Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Real time location tracking

We discuss location-based applications, and the US Federal Communication Commission has mandated that all cell phones be location-aware for emergency 911 service. Carriers are working toward that goal, and eventually, all cell phones will be equipped with a GPS (global positioning system) receiver or use other technology to record their locations, enabling real time monitoring.

Tim Hibbard illustrates real-time monitoring by carrying a GPS-equipped phone in his car. His location is recorded every 15 seconds, and plotted on Google Maps and Google Earth. His travel routes are also stored on a server so one can see where he has been in the past. For example, on August 12, 2006, Tim traveled around his old college town, Lawrence, Kansas:

Real time GPS could be used to monitor fleets of delivery vehicles or taxis, children, pets, criminals under house arrest, etc. Does this capability raise concern over privacy?