Monthly Archives: April 2012

TeleType Announces SmartTruckRoute: GPS Navigation App for Trucks

TeleType pioneered the GPS truck navigation industry in 2008, providing the first portable GPS navigation system for trucks. The company recently announced their latest innovation: SmartTruckRoute. This application is available on all Android smartphones, and will soon be released for the iPhone and iPad devices. SmartTruckRoute stands apart from other GPS navigation apps, because it was designed with the specific needs of commercial trucks in mind. The app is also the first server-based app, providing secure back up of routes and location data.

“The Android app gives truck drivers peace of mind for about 10 cents a day, regardless of what other GPS they may be using as it provides an inexpensive back up system for truck navigation,” said Marleen Winer, TeleType’s V.P. of Business Development. The SmartTruckRoute app can be used as the sole GPS navigation system for truck fleets, or simply as a back up system for an existing method. The application can be used simultaneously with other smartphone functions, so the user can make and receive phone calls. The app also provides turn-by-turn instructions, which can be plugged in to the vehicle’s speaker system to avoid driver distraction.

Unlike many other navigation systems, this app was developed specifically for trucks, so it includes special features that a generic navigation devices wouldn’t. Some of these features include truck specific routes and maps, and supports Hazmat restrictions by class, which help the driver avoid restricted tunnels and routes based on the truck’s cargo. The driver can input specific information about the weight and size of the truck and receive routing considerations specific to his or her vehicle. The system can help the driver avoid one-way roads, low bridges and other clearances, load limits, and even sharp turns.

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West Australia To Track Sex Offenders with GPS

The government of West Australia has announced plans to follow Queensland in attaching GPS tracking devices to its sex offenders. Under this plan, sex offenders would be released into the community with anklets or bracelets equipped with GPS tracking technology. The tracking devices will monitor the individual’s movements, and can send alerts when leaving or entering specified zones. The policy eases the strain on over-crowded prison systems, and can hopefully act as a deterrent for repeat offenses. However, the announcement was met with some concern at the idea of releasing known sex offenders back into the community.

“Yes, it’s possible that it could increase the number of dangerous sex offenders that are released,” Terry Redman, WA Corrective Services Minister, told the Herald Sun. “But it’s also possible that we get a higher level of breach and hence people going back to the Supreme Court to face judgments about going back into prison … We really need to monitor how this goes.” The technology alerts the Corrective Services Department if the wearer tampers with or removes the device, or goes near a school or a victim’s home.

“Once we have this in place for dangerous sex offenders … I think there’s a lot of scope for it to be used for other people within that corrective services system that are a concern to the community,” Redman said. “We have women in Bandyup Women’s Prison now who have significant family responsibilities outside … Things like this GPS tracking, we may be able to have them maintaining links with their families where they’re not a risk to the community.”

Queensland has been tracking it’s sex offenders successfully for about a year. “Those states have clearly seen the benefit of that,” Redman explained. “Like all technology is never 100 percent perfect, it enhances significantly our capacity to monitor these people within our community.” He added that the department would need to wait for legislation to pass before any of West Australia’s offenders could be tracked. He expects legislation and tracking devices to be equipped in the next year.

Evidence Collected With Warrantless GPS Tracking Device Deemed Admissible

It appears not all citizens are protected from warrantless tracking after all, despite the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Jones case which declared GPS tracking of suspected criminals conducted without a warrant unconstitutional. In Iowa, a federal judge decided evidence gathered with a warrantless GPS tracking device installed on the vehicle in the case against a suspected drug trafficker is admissible in court.

DEA agents affixed a GPS tracking device on the car of Angel Amaya without first obtaining a warrant, and US District Judge Mark Bennett declared the evidence was admissible in court because the device was placed prior to the Jones ruling. Agents did exactly as they should at the time, acting in good faith and following the laws laid out by the 8 th Circuit Court of Appeals stating warrantless tracking was a completely legal form of surveillance in Iowa and six additional states.

This is the third such ruling by federal court judges since the decision was made at the Supreme Court level. That means not all criminals are out of the woods yet, unless they happen to live in a state that did not allow warrantless GPS tracking, or if the evidence was gathered after the Jones case was decided.

“It is a bit of an end-run around for law enforcement,” according to Hanni Fakhoury, an attorney with the Electric Frontier Foundation. “And it leads to disparate results because whether [GPS evidence] gets suppressed or not depends on what the law of the circuit was prior to Jones.” Which courts had previously deemed warrantless GPS tracking legal? The 7 th (Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana), 8th (Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Dakota) and 9th (Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, the Mariana Islands, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) had all ruled in favor of warrantless tracking.

What does this mean for law enforcement officials in these 19 states? Provided the “good faith exception” is used supporting the placement of the GPS tracking device on a suspect’s vehicle in order to more effectively conduct surveillance, and that the device was placed prior to the Jones decision, evidence could be admissible.

Legal experts feel this is one big disaster for the Supreme Court ruling. “If we’re going to apply the law one way in half the country and another way in the other half of the country, that’s a real problem,” said Fakoury. The 2011 Supreme Court Davis v. US case brought about this good faith exception, used for searches that were conducted legally at the time, but were later determined to be unconstitutional.

The defense attorney representing Amaya, R. Scott Rhinehart, was shocked after hearing the court’s decision. “I’m not sure where this is coming from to be honest with you,” he said. He points out that “good faith” was no part of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Amaya was suspected of drug trafficking, and was indicted last July for possession and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana. GPS tracking devices were placed on the vehicles of nine different vehicles which belonged to a handful of suspects, three of which were vehicles owned or driven by Amaya.

So far, three cases in total have succeeded using this good faith exception; the other two being in Hawaii and California. Fakhoury says the Davis ruling itself, not the judges application of the ruling, is to blame. “Davis is a really poorly-reasoned, not well thought out option. This situation is just going to keep popping up again and again,” he said. “And the whole point of a Supreme Court ruling is to clarify the law and make it uniform across the country.”

New York Uses GPS Tracking to Protect Developmentally Disabled Population

When a loved one is developmentally disabled, you probably rely on some form of public transportation at one time or another to get them where they need to be. You may know of someone developmentally disabled, whether they live in their own apartment, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home, who relies on public transportation to get around each and every day. You expect that this would be a safe experience, especially since the service is tailored to the developmentally disabled. Sadly, you would be wrong. Increasingly, we are seeing stories exposing abuse, neglect, and even death caused by the very people you trust to get your loved one safely from point A to point B.

The state of New York is allowing the installation of security cameras and a GPS device in all state vans, cars, and buses which transport the developmentally disabled in Albany and the surrounding area. If the program goes well, officials plan to push to make this a statewide initiative. State commissioner of the NY Office of People With Developmental Disabilities Courtney Burke said this program will ensure the safety of any individual being transported by one of their vehicles, while protecting the driver against false reports of abuse, helping to resolve situations that might otherwise spiral out of control and end up ruining the life of a falsely accused employee.

For example, the GPS device can prove that a driver did not make a stop in a case where they are accused of pulling over and committing abuse. If the data is collected from the GPS device and it shows the driver continued from point A to point B without making an unscheduled stop, the case can be immediately thrown out. It negates the dreaded “he said-she said” argument by providing cold, hard GPS coordinate facts.

Currently, no one is considering placing cameras in state-run or privately owned group homes. Office of People With Developmental Disabilities spokesman Travis Proulx brings to light why: the federal government has laid out “very strict restrictions on use of cameras in homes, because that would essentially remove the privacy people are legally entitled to inside their homes.”

Michael Carey disagrees. Jonathan, his 13-year old autistic son, died in a transit van back in 2007 when a state worker attempting to restrain him instead smothered him. Carey calls the program “a tiny, superficial step.” He is working to push legislation calling for cameras in common areas of all developmentally disabled group homes, as well as every private or public transport vehicle, whether it is a bus, car, or van. “There’s an overwhelming strategy on the state’s part that they don’t want the evidence of abuse. They’re more concerned about lawsuits than the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable, disabled children and adults they are supposed to care for,” he adds.

Improved GPS Tracking: Friend or Foe?

GPS tracking devices are continuously improving. It was only a few years ago that the best commercially available tracking device was nearly as big as a snow globe, with accuracy discrepancies the size of a football field. Since then, the devices have become smaller, more accurate, and more affordable than ever. It wont be long before the GPS dot envisioned in the 2006 Sony Picture’s film, The Da Vinci Code, becomes a reality. Todd Humphreys, of the Department of Aerospace Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin, speculates in a recent article published at InsideGNSS.com that GPS dot-like devices may be available to consumers within the next few years.

There are many advantages to easy, accurate, and affordable GPS tracking dots. WIth devices like these, people will be able to track anything and everything of value. Owners could stick the tiny tracking devices on their children, pets, vehicles, bikes, cameras, and just about anything else. Aside from valuables, the devices can track everyday items that tend to get misplaced. By simply attaching a tracking device to one’s glasses, keys, the remote control, or whatever item that seems to frequently disappear, you can save hours of time that would be spent retracing your steps.

As personal GPS tracking gets easier and more affordable, it can be easy to lose site of the threats posed by such technology. The more accessible and discrete these devices become, the more they will be used by predators. Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement must obtain a warrant before tracking suspects with GPS technology. Unfortunately, the laws surrounding citizen-on-citizen tracking are more ambiguous. A more discrete tracking device can make it more difficult for thieves to detect, helping police recover stolen property. However, these devices can also be very difficult to detect in the event that someone is tracking you without your permission. One can hope that as GPS technology advances, we will find better solutions to protect our privacy.

TomTom: Fix for ‘Leap Year’ Bug Released

Do you own a TomTom GPS device? If you do, you are likely aware that your device might not be working properly thanks to a software glitch referred to as the “leap year” bug. GPS navigation device giant TomTom has announced the release of a software fix for this glitch that made it impossible for the device to pinpoint users’ locations, making customers worldwide unhappy.

Problems began on March 31st with users staring at a poor GPS signal error message, and some a blank gray screen. None of the GPS devices were able to lock in on a users’ location. Customers took to posting on TomTom’s forums to alert the company to the issue. The company acknowledged the issue on the following Tuesday, assuring customers a patch was in the works.

TomTom apologized to its customers, saying the issues were caused by a “leap year” bug contained within the GPS device software provided by a third-party supplier. “We are working hard on a permanent solution that we will make available on our website as a downloadable software fix.” At the time, TomTom wouldn’t say which models were affected, only that a “limited number of GPS navigation device models” are having issues related to the GPS software glitch. The company recommended rebooting the GPS device as a temporary fix in the meantime.

On April 4 th, a few days later, the company released a statement: “A software update fixing the issue is now available via MyTomTom.” MyTomTom is TomTom’s web page offering support for its many GPS devices. “The update is straightforward.”

The company still didn’t get into details as to which models were affected, but when visiting the support page, you can see that installation instructions are provided for the Start 20/25, Via 110/120/125, Via Live 120/125, Go Live 820/825, Go Live 1000/1005, Blue&Me – TomTom 2, TomTom Connect and World 1005.

GPS Unit Takes Center Stage in Michigan Murder Trial

A man charged with two murders will likely head to prison on the basis of a highly reliable witness’s testimony. But the witness isn’t a person; it’s a GPS unit that was mounted on his vehicle. According to the prosecution’s argument, the tracker clearly shows that the defendant was present at the location of the murders at the time that they occurred.

The most that GPS readings can prove is the location of the murder suspect’s car during the time it was tracked. As the prosecuting attorney displayed in court, the Garmin GPS unit mounted on the suspect’s car reported its geographical location almost 10,000 times within the space of a week. When those locations were added to a map, they showed the car driving past the house where the murder happened numerous times in the days leading up to the event.

Even more importantly, the data placed the car at the house for several hours at midday on the day of the murders. Later reports also track the car traveling to the storage facility where police recovered the murder weapon and other evidence related to the crime. As expected, the defending lawyer raised objections to the use of the GPS unit as evidence. He claimed that the readings should not be considered reliable since the unit itself had not been inspected by an expert and ruled trustworthy. In addition, he suggested that looking at the unit’s readings in the first place was an illegal search, not validated by a court-ordered warrant.

The judge, however, did not appear to take these objections too seriously, and decided to admit the readings as valid evidence. As long as the jury is willing to grant that the presence of the suspect’s car at a certain location implies the suspect’s presence, their decision seems clear.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that police may not secretly plant a GPS tracker on a suspect’s vehicle without a warrant. This case, however, is different in that the tracker was already on the vehicle. Also, the police came in contact with it and inspected its readings only after the suspect had been arrested. One can only imagine this defendant’s frustration at having recorded his own movements during the course of the crime.

GPS Saves a Group of Fishermen

You love fishing. You go to a lake with some friends, walk in the ice until you find a nice spot. After a few hours, without warning, the ice breaks. You and your friends are adrift, slowly moving away from the shore, and you don’t even know it. In this situation, every minute counts. You need to call the rescue crews ASAP, but you don’t even know you’re in danger!

This situation can be easily avoided with GPS technology. A GPS tracking device can tell you exactly where you are. It can also tell you if you’re not where you’re supposed to be. And it can tell you if you’re moving when you’re not supposed to be moving. In the scenario above, adrift on ice, you would immediately realize that you’re moving by checking your GPS device, enabling you to make a call or send a distress signal right away.

This happened not long ago in New York. Thirty fishermen realized they were adrift when one of them checked his GPS device. “He looked at it and his position had moved about 75 feet, and it dawned on him that the ice must be moving,” said Sgt. Tom Haumann, quoted on The Wall Street Journal online. A large slab of ice broke free and sent them 15 feet away from the shore. Fortunately, most of the fishermen were able to wade to shore. Only one of them needed to be rescued on an air boat.

GPS has been on the news several times over the years with similar stories to this one. A few years ago a young British student, Kimberley Warren, fell from her horse and was injured. Even worse, she was in Russia, very far away from home. Her distress signal was picked up 3,700 miles away. The rescue group knew exactly where she was thanks to GPS technology. “They were able to pinpoint the location of the group right down to an area smaller than half a tennis court,” said Michael Mulford from the Royal Air Force.

Because of GPS tracking technology, lives have been saved and tragedies avoided. Today, a GPS device is as essential to an outdoor enthusiast as a lamp, knife, or a good pair of boots. Going outside is safer than ever, thanks to GPS technology.

GPS Technology Serves As Smartphone Theft Insurance

Thieves love smartphones as much as you do, but for different reasons. Smartphones are cool. They’re small. They’re expensive and easy to steal. A good smartphone can be a costly investment, and you probably want to keep yours in your own pocket until you buy a new one. But that’s exactly what thieves don’t want. They want your smartphone because it’s easy to steal and easy to sell. Stealing a phone at a coffee shop, a baseball game, or at a park is relatively easy, and thieves know it. That’s why they love smartphones, but that’s all changing.

GPS Technology: Thieves’ Worst Nightmare
You’re at a park, having a good time. You leave your phone on a bench for a mere second go throw away some garbage. You come back to find your phone gone. A couple of hundred bucks (or more) down the drain in a matter of seconds. However, with GPS tracking technology, there is a fighting chance of recovering your valuable investment.

Recently, police caught a young thief who stole two smartphones. Two girls left their phones in their car and forgot to lock the doors. The boy did what many thieves do: They see a phone, they go for it. What the young thief didn’t know was that one of the phones had GPS tracking technology. Only minutes after the girls reported what happened, the authorities were able to track down where both of the phones were. A nice, happy ending, thanks to GPS technology.

With GPS Technology, You Can Relax.
So you come back to the bench. Your phone is gone. What do you do? If your phone has a GPS tracking system, you can relax. The good news is that many smartphones now come with this technology. If your phone is stolen, you can use a computer to find its location on a map, and share the information with the police. Consumers can send a message to their smartphones, in case it was left at a friend’s house. If the phone contains confidential information, you can also lock or erase it remotely.

GPS technology is a thief’s worst nightmare, and it can be your best friend. GPS technology keeps your phone where it belongs—in your own pocket, not someone else’s.

Climbing Mt. Everest with GPS

The height of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, is under heated debate. Though standing more than 200 m above the next tallest rival, China and Nepal have been arguing the exact height of Everest for many years. Now, Nepal is seeking the expertise of scientists and GPS technology to settle the question once and for all.

Krishna Raj, the director-general of the Himalayan Survey Department, reports that they have measured from sea level to base camp, but from base camp to the top remains unmeasured by accurate and scientific means. Therefore, Nepal has appealed to the international community for the funding and technologically advanced equipment needed to obtain a measurement that is globally accepted as the definitive height of this prestigious peak.

The first published height of Mt. Everest was in 1856 by the Great Trigonometric Survey of British India. Using the science of math, the peak was calculated to be 8840 m above sea level. Today’s accepted height is not far from that figure; India’s 1954 survey of 8848 m above sea level is still Nepal’s claim to fame. However, in 2005 a Chinese survey put the height at 8844.43 m. The Chinese claim that their figure is far more accurate since they used modern technology and took the measurement to the tip of the actual rock surface rather than include the ice cap and snow. Interestingly, China did measure the ice cap and snow, though fluctuant, to be at 3.5 m, the difference between the two countries’ disputed claims.

Raj believes that Sherpas trained in the science of GPS technology could settle the debate, though he warns that the equipment would need to withstand temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius. In 1999, the United States did complete a survey of Everest using the scientific data collected from a global positioning system. Their measurement was 8850 m above sea level; another discrepancy. However, this can be accounted for by the newness of the technology and the lack of knowledge of Mt. Everest and its surroundings, which is why Nepal hopes to draw on the advances of scientists around the world to get to the bottom of all this, or rather the top of it.

Although it may take two years to determine a final measurement based on GPS data, Nepal is hopeful that the findings will put an end to the dispute with China.