Ever get the feeling someone’s watching you? Of course you do; you use the Internet… So what’s the answer to pervasive tracking technologies? Well, one answer — at least when you’re able to step off grid entirely because you don’t need to use your kit for a bit — is to put your devices (and connected cards) inside a faraday cage to isolate them from the various wireless networks they might otherwise interact with.
This may sound a bit drastic, but if you want control over something digital the equivalent of a physical kill switch can feel pretty reassuring. It’s much like sticking a piece of masking tape over your webcam — just to be sure.
To wit: meet Silent Pocket, a maker of leather wallets, sleeves and bags with faraday-cage-style shielding tech embedded into them, allowing users to isolate their devices from sneaky snoopers, scanners or would-be electronic pick-pockets. The company has just passed its $25,000 Kickstarter target to get its v2 line of privacy-shielding accessories to market this fall.
We’ve seen a few faraday pouches incorporated into accessories before. Unsurprisingly so, in this post-Snowden era of surveillance awareness. Others include the Off Pocket, which ran a successful Kickstarter back in summer 2013; and last year’s UnPocket, from pro-privacy fashion brand The Affair.
Silent Pocket’s shielding accessories have a more classic look than either of those predecessors, design wise, being made from leather and with a minimalist appearance (i.e. you can have any color so long as it’s black).
CEO and founder Aaron Zar says its USP vs competitors in the space is firstly a flat, interlocking RF seal (pictured below), which incorporates a magnet to ensure secure closure of the shielding pocket.
“[It] can be discretely embedded into common accessories… Without the need for folding fabric, velcro or straps our shielding designs can be sown into anything — briefcases, cell phone sleeves, luggage, hand bags, back packs, etc,” he says.
The other difference claimed by Zar is this line of v2 products offers more comprehensive shielding than other accessories in the space — with RFID/NFC shielding (125khz and 13.56mhz) and Full Shielding (700mhz-5ghz) offered, depending on the accessories in question. (NB: not all Silent Pocket accessories offer Full Shielding; some of the less expensive items are RFID/NFC only.)
“No other product can come close to our shielding capabilities. They all fall short because they only shield 13.56mhz RFID and if they are a faraday cage type product they cannot block high attenuation and also stop at 2.4ghz. With increased cell towers, satellites and signal strength our products are built for today and tomorrow,” he argues.
He also claims that concerns about cutting off cell signal causing device battery drain are not an issue with modern smartphones housed inside its Full Shielding products — because he says the products are blocking all signal to and from the device.
“Now that we have smartphones that operate much more efficiently your phone enters a dormant mode where the antennas inside are not active. They only become active when signal wakes them back up. This conserves battery. There is no need to turn off your cell phone before using the product,” he tells TechCrunch.
Silent Pocket has a full range of accessories on its Kickstarter campaign — from card wallets, pouches and sleeves to multi-compartment bags. Costs range from a $5 pledge for a basic paper sleeve that shields RFID and NFC for a couple of wireless cards; to around $20 for leather card wallets; $35 for a passport holder; $50 for a clutch wallet or a fold-over iPhone wallet; to $80 and up for full shielding sleeves. It’s most expensive product is a $400 laptop bag, again with full shielding.
The company is aiming to ship its off-grid accessories to Kickstarter backers starting from this September.
NB: As with any effective faraday cage sleeve, when your devices are sealed inside you’re not going to be able to get any of your messages — but of course, for some, an absence of distractions might be another reason to temporarily step off-grid…