The Giving Green Machine

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30 Years of Mobile


Evolution of my phones…

"Kill Switch" Technology and What It Means For You


Remember 10 years ago when a cell phone was just used for making calls?

Remember 20 years ago when people wore little black beepers on their person to be notified to go to a pay phone and call someone back?

Remember 30 years ago when you had add a tape to your answering machine? (Yup, I am getting old). 

Despite my exponential gray hair problem, I find it liberating and frightening at the same time to watch any technology progression. Liberating in the sense that we have seen advances that have truly made the world a better place by bringing everyone closer together while still residing a world apart. Frightening in the sense that innovation and advancement is happening at a rate that few can truly grasp.   

I’ll be using this space to spend a large amount of time writing information down and cataloging technology, the advancements, and the hiccups. I’ll try to break down technology aspects of our kiosk into interesting tidbits, and bring you knowledge of the latest mobile phone technology and how it affects you, the consumer and ecoATM, the e-Waste recycler. 

The “Kill Switch”

The “kill switch” should be up for Technology Term of 2014. It is a term widely discussed by the mobile ecosystem, which includes cell phone manufacturers, carriers, consumers, law enforcement and even politicians. The definition of “the kill switch” is the ability for someone who has lost his or her particular mobile device to prevent someone else from using that mobile device. Ever. It turns the device into a brick, ideally a worthless brick.    

But why create the “kill switch” at all? The answer is money and memory. Let’s start with money!

If something you own has value, it will always be the target of someone trying to take it. How are phones valuable if they are setup for a specific individual’s carrier account? That is actually the easiest part. Most phones pre-2014 come with a basic Factory Reset mode.   This mode basically wipes all the data off the phone and makes it look like no one has ever used it before.

Let’s put this into some context: A criminal steals a phone and then performs a Factory Reset on the phone. They then remove the SIM card and go sell the phone to someone who thinks they are just buying a “used” phone at a much cheaper price. 

The cell phone theft problem isn’t getting better; it’s getting worse and this particular crime is on the rise across the US. Thankfully the entire mobile ecosystem is stepping in to assist. By introducing the “kill switch,” cell phone manufacturers are trying to prevent crooks from being able to Factory Reset devices. If a mobile phone is unable to be reset then, in theory, someone who buys it will see the device is stolen and if nothing else, won’t be able to use it.

There are lots of other bells and whistles with the technology, such as being able track the location of the device (if it is on, or connects to a network) and being able to set a message that will display on the screen, giving someone who recovers the phone a means of being able to contact the owner. While both of those aspects are important, the ability to lock the device is the most critical as it prevents someone access to utilizing the device and accessing your data.

Data or memory access is the second important topic when anyone talks about the “kill switch.” If someone has data on his or her phone that is sensitive, “kill switch” technology allows for the phone to be erased remotely. The good news about this remote erase is that the device still cannot be used by other people without having your backing web account ID and password. During the activation, the phone checks to see if a bit in secure memory has been flipped or not, and it basically requires anyone who tries to reactivate the phone to go through another authentication step. The bad news is that because the phone was erased, it’s now impossible to track its location or monitor when it comes online. Basically, the remote erase technology is a nuclear option that turns the phone into a worthless brick unless it comes back into your position.

As I mentioned, cell phone theft is rising and in our opinion, a multi-faceted approach to curbing the problem is needed. We believe there are four key pillars to fighting cell phone theft, with “kill switch” technology being one of them:

  1. Educating the public
  2. Robust reporting and cooperation with law enforcement
  3. Effective “kill switch” technology
  4. Accessible and useful databases

What do you think about this technology?

Randal is the Director of Product Management at ecoATM.

(photo via)


My moms first phone. Bless.

E3: Will PC Games and Mobile Phones Continue to Be Integrated?


I was thinking earlier today about how ecoATM is the ideal slot machine that always pays out, either with cash or with the promise of responsible recycling. As most games go, the instructions for the kiosk are pretty simple:

  • Insert a cell phone, MP3 player or tablet into the kiosk
  • Receive instant cash!  

The only thing missing is a neon sign that lights up when someone hits the jackpot. Maybe a giant arm on the side of the machine that customers get to pull? Maybe we should even add a spinning wheel that would produce bonus cash? 

I have games on the brain because E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) is back, and with it the latest gaming technology for both platform consoles and now more than ever, mobile platforms. Most people are waiting for the big players like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo to display their next generation hardware and games (Halo 5 for Christmas, please!), but here at ecoATM, we love our mobile phones and apps.    

The question that I am really waiting to see answered is: Will the trend continue for the marriage of mobile phones with platform/PC games? For example, my friend Peter once had his life ruled by Rift. Rift is a Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game, meaning that it can include a large number of players at once. Peter couldn’t obviously get away with playing Rift during work hours, but thankfully there was a mobile app introduced called Rift Mobile. Rift Mobile allowed for players to communicate with friends in the game, acquire full guild support, and even provided loot! He would play Rift in the morning on his computer, go to work and play Rift Mobile when he could on his phone (don’t tell his boss), and then go home and play Rift again. Needless to say, he was a dedicated player.  

This is but one of the examples of the growing trend of game integration across devices. Clearly there is a ton of innovation left in how the mobile device can be used to expand our game experience, and that is what I am excited to see this E3.

What are you looking forward to?

Randal is the Director of Product Management at ecoATM.

Quotes, Articles & Tweets from Sustainable Brands - Wrap Up

ecoATM was so happy to participate in the Sustainable Brands San Diego conference this past week. We were at the activation hub and demoing our kiosks. We loved hearing stories from other companies who are doing great things and sharing ideas on sustainability!

We shared some of our favorite quotes at the beginning of the conference. To follow up we wanted to share a few more nuggets of what made the event so inspiring!   


  • Sustainable Brands created an awesome playlist with interviews from conference participants on their YouTube channel. 
  • They also provide videos from the live stream here on their site.




Let us know your favorite moments and come join us at the next event! 

Contrary to popular belief, we’re not all robots here at ecoATM HQ. We’re actual humans, here to make it fast, easy and convenient to recycle your old phones, MP3 players, and tablets for cash. Take a minute to sneak a peek behind the kiosk and get to know our team!


Name: Jeff Ploetner

Title: Manager of Software Engineering

Stuff you do inside the ecoATM office:

My primary responsibility is developing and maintaining the visual and robotic subsystems of ecoATM kiosks, including visual identification and inspection of devices. I often say that I get to do all the fun stuff that is the “magic” inside an ecoATM, like writing the computer vision software that allows the kiosk to “see” devices and recognize what they are. 

I also work heavily with our factory and tech support team to ensure that our kiosks are being built properly, are operating smoothly, and are running all the latest and greatest software. I work with a great group of very talented people, and it is very rewarding to build software that delights our customers and provides a great experience.

Stuff you do outside the ecoATM office:

My main hobby outside of work is flying remote controlled airplanes, helicopters and quadcopters. I have quite a few planes and find it really enjoyable to get out of the office, breathe some fresh air, and work on my flying skills. Of course, it can be stressful if I ever crash (which happens more than I’d like), but the technology is getting so cheap these days that it’s easy and fun to do the repairs. 


My garage is starting to fill up:


Did you ever own a phone that you’d be embarrassed to carry around now?

Yes, an old Qualcomm QCP-2700 from 1997. It’s actually sitting in ecoATM’s Phone Museum right now. I had a whopping 70 voice minutes per month and 0 data usage back then!

If you could pick one robot from pop culture history to hang out with, which one would you pick?

Johnny 5 from Short Circuit and Short Circuit 2. I loved that movie when I was growing up and it in part inspired me to go into engineering. Johnny had so many funny phrases like “NO DISASSEMBLE!” 

Describe one of your favorite days at ecoATM.

It’s hard to pick just one as we’ve had so many, but two particular days stand out:

  • Several years ago, I pulled an all-nighter to bring up each robotic subsystem for the “Third Generation” ecoATM kiosk – the first kiosk that was going to be fully automated. Though it was a very long day/night, everything came together for an important demo the next day, and it was very rewarding to see the first kiosk come to life!
  • The day it was announced that we were being acquired by Outerwall. ecoATM was such an exciting startup to work for, and when that announcement came, I knew that all that hard work was finally going to pay off.


Is your team currently looking to hire? If so, for what positions?

We have been hiring a lot of people into the Engineering department lately, but we but we still have some positions open: 

  • Software Engineer - Kiosk - C#
  • SQL Server DBA           
  • Software Quality Assurance Engineer

You can more about job opportunities on our Careers page. 

Are you iOS or Android?

iOS, but I don’t have a strong opinion, it’s just a personal preference.

Favorite quote.

I don’t really have one. but I strongly believe in the power of positive thinking. You should never stop learning and growing, and you should always keep improving yourself (and your software!).


gotye | Tumblr en We Heart It.

Favorite Quotes from Sustainable Brands San Diego (So Far)

Things are in full swing here at Sustainable Brands San Diego. We are part of the Activation Hub where other exhibitors and attendees can come get a free demo of our kiosks to see how we’re approaching the e-waste problem.

There’s a lot of great information and inspiration coming from the speakers and sessions at Sustainable Brands. We’ve compiled a list of our top 5 quotes tweeted by the community so far:

1. Shared by @HP Living Progress: “In order to put a man on the moon, NASA had to solve 3000 “impossible” challenges” - Gil Friend

2. Shared by @Robert Beard: “60-70% of deforestation is due to agriculture, not just pulp & paper.  We must restore trees in farm areas” - Tensie Whelan

3. Shared by @jonjonbailey: “It’s not the wickedness of evil that could be our downfall, it’s the weakness of good.” - Eduardo Balarezo

4. Shared by @betsy_henning: “Sustainability is about value creation.” - Dean Scarborough

5. Shared by @pamvanorden: “Use facts to show you care, not to show that you are right.” - Tom LaForge

Let us know your favorite quotes, too!

We are providing live tweets and event updates on our Twitter & Facebook feeds. Be sure to follow us to get the scoop!

(photo via)