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The Latest Updates On GPS Technology

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Latest Trends in GPS Implementation

By Devin Logan on 2017-01-16

GPS tracking is a trending technology that seems poised to grow rapidly in coming years. The latest implementation of GPS tracking devices has many important applications; however, concerns over ethics and constitutionality will surely follow this growth.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a global navigation satellite system made up of (currently) 30 orbiting satellites. Originally created by the United States, this is a free system that provides global map coverage. People with GPS devices can access time and geolocation (longitude, latitude, altitude) information as long as they are in the line of sight of at least four of these satellites. To enhance coverage, one can add the global navigation satellite systems of Russia, the European Union, China, Japan, and India to access even more precise data. Though internet reception can increase the accuracy of GPS information, it is not required.

One of the latest trends in GPS implementation is tracker technology. GPS tracking units can be attached to cars, other vehicles, and even people. The devices record location information in intervals. This information can either be stored in the device itself, or exported to a computer.

There are three categories of GPS tracker: data loggers, data pushers, and data pullers. These kinds of GPS implementation allow for a combination of receiving, transmitting, and storing. Loggers record location information at intervals, and store this information internally. Many newer loggers have a USB port or memory card slot, allowing the use to download the logged information. Many cameras are GPS loggers, tagging photos with time and location data. A potential downside for this kind of tracker is a lack of remote access: the user has to manually download information from the physical device. Pushers, which are probably the most common type of GPS tracker, solve this issue of remote access. At specific intervals, this tracker collects and sends location information to a predetermined server. The server, not the GPS tracking device itself, stores the data. Some trackers are solar powered, rather than battery powered. Such a feature allows for more power (it does not need to conserve energy in the same manner as battery powered devices), and is able to receive and send information at more frequent time intervals. Unlike pushers, pullers do not send location information at intervals. Instead, a puller device is always able to be accessed; remote users can “pull” information at any time.

Police in Delta, a municipality in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada), made headlines early this year for implementing GPS darts in police chases. A limited number of Delta police vehicles have the capability to launch these darts onto vehicles that do not pull over: officers are able to launch the darts from inside the police vehicle. The darts attach themselves to the back end of the car being pursued. This kind of tracking implementation limits the danger of high-speed police chases while giving officers accurate location information on the suspect vehicle.

Hennepin County in Minnesota, which encompasses Minneapolis and its suburbs, temporarily banned the use of GPS tracking devices on cars with DUI convictions, citing the Fourth Amendment. Before, cars with DUI convictions were outfitted with the ignition interlock systems, which required users to take a breathalyzer test before starting the vehicle. However, the Department of Public Safety required these cars to have new systems installed by the end of 2016—these new systems were additionally outfitted with GPS capabilities. It was these new devices that provoked questions of constitutionality: installation of tracking devices without consent or a warrant was deemed illegal.

Also this year, the West Lafayette Community School Corp replaced their school buses and added a GPS tracking system. They plan to use the system for potential maintenance issues. Though additional software could also allow students and parents to track bus routes from an app, the WLCSC will not implement this feature at this time due to size and financial constraints.

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