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$500k "Energy-Harvesting" Kickstarter Scam Unfolding Right Now 448

New submitter FryingLizard (512858) writes For a while I've been following the saga of the Kickstarter "iFind" Bluetooth 4.0 tracking tag. Nothing new about such tags (there are many crowdfunded examples; some have delivered, some have disappointed), but this one claims it doesn't require any batteries — it harvests its energy from electromagnetic emissions (wifi, cell towers, TV signals, etc). The creators have posted no evidence other than some slick Photoshop work, an obviously faked video, some easily disproven data, and classic bad science. So far they've picked up half a million in pledges. With six days to go until they walk off with the money, skeptics abound (10min in) including some excellent dissections of their claims. The creators have yet to post even a single photo of the magical device, instead posting empty platitudes and claims that such secrecy is necessary to protect their IP.

Using just their published figures, their claims are readily refuted, yet still backers flock in. Kickstarter appear uninterested in what can only be described as a slow-motion bank robbery, despite their basic requirement to demonstrate a prototype. It seems self-evident that such scams should not be allowed to propagate on Kickstarter, for the good of other genuine projects and the community at large. Skeptics are maintaining a Google Doc with many of the highlights of the action. Bring your own popcorn and enjoy the show."
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$500k "Energy-Harvesting" Kickstarter Scam Unfolding Right Now

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  • by thaylin ( 555395 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:24AM (#47304961)
    Or maybe he thinks that when people post no proof of their claims, all data they have provided have been refuted by pretty much all sources, and the people post nothing to contradict those sources it probably is a scam.
  • Re:This fake too? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:26AM (#47304975)

    Just because harvesting of RF energy is a legitimate field does not mean that this product is genuine.

    Or to give you a car analogy, just because internal combustion engines are used to drive cars does not mean that you can run a 4 litre V8 engine at full power and get 100 miles to the gallon.

  • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:41AM (#47305075)
    To not see the glaring red flags of scamminess is patently blind.
  • by jythie ( 914043 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:43AM (#47305089)
    Thing is, it is being called a scam by people who are familiar with miniaturization and physics.

    A classic element of pseudoscience and scams like this is to take something that has some small connection with physics but the numbers are so far off the engineering actually is impossible. This particular one is actually a pretty old 'free energy' thing, with people claiming you can collect usable amounts of energy from ambient signals. But the numbers, even though yes they are non-zero, are so tiny as to be useless.
  • by Andover Chick ( 1859494 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:45AM (#47305109)
    From Snake Oil in the Old West to weight loss scams, baldness fixes, male vitality enhancers, or Breatharians, the easiest thing to sell is false hope since it tricks the buy into thinking about only what they want, not what is actually possible.
  • Re:This fake too? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:46AM (#47305123)

    ok, WHY is it disingenuous? What about their claims don't make sense then? They plan to make a product that is clearly possible, so why is it a scam?

    Take a look at the google doc. It has a lot of technical information as to why the claims of *this* kickstarter project are suspect.

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:50AM (#47305149)

    I suspect that many scammer Kickstarters have a mass of pledges just as fake as yours--only not intended for humor, but rather "self-giving" to create buzz and give the impression of legitimacy. I doubt very seriously that most of that $500,000 they've raised on this particular campaign is real.

    But this does raise a real point. Kickstarter needs some basic donor protections and means of reporting scams. Otherwise they'll just devolve in a feeding ground for con men and no one will take any project posted there seriously.

  • Re:Big deal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by queazocotal ( 915608 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:54AM (#47305173)

    Cars exist, right? Foldable bikes exist, and there are quite a number of them out there.
    Buy my foldable 400MPH 400 miles to the gallon car which folds up into a suitcase, only $1K.

    $500K is not enough to develop custom silicon for the task. They're using someone elses chip.
    The format can't capture enough power, due to unfortunate laws of physics to do bluetooth pairing.
    Batteryless NFC RFID tags work with a comparatively huge field to power them. (millions of times as
    strong as a nearby wifi router)

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:11AM (#47305301)

    They do not have the antenna and storage for what they claim they can do. There are limits what you can capture in something this small and they are rather low. and way below what Bluetooth needs.

  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:19AM (#47305363) Homepage

    Forget civilian operated drones. Look at civilian operated cars. Take a glance at the kinds of drivers you see on the road every day and then ask yourself: "Do I really trust these people with a flying vehicle moving in three dimensions?"

    Once we get self-driving cars, we might stand a chance of self-flying cars. Until then, though, flying cars would be a safety nightmare!

  • by DutchUncle ( 826473 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:36AM (#47305479)
    And I say, with my freedom of speech, "Caveat Emptor" - let the buyer beware. Is this any worse than the dot-com bubble? I am surprised to see so much call for regulation and oversight here on /. where I would have expected to see more focus on the decentralized crowd-based DEBUNKING that this article itself represents. Many technological items were impossible, then impractical, then suddenly commonplace, so distinguishing between "bad science" and "immature technology" is harder than it used to be. Add a generation of insistence that "everyone's opinion has validity" and it's no wonder that science is having such a hard time.
  • by Rhywden ( 1940872 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:42AM (#47305533)
    "But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

    - Carl Sagan
  • by fredprado ( 2569351 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @01:29PM (#47307599)
    Exactly. We don't need regulations, we need consequences.

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!