Monthly Archives: January 2012

GPS Technology: 40 Years of Innovation

There is no doubting the impact GPS technology has had on our modern society. To many citizens, GPS may seem relatively new, showing up in high-tech vehicles a few years ago. However, the technology has been making huge waves in the scientific and military industries for years. The technology was originally developed by the U.S. military services and Defense Mapping Agency for the purposes of creating a space-based navigational system with unmatched accuracy. The program was called a Global Positioning System (GPS), and in 1973, when it first began, there was no way to foresee all the various uses available today.

Years before most lay people even heard of GPS technology, it received significant attention from the scientific community. In 1998, GPS was one of two technologies inducted into the Space Technology Hall of Fame, as displayed on the Space Foundation’s website: spacetechhalloffame.org. Although the technology is used worldwide, the entire 24-satellite constellation is managed by the NAVSTAR GPS Joint Program Office at the Space and Missile Systems Center near Los Angeles.

One of the aspects of GPS technology that makes it so unique, is the incredibly diverse functions. The program was originally designed for military use, but as it developed over almost 40 years, many new possibilities were discovered. Now, the  Global Positioning System is considered a dual use technology for military and civil consumption. While the U.S. Air Force Space Command, the Department of Defense and the Department of Transportation ultimately control and maintain the satellite system, more and more commercial uses for the technology are being developed for everyday use.

GPS technology was first introduced to the public on a massive scale with navigational systems, attached to or built-in to their vehicles. Now, just about any smartphone comes equipped with GPS, which caused a boom of mobile applications designed with the GPS capabilities in mind. WIth such versatile technology, there is no end in sight for new innovations.

Consumer Reports Weighs in on GPS Apps

Smartphones are everywhere in today’s society. More and more people are realizing the power of this little marvel of technology, learning that they can replace numerous devices with this one remarkable phone. In today’s age of “there’s an app for that,” sales of physical GPS devices have fallen as more people decide to rely on their phones to get them where they need to go. Consumer Reports tested some GPS navigational apps recently, and said that the apps have come along way from where they started, some offering fancy features like reality view and add-ons allowing you to use celebrity voices to guide you along your way, adding a little fun to your journey.

Android phones come with Google’s free navigation app right out of the box, and features the turn-by-turn directions GPS device users have become accustomed to. If you happen to have an iPhone, you’ll have to search for your own navigational app. One slight problem: there are so many to choose from, which should you trust?

Consumer Reports reminds everyone that “you get what you pay for.” Despite the slew of free GPS apps, they recommend going with the trusted names of the GPS world: Garmin, Navigon, TomTom, and Magellan. It was also discovered that the companies that made top-performing physical GPS devices also made the best iPhone GPS apps.

According to Consumer Reports, if you want a great GPS app for your iPhone, prepare to spend about $60, and remember to stick to the big names in the GPS world. They warn users the app will take up a big portion of memory on your iPhone, so take this into consideration when you’re deciding whether or not to leave the physical GPS device behind. The more maps you need to download, the more memory the app will take up.

Whatever app you choose, keep in mind the size of the screen on your phone. Some users will be turned off by the teeny maps and go back to the larger screened GPS device. If you decide the app is all you need, you can cut costs a bit by limiting your map download to a specific region, and watch for sales.

Whether you choose to use an app or a GPS navigation device, handheld or built in to your vehicle, always remember to park your car when using the device. Your safety, and that of others on the road, is at stake.

Breadcrumb GPS Tracking Designed for Alzheimer’s Patients and Caretakers

GPS tracking technology has revolutionized several industries by allowing users to remotely track the location of valuable property. Missing smartphones and vehicles can be tracked from anywhere with internet access. Remote species of birds and solitary wildlife can be studied from a safe, unimposing distance. One of the more recent uses for GPS tracking has been developed for the wandering elderly population suffering from degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia. The technology has already been used to track autistic children, who are also at high risk of wandering off and getting lost.

There are few things more stressful for caregivers, family and friends, than when a loved one goes missing. Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease often cause the sufferer to be confused and wonder off, sometimes searching for a childhood home. It is scary enough getting lost as an independent, capable adult, but when it happens to young children, the elderly or disabled people, it can be life threatening. The earlier the person is located, the better his or her chances of returning home safely. There is no way to guarantee that your loved one won’t wander off, but with GPS tracking, he or she can be found quickly and easily.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) and Breadcrumb L.L.C. announced earlier this month, that they have developed a GPS device and monitoring system for elderly patients and their caregivers. The GPS tracking device is called the BC300, and though it is not the first tracking devices designed for Alzheimer’s patients, it is the first to be offered through QVC, a leading multimedia retailer. The device comes with a charging station, adapter, rechargeable batteries, USB cable, attachment bands and instructional DVD. In addition to QVC’s online store, the tracking system will also be available at alzfdn.org (AFA’s online store) and breadcrumbgps.com (Breadcrumb’s store).

Idaho Copper Thief Nabbed Thanks to GPS

In today’s age of economic woes, copper theft is on the rise. The high price of copper coupled with desperation on the part of thieves has led to problems all over the country related to its theft: tornado warning sirens failing to sound due to thieves stealing the copper wiring which power them, power outages due to stripped transformers which also rely on copper wiring, and inoperable wells and pumps on desert farms who rely on these wires to bring much needed water to their crops. Contractors all over the country are experiencing thefts from their incomplete homes, an easy target for thieves as there is no one home to stop them, doors or windows often left unlocked.

Officers in Burley, Idaho decided to do something about it and began embedding GPS tracking devices right into the wiring which led to a recent arrest in Cassia County. Sheriff Randy Kidd reports Jorge Ernest Castillo, 38 of Burley, along with a 15-year-old accomplice were arrested for alleged grand theft thanks to the GPS locating device and “good old law enforcement.”  The copper he stole was worth an estimated $1,200.

Kidd, in a press release, calls out would-be thieves and tells them to beware: “Let this be a warning to potential copper thieves, the next roll of wire that you take may be the one that has our tracker embedded in it and you will be next.”

Officers planted a spool of copper wire complete with GPS device in a rural area in Cassia County as bait to attract a thief. After a period of time, officers were alerted that the spool was on the move, around 5:24pm. They followed the signal given out by the embedded device and were led directly to the suspect’s car. The arrest of Castillo and his accomplice is the second arrest attributed to the location device in the last two years.

Kidd stated he planned to use these devices as much as his budget would afford, as the department must not only pay for the $800 device itself, but for the activation of the tracking system as well. Kidd feels these tracking devices are the most effective tool they could possibly rely on to capture copper thieves.

Castillo is being held at the Mini-Cassia Criminal Justice Center and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The minor was released to his parents.

GPS Help for Alzheimer’s Patients

Approximately 125,000 Alzheimer’s patients are reported missing every year across the United States; missing because they have wandered from their caregivers or medical institutions. These are the critical wanderers, but there are many other wanderers who go missing for a short time and are quickly found by their caregivers. Now, modern technology may have an answer—GPS integrated shoes.

 

GTX Corp recently delivered its first shipment of these advanced tracking shoes to Aetrex, a shoe company that first came up with the idea of shoes imbedded with a tracking device after Elizabeth Smart went missing from her home in 2002. Originally designed to help missing children, many have seen the shoe’s potential in helping those suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia, a disease characterized by a tendency to wander and a desire to return to a childhood home.

Approximately 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and the worldwide cost for caring for dementia patients is $604 billion. These are overwhelming statistics that can burden the caregivers trying to protect and nurture their loved ones. Certified by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), the GPS tracking system used in these shoes may help bring peace of mind to those caring for someone with dementia; more importantly, the shoes can help authorities locate a wanderer more quickly. Studies have shown that almost half of critical wanderers not found within 24 hours die.

In light of the alarming statistics and their anticipated growth rate with the aging population, $300 a pair seems a small price to pay for the safety of these patients who, through no fault of their own, are no longer able to care for themselves. The buyer is able to put the system in the heel of any pair of shoes and then set up the monitoring perimeters and an alert system so that when the wearer leaves a designated area, the caregiver is immediately notified and able to locate the person in a timely fashion. The shoes are probably most crucial to those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, those who still live at home somewhat independently but are beginning to wander or get lost on routine errands; however, even those living in a long-term care facility are known to wander and escape.

The benefits of Aetrex’s GPS enabled shoes for Alzheimer’s patients are clearly seen, and the potential for recovering missing children cannot be underestimated. Some even advocate the use of such technology for prostitutes. In this day and age, it would be hard to comprehend anyone who could not benefit from the technology of GPS tracking.

GPS Tracking Program in Santa Fe for Repeat Burglary Cases

With overcrowded prisons and the high cost of incarcerating a criminal, officials in Santa Fe, New Mexico have recently started a new program that they hope will ease the burden of both problems on society. Police will use GPS tracking ankle bracelets on convicted burglars in an effort to deter them from repeat crimes.

 

The Problem Studies have found that burglars tend to go right back to their crimes once released from prison. Almost like an addiction, repeat incarcerations seem to have little effect, and it costs the taxpayer thousands of dollars every year. The fact of the matter is that police often note spikes in burglary type crimes whenever a burglar is released from jail. In an ABC News report, Santa Fe Police Captain Eric Wheeler said that the use of GPS technology is an alternative to re-incarceration that he hopes will prove effective in reducing the number of burglaries.

The Program According to Chief Deputy District Attorney Doug Couler of Santa Fe, the program will focus on those convicted burglars who have long sentences, multiple convictions, or a history of juvenile burglary. District prosecutors and police will work with a defendant’s attorney to determine whether the individual qualifies for the program. In light of the current case before the Supreme Court in regards to GPS tracking and Fourth Amendment rights, the full cooperation of the defendant must be obtained to maintain the Constitutionality of the program. The individual must waive his right to privacy since the police will have unrestricted access to the data collected from the GPS-enabled tracking device put on the defendant’s person. Those enrolled in the program must also agree to obtain a job in order to be a contributing member of society.

The Procedure The tracking devices have both passive and real-time tracking capabilities. Those enrolled in the program will be monitored only passively unless there is a rash of burglaries in the area where the defendant lives or if the crimes seem to reflect a particular individual’s modus operandi. In that case, police will contact the GPS tracking company to obtain the real-time data that can either place the individual at the scene of the crime or clear him of wrongdoing.

Since longer jail times and repeat incarcerations do not seem to be effective, authorities in Santa Fe hope that GPS technology and the knowledge that someone is watching will be enough to deter these otherwise harmless criminals from committing more burglaries.

GPS Involved In Leopard Killing Controversy

Numerous animal conservation efforts around the world have discovered the usefulness of GPS technology for the purpose of keeping track of individual members of endangered species. By attaching a tracker to an animal, project supervisors can give it freedom to roam naturally while keeping an eye on its movement. If the animal wanders into a dangerous area like a highway or village, they can quickly recapture it and return it to safety.

 

This was the method in use during a program to study a population of about 500 extremely rare, critically endangered leopards in South Africa. About 23 of the leopards now wear GPS trackers, and there are also infrared cameras hidden in their habitat to provide even more detailed information on their activity. The program, led by a conservation group called the Landmark Foundation, gets assistance from a government organization, CapeNature. Under normal circumstances, the partnership works well.

In September 2011, however, an official with CapeNature ordered that one of the tracker-fitted leopards be shot after it killed two calves belonging to a local farmer. Judging that the predator’s presence in the area posed an unacceptable threat to local cattle farmers, the official gave the order and the leopard was killed.

Conflict between farmers and endangered predators is not a new or local problem. Further north on the African continent, lions and humans are in constant tension in many areas, struggling to balance habitat preservation with the safety of both farm animals and humans. In some cases, a single problem animal can be transferred to another area, but a South African leopard expert says that relocation does not usually work with leopards.

Obviously, this situation has created a rift between the Landmark Foundation and CapeNature. The Landmark Foundation is indignant over what it labels an illegal killing of an extremely rare animal, while CapeNature insists the killing was the only possible solution to the problem. This disagreement places the entire study in danger, as cooperation between the two groups is necessary for success. It appears that there may be additional problems with communication, as the Landmark Foundation says that it would have been willing to pay for protection for the farmer’s cattle in the form of an electric fence and even guard animals. They say the leopard was so valuable to the species’ recovery that any expense would have been acceptable in order to keep it alive.

The Battle Continues Between LightSquared and the GPS Industry

In the continuing war between the GPS industry, attempting to sell GPS tracking devices, and LightSquared, trying to make the task of building a 4G LTE network a little easier, a special committee has decided they see “no practical solutions or mitigations” that will keep both parties happy.

LightSquared is attempting to save the cost of building a network from scratch, asking the FCC to use part of the spectrum that is currently designated for satellite communications, and just outside of the spectrum granted to GPS devices of all kinds. It will save LightSquared a boatload of money when all is said and done, but the GPS industry is up in arms as numerous tests have determined implementing the network will cause interference with GPS tracking devices. The different devices, in order to work, search not only their own designated spectrum, but nearby spectrums as well. LightSquared says this is the fault of GPS device manufacturers, designing systems which pinpoint GPS coordinates in an inefficient manner.

The National Space-Based Positioning Navigation and Timing Committee reviewed the case and decided there is really no way to make this work. In testing conducted in December 2011, it was discovered the proposed 4G LTE network caused 75 percent of GPS tracking devices to fail due to interference. After testing, a report was released stating “LightSquared signals caused harmful interference to majority of GPS receivers tested. No additional testing is required to confirm harmful interference exists.”

To counter this, LightSquared offered up numerous solutions, including lowering the strength of their signal in the hopes the GPS devices won’t pick up on it as easily and an add-on filter provided by Javad GNSS. This filter is designed to put an end to the interference problems caused by LightSquared’s network, but comes with a slight problem: the device must have the filter retrofitted first. LightSquared is claiming the simple, inexpensive filter will not cause the costs of GPS units to rise, but what about the devices already out there in consumers’ hands? Won’t it be a hassle, having to install this filter to their device?  Will they have to buy new devices altogether?

The committee’s report has been handed to the FCC who is tasked with deciding whether or not to grant LightSquared permission to build their network. With the release of this report things don’t look good, but only time will tell. We’ll be sure to keep you informed here at RMT as decisions are made and reports are released pertaining to this case.

Big Brother and GPS Tracking

Orwell’s book 1984 raised alarms about big government always watching, but his fictional work is creeping ever closer to reality. As more cases involving GPS tracking come to light, citizens are beginning to realize what is at stake. Even the highest court in the land seems uncertain as to how to decide on the necessity of a warrant before tracking a suspect.

 

In the Name of Justice
The case before the Supreme Court concerns whether police should be required to obtain a warrant before tracking an individual. It might be tempting to say no since the police are serving the greater good of the community, but where does investigating end and prying start? Most people think in terms of navigational help when it comes to GPS, but GPS units used by the police are more of a two-way communication device. These GPS tracking devices interact with cellular data networks to keep a constant vigil on a suspect’s vehicle. It seems to fall more in the category of wiretapping, which does require a warrant, than a simple stake-out.

For You or Against You
Government is not the only one watching. Electronic devices of just about every kind have the ability to track a person’s location, browsing history, and apps. Makers of these devices not only keep record of this information, they sell it to other companies in an attempt to build their business. Companies like SmartPhone, Google, Facebook, and Verizon Wireless all sell information they gather from their customers to outside companies looking for a new pool of clients to draw from. Even the innocent collecting of traffic data by a GPS navigation company for the purpose of helping its users can be used by police to setup speed traps. Medical records and financial information can be released, children can be tracked, and employment can be terminated based on false information.

In a country where right to privacy is everything, why do Americans allow such scrutiny of their movements, purchases, and searches? Is it the free apps, ready access to information, easy to use navigational tools? How big are we willing to let Big Brother get? GPS tracking technology is very useful, but the buyer must beware and realize what he is sacrificing in the name of technology.

GPS in Taxi Helps Australian Rape Victim’s Case

It is any woman’s worst nightmare. After a night of heavy drinking, a 24 year old woman jumped into a taxi and consequently passed out in the backseat. What she claims happened next is currently being debated in front of a jury, who must decide if the two men involved are guilty of the charges against them: sexual penetration without consent.  This is indeed no easy task due to her incoherent condition, but the GPS tracking device installed inside the taxis taken by both men should make things much easier.

Prosecutor Janelle Scutt laid out the gory details in her opening statement. The victim was denied access to the Hip-E nightclub, and decided that maybe it was time to head home. As such, she hailed the cab of Amrit Pal Singh, 31. She passed out, and he called another cab driver, Prabhjit Singh Gill, 36, to meet him in a parking lot off of the Kwinana Freeway. Gill obliged, and the two men proceeded to rape the victim. Singh faces one charge of sexual penetration without consent, while Gill faces two for allegedly grabbing her head and penetrating her mouth as well.

The two men deny the charges, but the fact that the Swan Taxi Company equips their vehicles with GPS tracking devices makes it quite difficult to believe them. Upon reviewing the information gathered by the GPS tracking devices on both taxis, it was determined the two men met up at the park around the time the victim was picked up, and more importantly, they remained there for 30 to 45 minutes.

As if the GPS location information isn’t incriminating enough, DNA swabs taken the day following the alleged rape are confirmed to match Singh’s DNA.

Of course, with all of the evidence stacked against the men, they will likely jump to the “she gave consent” he-said-she-said defense. Scutt addressed this in her opening arguments: “It was without her consent.  She couldn’t provide consent…at the time she (the victim) was at best in a state of semi consciousness.” In other words, she may not have said no, but she definitely did not say yes.

The trial is slated to go on for at least five days.