There is a decent chance that you have never heard of Wayne Dobson, a resident of Las Vegas in Nevada, USA, a man who has been accused of stealing a number of mobile phones.
Wayne Dobson has the misfortune to live 300 metres from a cell phone tower owned by US Telco Sprint
and this appears to be the root of the problem.
- there is some dispute - tracking software that pinpoints your lost
or stolen mobile phone or Tablet has a notable glitch. The software
relies on reports from near-by cell towers to triangulate the missing
you can see, these reports claim to pinpoint the device to a distance that
is measured in metres.
The problem is that the raw data from the cell towers can be flawed and that messes up the triangulation. In the case of Wayne Dobson it seems the Sprint tower doesn't try to nail down a location for near-by phones but instead reports a location somewhere inside Dobson's house.
has led to a number of aggrieved people turning up to demand the
return of their lost or stolen phone as
they have 'evidence' the phone is inside the house.
That's annoying for Dobson but also shows a fundamental problem with digital data that claims to be 100 percent accurate. When the data goes wrong you have no way of knowing there is a problem, unlike say, an analogue clock where you can see the hands aren't moving.
It reminds me of a joke about a cattle farmer who keeps his cows in two fields. One field has a huge number of cows and the other has just a few. The farmer ask his herdsman to do a head count and 20 seconds later he gets the answer 1,018.
'How did you count them so fast?' asks the farmer.
'Easy' replies the herdsman, 'There are 18 in the small field and about a thousand in the other.'