Protecting Alzheimer’s Patients With Smart Shoes

Caring for a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is a heavy responsibility. Because people with these conditions have a tendency to wander, it can be easy for them to get lost when they can’t find their way back home. And that’s why Andrew Carle, a consultant on senior housing issues and an assistant professor at George Mason University, teamed up with Patrick Bertagna of GTX Corp. to develop a GPS tracking-enabled shoe for senior citizens.

GPS Tracking & Alzheimer's

GPS Tracking & Alzheimer’s

Why GPS Tracking is Great for Senior Citizens

GPS tracking devices have been suggested as solutions to many difficulties faced by elderly people. They’ve been used in all of the following situations:

  • Personal Safety—An elderly person who lives alone can carry or wear a GPS tracking device so others can easily help him in case of an emergency. For instance, if someone falls and gets injured, he or she can press an alert button to notify a family member or, for some device models, an emergency services responder.
  • Location Monitoring—In the case of dementia or Alzheimer patients, GPS tracking can be extremely helpful for caregivers. It can keep track of a person’s daily movements and let the caregiver know if the person is doing something out of the ordinary.
  • Locating Missing Persons—Thousands of elderly people wander away from home every day, presenting many safety risks. A GPS tracking device will quickly pinpoint their location, increasing safety and reducing risk of injury or death.

A GPS tracking device can easily be worn on a cord around the neck, tucked into a pocket, or worn like a wristwatch. Family members and caregivers can set up alerts to be notified if the wearer crosses a boundary. For instance, if the elderly person leaves his neighborhood or crosses a specific street, the device will send an alert to the caregiver’s phone, letting him or her know the person is in need of assistance.

What’s Special About GPS Shoes?

While GPS tracking devices have been around for a while, it’s not always easy to get a patient with dementia or Alzheimer’s to wear one. These patients have a tendency to like routine, to become suspicious of anything out of the ordinary, and to resist wearing items they aren’t accustomed to. They might refuse to wear a GPS bracelet or necklace, leave a handheld device at home, or forget to put on a wristwatch.

In 2011, Andrew Carle, in conjunction with GTX, introduced the GPS tracking-enabled shoe. As a wardrobe essential people are used to wearing every day, the shoe made it easy to equip an elderly person with a tracking device. They’re less likely to forget it or to resist wearing it because it’s embedded in the sole of the shoe.

Now, Carle and GTX are planning to introduce a new twist on the shoe concept. They’ve developed a GPS-enabled insole that can be transferred from shoe to shoe. Users can continue wearing the shoes they’re accustomed to, simply by sliding the product in and out of the shoe.

What Impact Will GPS Shoes Have?

Carle hopes that his products will make a profound difference in the elderly care and search-and-rescue arenas. He envisions his GPS shoes making a difference for many diverse groups, including:

Veterans Those with traumatic brain injuries sustained during wartime
Autistic Groups Monitoring individuals with autism
Medical groups Monitoring transplant organs
Law enforcement Assisting with search-and-rescue operations

For each of these groups, GPS-enabled shoes could make a significant difference in the way day-to-day issues can be handled. Carle hopes that his shoes will be widely implemented in order to offer assistance to caregivers and law enforcement officers as well as provide increased safety for patients and wearers.

Are There Any Concerns?

Some have expressed concerns about the possibility of widespread implementation. The cost of the shoes won’t be something to sneeze at. At $299.00 per pair plus the cost of cell service, not everyone will be able to afford equipping loved ones with the devices just yet. In addition, the GPS device will need to be charged daily. Some police departments currently use a radio tracking device to monitor elderly citizens. As part of that program, an officer will stop by regularly to change the batteries in the device. But a daily visit may not be possible.

However, Carle hopes the benefits of the shoes will outweigh the potential concerns. The shoes provide greater accuracy than radio tracking programs, it’s friendlier to Alzheimer and dementia patients, and it doesn’t require police monitoring. In addition, the shoes can be programmed to text a caregiver when the wearer crosses a boundary and can text a map of the wearer’s location when requested.

Many caregivers who work with elderly patients are excited about the potential of the GPS tracking-enabled shoes. If they can save lives and protect from injury, they are well worth the cost.

GPS Tracking Updates Residents on Icy Road Conditions

Winter has been brutal this year, with many states experiencing more snow and ice than they usually do. Snow storms have occurred later in the season than normal too, meaning spring has yet to arrive in some parts of the country. All that winter precipitation creates dangerous road conditions requiring snow plows, salt trucks, and careful driving. While many people choose to just stay home when the roads are bad, others watch the news carefully for reports on road conditions to see which roads are safe for travel. In at least one city, GPS tracking is making it easier to get those reports out in record time.

GPS Snow RemovalSpringdale, Arkansas has equipped each of its road crew trucks with an iPad-based GPS tracking device. As the trucks travel their routes, the GPS tracking data can be viewed in real time by the community engagement supervisor for the city. She in turn posts updates to Facebook and other social media outlets to let people know which roads can be traveled safely. The technology makes it possible for people to know exactly when it’s safe for them to make the trip to work, to school, or to the store.

Other Uses for Fleet Vehicle GPS Tracking

GPS tracking for fleet vehicles is far from a new concept. Many fleet managers use the devices to track fuel usage, routes traveled, and other data in order to help their crews operate more efficiently. Some of the most common uses for fleet vehicle GPS tracking include:

Fuel Usage GPS tracking can help determine when fuel isn’t being used efficiently by tracking routes traveled and idle times.
Bus routes Both school buses and city buses often use GPS tracking to monitor bus routes and let passengers know whether the bus is running on time.
Stops made Managers of delivery truck fleets can use GPS tracking to determine whether drivers are taking the most direct route to their destinations and whether any unauthorized stops are made.
Cost savings By monitoring the above data, managers can implement better training to help drivers make the most efficient use of their time on the road. This results in fuel savings and potentially more deliveries in the same period of time, both of which lead to significant cost savings.
Theft prevention Vehicles and construction equipment which must be left overnight at a construction site often make tempting targets for theft. GPS tracking can enable swifter recovery in the event of a theft, saving the company thousands of dollars in replacement costs.

Why GPS Is a Great Addition to Winter Safety Measures

Many cities already use social media to update local residents about the condition of roads in the winter. It’s a great way to get the latest information out to a large number of people quickly. GPS helps expedite that process even more. When each road crew vehicle is equipped with a GPS tracking device, information about where they’ve traveled gets relayed immediately and can be provided to followers in the form of social media updates. No more waiting for trucks to end a shift or radio in where they’ve been. GPS tracking stays on top of that information using:

  • Real-time tracking data—City managers can view the location of each truck on a map from the comfort of their office. Updates can be posted at regular intervals, or as often as needed.
  • Data logs over time—Data logs record the location information for each truck over the course of the day as it travels its route. When less frequent updates are needed, this information can be used to create a daily report for commuters.

Moving Forward With GPS Tracking

Cost is often cited as the primary reason cities and municipalities are reluctant to purchase GPS tracking systems for fleet vehicles. However, those who have taken the plunge have reported significant cost savings in the first year. The cost of the system can be recouped in terms of fuel savings and greater efficiency very quickly. The technology can also help prevent theft or recover stolen property, saving thousands of dollars in replacement costs.

Another benefit of using tracking devices is that they can help with maintenance schedules. Many models allow managers to set service reminders based on miles or hours driven or a specific date on the calendar. By staying up to date on the service needs of each vehicle, managers can avoid costly break-downs and repair costs.

As much of the country enjoys the first stirrings of spring, those still in the grip of winter can look to GPS tracking for better information about road conditions, bus schedules, and other travel needs. And when spring has truly arrived, GPS tracking will keep right on helping city managers increase efficiency, provide better information to the public, and train employees to use safe and efficient driving practices.

GPS Tracking In the Shadow of the Volcano

Volcanic eruptions are the stuff of stories and legends. They’re frightening, but at the same time, fascinating. Because of a volcano’s power to destroy, scientists spend a great deal of effort studying volcanic activity in order to make better predictions about when they will erupt and how far-reaching the effects will be. One recent 2010 eruption in Iceland was powerful enough to require grounding planes across much of northern Europe. As scientists learn more about the patterns of volcanic activity, they’ve also discovered a new tool that may provide even more detailed information to help with future predictions. It’s called GPS tracking.

Image courtesy of NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Monitoring a Volcano With GPS Tracking

We think of GPS tracking devices as monitoring things that move from one place to another—things like cars, bicycles, airplanes, and even people. But when an Iceland volcano named Grímsvötn erupted in 2011, scientist used GPS tracking to monitor the ground movement caused by volcanic activity. Knowing that the volcano was preparing for an eruption, scientist placed a tracking device on its side. The device began measuring significant ground movements about an hour before the actual eruption occurred. While more testing needs to take place, scientists hope that this is just the first of many steps in better understanding the activity of a volcano and being able to predict when the next eruption will take place.

Sigrún Hreinsdóttir, University of Iceland geophysicist and author of a journal article about the Grímsvötn eruption, hopes to use the data gathered from GPS tracking devices to determine not only when a volcano is getting ready to erupt, but also exactly when that eruption will be and how high the ash plume will reach. He posits that the GPS data recording the ground movement around the volcano can be used to calculate pressure changes in the volcano’s magma chamber underground. This information can in turn help predict how high the ash plume will be.

How GPS Data About Volcanoes Can Save Lives

The science surrounding volcanoes is fascinating, but more importantly, it can make the difference between life and death in a highly dangerous situation. Here are three ways the increased accuracy afforded by GPS tracking data can make a difference in the event of a volcanic eruption:

  • More warning for those living nearby—Volcanoes can still claim lives if people aren’t warned in time. GPS tracking can provide earlier warning of imminent eruption, giving nearby residents a chance to evacuate.
  • Better knowledge of ash plume activity—Volcanic ash plumes can cause planes to be grounded hundreds or thousands of miles away. Having an estimate of the size of the ash plume can give air traffic controllers the information they need to make better decisions about when and where to ground flights.
  • Estimates about the size of the eruption—Knowing the estimated size of the eruption itself can facilitate better decisions about who needs to be evacuated and what additional steps need to be taken.

When it comes to a volcanic eruption, those affected most are the people who live nearby and must worry about homes, crops, and property. With more detailed information, these people could not only have enough warning to escape the path of the eruption, but also to protect some of the things they care about.

Limitations to GPS Tracking Study of Volcanoes

With so much potential for better information, shouldn’t GPS tracking devices be able to predict each and every volcanic eruption? Yes and no. There are still some limitations to scientists’ ability to study GSP data about volcanoes:

Volcano locations Some volcanoes, like Grímsvötn, are mostly covered in ice. Because ice sheets shift regularly, GPS tracking data about the volcano itself isn’t always accurate
Early stages of study Studying volcanoes using GPS tracking devices is a relatively new approach. While many theories have been formed about how that data can be used, its accuracy hasn’t been clearly demonstrated yet

Hreinsdóttir hopes to gain additional support for his approach as he studies future volcanic eruptions. The more times he can accurately predict what the volcano will do based on the data he’s gathered using GPS tracking devices, the more he can fine tune his methods to get the best possible information.

Hreinsdóttir’s approach seeks to answer the two most basic questions about every volcanic eruption: When will it happen and how big will it be? Seismic instruments have given scientists some approximate answers to date, but Hreinsdóttir hopes that the GPS tracking data will revolutionize the study of volcanoes by providing much more detailed information about the size of the eruption and resulting ash plume as well as the ground movement.

Although we often think about the most devastating volcanic eruptions as having taken place hundreds or thousands of years ago, people still die in eruptions today. Perhaps with the help of GPS tracking, those deaths can be eliminated.

GPS Technology a Boon to Domestic Violence Victims

Juana had grown so frightened of Mike that she had gone through the hassle of going to court and getting a restraining order against him. His drug use, threatening behavior, and physical abuse of her and their children had gotten so bad that she feared for their lives. The restraining order was a comfort, but she was still frightened, especially at night when she and the kids were home alone. If he showed up, she could call the police, but there was no way to know where he was or if he might show up unexpectedly. And if he did, what could she do? Or what if he was stalking her or the kids and showed up when she went to the store—or to a friend’s home? It might be too late then. If only there were a way to know where he was at all times, to know if he was breaking the restraining order’s restrictions—to know if he was close to where she was—to be able to notify the police before he arrived. That would bring incredible peace of mind.

Creative Commons Attribution: moggs oceanlane

Although this story is fictional, it’s based on the experiences of thousands of women who have been victims of domestic violence. Certain counties and municipalities are finding out that GPS technology can be a huge boon to protect such victims. How does it work? Citizens of Ramsey County, Minnesota, are finding out.

Domestic Violence: Some Statistics

The following sobering statistics are provided by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence:

  • Eight percent of the female population will be stalked at some point in their lives.
  • Twenty-two percent of sexual assault victims are male; 78 percent are female.
  • Well over a million women are physically assaulted by a spouse or partner in the US each year. The same is true for more than 800,000 men.
  • Approximately one third of all female murder victims were killed by an “intimate partner.”
  • Roughly two thirds of women killed with firearms are murdered by an “intimate partner.”
  • Women make up more than 80 percent of all people killed by a spouse.

GPS Technology and Ramsey County

Although Ramsey County is geographically the smallest of all Minnesota’s counties, it is the most densely populated, being part of the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minnesota-Wisconsin Metropolitan Statistical Area. In fact, it’s one of the most densely populated counties in the entire United States.

After hearing numerous tragic stories of women assaulted or even murdered by former partners who were under restraining orders, State Representative Clark Johnson authored a bill to pilot a program in Ramsey County that would monitor domestic violence offenders via GPS technology. He and others partnered with the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women to get the program enacted.

How Does It Work?

In order for the program to work, both parties in domestic violence case must participate. The offender, usually a male who has been issued a restraining order, must wear an electronic ankle bracelet equipped with GPS technology. The victim (or potential victim), usually a female, carries a second device with her—somewhat larger than a cell phone—that informs her if her abuser is getting closer to her location than the restraining order allows. If that happens, authorities in a monitoring center receive automatic, immediate notification. Also, both parties (the victim and the perpetrator) get a warning signal on their devices. The defendant is instructed to change locations, and the victim is instructed to call local emergency services.

In Ramsey County, both the victim and the defendant must volunteer to participate. In early March 2014 27 pairs of defendants and victims were participating. Similar programs elsewhere in the country have met with success, finding that defendants equipped with the ankle bracelet and held accountable by GPS technology rarely, if ever, try to contact their accusers. The limited nature of the program in Ramsey County thus far (in its initial year, less than twenty out of 170 possible offenders agreed to be involved) precludes any far-reaching extrapolation of data; however, authorities have great hopes for it.

Ramsey County reports a couple of interesting situations regarding the GPS devices. On one occasion a device was somehow triggered even though the man was not within limits prescribed by his restraining order. Authorities figured out the problem, and no charges resulted. In another situation a defendant cut off his ankle bracelet in an effort to circumvent its effectiveness. That action, though, resulted in authorities’ automatically being notified. They showed up at the victim’s house to protect her. Even though the man did not show up, he was later located and arrested.

In early March 2014 there were bills pending in the Minnesota House and Senate that would potentially extend and expand the program. Clearly, GPS devices can play a large role in this area of law enforcement, protecting the health and lives of innocent women and children.

GPS Still Drives Car Navigation

Are portable GPS navigation units dead? Some critics claim that smartphones have overtaken the market for GPS in cars. But stand-alone GPS products still plot the course in a constantly changing world of smartphone technology. Their form and function give them dedicated and dependable routing ability often not found in other applications.

Ease of Use

GPS navigation deviceWhile smartphones can run a variety of applications, each running program drains the battery power of the phone. After an hour or so, the phone dies and the user has to stop to plug it in to recharge. During this time a driver could lose the directions on the phone. In contrast, a GPS unit runs only the preprogrammed navigation software. This allows for more battery life and faster charging time. GPS units can mount to the dashboard, thereby allowing a clearer and more focused view of the road.

Additionally, individual phone apps may give different directions and remove crucial details of a trip, such as road names and complete scaled maps. A good GPS unit maintains a consistent display of map features and includes full details for the whole route. So while your phone program may get you to the nearest drugstore, it may not fare so well with providing complete information on a long family road trip to another state. Thus, GPS offers a more comprehensive view of the trip.

Dedicated Device 

A central advantage of car navigation GPS units is their dedicated programming. Smartphones still remain in active call mode throughout a trip, so a call can happen at any time. This disrupts the spoken turn-by-turn directions. You have to take your eyes off the wheel in order to see who is calling. Then you have to stop to switch the phone from the navigation app to the phone mode and find a place to put it. During this time, you can not hear the instructions from the app, so you could miss an important turn, and the app might stop rerouting and plot a different course that will lead somewhere other than the destination. Handheld GPS units allow for uninterrupted use and display only the information the user wants. If she needs to find a restaurant, she can search for it without apps running in the background or alerts popping up to signal an incoming call. For people who worry about missing important calls while driving, newer car GPS models can integrate with Bluetooth and allow for prioritized management of calls and navigation, thus saving time and providing security for the driver.

A dedicated device for navigation also makes the process of finding directions easier. A GPS unit runs by itself, so there is no clicking buttons to keep an app active or update the route. The dependable GPS will do it for you and still show the navigation route on screen on the dashboard. Some new GPS models point out common landmarks along the route in order to orient the user to the environment. Users can then hide or show useful businesses and landmarks along the route. GPS units can even indicate which lane to merge into in order to take the appropriate exit.

Continual Guidance

road-tripA large advantage of GPS units over smartphone navigation is the ability to guide the user throughout an entire trip. While many cell phones depend on wireless reception from towers, auto GPS units use a direct satellite connection that allows them to display maps and give directions at almost any time. As anyone who has been lost on the backroads knows, without a cell phone system it is hard to find your way around. Cell phone-based navigation apps cut out when a wireless signal is lost and do not start up again until a signal that is strong enough appears.  GPS units receive constant satellite signals that are more reliable than wireless towers. The preprogrammed maps maintain a course regardless of phone reception. This allows for more dependable routes and navigation in any environment.

Added Value 

Finally, GPS pays for itself over time. The purchase of one GPS unit can save money. A good quality GPS can last for several years as opposed to a monthly subscription-based car service or cheap or free smartphone apps that could be discontinued or changed at any time.

Traveling On 

Although the automotive navigation GPS unit is surrounded by new smartphone apps, it remains strong and sound. The systems continually adapt to changes in technology. Some units now answer voice commands in normal human patterns of speech that include turn-by-turn directions according to locations and buildings along the route. Almost all new systems update maps every month. Many GPS navigation units with receiver antennas even include continuous monitoring of traffic conditions in large cities.

Staying the Course

The GPS market is not dead after all. GPS navigation units continue to guide users through the dependability and accuracy of their systems that ensure their continued existence.

GPS Sports Watch a Good Fit

The Winter Olympics of 2014 have come and gone, but it won’t be long until nations around the world will be gearing up for the Summer Olympics of 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. The thrill of seeing runners cross the finish line, swimmers break a world record, and cyclists race for gold never diminishes. We marvel at the skill and endurance that goes into these athletes. We wonder at the training and expertise that got them to the top. We dream of achieving seemingly impossible goals if we only knew what to do. GPS technology removes some of the mystery, providing everyday runners, swimmers, and cyclists training never before imagined. And though most of us will never make the Olympic team, we can still train like a champion.

Nike+ GPS WatchThe GPS Sports Watch

It used to be that the only real technology used by athletes was a stopwatch. Now, through global positioning system technology, there is so much more to competitive training, and GPS companies everywhere are getting in on the action. From Garmin to Motorola to TomTom, there seems to be no limit to the variety and capabilities of training devices, some that are no bigger than a watch. One in particular combines ease of use with multiplicity of use—the TomTom Multisport HRM GPS watch. Whether you run, swim, bike, or use a treadmill, this watch can help take each training session to a new level with a host of features.

  • The first noteworthy feature is its lack of bulk. This lightweight watch weighs in at less than two ounces and will not detract in the least from any activity.
  • The watch has a large display screen of almost 1.5 inches that allows the user to read pertinent data with a single glance—in the dark, in the water, anywhere.
  • One-button control for access to easy to use menus gets you out of the starting gate and onto the training block in the blink of an eye.
  • The watch is also waterproof up to 165 feet, making it ideal for swimming, running or cycling in the rain, or even showering, not to mention the sweat that comes from an intense workout.
  • A built-in altimeter allows bikers and runners alike to measure and track elevation in conjunction with pace for the most efficient training session.
  • A heart rate monitor keeps athletes in check to protect their health: too low and you are not getting enough out of your workout; too high and you risk injury.
  • The watch even comes with a bike mount and a cadence/speed sensor to track every mile, uphill and down, so your hands never have to leave the handlebars.
  • A ten-hour battery life guarantees tracking coverage for even the most intense training sessions.

The Power to Train

As with most GPS tracking devices, data from the TomTom Multisport HRM GPS watch can be downloaded and shared. Users can link the information they download from their watch to a host of apps like “Map My Fitness” and share it with friends, coaches, and competitors; with nearly 100 apps to choose from, and more popping up every day, you are sure to find a training partner that works for you. There are even sports specific apps like “Map My Run” for runners, “Swim Tracker” for swimmers, and “Map My Ride” for cyclists, just to name a few. The training data can also be linked to a TomTom GPS mapping unit to track old training routes and create new ones. The ability to analyze distance and time along with heart rate and duration helps athletes gradually increase the volume and the intensity of their workouts in a way that is both healthy and productive, helping them achieve their ultimate goals. All these things working together can be summed up in one word: Motivation. That’s what the watch is: a motivational device.

  • Runners can balance all out runs with recovery day runs to maximize performance and prevent injury.
  • Cyclists can map routes, incorporating elevations and distance factors, to improve their time and set their pace.
  • Swimmers can monitor their swim metrics to go longer and faster, whether it be in the pool or in the open water.
  • Treadmill users can go beyond the basic data given on most running machines to create a more strenuous workout.
  • Any athlete can pace himself, race himself, and challenge himself to become better and stronger with a GPS sports watch.

At just under $250, the TomTom Multisport HRM GPS watch is a lot of bang for your buck. With a host of features and multiple training modes, the watch is ideal for runners, swimmers, cyclists, and treadmill users alike. It even comes in two colors, a light gray to appeal to the masculine side and a lovely pink for those who want to add a feminine touch. With so much technology at the touch of a button, you may just find yourself reaching for the gold.

GPS Provides Sense of Security for Domestic Violence Victims

Ramsey County hopes to extend the GPS monitoring pilot program recently used in its domestic violence cases. Authorities have seen initial success from the program and would like to see it extended so that they can collect a larger body of data. Bills in the Minnesota House and Senate would not only extend the pilot program but also establish standards for using GPS technology in all counties of the state.

Domestic Abuse

The Need for GPS Monitoring

The Minnesota Crime Victim Survey of 2010 revealed some alarming statistics that prove the need for some sort of monitoring system, be it GPS or otherwise. With a 60% response rate for the survey, the team gives the results a 95% accuracy rating when extended throughout the population. They found that 7% of women and 3% of men suffered from some form of domestic violence in 2010; these figures are up from the 2007 survey and represent more than 200,000 individuals in the state of Minnesota. When questioned about an overall life experience with domestic violence, meaning that responders on the survey had experienced some form of domestic violence at some point in their lives, the statistics jumped to a startling 27% of women and 8% of men. The survey also questioned responders about their feelings of safety, and most admitted to feeling unsafe in their communities and also feeling that they could not rely on police or other authorities to protect them.

The Answer in GPS Monitoring

Ramsey County hoped to address these concerns with a pilot program that uses global positioning system technology in its domestic violence cases to alert authorities as well as the victims of abuse when a defendant gets too close; it also helps keep defendants compliant with any no-contact orders that have been put in place by the court. The pilot was launched in November 2012 with an initial evaluation one year later. The county joined forces with Project Remand, a nonprofit organization, to screen every domestic violence defendant at his or her first appearance in court. If a defendant was eligible for release with monitoring, then he or she was offered a deal; however, both the defendant and the victim had to agree to participate. The incentive for volunteering in the program was a lower bail fee as well as protection from false accusations of breaking a court order of no contact. The defendant would wear a GPS ankle device that would notify authorities if a line was crossed; the device would also tell the defendant to go home. The victim wore a “stalker alert” device that would notify the victim through a phone call and text or email whenever the defendant in the case was too close; it would also tell the victim to call 911.

The Initial Results of the Pilot

abuse domestic violence drugsFirst year results of the GPS pilot program are encouraging. Although only 19 of a potential 170 defendants participated, 12 finished the program successfully. Going into the second year, 8 more defendants were added, raising the success rate to 16. The Ramsey County attorney’s office reported that “defendants who participated in the GPS pilot program demonstrated greater overall compliance with court orders and significantly lower rates of recidivism than the comparison group.” Though small, the results reflect similar studies across the country that seem to prove the effectiveness of GPS monitoring devices, not only in lowering recidivism rates among criminals but also in encouraging a sense of security for victims. As Ramsey Court Attorney John Choi said, “Ultimately, I think it really helps somebody who is very fearful for their safety. It gives them another layer of protection.” Choi went on to testify before Minnesota’s House Public Safety Committee along with others involved in the program to argue for an extension of the pilot. The program will end in June 2014 if a bill is not passed soon.

The Bill to Standardize GPS Monitoring

Representative Clark Johnson, DFL-North Mankato, is the author of the GPS monitoring bill currently before the Minnesota Legislature. His bill grew from a concern over the increasing number of deaths related to domestic violence in his state, especially those cases where a no-contact order or restraining order had been put in place but was violated. Those involved with the bill worked closely with the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women to establish statewide standards for using GPS devices, including making any program voluntary, ensuring that victims are kept informed at all times, and using active monitoring.

Though there were initial complaints about the size of the GPS monitoring devices and the lack of a cell phone for some of the victims, these concerns were both minimal and easily overcome The overwhelmingly positive results of the study make Ramsey County officials hopeful that the Minnesota Legislature will indeed pass the necessary bill to protect the life of not only the program but also the thousands who suffer each year from domestic violence.

Crime 101: Don’t Wear a GPS Tracking Device When Committing a Robbery

If there were a school for criminals, one of the courses might be entitled “How to Avoid Getting Caught.” And based on the actions of one Washington state criminal, one of the lessons in that course should be called “Don’t Wear Your GPS Tracking Ankle Bracelet When Committing a Robbery.” The Omak man accused of breaking into the Okanogan Eagles Hall in early March was reportedly wearing a court-ordered ankle bracelet at the time of the robbery. The individual had been convicted of robbing the same club two years ago in 2012. Police officers said that the mode of operation in March’s robbery looked similar to the suspect’s other criminal activity, so they checked the data from his tracking device. The device placed him at the scene and showed that he made several trips to the club and to a nearby motel at the time of the robbery. This time around, he and at least one partner allegedly stole $2,000. The two suspects were caught on camera as they broke in and pried open a safe.

courtIt’s easy to shake your head and laugh at this story, but it actually reveals a common misunderstanding about GPS tracking devices. The man accused of the break-in told police officers he didn’t know that the device would track his every move, and that he thought it would only be activated if he crossed county lines. But GPS tracking can do a whole lot more than that.

What Does a Court-Ordered Ankle Bracelet Do?

Unfortunately for this criminal, a GPS tracking enabled ankle device is more sophisticated than might be imagined. While it can be programmed to send an alert if the wearer crosses a boundary (such as a county or state line), the device also records data about day-to-day movements so that it can be reviewed at a later date to ensure compliance with parole terms. The information can also be viewed in real-time if necessary.

There are several specific ways GPS ankle bracelets have benefited law enforcement:

Paroled criminals Parolees have specific boundaries put in place to help police monitor their behavior. Ankle bracelets will send an alert if one of those boundaries is crossed.
Domestic violence cases If a victim of domestic violence is determined to be in mortal danger, the court can require the perpetrator to wear an ankle bracelet. Both the victim and law enforcement can then be alerted if court-ordered boundaries are crossed.
Crime investigations Officers can review ankle bracelet data to determine whether a particular individual has been involved in a crime.

Are There Any Drawbacks?

As with any effort to reduce crime, there will be individuals who try to thwart the system. In the case of GPS ankle bracelets, there are three primary concerns critics bring up:

  • Overcrowded prisons have led to criminals being on the streets when they should be behind bars. It’s true that in some jurisdictions, prison overcrowding has resulted in earlier parole or house arrest for individuals who would otherwise be locked up. Departments shouldn’t necessarily rely on GPS tracking to perform the same job that a locked prison cell would perform.
  • Criminals can still commit crimes while wearing the bracelets. This is also true. Especially in the case of sexual predators or domestic violence, the damage can be done before officers can reach the scene of the crime.
  • Criminals can remove the bracelets. With enough effort, the ankle bracelets can be removed, giving the wearer the opportunity to commit another crime or simply run.

All of these concerns are legitimate and point to a larger issue. The bottom line is that GPS tracking is an excellent tool to help law enforcement officers perform their duty. However, there are limits to what the devices can and can’t do, and those limits should be respected. Perhaps stiffer penalties for breaking or removing a court-ordered ankle bracelet could provide greater deterrents for violating the terms of parole.

Are GPS Tracking Ankle Bracelets Reliable?

Yes. When used in the manner in which they were intended to be used, GPS tracking ankle bracelets provide police with essential data that they couldn’t otherwise obtain easily. The devices record the wearer’s movements, activate alerts when boundaries are crossed, and provide real-time data that can be viewed now or at a later time. That’s something that would require hundreds of man-hours to perform using law enforcement personnel.

The bracelets may not be the final and best solution to the problem of prison-overcrowding, but they can help cash-strapped departments perform surveillance duties that might otherwise be impossible.

As for the Washington man who wore his ankle bracelet while breaking and entering, he learned a valuable lesson about just how reliable and accurate those devices can be. It’s a lesson he won’t soon forget.

Child-Friendly GPS Watch Can Help Keep Kids Safer

Child safety is at the top of the list for parents, school teachers, and others who routinely care for children. But caregivers can’t always have their eyes on the child every moment, and that’s why many have begun relying on GPS tracking devices to help keep tabs on youngsters. However, problems sometimes arise when the child forgets his device or takes it off. That’s why KGPS, a new Israel-based start-up company, has developed a child-friendly GPS tracking watch designed specifically for small children.

children-skiingWhat’s Different About the New Watch?

The HereO GPS Watch has been designed specifically with kids in mind. The band fits better on small wrists and is harder for children to remove, the watch itself is smaller, and the construction and colors were chosen partially based on the input of kids themselves.

Like other GPS tracking devices, the watch can be programmed to send an alert if a child enters or leaves a designated area. It can send periodic location data to parents and can also provide real-time location information.

GPS tracking watches offer an excellent way for parents to keep tabs on their kids when they’re travelling to and from school, spending some time with friends, or going on a field trip. Using the associated app, parents can check up on their kids using their cell phones and can also monitor the location of other family members who have the app installed on their phones.

Features of the HereO GPS Watch

The HereO GPS Watch has many of the same features included with other GPS watches, but it also has a few different twists. Some of the features include:

Child-sized wrist band Designed specifically for 3- to 8-year-old children
Basic Features Water-resistant, displays time only
HereO Family  Location App Provides monitoring capability via cell phone; also links to other family members’ cell phones running the app
Text messaging via app The app can broadcast text messages to all phones running the app or to individuals
Plot map routes Use the app to determine the best route to meet a person wearing the watch or carrying a cell phone with the app running
Multiple forms of data View location data periodically or in real time; receive a signal when barriers are crossed
Location history View several months of location information
Panic alerts Tap the watch twice and shake it once in order to send a panic alert
Rechargeable Battery Lasts from 24 to 72 hours per charge

KGPS plans to begin marketing the watch directly to consumers, but will sell it in stores at a later time.

Will It Be Worth the Expense?

The HereO GPS Watch will cost $149.00, including six months of tracking service. GPS tracking devices provide peace of mind for the people who wear them as well as for their family members. It’s impossible to put a price tag on child safety or on the peace of mind a parent could receive from having detailed location data available at all times. Each family must consider how much time the child spends away from the supervision of parents, what the potential risk factors could be, and whether they have the money to invest. Some circumstances might warrant the use of a GPS tracking device more than others, such as:

  • Families in which the child visits another parent in a different home on a regular basis
  • Children who spend a lot of time with a nanny or babysitter
  • Children who ride the bus or walk to school
  • Children who have activities after school when parents are not able to attend
  • Children who take a field trip or overnight trip
  • Family vacations to a busy theme park or other crowded place

What Else Should You Consider?

No one likes to think about the possibility of kidnapping, abduction, or a child simply getting lost, but the truth is that these things do happen. Nationwide, over 2,000 children are reported missing each day. GPS tracking may not be able to keep people with criminal intentions away from your child, but it can help track them down and put them behind bars if something does happen. In addition, if your child becomes lost, GPS tracking can help you find him or her quickly, reducing the amount of stress and anxiety for both you and your child.

A watch may not be the best solution for every child. Some children carry a cell phone, wear a GPS tracking device clipped to a backpack or pocket, or wear some other kind of alert device. All of these can be excellent ways to help keep your children safe. Ultimately, your decision depends on what works best for your family, how much time your child spends away from your supervision, and what specific needs and expectations you have in terms of tools for monitoring the location of your child at any given time.

Malaysia To Introduce GPS License Plates

Malaysia’s Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) Minister Datuk Dr Ewon Ebin has announced that citizens can expect vehicle license plates complete with built-in GPS device as an option for motorists in the near future. They will be available through the Road Transport Department (JPJ) following the official launch, which has not been scheduled as of yet.

state car trackingThese plates, 370 in all, will all begin with “1MCY” to designate their GPS tracking capabilities. Officials in Malaysia decided to give them a go to in order to promote MOSTI’s Commercialization Year (MCY) 2014, citing their ability to improve the safety of the vehicles they are placed on.

“The number plates, which are developed by Technology Park Malaysia, will also be equipped with reflective decals technology,” said Ebin to reporters following the launch of MCY 2014 held at the SIRIM Bhd Auditorium in January.

How They Work

There is no information on how these plates in Malaysia will work, so it’s difficult to say. However, California is also getting in on the GPS tracking license plate action as well. The California State Senate passed a bill that implemented a pilot e-license plate program. They say that this will make renewing your plates more efficient for all parties involved.

California’s concept involves a digital license plate, either solar powered or powered by the vibrations of your vehicle, that kind of resembles a tablet. You would install this digital plate just as you would the ordinary metal plate, and when it comes time for renewal, the DMV is able to wirelessly update the registration tags. Think about it – no need to wait in line at the DMV, no dealing with grumpy employees, and really, no need to leave the house at all.

With that convenience comes a price to pay: your privacy. The digital plates will feature GPS devices as the bill stands now. This is nothing new, as California police already scan license plates with cameras attached to their cruisers, saving the information complete with GPS location data in a database.

With the digital plates, everything changes. Now, it isn’t merely where you were one moment in time. Instead, they’ll have access to your whereabouts at any time at all, even when it is parked safely in your garage at home. What they plan to do with this technology has yet to be seen. However, it is still an uncomfortable feeling, knowing that you can be located at any time. At least in Malaysia, it’s up to the driver to decide if they want to have these plates.

SatelliteWatchingCarsIt has also been said in South Carolina, when the idea came up before legislators, that officials at the DMV will be able to take a set of plates once in good standing, in the event you lose your license, and change the image from your plate to something like, “EXPIRED” or “SUSPENDED.” If you lose your insurance, your plate will read “UNINSURED.” Now, everyone around you knows that you’re breaking the law. Again, this is one idea for how these plates could work here in the United States.

It’s more than likely a way to keep Malaysian vehicles safe since auto theft is a big problem there. With a GPS license plate, you’re able to find your car in the event someone has taken it. Giving the police access by just having the plate, rather than with a GPS device where they would have to get the location data online prior to finding it, saves precious time. But again, it cannot be said how they intend to use the GPS data there.

More Initiatives Revealed

Ebin told the crowd gathered there of eight additional MCY 2014 initiatives besides the license plates, each one created to encourage commercialization of products currently in the research and development phase. “The first four initiatives will be focused on preparing a technology commercialization platform to shift products from its pre-commercialization stage to the market more quickly and efficiently,” he said.

The four initiatives he spoke of include product development and capacity-building programs for entrepreneurs, as well as infrastructure facilities and access to market. He also indicated the ministry would set up what he referred to as an R&D information portal and directory, where investors can research potential products available as a kind of reference, helping them make good investment decisions. Others within the industry as well as researchers will also have access to this portal.

When it comes time to get the products to market, he said there would be an R&D gallery that would allow these award-winning innovative products to be on display, and a “Techshoppe” to sell them. “Hopefully, these initiatives will encourage other local researchers to improve the quality of their work,” he added.

The goal of the ministry is to help get at least 60 products in the R&D phase to market each year.

What do you think about these GPS license plates? Share your thoughts by commenting below.