April 30th, 2013
Bike riding is popular all over the world. It provides great exercise, fresh air and low-cost, environmentally-friendly transportation. In fact, my husband and I just bought ourselves a pair of beach cruisers with our tax return. We love to ride our bikes along the beach and around town. The only reason I don’t take my bike out more often is because I’m afraid it will be stolen. We have bike locks and take precautions, but I’ve known many cautious people who’ve become the victims of bike theft. Some savvy entrepreneurs teamed up and came up with a GPS tracking device for bicycles designed to provide a little extra peace of mind for bike owners like my husband and me.
The device is called Bike Spike and was funded by KickStarter, an online forum for funding independent projects. Anything from music, design, art, games, films and technology can be funded through KickStarter. The only catch is that in order to get any funding, the project must meet it’s goal within the set timeline. According to the site, about 44% of the projects at KickStarter meet their goals. Bike Spike managed to meet their $150,000 goal and are working on making the product available at around $150.
Bike Spike has developed a GPS tracking device, which doubles as (and is disguised under) a cup holder that attaches to the bars under the seat. The tracking device connects to your smartphone and records all kinds of useful information. Bike riders can record and publish their mileage, speed, route and more. This information can be used to compare with fellow cyclists or simply for one’s own fitness records. Competitive cyclists can use the distance and speed information to better their performance.
The other primary use for Bike Spike is the extra security provided by a tracking device. If you finish lunch, shopping, or a movie and return to the bike rack to find your bike missing, the Bike Spike tracker could help recover your bike. Simply access the Bike Spike smartphone app to locate the GPS device. With any luck, the thief didn’t think to remove the unit. Using security bolts to attach the tracking device will make it more difficult to remove the device should a thief try to remove it.
April 30th, 2013
Earlier this month, the last bald eagle being tracked by a Kelly wildlife conservation group has been found dead. The Kelly group was conducting a study of bald eagles using GPS tracking devices in the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Kelly group, Craighead Beringia South, has been tracking bald eagles in the area for about five years and is leading the charge to identify a link between lead poisoning of the local birds of prey and hunting.
The last remaining eagle was named Taylor by the non-profit Kelly conservation group. The bald eagle was found dead near an elk carcass. “By the Bar BC [Ranch], we found it lying under a tree by the Gros Ventre River,” said Bryan Bedrosian, an avian biologist with Beringia South. “I brought the whole bird down to Laramie for a necropsy. It came back with high lead and high selenium.”
Elk hunting season lasts through Jan. 31st in the region Taylor was found. Wyoming Game and Fish Department encourage hunters in the area to help reduce the large Jackson Elk Herd. Unfortunately, hunters aren’t always able to locate their kills, leaving carcasses with lead bullets as tempting meals for the local scavengers. The lead can overwhelm birds and other scavengers and poison them. “They picked up two bird on the National Elk Refuge this year, both adult bald eagles,” Bedrosian said. “Of those two birds, it was concluded one died of lead poisoning and one died of head trauma – it also had high lead levels.”
The GPS tracking study has provided helpful information regarding the role of lead bullets in the deaths of local birds of prey. During the 2012-13 hunting season in Grand Teton National Park, hunters were encouraged by the elk refuge and Game and Fish Department to voluntarily switch to non-lead bullets. For the first time this year, the national park is not allowing lead bullets during hunting season.
April 30th, 2013
The lucky students at Cleckler-Heald Elementary School in Weslaco, Texas got to try a growingly popular game: geocaching. During a field trip to Estero Liano Grande State Park, these clever teachers implemented GPS technology and scavenger hunting to their nature lessons. “It’s a game, and it’s fun,” explained Jose Uribe, park naturalist. “You’re using GPS to find stuff.” Before the students took off to explore the park and find the geocache locations, Uribe gave them a refresher lesson on wetlands, butterflies and extinct animals, based on what they’d been learning in class.
Geocaching is an increasingly popular game for adventurers young and old. It only makes sense that some fun teachers would think to include it in their lesson plans. Essentially, geocaching is a technology-based scavenger hunting game. It’s most likely that for the purposes of the lesson, this elementary school teacher designed and hid the geocaches for the students. However, there is a larger online community who hide these geocaches all over the world. More than likely, you can search online and find a treasure-hunting opportunity in your neighborhood.
The online geocaching community is comprised of anyone and everyone who wants to participate. The more involved players take part in hiding caches, which are containers ranging in size from a shoe box to a pill box. The smaller containers are more challenging and often called micro or nano caches. The GPS locations of the caches are posted online so anyone with a GPS device can go searching for it. Most of the time, there is a notebook or paper within the cache for the geocachers to sign and indicate they’ve found it. Players often will post which geocaches they’ve found online.
Using the GPS location information, players go to the site where the geocache is hidden. This could be in a park or a parking lot. Depending on the quality of the player’s GPS unit, he or she can get within 20 feet or so of the cache. At that point, it’s simply a matter of using your eyes to locate a likely hiding spot.
April 29th, 2013
The Center for Conservation Biology from the College of William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University has been tracking bald eagles in the Chesapeake Bay area since 2007 using GPS devices. The tracking project originally began as a part of a Department of Defense effort to learn more about how the eagles interact with military bases. It became clear that bald eagles are attracted to bases, because they provide quite a bit of shelter. Unfortunately, the military bases can also cause significant harm to the birds they attract during ordnance testing, as well as more ordinary hazards like power lines.
Together with several similar, but smaller, eagle tracking efforts, the team at the Center for Conservation Biology has gathered the world’s largest dataset of GPS tracking information for eagles. There are a total of 70 birds being monitored across nearly 1,000,000 locations. One unique and exciting aspect of the study is the tracking of eagles during their juvenile years. Researchers were able to attach GPS tracking devices to nestlings and track them as they grow, feed, mate and build their own nests. Very little is known about eagles during the juvenile stage, so the tracking data is especially valuable.
“The value of the tracking dataset to eagle conservation – and its contribution to our understanding of eagle ecology – is immeasurable,” explained Bryan Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology, in a LiveScience.com article. “Understanding patterns in eagle movement across the landscape is key to the responsible placement of hazards such as power lines, wind turbines and cell towers, and for avoiding bird-aircraft collisions near airports. Hidden within this dataset are migratory pathways that eagles have used throughout the Northeast for thousands of years, seasonal patterns of foraging locations and revelations for how birds move along local stream corridors.”
April 29th, 2013
As you may recall, last year we covered the U.S. v Antoine Jones case in detail. The case involved an alleged drug trafficker in the D.C. area. Police gathered enough evidence to convict Jones, but the verdict was appealed because police failed to obtain a warrant before attaching a GPS tracking device to his vehicle. Jones went back and forth in appeals courts until his case landed in the high U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court judges ruled that a warrant was necessary for tracking suspects with a GPS device. More than a year after that historic ruling, the Obama Administration is attempting to argue before a federal appeals court that in some cases warrantless GPS tracking is necessary.
Obama’s team of lawyers are arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court judges 2012 ruling about warrantless GPS tracking didn’t take all scenarios into account when making such a broad decision. The president’s administration hopes to discuss when a warrant for GPS tracking should and shouldn’t be required when gathering evidence. According to the lawyers, the standing rules are too much of an impediment to solving crimes for police. Papers filed on behalf of Obama’s administration read, “law enforcement officers could not use GPS devices to gather information to establish probable cause, which is often the most productive use of such devices.”
The Supreme Court ruled against warrantless GPS tracking unanimously. The primary issue behind this case is the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The judges ruled to uphold the protection of “persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” under the Fourth Amendment. Now, the Obama Administration is trying to work its way around what it deems an inconvenient ruling. Do you think police should be able to use GPS tracking devices on suspects without a warrant? Leave a comment with your thoughts!
April 27th, 2013
The majestic dama gazelles of Africa are officially listed as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List for Threatened Species. There is an estimated population of as few as 300 gazelles remaining in their natural habitat. However, there are around 800 healthy gazelles roaming a 20,000-acre ranch in Texas. In an effort to save the dama gazelle population in Africa, researchers are studying the habits of the gazelles in Texas using GPS tracking.
Dr. Elizabeth Cary Mungall, the Second Ark Foundation’s science officer and adjunct professor at Texas Woman’s University teamed up with Dr. Susan Cooper, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research wildlife scientist from Uvalde’s Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in this study. Dr. Cooper offered some expertise in GPS tracking from a study involving white-tailed deer. “Here at the center, we have been using GPS tracking collars on white-tailed deer to conduct research on how their use of habitat changes in response to different land management practices, as well as their interaction with other animals, which is relevant in potential disease transfer,” Dr. Susan Cooper explained. “We fitted GPS collars on more than 100 animals for investigation purposes, including deer, cattle, raccoons, bobcats, coyotes and feral hogs.”
The GPS tracking units are located at the top of collars attached to the gazelles. The collars also have a battery, antenna and a timed drop-off device designed to remove the collar at a specified time. “This eliminates the need to recapture the animal to retrieve the collar at the end of the study,” said Dr. Cooper. “The transmitter collars are commercial tracking collars, but for the gazelle study the collars were colored so that each animal can be easily identified by its bright necklace.”
Although there are so few gazelles left in their core natural habitat in the Sahara desert of Africa, researchers are hopeful that repopulation is possible. “The dama gazelles in Texas are realistic candidates for reintroduction into their native areas as well as ideal safeguards against extinction in the wild, since all of them originally came from Africa,” said Mungall. “Once we learn how they use their range in Texas, we can apply this information to help the species both here and during any possible future restocking efforts to bring them back to their native African habitat. This data will help land managers better estimate breeding patterns and the population numbers that can be supported under various conditions.
April 27th, 2013
Sarah Outen, an adventurer from Oakham in the U.K., has just set off on the most challenging portion of a solo, round-the-world trip. She is determined to make it around the globe traveling only by rowing boat, kayak and bicycle. To document her journey, she is being monitored with a GPS tracking device. This brave 27-year-old launched from Japan today and plans to travel 4,500 nautical miles across the North Pacific Ocean in a rowboat, using GPS technology to record her route. She gave the following statement to This Is Leicestershire before her launch:
“I am an ocean girl at heart. I love being so close to the water and living to the rhythms of the wild. The energy out there is magic and the dynamics are so exciting. There are no guarantees of success out there and it will take every ounce of physical and mental strength and a good dollop of luck to make it across safely. But I believe I have the best possible chance – physically and mentally I am strong and determined to give this my best shot.”
“The North Pacific has already proven itself to be the most grueling part of my whole London2London expedition. Physically and mentally, I know I will be exhausted most of the time. The distance, the weather condition and my complete isolation will make it hugely challenging. Even so, I am ready for it and keen to get out there once more. There are so many beautiful things about being alone on the ocean – the wildlife is my favorite part.”
This will be Sarah’s second attempt rowing from Japan to Canada. Her first attempt was in May of last year, but failed when she came across a typhoon that capsized her boat. If successful, she will be the first woman to row solo from west to east across the North Pacific Ocean and the first person ever to row solo from Japan to Canada. She is prepared with enough food and supplies to survive 150 to 200 days alone at sea. Aside from the physical challenge, Sarah is hoping to raise money in sponsorship for WaterAid, MNDA, CoppaFeel! and The Jubilee Sailing Trust causes.
April 26th, 2013
Oklahoma City is known for some disastrous weather. Strong winds and tornadoes have devastated homes and families. In severe weather, people not only lose their property, sometimes family members (including pets) can go missing as well. Pets can get swept up by intense winds, or simply run away to find some safe shelter. In 2012, Oklahoma City animal welfare found more than 27,000 lost pets and only around 1,500 of them were reunited with their families. Animal shelters are encouraging pet owners to invest in a GPS tracking device to better the chances of finding a pet if it gets lost.
Pet owners living in areas vulnerable to severe weather would do well to put some extra thought into investing in a GPS device for their pets. Animal shelters report that they see a lot of lost pets when bad storms pass through their area. However, even if you live in a mild climate, equipping your pet with a GPS device could save you some real heartache should your pet go missing. “I think that [would] be a great help for any pet owner really, I mean, any dog can get out so that’s a real concern for any pet owner,” said John McFarland.
Many pet owners see their pets as members of the family. When a pet goes missing, it can be incredibly stressful. “I think of my dog as my child so if he were to get out I’d like to know where he’s at. I’d like to be able to find him,” said Maysea Ranier. “Just the other day she got loose and I was getting a little bit worried about it so I was driving around looking for her.”
Despite the clear benefit GPS technology provides to pet owners, most pet stores still do not offer tracking devices. You can find a GPS tracking device right here at RMTracking.com for around $100. Most pets will get away from their owners from time to time. With GPS tracking, finding your pets is easier than ever!
April 26th, 2013
GPS technology has benefited many victims of theft. As these devices get smaller and more affordable, more people are finding ways to attach them to valuables. Vehicles, computers, smartphones and much more have been stolen and recovered thanks to GPS tracking devices. Savvy consumers have been attaching undetectable tracking devices to their valuables which are vulnerable to theft. Now, we’re hearing of businesses using this technology for protection from robberies.
A bank robbery is a tasty temptation for thieves. Despite the high risks involved, like causing a federal investigation, the large cash reward seems worth it to a portion of the criminal element. Banks are getting wiser and turing to GPS technology to help recover cash stolen by these bold criminals. Recently, a bank robber was busted in Columbus, Ohio after making off with a bag full of cash. The alleged thief was not aware that the bag of cash also contained a small GPS tracking device, which led police to his hideout a few blocks away.
GPS devices are an improvement on bank security. Prior to this technology, banks would often slip an exploding dye pack into the bag of cash the robber was stealing. These dye packs were also very discrete and couldn’t be detected right away. A short while after the robbery, the dye pack would explode, staining the cash and ideally the thief in the process. Although this method was fairly effective, the exploding dye packs are more dangerous than tracking devices, primarily because the exploding packs would sometimes cause injury to the criminal and/or innocent bystanders.
So far this year, Columbus has seen 11 bank robberies according to the police robbery squad. The city averages about 40 bank robberies every year. Hopefully, GPS technology can help the police solve more of these cases. In a 2007 U.S. Department of Justice report, it was estimated that about 60 percent of bank robberies are solved, usually when a repeat offender makes a critical mistake.
April 25th, 2013
Freight trucks and larger vehicles have a tougher time on the road than your average driver. They are restricted from entering certain roads due to noise complaints in the neighborhood and aren’t allowed on the fast lanes of freeways. Truck drivers have to be extra careful because of their size, especially when it comes to tunnels and bridges. All across the U.S., these massive trucks crash into low bridge underpasses and tunnels. However, there is a particular problem in Long Island, New York. According to a report from the New York State Department of Transportation, there have been a whopping 341 accidents involving tall trucks and low overpasses in Long Island between 1993 and 2011. These accidents cause damage to the structure of the bridge or tunnel, to the vehicle, endangers the driver and nearby traffic and also can cause massive traffic headaches.
In recent years, efforts have been made to avoid such accidents. For example, many of these lower overpasses and tunnels now have warning signs and height limits posted for truckers. Unfortunately, these signs are often only seen once the driver is already on the road and approaching the overpass or tunnel. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has decided to approach the problem from a different angle: setting new guidelines for commercial truck GPS navigation systems. The reasoning is that the new GPS navigation guidelines could help commercial truckers find routes without low overpasses.
The new GPS systems guidelines recommend that all navigation systems for commercial trucks take into consideration the height and weight of the truck. These new navigation systems will be able to set a route that avoids any roads that freight trucks are banned, or where there might be a low overpass or tunnel. The new guidelines also suggest training the truck drivers on the new GPS system with brochures and a certification program. Hopefully with these guidelines, there will be much fewer instances of low-bridge strikes.