The little tales I just shared don’t even begin to cover what is going on now. When cell phones first came out, they could not track where you were at all. You could call Domino’s from your cell phone on your way home, and then meet them at the door to pay them when they arrived in 30 minutes or less. However, in New York City for example, they now have the technology to track if you are calling from a cell phone, and if you are mobile, they won’t deliver. They want you to go home, enable outgoing Caller ID and call from there so they can verify you are who you say you are and you live where you say you live. Too many crank calls, too many safety concerns and suddenly, you have to surrender your information just to get a slice. Gone are the days of calling in sick from the beach. Gone are the days of pulling the delivery truck over for a quick lunch just a bit off of your route. Why? Because Local and Global Positioning Systems are here to stay.
Where Am I?
Local Positioning Systems (LPS) rely on things such as cell towers and site to site microwave transmissions and are designed for regional tracking. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) rely on satellites more than anything else, and are optimally designed for use on a planetary scale. For civilian applications, LPS systems can be more accurate, as the absolute positioning technology is reserved primarily for military and government use. LPS systems are preferable to local agencies because those municipalities can be in full control of the systems. Should they wish, they can upgrade the LPS grids to be increasingly accurate as technology advances. They can work with cellular and transmission companies to help defer the cost by granting special permits that allow for more cell towers, provided triangulation devices are installed and maintained at the necessary locations. Another advantage of the LPS configurations is that they do not interfere with satellite resources and are not affected by satellite positioning anomalies or events such as solar flares. They can be reserved for use by emergency relief agencies, police operations and other state or city sanctioned bodies who may be in need of the technology, including 911 operations and search and rescue teams. As cellular technology advances and the costs of this technology goes down, more and more municipalities are likely to make use of such systems, all without having to invest in dedicated satellites, which can be prohibitively expensive.
GPS technology relies on satellites to help triangulate your location. It is a fantastic technology and can be extremely accurate, though in almost all cases, the most accurate technology is reserved for military and government use. The global reach of these satellite systems allows for position tracking in the remotest of areas, from the center of the deep oceans to the edges of the frozen arctic. In the beginning, GPS was expensive and usually reserved for major things such as tracking planes traveling in the air, tracking ships sailing the seas and pinpointing locations for the military. Not only is GPS used to track troop movements, but it is now used to help guide munitions to their targets. These “smart bombs” are currently one of the most coveted weapons in the arsenals of the military, as they can help minimize or even eliminate civilian casualties during conflicts.
These technologies are more advanced and less expensive than ever, and consumers are taking notice. Savvy entrepreneurs have developed low-cost systems that can be sold to parents who wish to track their teen-aged children as they drive. They can track not only their movements, but their traveling speed as well. If your kid goes to a party instead of the mall, and ends up going past the speed limit in getting there, you can know all about for just a few dollars. UPS drivers can be tracked as they travel their routes, as can armored car companies and even delivery trucks for the United States Postal Service. If anything goes wrong, someone monitoring the vehicles can be alerted almost instantly. There are devices, such as LoJack, that can help you find your car in case it is stolen. In addition, if you have a car accident or get lost while hiking in the woods, you are able to use your cell phone to call 911 and in most areas, the authorities will be able to locate you in short order, ensuring you receive timely medical attention where needed. When looked at in this context, it is easy to see how people might be overjoyed at the possibilities. However, what happens when these systems are used to invade your privacy?