Our culture has enough exposure through experience, news shows like 60 Minutes, and crime show dramas that GPS tracking can be incredibly useful for law enforcement purposes. But we are also beginning to realize that the ability to have tracking devices on our person at all times is also a desirable condition. We think of how useful it would be to attach a GPS watch to an Alzheimer’s patient so that if they wander off they can be easily located by their family. Or we might see how beneficial it might be to be able to monitor our teen’s driving while they are out on the road using the family car. We may even see how easily a tracking unit could help us make a decision about whether or not a spouse is cheating on us, the location information provided by a data logging GPS confirming our suspicions about their fidelity.
In the mean time, lets take a look at the current state of tracking devices to help us get an idea of what is possible and where things might end up going to.
Cell Phone Tracking Devices: The first tracking device that most people are going to recognize is the cell phone. All a cell phone needs is a signal from a cell phone tower and to be turned on for it to be one of the most powerful tracking devices on the market. How this works is that the cell phone does some fancy math to determine its location based upon the know location of either a cell phone tower or a GPS satellite, telling the mobile phone exactly where it is at any given moment in time.
Since most people use cell phones in some capacity almost everyone is going to be able to be tracked in this way. A lot of phones that offer this functionality that can be used as tracking devices on a consumer level. The reason that I say on the consumer level is that the police and other first responders have the ability to track cell phones of all varieties, thanks in part to a 2005 law requiring this functionality for emergency response purposes.
Vehicle Tracking Devices: These are really commercial grade trackers that offer a whole host of important fleet management features for businesses and corporations. Some of the better devices can do much more than simply track the movements of a vehicle. They can:
* Give directions to a driver, making routing and other business related activities much easier and much more efficient.
* Monitor important vehicle metrics like speed and direction as well as other vehicle performance indicators like the ease of stops and starts.
* Cute an idling engine that has been running too long.
* Turn off vehicle lights that have been left on by a driver.
* Give GPS coordinates to the authorities in case of a theft or medical emergency.
* Serve as an electronic and positional time card, helping workers work harder while on the clock.
Future of GPS Technology: GPS is being packaged and delivered in a way that is very palatable for consumers and this means that tracking devices are going to be here for a very long time and in many different forms.
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