In today’s digital age, many employers like to monitor their offsite staff during work hours using GPS. Over in Australia, one 60-year-old electrician decided to use his technical know-how to evade the watchful eye of the Global Positioning System by turning his snack bags into Faraday cages.
As reported by Ars Technica, Tom Colella was fired from his position at the Western Australia water management joint venture Aroona Alliance last year. The termination was upheld by a labor grievance commission, who determined he had been storing his work PDA in empty packets of Smith’s Twisties to block the signals of GPS satellites, thereby allowing him to sneak in a round of golf while he was supposed to be carrying out repairs offsite. It seems the technique worked so well that he used it over 140 times.
“He [Colella] was concerned about Aroona tracking him when the Company introduced the PDA into the workplace. He protested about Aroona having this information at that time. Mr Colella then went out of his way to inhibit the functionality of the PDA by placing it in a foil bag to create a Faraday cage,” wrote Australia Fair Work Commissioner Bernie Riordan in his findings.
The Aluminum and mylar plastic that makes up the foil in snack packets mean they’re electrically conductive and work as a temporary magnetic shield, as long as the packet is closed and grounded. Colella's managers apparently knew he kept his PDA in the bags, and Riordan said he couldn’t understand why the supervisors condoned the practice.
Last year, a UK bar owner made his own Faraday cage by installing metal mesh in the walls and ceilings of his establishment. Steve Tyler, who owns the Gin Tub in East Sussex, said he wanted his customers to talk to each other rather than sit staring at their smartphones all night.
Modern versions of Faraday cages are now being used for a number of (official) purposes. Car maker Nissan’s Signal Shield is a compartment found in the armrest of its Juke crossover vehicle. Drivers can avoid the temptation of smartphone distractions by placing their device in the box, which blocks incoming and outgoing cellular, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi connections.
As for Colella, he’s now working as an Uber driver.