In short: Qualcomm has moved its Device Identification, Registration, and Blocking System (DIRBS) platform to an open-source license in order to help stave off problems with counterfeit, illegal, and stolen handsets. More specifically, and citing a European Union Intellectual Property Office Study from 2017, the company hopes to reduce an estimated annual loss in sales of around $53.2 billion. To that end, the software solution is now available for download from GitHub completely free of charge for regulatory agencies and others in the mobile industry.
Background: DIRBS is a relatively new tool that Qualcomm developed for classifying devices and create IMEI-based lists for the purpose of creating notifications, blocking, or giving amnesty to a mobile device. It effectively reads and catalogs an IMEI device identification in order to help authorities determine the validity of the device for a given region. That same information can assist in deciding whether a handset or a mobile data-enabled tablet or computer is stolen or is a counterfeit. However, it isn't an entirely new concept and actually builds on work started by CTIA with its Stolen Phone Database. With that said, the prior database was chiefly relegated to the US and functioned based on reports to the GSMA about stolen devices. On the other hand, Qualcomm says that its solution is already being used in Pakistan and will be rolling out to other regions at an unspecified point in the near future. Moreover, it is used to register legal devices and checks for duplicate or invalid IMEIs to help determine whether a device is legal or certified for use within a given region.
Impact: Primarily, the system appears to be intended to halt the sale of illegal devices through retailers, to begin with. Through cooperation with online retailers, it can also help stop sales of illegal or uncertified devices in regions where web platforms account for a significant number of sales. At very least, Qualcomm's decision to take DIRBS open-source may help reduce sales of uncertified, unapproved, or illegal handsets in regions that take advantage of the solution. Meanwhile, it can also be used to block connectivity for at least some Android smartphones that are attempting to spoof identification. Bearing that in mind, the success or failure of this decision will depend almost entirely on whether or not enough global entities put the technology to use.