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Boeing manufactures self destructing smartphone

Thu, 02/27/2014 - 8:08pm
Kerry Butters

It seems that for those who grew up with Mission Impossible the self-destructing message may become a reality. Boeing has announced a smartphone designed for handling top-secret information and communications.

The smartphone, if tampered with, will automatically delete data and render itself inoperable. Boeing, a company better known for its aeroplanes, said it developed the smartphone to help organisations get “trusted access to data to accomplish their missions.”

Black smartphone

The smartphone is simply dubbed Black and it joins a growing market of high-security smartphones that are becoming more prevalent across the globe. Another similarly-titled phone, the Blackphone, was unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. That particular phone however was aimed more at businesses and consumers worried about private data.

US government officials, including the president, already rely on Boeing to provide secure communications. The Black smartphone follows in that vein and is not intended for mainstream release. The phone does not currently have a price or release date.

36 months to produce

Boeing’s Black smartphone took 36 months to produce and the technology inside it comes from recent acquisitions of companies specialising in mobile technologies. Boeing has posted product specifications on its website and those state that the device will contain two SIM cards. This will allow users to switch between government and commercial networks.

The smartphone will run Google’s Android OS, albeit a heavily customised version, and Boeing has added its own branded security apps. However the real innovation in this smartphone goes beyond typical mobile security and is instead an enhancement to the hardware itself.

No serviceable parts

“There are no serviceable parts on Boeing’s Black phone and any attempted servicing or replacing of parts would destroy the product,” Boeing explained in documents the company sent to the Federal Communications Commission.

“The Boeing Black phone is manufactured as a sealed device both with epoxy (strong glue) around the casing and with screws, the heads of which are covered with tamper-proof covering to identify attempted disassembly.

Any attempt to break open the casing of the device would trigger functions that would delete the data and software contained within the device and make the device inoperable.”

The phone can also be expanded which would allow it to include biometric sensors, satellite receivers, or solar panels.

Market for privacy

There is a definite market for privacy at the moment. With the NSA and GCHQ allegations still firmly in the news, and Edward Snowden still seeking asylum the general public is looking for ways to remain anonymous.

Although the Boeing Black phone is not targeted towards consumers it seems likely that more companies will take this approach. A phone that self-destructs may be slightly misleading. Instead it is a phone that self deletes to safeguard the user. This innovation is likely to be sought after by both government officials and the everyday user.

Too focussed?

Perhaps one of the flaws with this product is its remit. It is aimed specifically at the high-end official who needs to have safe and secure communications. It seems that an important point has been missed; many consumers actively desire and take steps to remain safe online.

Ideally the future holds more technologies that put the safety and sanctity of personal information first. The Black smartphone is an exciting innovation in the smartphone market and it is a piece of technology reflective of the state of the current state of information sharing.

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