April 12th, 2013
It makes sense that parents would think using tracking apps on their phone or mobile device is adequate enough to monitor their teenagers’ every move. That’s what tracking apps (“Find My iPhone”) do—track the device and presumably the person along with it. But if teenagers are driving somewhere they know they shouldn’t be, they will also probably know how to turn off that tracking feature (or just the phone itself). More and more it’s recommended that parents consider installing a vehicle GPS tracking device instead.
A Problem with Accuracy
Those cell phone tracking apps aren’t as accurate as we think. They don’t use the orbiting GPS satellites (which are extremely precise) to calculate a position like most vehicle tracking devices do. In fact, some phone tracking apps use pinging off of cell phone towers near the phone’s current location to determine coordinates (triangulation), giving a highly inaccurate result. Teens being monitored through a cell phone tracking app might not be at that supposed “location” at all—they could be many miles from it.
Holding Teens Responsible
GPS tracking systems installed directly on the vehicle enable parents to keep a watchful eye, via the account on a smartphone or mobile device application or computer, on where their teen is driving. They can track current heading, location, and speed (which comes in handy for verifying the teen is observing the speed limit). The vehicle GPS tracking system is virtually un-removable, unlike cell phone tracking apps, and many, like the electronic monitoring devices from Lifeguard GPS, maintain their charge by hooking into the car battery with little to no chance of losing power. Should the need ever arise, an installed GPS tracking system allows owners to find and report stolen or lost vehicles and many times get them back within a matter of hours. Additional features of the tracking system can help teens learn the need for vigilance in car maintenance; they can be programmed by manual input to remind car owners of tune ups, registration deadlines, oil changes, and tire preservation among other things, alerting parents of these upcoming dates by email or text message.
Vehicle GPS tracking systems allow parents more than ever to safeguard teens in their growing independence.
September 21st, 2012
Rocky Mountain Tracking does its best to educate readers of the various uses and applications of GPS tracking devices. One of our customers purchased a tracking device for their steam cleaning business, in order to better manage time and gasoline. As it turns out, the tracking device was able to locate and recover a company cleaning van after it was stolen. Santa Barbara Steam Cleaning equipped their cleaning vans with GPS tracking devices in order to more efficiently manage their fleet. While visiting one of their clients, an employee of Santa Barbara Steam Cleaning unwisely left the vehicle running outside with a dog inside. Perhaps he wrongly thought that the dog would be enough to deter a thief. By the time the employee walked back outside, the vehicle had been stolen.
Thanks to the Informer Lite GPS tracking devices obtained here at Rocky Mountain Tracking, Santa Barbara Steam Cleaning was able to track the location of the van. “Being able to track the vehicle at all times is what helped us recover it,” said Andrew Gudgeon, manager of Santa Barbara Steam Cleaning. Tamara Gudgeon accessed the GPS data online and contacted police with the information immediately. Within a half hour, the police stopped the suspect near his home in Ventura, CA. Tamara added, “We were able to track our vehicle with the GPS and recovered it within a half hour.”
“A swift recovery is especially critical in a vehicle theft situation,” said our own Brad Borst, President of Rocky Mountain Tracking. “A delayed recovery increases the probability of damage to the vehicle and the risk of the vehicle never being recovered at all.” The dog was not found in the vehicle when police pulled it over, but was found shortly after sustaining minor injuries. According to the suspect, he threw the dog out of the vehicle, while driving on the freeway. He also claimed that his reasoning for stealing the vehicle was that he didn’t want to take the bus home.
August 11th, 2012
GPS tracking has become an increasingly attractive option for auto dealers in the Buy Here Pay Here (BHPH) market. These dealers typically sell to subprime borrowers, and GPS solutions enable them to keep a close eye on financed vehicles until the customer has paid in full. This year, mobile resource management supplier Spireon displayed two of its major automotive solutions at the 2012 National Independent Automobile Dealers Association convention in June. GoldStar GPS and EnfoTrace GPS have both been designed with the BHPH dealer in mind, offering comprehensive and affordable options for increasing returns.
GoldStar GPS is a comprehensive and customizable option that enables the dealer to locate and track vehicles throughout North America. EnfoTrace offers simple and affordable GPS solutions without compromising reliability or accuracy. Both systems help dealers protect their assets while giving consumers with low credit scores a chance to begin rebuilding their credit.
BHPH dealers use GPS tracking solutions such as those offered by Spireon in a number of ways. If a buyer stops making payments, the dealer can locate and track the vehicle in order to protect his investments. He can also disable vehicles if necessary or enable the starter interrupt feature to remind customers of upcoming payments. The tracking systems make it possible for lenders to take on increased risk from low credit buyers, while at the same time giving subprime customers a chance to get back on their feet if they make payments on time.
Most BHPH dealers address privacy concerns up front by informing buyers that the cars contain GPS tracking devices and detailing exactly how and when they will be used. The systems have also proved helpful in the rental car industry, enabling companies to monitor which cars are rented most often, which vehicles are currently available, and where each vehicle is at any given time.
At the 2012 NIADA convention, Spireon exhibited a buyer’s guide for new dealers detailing the benefits of using a GPS automotive solution, an overview of available technology, how to select the right solution, and key features to look for. They also gave a sneak preview of a new GoldStar GPS system that will be launched by the end of the year. Spireon’s goal is to help dealers improve profits and to educate them in the benefits and best practices of implementing a GPS tracking solution into their business operations.
June 27th, 2012
US Justice Department prosecutors pleaded with a federal appeals court to allow the placement of GPS tracking devices on the vehicles of suspected criminals without first obtaining a search warrant.
This argument goes against the Supreme Court ruling in the Jones case back in January which we have reported on extensively here at RMT, and asks the court to reconsider their decision. The ruling makes the practice of placing a tracking device without obtaining a warrant illegal, as it violates an individual’s Constitutional rights.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing the arguments, and the Obama Administration claims that the Jones ruling was not specific enough. Basically, because it did not make clear the need to obtain a warrant in each and every situation, a loophole was left wide open which actually allows GPS tracking despite the court’s intentions.
The brief submitted to the court argues that “requiring a warrant and probable cause would seriously impede the government’s ability to investigate drug trafficking, terrorism and other crimes,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The brief also argues that the tracking of a person’s movements using a GPS device is only a “limited intrusion” on one’s privacy.
In US v. Jones, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the use of GPS tracking devices on the vehicles of suspected criminals without a valid warrant violated the Fourth Amendment, more specifically unreasonable search and seizure. Those who advocate for privacy hoped that this decision would have set the precedent for cases dealing with warrantless tracking for all kinds of electronic surveillance devices besides GPS devices.
Currently, law enforcement is able to access digital records such as emails and cellphone location data without obtaining a warrant. However, searches within schools and at border crossing locations have been deemed exempt from the warrant requirement.
May 7th, 2012
When it comes to business, one of the most popular (and, in some ways, profitable) applications of GPS technology is fleet management. Let’s say you run a trucking company in Tuscon, AZ. You own seven trucks, and pay seven drivers. You install GPS devices on each vehicle and, thanks to powerful software that analyzes every speed limit infraction, every traffic violation, every lollygagging stop, you can run your truck shop safely and efficiently. It’s a win-win, right? You can manage your fleet efficiently and lengthen the life of your vehicles. Now, a new company promises to bring fleet management technology and put it in parents’ hands. It’s called iTeen365, and it promises to be the definitive driving monitoring software for parents to track their teens.
Monitor Your Child’s Driving on the Web
It begins with a small device, about the size of a cellular phone, that’s mounted in the dashboard of your teen’s vehicle. The device is a dedicated GPS tracker. It monitors every movement of the vehicle. It monitors how fast the vehicle is going. It analyzes the data and makes it available on a website that parents may access at any time. The service costs about $35 a month; the company provides the tracking device and installation for free with a two year contract.
Family “Fleet Management”
Numerous benefits may come with GPS tracking of a teen’s vehicle by parents. Parents may see every destination their child drives to. They will see every traffic law infringement made by the teen. If the vehicle is stolen, it can be tracked for police to find. If an emergency occurs, the vehicle may be tracked by police as well. The potential safety benefits make iTeen365 a potential boon for parents who wish to keep their teens safe.
Invasion of Privacy or Priceless Parenting Tool?
Teens might not be so happy with having their every move examined by parents. Is iTeen365 an invasion of privacy, then? Is the service a breach of trust in the parent/child relationship? Does that breach of trust outweigh the benefits, especially in emergency situations that may arise involving the vehicle? That question is up to parents and teens to resolve. Certainly, if the parents bought the vehicle, they have the right to track it as they please, just as a fleet manager may track the vehicles owned by the business. Whether that tracking damages the family relationship is an issue for families and family counselors.
March 12th, 2012
In the GPS community, everyone is talking about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the guidelines when using GPS in law enforcement. When police secretly tagged a suspected drug dealer’s vehicle with a tracker, then used the resulting data to charge him with a crime, they set in motion a legal battle that has had international effects.
The final verdict states that in order to place a GPS tracking device on an individual’s private property, U.S. officers must first obtain a warrant from a judge. According to the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court justices, attaching a device to an item owned by someone is an unlawful violation of their privacy, unless there is already sufficient evidence of guilt to justify a search warrant. Police departments around the nation will certainly be scrambling to update their policies and ensure that their use of GPS tracking complies with the legal clarification.
Canada’s legal code is actually slightly ahead of the United States in addressing the use of GPS in law enforcement. The law already has a section on tracking, stating clearly that officers must get a special “tracking warrant” before using an electronic device to follow an individual’s movements. It also provides guidelines for the use of those devices. For example, a tracking warrant has a sixty-day lifetime; after which it must be reviewed to determine whether its use is still legal. Police must also show that there is a high probability of gaining evidence by the use of a tracker before the warrant is issued.
The idea of the government using GPS tracking to find out what citizens are up to has, not surprisingly, sparked public debate. Some make the case that if you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t need to be afraid of what police might find out about you. Others, however, are strongly opposed to giving law enforcement the right to watch them without their knowledge. The restriction or expansion of GPS tracker use by law enforcement agencies will likely be unpredictable during the first few years of its widespread availability. The debate is sure to be lively, and will probably include quite a few more legal battles like the one that was recently decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
March 10th, 2012
At the end of January 2012, the Supreme Court gave its final ruling in the case of United States vs. Jones. Though unanimous, the judges did have different reasons for their decision to rule in favor of Jones, stating that police had indeed violated his Fourth Amendment rights by placing a GPS tracking device on his vehicle without a warrant.
When police decided to place a GPS unit on the underside of the suspect’s vehicle without a warrant, they thought they were protected by previous rulings that defined an illegal search as violating a citizen’s person, house, papers, or effects. In fact, the 1928 case of Olmstead vs. United States ruled that police could use wire tapping without a warrant as they did not physically trespass on or against the suspect’s property. This decision seemed to be overturned in Katy vs. United States in 1967 when the Supreme Court ruled that even though a phone booth did not constitute someone’s private property, it did represent a person’s “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Then, in 1983, the waters of Fourth Amendment interpretation were again muddied when the Court ruled in United States vs. Knotts that the use of a beeper on a suspect’s vehicle without a warrant was in keeping with the Constitution because a driver cannot have a reasonable expectation of privacy when driving on public streets.
All these cases, amongst many others, left the interpretation of Fourth Amendment protection against illegal search and seizure quite vague. And though questions were raised in the 1983 case about the possibility of 24-hour surveillance on the part of law enforcement or the government, the judges countered that should such a scenario ever arise, then “there will be time enough then to determine whether different constitutional principles may be applicable.” Neither these judges nor the founding fathers could have anticipated the technological age of the 21st century that allows 24-7 monitoring through GPS, phone records, and computer searches.
As noted, the judges in this case were unanimous in upholding Mr. Jones Fourth Amendment rights and ruling the data collected from a GPS tracking device unconstitutional. The opinions written afterward, however, differ drastically and leave room for further interpretation of a citizen’s right to privacy. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority opinion, reasoned that Jones’ vehicle did in fact constitute his personal effects and was thereby protected by the specific wording of the amendment. Justice Alito, on the other hand, argued from the standpoint of the duration and intensity of the surveillance; 28 days of 24-7 information gathering. Both opinions led to the same decision, with the role of GPS technology in Fourth Amendment rights still to be determined.
March 10th, 2012
Many travelers stop in at a TravelCenters of America (TA) during their adventures. Whether on vacation or driving the morning commute, we’ve all needed to stop for gas, food, or just plain rest. With 165 locations nationwide, TA provides multiple amenities for drivers. And now, they have added GPS technology to its fleet of RoadSquad trucks.
Most travelers are aware that TravelCenters of America offer gas, restaurants, convenience stores, and restroom facilities; some even feature showers and arcades. However, TA also offers roadside assistance. In an effort to make that assistance as efficient as possible, and to get you back on the road sooner, TA has equipped its 400-truck fleet of RoadSquad trucks with GPS devices. The president and CEO of TravelCenters says, “Our GPS technology allows us to know exactly where to find the downed driver and provides service technicians that drive our emergency service trucks with detailed directional information to the breakdown site.”
With GPS data from a central dispatch office, service trucks can be sent out much more quickly and accurately with station usually within 20 miles of a disabled vehicle. The trucks are not only outfitted with a GPS device for tracking downy he vehicle’s location, but they are also fully equipped for service. From gas refueling and flat tires to dead batteries, the RoadSquad can find you and help you more efficiently. And there are over 3,000 qualified and trained technicians to man these trucks and assist a driver whose car or truck has ground to a halt.
Through GPS technology, the dispatch center for RoadSquad can also provide real time access to the shop systems in its network and track the repair process from the initial call to the completion of the repairs. TA also offers a TA “Our Location” app that can be downloaded from their website with complete instructions to any TomTom, Magellan, or Garmin device, to make locating a TravelCenters of America even easier.
If you are using a GPS device for your own travel navigation, you can rest assured that the same global positioning system technology is being used by emergency service trucks through TravelCenters of America to help resolve your driving dilemma should the need arise. GPS technology keeps traffic moving.
February 25th, 2012
GPS technology has proved itself very valuable to law enforcement. Vehicles, notebooks, and smartphones are common targets for theft, but fortunately many modern versions come with, or are later equipped with, GPS tracking technology. GPS tracking has allowed police to pinpoint the exact location of stolen property, often while in the possession of the thief. Not only has the technology lead to hundreds of arrests, it’s also become a crime deterrent. Law enforcement in the Noida region of India are contemplating the benefits of mandating that vehicle owners install GPS tracking devices on their property.
“We have not made use of GPS systems mandatory yet but we are trying to do so, by motivating and encouraging people to install them for the safety of their vehicles. We have been doing this for the past five months. We had invited a few companies to take part in the initiative this has created competition amongst the companies here,” explained a representative from the Gautam Budh Nagar Police Department.
Statistics show that around 43 percent of the total crimes in Noida and Ghaziabad regions are car thefts. Each month, an estimated 150 to 200 vehicles are stolen in the NCR region. Two-wheeled vehicles account for around 60 percent of the thefts, and the other 40 percent are four-wheelers. Vehicle theft is clearly a problem that needs to be addressed, but mandating installation of expensive technology may not be a practical solution. Some GPS device manufacturers are doing what they can to make their merchandise more affordable.
“We, along with the Noida police are spreading awareness to combat car thefts and are encouraging people to get them installed. For this, we have subsidized our rates for the device at Rs.6500 ($133) with a recurring charge of Rs.2000 ($41) for the network service annually. Our manufacturing cost is Rs.4500 ($92) and there is hardly any margin,” explained Mayank Saraswat, Hans Techno Systems business development manager.
November 24th, 2011
The holidays are upon us, and as they do every year, fuel prices are rising to record highs. The national average is currently $3.40, which is up 51 cents from this time last year.
Since October, the price of crude oil has increased roughly 30 percent, from $75.67 to $102 per barrel. Why? Experts think that one likely cause is good news. As the economy is slowly recovering and more are returning to work, the demand for fuel is increasing.
More reasons (not good news) include continued occupation and unrest in places that export crude oil, weak economies worldwide, dwindling inventory here in the US, and the decreasing value of the US dollar. It is estimated Americans will spend a whopping $489.7 billion this year, more than $100 billion more than what we paid in 2010, as calculated by Tom Kloza, analyst for the Oil Price Information Service.
You may not be able to do anything about the rise in cost of gasoline, but if you manage a fleet, whether large or small, you would be wise to look into adding GPS tracking devices to your fleet vehicles. Not only can these handy devices point out any wasted man-hours, it can also show you how you can cut fuel costs. If you can actually see the routes of your drivers, you might notice one or more of them who can change the route they take each day, saving you hundreds in fuel costs in the long run. Some devices can even alert you when the vehicle isn’t running as efficiently as it could be, allowing you to address the problem immediately rather than let it go for a period of time, saving you money.
Fuel prices aren’t going down anytime soon, so prepare yourself and your fleet for the rising costs this holiday season by installing GPS tracking devices.
Photo Courtesy of Cassie_BedfordGolf