DT, Camelot ITLab, and SAP Use
Blockchain to Fight Smartphone Theft
June 11, 2018
Deutsche Telekom, Camelot ITLab, and SAP are building a blockchain
network to prevent cell phones from being stolen. SAP is also taking the
technical steps necessary to implement the shared governance that makes
blockchain unique by running the network on external Hyperledger Fabric
It’s perhaps most likely at a restaurant, but it can also happen at
work: You leave your smartphone unattended on the table for just a
moment, and when you come back, it’s gone. And it’s not just your
personal information that has found its way into a stranger’s hands; the
stolen device often contains business data as well, including addresses,
contacts, credit card information, and passwords.
In situations like these, speed is of the essence to prevent the misuse
of your data and, in the worst case, identity theft. According to a
study by Lookout Mobile Security, 90 percent of the victims of
smartphone theft try to recover their device, but only 32 percent
succeed. They reach out to the police, their cellular service provider,
or the manufacturer of their device. As a telecommunications provider,
Deutsche Telekom receives many messages about stolen smartphones.
There are ways to locate a pilfered device and delete the data on it.
The next step would be to block the smartphone entirely and prevent any
further use by putting it on a blacklist. Based on its International
Mobile Equipment Identity — IMEI, a 15-digit serial number — every
mobile device in the world can be identified. You can view your
smartphone’s IMEI by entering the key combination +#06#. Your device
manufacturer and network operator also have a record of the number,
which makes it possible to contact them in such cases and have the
smartphone in question blacklisted.
Co-Innovation Designed to Protect Smartphone Users and Companies
There is one problem: The device will then be on only one blacklist
among many around the world, which are typically maintained by cellular
service providers. In some countries, local regulations have led to the
introduction of a common blacklist for all providers, which has reduced
the number of mobile devices stolen. So far, however, it has not been
possible to establish a widespread, integrated solution for exchanging
such information among all the stakeholders across the globe.
In its search for an innovative solution to this challenge, Deutsche
Telekom has joined the SAP Blockchain Co-Innovation Program. It is now
working with SAP and implementation partner Camelot Innovative
Technologies Lab (Camelot ITLab) on a security network for mobile
devices in which information can be shared in a trustworthy, transparent
manner. The goal of this project is to create a shared IMEI blacklist
with the help of blockchain technology. The idea is to enable every
network operator, smartphone manufacturer, and end user to access the
list in the future. When one of the partners involved blacklists the
IMEI of a particular mobile device, all the other partners and members
of the corresponding blockchain will receive this information in real
time, making it impossible to use the device with a SIM card from
By using cryptographic algorithms and because data is shared across all
participants of the blockchain network, the entries become practically
unalterable. As a result, criminals are unable to manipulate entries to
the blockchain. Only the involved parties are authorized to make new
entries, thereby securing the trustworthiness of the IMEI data.
Along with device manufacturers and network operators, this concept
should attract interest from insurance companies, public authorities,
and in the future, private individuals.
“Unfortunately, smartphone theft is a lucrative business,” says Dr.
Stephan Westermeyr, vice president of Order Management and Billing at
Deutsche Telekom. “If we succeed in using blockchain technology to dry
up this black market, we’ll not only protect smartphone users against
theft, but safeguard companies’ sensitive business data for the long
term as well.”
Secure Exchanges Thanks to Blockchain Technology
Only blockchain is capable of ensuring secure, transparent transfers of
information in an infrastructure that no one participant can control on
its own. It also makes the exchange of information more efficient by
sharing data directly through a common layer. SAP offers its customers
this technology in SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain.
As part of its project with Deutsche Telekom, SAP is now connecting the
Hyperledger Fabric protocol, one of two blockchain technologies
currently on SAP Cloud Platform, with external nodes operated by
Deutsche Telekom and Camelot ITLab. In doing so, SAP is reinforcing the
strategy of operating blockchain networks in a distributed fashion.
“Through these efforts, we’re implementing the shared governance that
makes blockchain networks unique in technical terms, as well,” explains
Benjamin Stöckhert, business developer within the SAP Innovation Center
end users, this would mean having the ability to put a smartphone on the
blockchain-based blacklist as soon as they realize it’s been stolen,
even if they don’t know its IMEI number. Every smartphone would also be
assigned a “guardian,” such as the manufacturer or network operator in
question, that its owner could contact when necessary. Smartphone IMEIs
are already stored in Deutsche Telekom’s customer relationship
management system, for instance; the company’s employees would then be
able to add a corresponding entry to the blacklist to block a stolen
But what if a user manages to track down his or her stolen smartphone,
or realizes that it was only misplaced?
“In cases like these, it’s easy to whitelist the device again — in the
same way, using the same blockchain technology,” Stöckhert reveals.