Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has a GPS-based data encryption technology. If a PC or laptop with the product is stolen from a defined location its data can't be recovered.

This technology an be used to protect sensitive data on a PC. Geo-encryption adds geographic position to existing encryption applications. A GPS-enabled appliance or 'dongle' provides positioning data to be used as part of the encryption/decryption. If the device moves out of a pre-defined area then the GPS position part of the key alters and encrypted data can no longer be decrypted.

Wozniak's company, called Wheels of Zeus - WoZ, geddit? - pre-viewed its wOz Location-based Encryption technology at a Security Virtual Tradeshow.

"Hundreds of thousands of notebooks and laptops are stolen or lost every year and, when that happens, sensitive corporate data is gone out the door," Wozniak said. He used FBI statistics showing that 98 percent of all stolen laptops are gone for good. Wozniak gets customers' money from device sales and the use of his own WozNet, implemented as a local wireless network.

PCs are fitted with a small unit or dongle that constantly gets GPS data. It communicates wirelessly over wOzNet to a base station. The owning IT department sets up safe locations within which the PC can be used. When the PC is switched on it, via the WoZ unit requests safe zone information via the wireless link. Once it gets it and it agrees with the device's own GPS reading then it allows the user to access data, which has been decrypted using the GPS data as a key.

If the PC is moved out of the safe zone then the WoZ unit detects this because its GPS data now disagrees with the safe zone area. It communicates with the wireless base station and the PC's removal is then known. Because the PC's GPS reading now differs from the safe zone the data decryption no longer works and data can't be read.

In addition an automatic encryption of data is triggered or data deletion can be programmed. Wozniak said, "The dongle can be programmed to delete data or shut down sections of the device. Once the computer is removed from the physical zone, the keys are lost or unavailable, and the hard disk is gibberish."

If the dongle is removed then data can no longer be read because decryption depends upon the dongle's presence and activity.

A stolen PC's position could also, in theory, be tracked in a similar way to stolen cars with the Tracker location-based system. The wOzNet wireless network is aid to be secure; it's proprietary and so not vulnerable to the well-known WiFi weaknesses.

Multiple safe zones can be set up but the technology is not suitable to true mobile computing use as a laptop user could move through a virtual infinity of zones.

There is no information available on product roll-out or pricing.