps. How soft has a mind gotten to believe that not having insurance is as great a crime as the crime itself? How soft is the thought that not locking your doors is as great as the crime of theft itself. What unlocked door gives anyone the right to remove any property that they knowingly do not own. What gives anyone the right to vandalize or to destroy any property that they knowingly do not own? What gives anyone the right to trespass upon a property that they are knowingly not welcome upon? Its our thoughts of the insurance company isn’t it? Our thoughts of the insurance company is the “survival” of crime and to the illusion that the victim will be ok. The good has created too much bad by the softening of our minds along the way. The day that we all decide to lower our Insurance premiums is the first day that we all will get tough on crime and change the believe systems of the police force and our politicians. The police say we should monitor our property but that does not subtract one minute from their proven inadequate response times; we unarmed and government regulated into inactive enforcement, will only find out a little earlier that our house is being emptied out by criminals and that the insurance company will be our next call.

    • John McMurray

      It’s very unfortunate that property crime is considered only in the context of “property”. Much of the problem of property crime is the theft of time. If I was kidnapped for 24 hrs the justice system sees that as very serious. If my insured car is stolen, and it takes 24 hours over several weeks to shop for, negotiate with dealer and insurance company, purchase, insure, register, and modify a replacement to make me whole again I was robbed of 24 hours just like a kidnapping.

      Similarly, if one thief causes 10,000 people to have to lock their cars and houses and those people spend an extra 5 minutes per month looking for lost keys that thief has stolen 50,000 minutes (the same as kidnapping 1 person for 35 days).

      • Harold

        You are incorrect to say that “property crime is considered only in the context of property” All property crime and associated monetary losses are damages and all of those damages in Law are under the “context” of Harm. Injury in Law is under the “context” of causing a bodily injury to a living entity. (animals and humans) Injury and Harm have two very separate meanings and each have remedies when remedies are sought after in a Court of Law. The fact that some people do not seek a remedy in a Court of law is not your evidence that a lawful remedy does not exist. You can seek a remedy for any Harm or Injury committed against you unless you have given up that Right to do so by signing your name onto a waiver contract. Your analogy is truly a stretch of your own imagination and by this I don’t mean that there is any disrespect to you by saying so. Hopefully I have somewhat cleared up what might be a widely held public misconception.

  • John McMurray

    Tracking devices already exist so I’m not sure what the invention is. If the police wanted to help they would subsidize these devices so there would be far more “bait cars” that would catch thieves.

    Honest citizens should not have to fear theft as much thieves should fear getting caught.


Stories from our other publications