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Jamming device aims at camera phones

Iceberg Systems' product, now in testing, could automatically switch off camera phones to protect industrial secrets and private areas.

A product now in testing could automatically switch off camera phones to protect industrial secrets and private areas.

Iceberg Systems is beta-testing Safe Haven, which combines hardware transmitters with a small piece of control software loaded into a camera phone handset. When the handset is taken into a room or building containing the Safe Haven hardware, the phone is instructed to deactivate the imaging systems. The systems are reactivated when the handset is out of range.

Analysts have predicted that there will be almost 1 billion camera phones in use within five years, which has led companies such as Samsung and LG Electronics to bar employees from using camera phones in research and manufacturing facilities because of fears over the security of sensitive data.

Patrick Snow, managing director of Iceberg Systems, said he is already in talks with well-known handset manufacturers interested in testing the technology. Although the technology is designed only for disabling the imaging system, it could be adapted for a wide number of uses, such as blocking loud or annoying ring tones in a theater or even disabling text messaging in a school. However, Snow said that for now, his company is focused solely on controlling the imaging side of handsets.

"We don't block calls or ring tones because we have a very specific technology that addresses the camera functionality only," he said. "Once you're in a wireless privacy zone, there is the opportunity to look at other functionality that may be disabled or controlled, but that is not our focus at the moment," he said.

Currently some forms of mobile phone jamming are illegal in the United Kingdom, but Snow did not rule out expanding the product's ability to turn off other mobile phone functions if legislation changes.

ZDNet UK's Munir Kotadia reported from London.