This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

September 19, 2001

Cell Phone Privacy Taking New Direction

Today when we talk about cellular telephone privacy, we're most concerned with confidentiality of our own calls. With the proliferation of cell phones, another privacy movement is underway. More people, including heavy cell phone users, are becoming uncomfortable with the invasion of their personal [hearing] space by the ringing of someone else's phone. It is a global problem . . . and an opportunity for a growing industry.

Telephones ring in meetings. They ring on the street, in restaurants, on trains, and even in church. Posting signs asking that cell phones be turned off are ineffective, except in Japan. Everyone wants to be connected all the time. Jordan's King Abdullah complained about cell phones ringing in mosques while he prayed. He contacted Image Sensing Systems in Minnesota and within two weeks, the company had a working prototype for the monarch. Word got out about its product. By late July, the company had taken orders to ship about 5,000 of these devices around the world.

While cell-phone jamming is illegal in the United States and elsewhere, some countries, most notably Canada, are considering laws that would let people bar cell phones from being used on their property. North Carolina-based BlueLinx, which is creating a device that would automatically turn off the ringers of cell phones, expects to sell about a million of its devices once they are released. At least two movie chains and many theaters where live plays are presented are waiting impatiently for delivery.

Four years ago, Redmond, Washington-based Zetron introduced a device that detects cell phones within 100 feet and can be programmed to alert officials or trigger a recorded message requesting that the owner leave the phone outside. An Israeli company, NetLine Communications Technologies, says it is selling record numbers of its C-Guard Cellular FireWall mobile-phone jamming equipment, especially in the United States where jamming cell phones is illegal. The US Federal Communications Commission has made cell phone jamming punishable by an $11,000-per-day fine. Yet, despite the possibility of huge financial punishment, NetLine executives said the United States remains one of the company's strongest markets.

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