TODAY   |  April 01, 2012

Whiz kid uses app to solve a crime

An 8-year-old boy from Tennessee was able to crack a burglary case – and a string of other unsolved thefts – by using free tracking software. TODAY’s Lester Holt meets the tech-savvy sleuth.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> when a family from tennessee discovered a burglar had stolen two ipads, a video camera, jewelry and other items from their home, they just assumed the thief would never be caught, but a week later, an unlikely person cracked the case, a tech-savvy 8-year-old, using only an app he downloaded. here's an image like the one landon saw, the one that helped authorities nab the thief. landon crabtree is here with his parents, richard and kristy , plus "today's tech" contributor mario armstrong. good morning to all of you. thanks for coming on.

>> good morning.

>> richard , it's a huge violation to have someone come in your home and take your stuff. do you think it was gone forever?

>> i just assumed we'd never see it again. small town, you know, somebody just driving through, whatever.

>> and you lost a lot of items, a couple of ipads. you bought a new one with the insurance money. landon , you didn't like the idea of your stuff being taken. what made you decide to look on the internet and discover there's an app for that?

>> i don't really know. i just wanted to find my ipad, so i just looked it up and i found this app.

>> you found this app and you were able to actually pinpoint where your old ipad was. what do you see on the map? how detailed was it?

>> well, it just showed a big building, so when you went to the satellite view, it showed like a hotel. and when you zoomed in, you could tell it was the ambassador inn.

>> that ipad was actually talking to you. and kristy , did you believe him right away?

>> i didn't know about it until i got home from work, and no, i was amazed.

>> and so, richard , you guys called the police and said, look, this thing is pinging here. and they took it seriously and they found a lot of loot, didn't they when they got there?

>> yes, sir. from what we're hearing, over $350,000 worth of stuff just in that room. they're linking it to maybe a couple hundred burglaries.

>> you have a smart kid here, don't you?

>> extremely smart.

>> extremely. mario , let me bring you in this.

>> why? he can do the segment, landon can do it.

>> he used a app that's freely available to apple users.

>> that's right.

>> called what, find my iphone ?

>> find my iphone . on the version 5, on older versions, you can download the app, but that's exactly it.

>> and assuming the device is on, you can have it look for it and it will pop up on a map?

>> that's right. what it does is it tracks the gps, also uses wi-fi. we actually have it on here. if i pull up "find my iphone ," i'm going to actually search for my ipad, and i can send a little test. i'll do it live here in the actual studio where i actually send a test to it. and what it can do here, lester, is it can make a noise to the actual ipad, it can also lock it, it can also remove any data on it, and i can also send a text message . let's just say i want reward found. reward found. and then i'll hit send. and you can hear it instantly.

>> no matter where that is, it would start beeping?

>> it would start beeping right away with that message coming up on the screen as well.

>> so if you happen to lose it, instead of it being stolen, you can easily find it. quickly, there is a proprietary mac app. are there others?

>> yes, lookout mobile, where's my droid, locate my droid. there are other apps people can use. and the most important thing is back up your devices, because it's not necessarily the device more than it is our data, our photos, data on the device is actually more important than the disguise itself.

>> and lan don, i understand the mayor has something for you. what's going to happen when you return to tennessee?

>> he's going to give me the key to the city .

>> awesome! that's coming up this week. congratulations. it's nice having a tech-savvy kid around the house. or in most houses, it's the kid who's the tech-savvy. richard and kristy , landon , mario armstrong, thank you for being here and sharing this with our audience.