by Thomas Wailgum

A Firewall with Bite

Aug 25, 20063 mins

To tell you the truth, I never really gave the Lithium-Ion battery housed in my ThinkPad much thought until the tales of flaming batteries, hot gases and billowing smoke came to the forefront this summer. Dell and now Apple have announced massive Sony-manufactured battery recalls — the first and second largest safety recalls, respectively, in the history of the consumer electronics industry. But, don’t worry, both companies should be fine. Shares in Apple’s stock rose 50 cents on Thursday, which just goes to show how much I don’t understand the stock market.

The other serious problem that continues to rage on this summer are the incidents of laptop loss and theft. It seems you can’t pick up a newspaper or click on a national media website without reading about some private enterprise or government organization that recently suffered a laptop loss. Results from a recent survey found that  81 percent of companies reported the loss of one or more laptop computers containing sensitive information during the previous 12 months. Even my mother is concerned about someone stealing her computer (even though it’s a desktop PC, circa early 2000).

So, while you may see two unrelated problems, I see a potential solution for the world and an investment opportunity for those with lots of extra cash.

Most of us know there’s technology out there can remotely “wipe” clean the contents of a BlackBerry, Treo or other handheld device if it’s stolen or lost and the contents on said device are deemed mucho importante by the company. In essence, the technology kills the device’s capabilities and the would-be thief or person-fortunate-enough-to-stumble-on-the-device can’t do anything, except fantasize about how cool it would be to actually see it work. Cool stuff.

My proposed company (tentatively called “Flaming Batteries On-Demand LLC,” it may need some work) would offer an electronic ability to remotely set off the battery so that it would catch on fire and emit noxious gases, thereby rendering the laptop useless and giving the thief a pretty darn good scare. It would offer a whole new meaning for “firewall.” (Of course, there are a lot of liability and human rights issues that my team of lawyers will need to work through, but have no fear.)

Just imagine the relief you could provide to your CEO when he calls you frantically, crying about how his laptop was stolen (“right from the Starbucks booth I was sitting in!”) just minutes after he got up to go to the bathroom. “It’s not my fault!” he would scream. “Please! Help me!”

And you could calmly say, “No worries, sir,” flick the switch on the Igniter 1.0 product, remotely set fire to the battery, and that little problem would be taken care of. “Your new laptop will be ready first thing Monday morning, sir. Have a great weekend.” How nice would that be?

Care to invest in my new venture? Let me know.