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Tuesday
23 October 2018

Scientists Track Dolphins with GPS

by Greg Bartlett / guest author

After an unprecedented rescue of 11 dolphins stranded in the Wellfleet peninsula’s mud flats near Boston, MA, scientists associated with the New England Aquarium have placed GPS trackers on the freed mammals to ensure their safe return to the ocean. Experts say that after such a traumatic experience, dolphins will require some time to recover before they venture back into open sea. Causes for such a stranding are still difficult to determine, but current theories point to confused echo-location, which occurs more frequently in areas of higher human activity. But for now, the rescued dolphins are swimming cautiously within Cape Cod Bay, though rescuers are hoping that they resume normal activity soon.

The use of GPS tracking systems to monitor marine life has increased rapidly in recent years, thanks to advances in accuracy and miniaturization. For scientists working on limited grant funds, the improved affordability doesn’t hurt, either. Commercially available GPS trackers can be outfitted to collars which can be comfortably placed around larger marine life. The technology is temporary and may be removed after scientists are sure the animal is safe, or when a particular research project is complete. Some trackers are small enough to be placed internally, though the cost and complication of such a method makes it unpopular.

Back in 2008, rescuers in Australia performed a similar operation to the one in Wellfleet. After a pod of pilot whales was rescued from a beach in Tasmania, scientists placed GPS trackers on several to ensure their safe return to sea. The GPS trackers provided clear location data to those shadowing the whales, giving them peace of mind about the whales’ safety, as well as valuable insight into their behavior.

The opportunity to study marine life is also certainly an appealing feature of GPS trackers. Earlier this year, researchers at the Hatfield Marine Science Center made some interesting discoveries regarding the behavior of sperm whales while tracking them with GPS technology. Location data provided by the trackers seemed to show the whales cooperating to herd in groups of squid. The whales would take turns covering the different positions of a 3D perimeter—effectively creating an inescapable ball where squid would be trapped until eaten. Simply no other tracking technology would have been able to gather this data. Non-GPS solutions may have altered the sperm whales’ behavior or not given the scientists the flexibility and mobility they required.

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GPS Tracking and Employee Accountability

by Greg Bartlett / guest author

Employer surveillance of company employees has long been a source of debate in the corporate community. Advances in technology provide many options for employer monitoring, but some types may be a violation of employee privacy, or have other inherent disadvantages. How do you balance privacy rights with the company’s need to make sure employees are behaving ethically on the job? What is acceptable and legal, and what crosses the line?

While questions of legality still loom over e-mail, recorders, cameras, and phones surveillance, GPS tracking devices are generally considered legal and reasonable (read about a case of GPS tracking and what the administrative law judge decided). This type of device might be particularly useful to companies or small businesses that require employees to make deliveries or trips without managerial supervision. While honesty is expected in employees in every type of work, sometimes the temptations inherent in delivery or travel style jobs may be too strong for even your best employees.

Statistics show that over the past three years, 33% of employees admit to stealing from the company, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blames 30% of failures in business on theft by employees. There is an old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure—and one of the best ways to prevent dishonesty in traveling/delivering employees is to implement a GPS tracking device in the company vehicles. This is also a way to prevent uncomfortable confrontations and loss of profits in your business. Simply knowing that this device is present may help employees to think twice about “that one little errand only a little bit out of the way,” and may help keep them honest about travel log reports.

There are two types of GPS systems—active and passive. Both systems utilize satellites that orbit in outer space. Generally, groupings of three of these satellites compile data about the latitude and longitude of the individual/vehicle/object wearing the receiver. An active GPS tracking system allows you to download information to the internet or a mobile device for constant surveillance. A passive GPS tracking device is more of a record of what occurred (where the vehicle went, where it stopped, etc.). Depending on the way your company operates, either system would provide valuable accountability and prevention for employee theft whether it is a pizza delivery route or delivering more valuable products.

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Should Offenders be Tracked with a GPS Locator?

Criminals are out on the streets. Should you be upset? Maybe, maybe not—it may be a part of future experiments utilizing a GPS locator. The economic debate in California continues to rage, and one possible solution on the table is releasing prisoners.

Incarcerating offenders can be a costly endeavor—in 2007-2008, the proposed budget for corrections in California was $4,061,703,000. According to the Newsletter of the Federal Courts, the costs of correction/incarceration are as follows: for imprisonment: $63.51 daily (per person); for community correction centers, $52.29 daily (per person); and for supervision by probation offers, $9.61 daily (per person). The annual cost for incarcerating an individual in a prison is $23, 183.69. In 2006 alone, $68,747,203,000.00 was spent on correctional facilities, and according to available information, those who are held because they cannot afford bail cost $9 billion per year in housing.

GPS tracking for criminals can cost between $8 and $12 per day. That would be between $2920 and $4380 per person per year, a tremendous savings. An important part of this debate is how GPS tracking actually works. A system of 24 satellites orbits in outer space, working in groups of twos or threes (almost always in groups of threes) to determine the latitude and longitude of the receiver on earth. The receiver can be attached to a person or vehicle. Active systems offer moment-by-moment tracking, while passive systems are a historical log of events. Active systems would be the choice for criminal tracking.

The specific components for criminal tracking usually include a receiver worn on the ankle. According to information on the Heartland Institute website, there is also a removable tracking unit that records violations when communication with the non-removable anklet is cut. While this option is the perfect solution as far as saving money is concerned, there are also other important issues at stake.

Does merely tracking a criminal keep society safe? If we are only tracking petty thieves and non-violent offenders, are the savings worth the risk? If our goal is “punishing” the offender, does GPS tracking really meet the need? What is the motivation for the offender to be on “good behavior” while being monitored? For one thing, the risk of incarceration may not be worth the temptation—possibly one hope of proponents of GPS tracking. Weighing through the issues (both advantage and disadvantages) may take some time, but hopefully as the technology continues to advance, safe and effective means of both cutting expense and securing safety can be achieved through GPS tracking devices.

Greg Bartlett is a guest author who specializes in writing about GPS technology and has earned two master’s degrees.

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GPS Tracking Integral to Amanda’s Bill

On Thursday, March 18th, the Kentucky State Senate passed its version of a bill that would allow judges to mandate the wearing of GPS tracking devices by domestic violence offenders. Named after Amanda Ross, a domestic abuse victim murdered outside of her home in September 2009, the bill represents an amalgamation of tools for civil and criminal courts in preventing repeat offenses by those who violate the terms of a restraining order.

Some criticize the Senate version of the bill for being too soft, since it only allows judges to place GPS tracking systems on those who violate a protection order issued by the court. The previous version, passed by the House, gave judges the opportunity to track any offender named in the order. The revised bill also places limitations on the use of the data from the GPS trackers. Law enforcement would need a warrant before accessing the tracking information.

But while Amanda’s family, who in September began pushing for this bill to become law, says they are not entirely pleased with the current version, this is nonetheless an acknowledgement of the need to employ technology to protect victims of abuse.

At least a dozen other states have passed similar laws, and the results of employing GPS trackers have been dramatic. Towns in Massachusetts, Indiana, and Colorado that have GPS tracking programs in place have seen huge reductions in domestic violence.

However, a simple GPS tracker is not enough, and most lawmakers realize this. Those who drafted Amanda’s Bill included an extensive array of non-technical tools which would provide greater safety for those at risk of abuse. Given the power to choose whether a GPS tracker would be appropriate for a particular offender, a judge could access a variety of databases to search out prior histories and other resources. On the enforcement side, police officers in the state would be required to attend training about domestic violence every few years. Other officials involved in domestic violence cases would also be given greater procedural guidance in terms of how to inform and counsel potential victims.

GPS tracking remains a valuable tool for law enforcement and the courts. The technology has improved in recent years, and real-time tracking now allows for near-instantaneous delivery of location data in most parts of the country. How officials gather and distribute that information, however, will determine the continuing safety of those scarred by violence.

Greg Batlett is a guest author who specializes in writing about GPS technology and has earned two master’s degrees.

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Google tracks local inventory on your mobile phone

in stock nearby Google tracks local inventory on your mobile phone

With SXSW going on in Austin, Texas, the big focus in the blogosphere is on location-based applications, probably most of which are tied somehow to social networking. Personally though, I find Google’s Product Search for mobile with local inventory much more interesting.

Live as of yesterday, the mobile application lets searchers see in product search results if products are in stock at nearby stores.

For example, in the image above, a search for Wii Fit displays a result with a blue dot and phrase “In stock nearby” underneath. If the searcher clicks on the phrase or dot, they’ll be taken to the seller’s page where there will be more information, a Google Maps listing and the option to get directions if My Location is enabled.

Currently the application works on the iPhone, Palm webOS and Android. It also works from Google.com if the searcher clicks on Shopping under the More tab–all from a mobile browser of course.

Right now, only a few retailers are participating in the program including Best Buy, Sears, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn and West Elm. Other businesses that wish to participate can film out this form.

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Vodafone shuts down Wayfinder due to Google, Nokia

wayfinder Vodafone shuts down Wayfinder due to Google, Nokia

The demise of paid mobile mapping applications has begun. Just last year, European wireless carrier Vodafone shelled out $30 million to purchase Swedish startup Wayfinder, a turn-by-turn navigation platform. Of course, at the time Vodafone has every intention of charging for the application to make that $30 million back.

With the release of free Google Maps Navigation and free Nokia Ovi Maps navigation, both fully featured turn-by-turn navigation apps, Vodafone’s Wayfinder vision was cooked and the service has been officially shut down.

Vodafone’s Anna Cloke spoke to Engadget and put things into perspective:

“We could not charge for something that other gave away for free.”

And the deathwatch begins…

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Google Street View now covers all of UK

google streetview 150x150 Google Street View now covers all of UKGoogle today has extended its 360-degree, Street View photographic imagery coverage in the United Kingdom to include 95% of homes in the country and another 210, 000 miles of road.

Europe has been on fire recently with allegations that Street View, part of Google Maps, amounts to nothing more than a privacy invasion. Despite this, Spain, France and Italy join the UK as European Union countries that have been fully mapped by Google.

Users can request that Google remove images of them or their properties from Street View if they so choose.

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T-Mobile joins WaveMarket geolocation initiative

wavemarket logo T Mobile joins WaveMarket geolocation initiativeT-Mobile USA has joined WaveMarket’s Veriplace Cloud Location Platform Initiative today, enabling third-party mobile application developers access to the carriers’ anonymized location information gathered from subscriber smartphones.

Other US carriers including Sprint and AT&T are also members of the initiative meaning that T-Mobile’s 1000+ developers will have access to remote location information from over 150 million mobile devices across the United States.

The Veriplace platform provides a simple and single API that developers can hook into location-based applications, one that is even compatible with indoor geolocation acquisitions.

You can find out more about the Veriplace Location Aggregation Platform at http://developer.veriplace.com.

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Chatroulette Map locates video chat creeps

chatroulette map Chatroulette Map locates video chat creeps

If you haven’t yet heard of Chatroulette, it’s some crazy site that provides webcam video chats with complete strangers.

I really shouldn’t have to say anything more for you to picture the unsavory potential here.

A couple of months after the site reached global infamy, the first map mashup has appeared called Chatroulette Map. The application pulls the IP addresses of its users, and together with a screenshot, plots the whole package on a map.

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MapmyIndia releases Road Pilot GPS navigator

MapmyIndia Road Pilot GPS navigator
New Delhi-based MapmyIndia has released the Road Pilot GPS navigator for India’s automotive market. The 3.5-inch wide, touch screen unit, which doesn’t utilize a cellular connection, features pre-loaded maps of 620 cities, 30, 000 tourist locations, 576, 000 towns and cities and 2 million points of interest.
 
The Road Pilot navigates using voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions and has some new power-saving features like Sleep Mode which puts the navigator in standby mode when not in use so it can be booted up instantly the next time it is used. At the same time, battery power waste is reduced.
 
Available now in India, the Road Pilot GPS navigator costs Rs. 7,990 or roughly US$175. 

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