Home Depot Tech Will Brick Power Tools If They're Stolen. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong dept
We’ve noted more times than I can count how in the modern era, you no longer really own the things you buy. Thanks to internet connectivity, hardware you own can be bricked or downgraded to the point where you lose essential features. Or, just as often, obnoxious DRM means you have to jump through all kinds of bizarre hoops to actually use the thing you thought you owned, whether that’s Keurig using DRM to prevent you from using competing coffee pods, to printer manufacturers using DRM to keep you from buying cheaper cartridges.
Now Home Depot is experimenting further with DRM at the point of sale. The company has started embedding chips in many of the major tool brands it sells (DeWalt, Milwaukee). And unless the tool is enabled by a Bluetooth-based system at the register, it simply won’t work when you take it home:
“Home Depot says their new anti-theft strategy is now being used in several stores nationwide to combat the thefts of their most popular power tools. A chip is inserted into power tools of major brands like DeWalt and Milwaukee brand tools, similar to how gift cards need to be scanned and paid for at a store to activate. Once the tools are paid for, the store will use Bluetooth technology to activate the tool.”
Yes, what could possibly go wrong. What if the system is buggy and doesn’t work? What if you then try to contact a manufacturer or retailer that no longer exists or supports the device and systems in question? Too bad.
The company tells Business Insider the program isn’t focused on individual shoplifting, but wholesale efforts by organized crime to steal power tools in bulk. But given the sophistication of organized crime, and the overall vulnerability of Bluetooth tech, the risk here is not insubstantial that criminals find a way to circumnavigate this technology rendering it useless:
Just what nobody asked for: DRM but for power tools. I wonder how long it will take for someone to bypass it. pic.twitter.com/RpnxOzl3KY
— Zack Whittaker (@zackwhittaker) August 2, 2021
Then you’re simply left with an additional layer of cumbersome technical restrictions that potentially risk making tool purchase and ownership more of a hassle. People act as if they’d never read Cory Doctorow.