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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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  • This fake too? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 0dugo0 ( 735093 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:08AM (#47304857)
  • by EmagGeek ( 574360 ) <gterich AT aol DOT com> on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:12AM (#47304875) Journal

    This is why there is zero oversight from Kickstarter/Amazon - they get their 20% cut if the projects gets funded. There's no way is going to walk away from $125,000 in free money when they have absolutely no risk.

    (We've heard this song before - from ISPs back in the day who claimed they were "common carriers" and "only providing a network" to avoid being charged as accessories to piracy).

    They'll take their 125k, and if questioned, simply state they were providing a platform, and that they are not responsible for what users do with it.

  • by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:13AM (#47304887)

    If they allow projects to float their rules,and yet still take pledges?

    There's a lawsuit waiting to happen here, it could be as lucrative as posting a dodgy kickstarter campaign!


    1. post obviously crap kickstarter
    2. pledge yourself
    3. complain vigorously when you "lose" your money
    4. start a class-action suit against kickstarter for not checking things out
    5. profit!!!

    no need for ??? on this one!

  • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:27AM (#47304981)
    If you want a chuckle, read the Dr. Paul McArthur "bio" post. []
  • by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @08:35AM (#47305039)

    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.

    Or not. I'm sorry, I don't trust kick starter campaigns. I don't donate to them, nor would I ever. But, to say what they're claiming to be able to do is impossible? That's clearly wrong. I could build an EM harvester in my livingroom in an afternoon. This isn't even that complicated technology. Can they fit in something the size of a dog tag? I dunno, I'm not a miniaturization expert. Attach that to a small battery, the bluetooth locater thing are in IC's everywhere. The only question in my mind is the size thing, so to claim this is an obvious scam is patently false.

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:01AM (#47305239)

    The best part is

    Some people have wondered why I do not have a robust presence online. Well, unfortunately, my identity was once stolen. And when that happens, you think twice about posting anything online. I have not even created a LinkedIn profile.

    I think I had a Nigerian prince write me last week with the same story.

  • by Joe Gillian ( 3683399 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:09AM (#47305279)

    Videogame kickstarters have (from experience) more false claims than any other Kickstarter type I've ever seen. For instance, there was one that Retsupurae covered on Youtube yesterday, where a person claiming to be a "former Square-Enix employee" was trying to get people to crowdfund a remake of Chrono Trigger... made entirely in RPG Maker. Apart from the fact that said "former employee" didn't have the rights to Chrono Trigger, it was pretty clear that he had never actually coded anything before. In comparison, there have been several groups attempting to remake the game, all of whom were doing it for free. They were all sent C&D letters and stopped - but this guy didn't have to because his Kickstarter came nowhere close to getting funded.

    There was also the guy who tried to make a 3D version of Monster Girl Quest. Compared to the Chrono Trigger guy he was a little better off rights-wise: he didn't own the rights to the real Monster Girl Quest, which hadn't even released its third and final installment when the Kickstarter went up, but MGQ wasn't registered in the United States yet and was only purchaseable through Japanese websites. The developer of MGQ is small enough that I don't think they would have the resources to sue, but they didn't have to - the guy didn't make funding, which was probably for the best, seeing as he featured his family (including his son, who was like five years old when he made the Kickstarter) in a pitch video for a "clean" version of an h-game.

    If Kickstarter can't catch basic things like these, where they're clearly an infringement of copyright that could be discovered in a matter of seconds (both of the Kickstarters I mentioned had the names of the games they were stealing from clearly listed in their summaries) there's no way they're going to catch bad science.

  • Re:This fake too? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:11AM (#47305299) Homepage

    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

    Sure you can, if you run it in pulse-and-glide mode or use it as an intermittent generator, in a very light / streamlined vehicle. Even if you want to add on a requirement that it has to be run continuously, you could probably pull it off by going to extremes with your streamlining (going for a Cd of 0,1 or less and a cross section of under 0,5m... basically a little teardrop 1-man reclined capsule going at incredible speeds, thus quickly racking up those "miles" to compensate for the fast fuel consumption) and/or using an electrolysis cell to regenerate hydrogen fuel using whatever power your engine has in surplus (wasteful, but better than throwing away the surplus power from your full-throttle requirement for no purpose). Hmm, that's another thing one could do to game your challenge, one could mess with the fuel mix and the fuel-air ratio; some fuels or fuel progenitors are a lot denser than gasoline (more energy per gallon) - for example, using aluminum powder to generate hydrogen for the V8, a gallon of aluminum powder contains 2 1/2 times more energy than a gallon of gasoline, even with the losses in hydrogen generation it'll still leave you way ahead of the game. And there's all sorts of other possible ways one could tweak the engine, too, to reduce both its consumption (and correspondingly, power output) at full power. Including the easiest one, just tweak the throttle control so that full throttle is actually a very low power output. You could also get some small efficiency gains by sabotaging the pollution controls.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:20AM (#47305371)

    Before the witch hunt begins, someone should kindly ask this guy, one of the listed affiliates:
    whether he knowingly has his name on this project. From the looks of his research, he does nothing with hardware. And so someone may have just listed him.

    If it actually is him, this can be roped in really fast by either contacting his academic advisor and if necessary, the chair of the department or a Dean. This would create such horrible publicity for U. Illinois that action should be swift and decisive.

    Look, if people really doubt the science (and I do: wireless electromagnetic power transission is really only a near field phenomena because those contributions to the E and B fields that can drive currents usefully drop much harder than 1/r).

    Now go and be nice, he's probably a victim too.

  • by QuasiSteve ( 2042606 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @09:34AM (#47305467)

    The basic defense from them is.. how ARE they liable?

    Kickstarter's claim is that they're merely providing a platform, that they conditionally charge for the use of that platform, but that what it's actually used for is not really any of their concern. They also carefully word that backers aren't really investing, that they're basically just throwing money at a person at the hopes of getting something - while at the same time saying that getting that something is required, but that they're no party in it and that backers will just have to fall back to plain ol' contract law with the contract being between the backers and the project creators.
    ( Also keep in mind that recently they actually dropped a bunch of their rules - though that's more from pressure of other crowdfunding sites and all the bad press Kickstarter has gotten lately for actually policing their rules, than that they wanted to. )

    I can think of 3 lawsuits that have happened that involved KickStarter in one way or another:

    1. Hanfree - a sort of iPad stand, in which a backer who also happened to be an attorney sued on principle because the project creator burnt through the money (on what? no idea), stopped communicating, and then buggered off. I don't think Kickstarter was named as a defendant. If I recall correctly, that lawsuit also went nowhere fast because the project creator defaulted into bankruptcy. []

    2. The WA AG's case (complaint handling) against a project creator. That's ongoing, but as far as I know Kickstarter hasn't been named a defendant there either. []

    3. The 3D Systems case. This was a patent case brought against Formlabs, but initially also named Kickstarter as a defendant because Kickstarter took a 5% cut and promoted the project through their site. Kickstarter was later dropped as a defendant, however. []

    So I'm afraid your 5-step program probably isn't going to work on account of Kickstarter absolving themselves from any responsibility, and apparently having the law on their side (until proven otherwise).

    On the up side, your 5-step program really only needs to be 3 steps.
    1. post not entirely obviously crap Kickstarter but just something that's popular.. like wallets, multitools, iThing covers, 3D printers, custom pens, etc. for which you already know there exists an eager audience.
    2. make goal (helps setting it to a realistic level)
    3. run off with the money aka profit!!!

    Or even two steps, if you don't mind setting up a crowdfunding website and going head-to-head with Kickstarter/indiegogo/rockethub/etc.

  • Re:Simple, (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CaptainLard ( 1902452 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @10:18AM (#47305819)
    Its your lucky day because I feel like showing everyone I know how RFID works.

    RFID tags consists of an antenna, diode, charge pump and controller. A comparatively HUGE external source lights up the tag with radio waves. The tag's antenna collects power for the charge pump to boost it up to a useable voltage for the controller. This type of "power bank" was developed not long after capacitors, diodes, and switches were simultaneously available. Then of course the controller broadcasts its data right? Well sorta. Since there is not nearly enough power to transmit in the traditional sense, all it does is toggle a PIN diode, shorting the antenna to ground.

    What the hell good does that do for the external transmitter? Well, when the antenna is active, a tiny bit of power is absorbed and when it's shorted out that tiny power is reflected back. The external transmitter is sensitive enough to tell the difference allowing a super low bandwidth ID code to get through. Kinda like you shining a flashlight on your computer screen and a single pixel blinking back a message. Wild eh?

    This would never work for modern bluetooth. The baud rates and overhead involved currently require powered transceivers on both ends. This kickstart isn't RFID, its a fake.
  • by puppetman ( 131489 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @11:44AM (#47306607) Homepage

    I'm embarrassed to say that I pledged $70. I thought being on Kickstarter provided some level of protection against this, and that no one would be so brazen as to hijack people's names and credentials, and post them a popular website to promote their claims.

    Thanks, Slashdot. I promise I'll be more careful next time.

    If someone tells me the PowerUp 3.0 remote-controlled airplane is a hoax, I'll be devastated...

  • by nitehawk214 ( 222219 ) on Tuesday June 24, 2014 @12:30PM (#47307075)

    Quantum Energy Generator. [] Now that's the stuff.

    I skipped around the video and the best part is at 9:20:
    "When I stand in that lab, I can feel the magical presence of the QEG."

    I hope that they are using the money to go beat everyone who donates to it with a stick.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire