Until recently, tracking people with Global Positioning System technology required purchasing expensive hardware and software. Now, complete solutions are available through cellular service providers.
Stimulated by the events of September 11, 2001, the demand for enhanced 911 (e911) emergency calling capabilities pushed forward GPS tracking technology in cell phones. At the end of 2005, all cell phone carriers were required to provide the ability to trace cell phone calls to a location within 100 meters or less.
To comply with FCC requirements, cell phone carriers decided to integrate GPS technology into cell phone handsets, rather than overhaul the tower network. However the GPS in most cell phones are not like those in your handy GPS receiver that you take hiking. Most cell phones do not allow the user direct access to the GPS data, accurate location determination requires the assistance of the wireless network, and the GPS data is transmitted only if a 911 emergency call is made.
Motorola and Blackberry were the first GPS-enable phones to proliferate the United States. Initially, Motorola “iDEN” phones were commonly used for employee tracking on the business-oriented Nextel network. Then GPS enabled Blackberry phones, once used almost exclusively by corporate and government VIPs, began to penetrate the consumer market stimulated by the demand for phones with advanced messaging capability. Next came specialty devices produced under the names of “Disney Mobile” and “Wherify Wireless” targeting use by children and elderly. In 2009, a variety of GPS-enabled phones and tracking services were available.
It is important to note that Wi-fi complements the cellular grid, providing additional conduits for location information to pass through to the net. Your phone has a unique electronic identifier and â€“ if enabled â€“ can pass this information, locating you within the geographic area covered by the hotspot. There should be little doubt that the vast radioscape of urban environments is being mapped and your participation in services like Google Latitude improve their ability to locate you out of cell range and hidden from GPS satellites. Always read the terms of service before deciding to agree.
Here are a few services and technologies that give the customer the ability to track others:
Accutracking is a full-featured low-cost LBS provider using Motorolla, Boost Mobile and Blackberry phones operating on the Sprint/Nextel network.
Google LatitudeNextel’s Mobile Locator is a service used in conjunction with Nextel calling plans with Nextel GPS-enabled phones. Mobile locator allows you to view and monitor your peoples’ location in real-time, either singly or within a group, on a zoomable, online map. The web interface allows you to view location history, based on your most recent queries.
Mapquest Find Me can be used by Nextel phones, allowing one to view a group of your peoples’ locations on one map, or you can view a track of an individual’s location history. Powered by uLocate, Mapquest provides a web interface for mobile devices like PDAs as well cell phones. Other features include in-depth location history detail.
Sprint’s/Nextel’s Mobile Locator is a service used in conjunction with Nextel calling plans with Nextel GPS-enabled phones. Mobile locator allows you to view and monitor your peoples’ location in real-time, either singly or within a group, on a zoomable, online map. The web interface allows you to view location history, based on your most recent queries.
Wherify Wireless, – “Wherifone” is designed specifically for children and seniors. The Wherifone is supported solely by Wherify’s Global Location Service Center.
Passive Tracking devices record location data internally so that it can be downloaded later. Also referred to “data logging,” which can provide location data even when the device has traveled outside the wireless network. Passive tracking is not a common feature built-in to cell phones (at the time this article was published), but more sophisticated java-enabled cell phones, PDAs, and other mobile devices may have this feature. You should ask your LBS provider if their application can accommodate passive tracking data from the more sophisticated tracking devices.
GeoFencing is a term used to describe a feature that enables the cell phone to only start tracking when it has entered or exited a predefined region, avoiding unnecessary tracking when your people are close to home, office, or school. Or GeoFencing may also mean that an alert is sent when their phone crosses a virtual fence. For example, AccuTracking will send email or SMS message when they move across the designated areas.