A bit of a sparkly story for the festive season at DSM this week. And, unfortunately, it is also pertinent to many people’s experience of having parcels stolen at this time of year. Whether it’s something you ordered as a gift, or a present being sent to you, lots of us are subject to opportunistic thieves who steal them from our designated safe place.

Mark Rober is the genius inventor behind this story. Previously he worked as a NASA scientist and helped develop the Mars Curiosity Rover, now he’s a YouTuber. He was annoyed by parcels going missing from his porch and frustrated that the police were unable to assign resources to track the thieves down – even with his security camera footage.

Inspired by Kevin McCallister, the hero of Christmas film Home Alone, he devised something designed to deliver an equal amount of annoyance to any future thieves.

The Glitter Bomb Project

With his friend, Mr Rober designed a dummy package to entrap would-be thieves. It took six months from the initial idea to develop the final prototype, with so much testing at each stage. His idea, in his own words, is to “Celebrate their choice of profession with a cloud of glitter because…who doesn’t love glitter?”

In the end, it comprised of: four mobile phones (cameras ready to film), one accelerometer (motion detector), one spinning cup of glitter, one GPS device, one tube of fart spray and a substantial amount of tech to set it up around one circuit board.

How it works

As soon as the package leaves the set perimeters of Mark’s property, he hears an alarm so he knows it’s on the move. The GPS continued to transmit a signal so that the parcel can be tracked to its eventual dumping spot. The accelerometer also activates the mobile phones so that they start recording sound and visuals. By opening the box, the thieves trigger the glitter cup which then spins round sending 1lb of glitter all over them and the surrounding area. Closely followed by five bursts of strong fart spray, to be repeated at 30 second intervals.

All the collected footage is automatically uploaded, so that it can still be seen even if the phones are destroyed or not recoverable.

The final details include authentic shrink wrapping and parcel label; sent from Kevin McCallister and addressed to ‘Harry and Marv’ at the actual address of the house used in Home Alone.

Were there any ‘scientific or technological advances’ to solve a problem?

Yes, there were lots of problems to overcome in order to develop a working bait parcel:

  • What device would ensure maximum glitter coverage?
  • How do you record their reaction to the glitter bomb?
  • How would the phones stay charged, they could be sat in place all day?
  • How would the package be found again?
  • How would the footage be recorded and seen?
  • How do you set up 30 second intervals for spraying fart spray?
  • How can it be recharged to use again?

Mr Rober completed the project successfully and the footage shows that every single thief abandoned the package after being glitter bombed and fart sprayed. A satisfying justice, of sorts, which also includes the film being aired on Mr Rober’s YouTube channel.

Would this glitter bomb project receive any R&D Tax Credits?

We think Mr Rober’s project has several factors that are worthy of investigation. There is certainly the crucial innovation factor. Unfortunately, Mr Rober and his friend are not a UK based limited company paying Corporation Tax, so they wouldn’t be eligible to claim R&D Tax Credits.

If you are such a business and are involved in anything requiring creative thinking to solve a problem for you or your clients, then make sure you’re not missing out.

You don’t have to be inventing something as wacky as this, or something as revolutionary as the next wearable tech.

That’s the main problem with this great tax relief, businesses don’t know that it applies to them. We can help you identify what you are doing that matches HMRC’s definition of R&D for the purposes of claiming R&D Tax Credits. And you are still entitled to claim, even if the project fails. Give yourself a Christmas present and give us a call.


Jamie Smith