Criminals move into digital age

Posted: September 26, 2012

By Frank Cerabino

Dear Apple:

Congratulations on the introduction of the iPhone 5. I continue to be impressed with your company's ability to keep finding new devices for consumers to buy.

Which brings me to the purpose of this note. Here's a story you might find interesting:

In South Florida recently, a man walked into a Wells Fargo bank and handed the teller his smartphone. Rather than writing a note on paper to announce his bank robbery, the man tried making a digital presentation of his stickup demands. It didn't work.

Police confiscated the phone minutes later while arresting the man as he left the bank.

The man was a suspect in other bank robberies, and this wasn't the first time he presented a digital note on his phone rather than a hand-written note to the teller, police said.

I'm relating this story because in your search for new products, you ought to consider the opportunity here. Yes, I'm thinking about the iRob.

Seems like the market is ripe for this new product. For as we continue to march ahead in the digital age, we've completely overlooked the needs of America's bank robbers.

Penmanship used to be a required subject in school, but those days are gone, and now it's more than likely for kids to make it all the way through school with lousy handwriting skills and few job prospects.

This is especially unfortunate for those who try making a career of bank robbery, a high-turnover profession that relies on concise, legible prose that must convey both urgency and clarity of purpose. Any deficiency in this area can lead to a premature entry into the long, involuntary confinement/retirement phase of the career.

Today's smartphones are a step above the scribbled note. But with limitations on screen size and the selection of emoticons - Is a frowny face really going to stop the teller from reaching for the exploding dye pack? - they don't really supply bank robbers with all their bank-robbing digital needs.

They're going to need their own Apple product. They're going to want to save their small denomination, unmarked bills to buy an iRob.

I recommend it include a template of sample demand notes, with a manual feature that allows some customization. And plenty of menacing fonts to choose from. Helvetica's not going to cut it.

And the GPS feature is a must for the getaway.

You're going to have to do something about Siri on the iRob. The talking feature will need to be changed to a guy's deep, gravely voice. Maybe Tom Waits can be contracted to provide some snippets.

"Just do what he says, sister," Waits/Siri could pipe up as the teller reads your digital note. "Don't try any funny business."

Lots of other useful features will come standard. The iRob will have a really low-resolution camera that makes faces too fuzzy to see, which will come in handy if a teller tries to use the iRob to snap a photo during the stickup.

Users will also like the direct links for online costume and baseball cap shopping. The one-touch criminal defense lawyer directory will come in handy if things don't go smoothly.

And for those days when the teller has a long line, there's an "Angry Birds" app to help pass the time.

If you decide to move ahead with these suggestions and develop the iRob, don't pull a Samsung on me: I expect to be handsomely rewarded.

Just put the money in a big pillow case. And don't try any funny business.

Frank Cerabino writes for the Palm Beach Post.

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