Cell phones can report where they are because they have GPS (global positioning system) circuitry that allows them to query satellites to determine their locations. By watching the reported changing positions of cell phones it is possible to figure out which ones are in vehicles and determine traffic speeds on roads and highways.
Engineers have developed a system for taking anonymous cell-phone location information and turning it into an illuminated traffic map that identifies congestion in real time.The system takes advantage of the steady stream of positioning cues--untraced signals all cell phones produce, whether in use or not, as they seek towers with the strongest signals. It is the first traffic-solution technology that monitors patterns on rural roads and city streets as easily as on highways.
Developed by IntelliOne of Atlanta, Ga., the TrafficAid system could not only help guide drivers around tie-ups, but also tell emergency responders where accidents are or how effectively an evacuation is unfolding by pinpointing clusters of cell phones.
"Unlike sensors and other equipment along major freeways that is expensive and takes years to deploy, our system takes advantage of existing cellular networks in which wireless carriers have already invested billions of dollars," said National Science Foundation (NSF) awardee and IntelliOne CEO Ron Herman, a former engineer and computer scientist.
Herman was inspired by a friend's demonstration several years ago of a proof-of-concept Palm Pilot software that used real-time California Department of Transportation travel-time data to route the drivers around traffic snarls."I was completely sold," said Herman. "I believed then the next 'killer app' for mobile would demand live traffic data for every road--not just select highways equipped with speed sensors--and set out to make it happen."
There's a bigger pattern here: Data collected for one purpose gets aggregated, analyzed, and used for other purposes. Devices that can get queried to report information automatically without human involvement are becoming ubiquitous. Devices that would cost too much to deploy for some reason (e.g. traffic flow tracking) can get deployed for other reasons (e.g. mobile telephones) and then reused for other less economically valuable purposes.
The continued rapid increase in speed of computers is a well known phenomenon. I think the steadily falling costs of communications and data collection will have an even more profound effect. We are going to increasingly live in societies which are extremely measured and monitored. More nooks and crannies of life will have sensors and communications devices attached to them.
TALLAHASSEE - Evoking the slaying of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia, Florida law enforcement officials descended on the state Capitol Wednesday to urge key lawmakers to invest $35-million next year to keep minute-by-minute track of thousands of paroled criminals.
Pitched as the next technological revolution in crime-fighting and already up and running in four Florida counties including Pinellas and Citrus, the VeriTracks system uses global positioning technology to track criminals released from jail or prison. It then cross-references those locations nightly with criminal activity.
Note that many of these systems are not doing real-time reporting of location. The device constantly records where the wearer is at. But it has to be downloaded at the end of a day to find where the parolee has been. This delayed reporting is a lot cheaper because systems that use real-time tracking have to do frequent transmissions of information via automated cellular messaging. However, more expensive models support real-time reporting of locations of wearers as they move around throughout the day and night. More on that below.
Florida has been one of the most aggressive states in using satellite technology to track criminals. The Department of Corrections uses "active" GPS for about 400 probationers, mostly sex offenders and people who've committed violent crimes. About another 150 are monitored with "passive" GPS which checks offenders whereabouts less often.
The main company that provides the tracking system, Pro Tech, is based in Florida. Its system is used in 33 states.
On any given day, 5 million offenders in the U.S. are either on probation, parole or some other form of community supervision. These same offenders account for 33% of violent crimes. These staggering statistics led to the founding of Pro Tech Monitoring, Inc. and the creation of SMART® System Technology.
The key components of the SMART® Active Tracking System are a Portable Tracking Device (PTD), ankle bracelet, charging stand, and GPS satellites.
Offenders are fitted with a tamper-resistant ankle bracelet and assigned a PTD to keep near them at all times. The ankle bracelet acts as an "electronic tether" which transmits signals to the PTD.
The PTD uses GPS signals and a wireless network to locate and report an offender's every move. The PTD monitors the signal strength of the GPS satellites to ensure accurate location information and incorporates a motion detector to monitor movement in areas of insufficient GPS signal strength. Pro Tech's Offender Tracking Center (OTC) monitors this information. The PTD is equipped with an LCD, used to notify the offender of violations and for sending text messages from the agency. This patented communication capability has demonstrated it's effectiveness in modifying offender behavior and reducing recidivism.
Authorities can even create multiple Inclusion and Exclusion zones, and be notified by fax, pager or email whenever a zone violation occurs.
Note the use of Inclusion and Exclusion zones. Depending on the implemention the real-time reporting devices can utilize this capability to reduce the cost of reporting because the wireless reporting method can be used to do real-time reports only when a criminal enters a forbidden zone or is moving around in a forbidden zone.
On average, offenders will use the devices for six months. The technology will cost the Corrections Department $175,000 to $200,000 a year based on the annual release of about 45 Level 3 offenders. The daily cost of about $17 for the technology and vendor expenses is in addition to the $20 daily expense for monitoring offenders on intensive supervision.
Court Programs will place tracNET24 units on a wide range of offenders including deadbeat dads, juveniles, domestic violence and misdemeanor cases, and those on pre-trial release for felonies. By adopting tracNET24, Court Programs is providing Mississippi and Florida with the most advanced offender tracking available. The device allows authorities to monitor, via a satellite system, the whereabouts of offenders who are outfitted with small 12-ounce personal tracking units (PTU). A PTU receives signals from the Department of Defense's GPS satellite system and after the PTU is docked for charging, the PTU downloads the offenders' movements into a database accessed by correction officials. In addition, authorities may program exclusion areas, places where the presence of an offender is prohibited; such as certain residences, schools, and child care facilities. tracNET24 gives authorities verifiable records of where offenders have been, 24 hours per day, seven days a week.
The more expensive iSecureTrac model is also capable of real-time reporting of violations of exclusion zones.
Currently only law enforcement agencies and the companies that sell these devices have access to the position data that is collected. However, if public demands ever arose for wider access this could easily be done with current technology. Imagine, for instance, the ability of, for instance, a battered women to get a beeper that would notify her in real-time when her ex-husband was too close to her current location. She would need to wear a similar device (unless at home or some other fixed location) that would report where she was so that the central database could compare that to the location of some guy who is a threat to her.
There are a lot of other possible uses of this technology. Schools could get real-time reports of convicted pedophiles in their vicinity. Also, night clubs could be notified when a convicted rapist enters their premises or shopping mall security could be notified to watch someone in a parking lot..
The key to using real-time data to allow people to avoid criminals is that a person's location must be compared to another person's location. That requires a huge of real-time messaging of the location of both criminals and of the far larger population non-criminals in order to do the comparison. However, one way around that problem would be to add to a criminal's worn device a transmitter that is constantly broadcasting his location with a low power radio transmitter over a distance of, say, a half mile. Then anyone in the larger population could just use a radio receiver coupled to an embedded computer to notify that a criminal is nearby. Buildings could contain such receivers and building security could be alerted automatically when known criminals are nearby. The notifications could be filtered by types of previous convictions or other characteristics.
The ability to track the locations of people has a lot of other applications of course. As the tracking devices become smaller and cheaper expect to see parents putting them in their children both to protect their children from kidnapping and also simply to find out what trouble the kids are getting themselves into.
Another possible interesting application would be to manage affinity groups. Imagine a traveller who is cruising down a road trying to decide which night club to try out. If people registered with an affinity tracking service then a traveller could choose a club or restaurant whose currently present patrons fit some desired demographic profile. One obvious problem with such a service is that just because one person likes a particular type of person doesn't mean that most who fit a desired profile will like that person in return. Look at celebrities for example. They are loved by all sorts of people who the celebrities would very much like to avoid. So a service would need to develop eligibility criteria that require matching of preferences in both directions before that person driving down the street would get a flashing light on their car LCD pointing them to a particular bar or night club.
Imagine a tiny chip the size of a grain of rice that can be implanted under your skin to provide instant access to a range of potentially life- saving information. Or indeed, any information.
American company Applied Digital Solutions demonstrated just that at the IDTechEx Smart Tagging in Healthcare conference, held in London last month.
Paramedics could know instantly that a person they find passed out has a medical condition or an allergy to a particular drug. But the uses do not stop there. As storage device densities continually increase the amount of information storable by little chips embedded in a person's body will go up by many orders of magnitude.
Boston Globe reporter Angela Swafford has written a good article that surveys many of the possible uses for this technology. She even had a VeriChip inserted into her own body.
Theoretically, this VeriChip will allow doctors to call up my medical records even if I'm too badly hurt to answer questions. It is also supposed to allow me to get money from an automatic teller machine by flashing my arm instead of punching in my PIN number. Or reassure airport security that I am a journalist, not a terrorist.
Nokia and MasterCard are planning to put RFID chips into cell phones to make them into credit cards. There is not a whole lot of difference between an ATM card and a credit card and therefore it seems reasonable to expect that you could become your own credit card as well. But then how can someone who can't control their credit card spending cut their cards in half?
Applied Digital Solutions is also developing a subdermal GPS Personal Location Device.
PALM BEACH, FL– May 13, 2003 – Applied Digital Solutions, Inc. (Nasdaq: ADSX), an advanced technology development company, today announced that it has developed and successfully field tested a working prototype of what the company believes is the first-ever subdermal GPS “personal location device” (PLD). Field testing and follow-up laboratory testing of the disk-shaped prototype confirm that the specially designed antenna and the induction-based power-recharging method function properly.
The dimensions of this initial PLD prototype are 2.5 inches in diameter by 0.5 inches in depth, roughly the size of a pacemaker. As the process of miniaturization proceeds in the coming months, the Company expects to be able to shrink the size of the device to at least one-half and perhaps to as little as one-tenth the current size.
The induction-based power-recharging method is similar to that used to recharge implantable pacemakers. This recharging technique functions without requiring any physical connection between the power source and the implant.
Dr. Peter Zhou, Vice President and Chief Scientist of Applied Digital Solutions, said: “We’re very encouraged by the successful field testing and follow-up laboratory testing of this working PLD prototype. The specially designed antenna is working as planned. While reaching the working prototype stage represents a significant advancement in the development of PLD, we continue to pursue further enhancements, especially with regard to miniaturization and the power supply. We should be able to reduce the size of the device dramatically before the end of this year.”
Last year, the Company announced that it was accelerating development of PLD in response to demand from high-risk countries and other potential customers. The exact timing of commercial availability of PLD is unclear pending further technological refinements and achieving any required regulatory clearances. The PLD technology builds on United States Patent Number 5,629,678 for a "personal tracking and recovery system" which Applied Digital acquired in 1999.
In its PLD announcement last year, the Company said it is committed to providing customers with a full range of “personal safeguard technologies” that enhance personal safety, security and peace of mind. Other technologies in the Company’s line-up of life-enhancing technologies include VeriChip™, Digital Angel™, and Thermo Life™.
You might be wondering what this product is for. My added bolding of the statement about the "high-risk countries" points to one obvious use. They are probably referring to countries where kidnapping of wealthy people for ransoms occurs much more frequently than is the case in the most industrialized countries. Perhaps the device will be able to periodically broadcast a signal that reveals the location of a person once kidnapped.
A really cool health application would be to combine a heart monitor with GPS and cellular phone digital message broadcast to alert emergency workers when a person is having a heart attack. Other people with medical conditions such as epilepsy or diabetes that put them at risk of experiencing acute medical emergencies could also benefit from the ability of an embedded device to automatically make a cellular call for help. One could imagine people in high risk occupations such as forest fire fighters and search and rescue workers that have a risk of their being lost or injured in remote locations benefitting from having such a device in them.
A lot of other applications for this kind of technology can easily be imagined. For instance, parents could use it to keep track of the movement of their kids, either to find them at any moment in time or to download a record of their movements when they come home. This could be done surreptitiously so that a kid would never even know that a device had been implanted.
Law enforcement officials could require use of embedded RFID/GPS on parolees as a condition of parole. Stalkers who have court orders placed on them to avoid a celebrity or ex-girlfriend could similarly be tracked. Another really interesting application would be counter-terrorism. Imagine a suspected terrorist having a GPS tracking device secretly implanted. One way to do it would be to drug a suspected terrorist using food sent to his hotel room followed by insertion of a device while he slept. He might never suspect that he fell asleep because of drugs in his food if the drugging was done at a time late enough at night.
What would be even more clever would be to put components of a nanotech GPS device in food split up into a number of pieces too small to detect. The pieces could all be absorbed and then all migrate to the same destination in the body to hook up with each other and start functioning. A really sophisticated device could even record spoken conversations for later download. Then when the terrorist stayed in a hotel room or visited a restaurant that had embedded devices for triggering a radio download an encrypted transmission could be sent at his body to start the download.
Simpler RFID technology is on the verge of being used by clothing retailers to prevent theft and track inventory more accurately. Benetton announced a move to embed RFID tags in all Benetton clothing but after a furor was raised Benetton backed off from the proposal a month later. Another application is to combine RFID with a temperature sensor to allow perishible packages to indicate more accurately when shelf life has been expired.
Some day more advanced embeddable GPS tracking and radio transmitting devices will be interfaced to one's nervous system to allow one to instruct one's own embedded device to report that one believes one is either being kidnapped or otherwise in danger. Picture a mental keyboard where in one's mind one could type up a digital message or select from a list of prewritten messages and then order one embedded cell phone to send a brief digital message to a security agency, police, family, or employer.
In a comment section of a previous post someone has just posted claiming that a police force secretly put a GPS tracking device on his car. This leads to the obvious question of whether doing that is legal. Here's an article that reports routine installation of GPS devices by private investigators to track individuals who are not even married.
Virginia Beach Private Investigator Lee Oakes uses GPS everyday. He secretly installs magnetized units - it can take as little as 10 seconds - under the cars of individuals his clients pay him to follow.
I could see how a private investigator would have less legal problem doing it for one half of a married couple since the car that would be tracked would typically be jointly owned by the couple. But an example cited in the article involved tracking a fiance who had a cheating heart. Well, the article claims this is perfectly legal:
Again, using a GPS tracking device on a vehicle is not illegal...as long as you don't commit a crime (breaking into the car, tapping into the car's power supply, altering the car's driving characteristics, etc.) installing the device.
This might vary by state. Does anyone know? This article is reporting on Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach and so it is dealing with Virginia state law.
Also, are there fewer restrictions on monitoring and surveillance by private individuals than by police forces and other government agencies?
If current law remains in effect how ubiquitous will monitoring of others become? Because of continuing technical advances the devices will only become cheaper, smaller, and easier to use.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is working on a PDA that can detect nuclear materials.
The device, known as RadNet, is designed to make calls, surf the Web, act as a Personal Digital Assistant, pinpoint locations with Global Positioning System technology and sniff out nuclear materials with a cutting-edge sensor. It is one of several national security projects being worked on at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
The detector may eventually be built into a large assortment of vehicles and it could report detected radiation and a GPS-determined position automatically.
Livermore's Simon Labov, director of the lab's new radiation detection center, sees RadNet phones in the hands of police, firefighters and U.S. Customs agents. One day, though, Labov imagines the gizmos will be built into taxis, rental cars and trucks.
“In effect, all of the phones operating at any time are part of one large detector that is spread out throughout an entire geographic area,” Labov explained.
The deployed detectors would all report back to a central database where patterns of radiation changes could be detected and tracked.
With continuous monitoring and data collection, the system can look for patterns of radioactivity in a given area and detect changes that indicate a hazardous condition, he added.
A system of this sort wouldn't require human carriers to be looking at radiation detectors continuously. A microprocessor could automatically continuously read the radiation sensor in each device and it could automatically call in any reading it encountered that was above some threshold level.
Any type of sensor that can be paired with a microprocessor to look for anomalous sensor readings could be deployed in a similar fashion. A variety of chemical and biological agent detectors will surely be developed that can operate for long periods of time without the need to resupply reagents. Then mobile networks of automated biological and chemical terrorism detectors will be deployed along with the nuclear materials detectors.
But there are ways that chemical detectors could be used for more conventional law enforcement purposes. Consider how dogs can detect the smell of a person and track that smell. DNA samples are now widely collected from criminals. If some aspects of a person's scent are stable thru a period of years then it is not hard to imagine that some day scrapings of skin and sweat will be taken from each felon to be analysed to build a chemical signature of that person's scent. Then when chemical sensing technology becomes sufficiently advanced sensors that can detect specific chemical scent signatures could be deployed to continuously analyse the air in public areas. Wanted criminals could be identified by their scent as they pass a public detector. One could easily imagine banks allowing the deployment of such detectors so that the chemical signatures of bank robbers could be recorded along with video recordings.
Global Position System (GPS) devices are being used to track the movement of spouses and workers.
Spouses who believe mates are having affairs, employers who suspect workers are misusing company vehicles or parents who wonder if their children are where they are supposed to be are among those using devices tied to the global positioning system of satellites.
The ability to track children with GPS will likely eventually lead to the embedding of GPS devices inside the bodies of children. Then parents who are worried about kidnapping will be able to rest assured that they will be able to find their children if they are kidnapped. Of course, a very sophistication kidnapper will be able to shield or remove locator devices. But the devices would at least be an obstacle for most kidnappers and would allow quicker location of children who are murdered by perverted killers.
Working with police, Avis turns on the system only if the car appears to have been stolen, Deutsch says. The system will also automatically activate if the air bag inflates, indicating a possible accident. In that event, Deutsch says, you may hear a voice through your radio ask, "Are you OK? Are you all right?" The system indicates your location for emergency aid.
GPS monitoring gives local governments a cheap alternative to incarceration and allows offenders an opportunity to continue working and living at home. Law enforcement agencies can create "electronic fences" around areas that are off-limits to offenders. The GPS system can be programmed to alert police if a pedophile enters a schoolyard, for example.
Kenosha Wisconsin police charged Paul Anthony Siedler with use of GPS to stalk his ex-girlfriend.
Kenosha police allege that Seidler placed a Global Positioning System tracking device under the hood of the woman's car and began monitoring her movements. Charged with stalking, burglary, disorderly conduct, and reckless endangerment,
With new technology on the scene to accurately record mileage, the time is also right. Traditionally, some insurers have worried over how the would record mileage accurately with such a system. Progressive Insurance, the fourth-largest US car insurer, has pioneered this area. For two years, it has been testing "smart" insurance in Texas, installing miniprocessors that use GPS technology to record distance and time driven. Pleased with consumer response, Progressive is considering a national rollout of the policy.
One can easily imagine how this technology could be enhanced to bill at different rates in different driving conditions. For instance, driving in rainy or snowy conditions or at night or in densely populated areas which have higher accident rates could be more expensive.
The Oregon Road User Fee Task Force has proposed billiing in-state cars for mileage driven in-state to compensate for new car technologies that reduce the amount of gasoline fuel needed and hence the amount of gasoline tax collected.
“We also have to have a way to track mileage only within the state,” Whitty said. This rules out basing the fee on odometer readings, which would include out-of-state driving.
“Technology has improved to the degree that this can be done, with an electronic device,” he said. The device, in a car, would be linked to the Global Positioning Satellite or GPS system, which allows pinpoint navigation by bouncing signals off satellites.
A British government advisory panel has proposed nationwide use of GPS to implement road use taxes.
All cars will be fitted with a 'big brother' satellite tracking meter to charge drivers up to 45p a mile for every journey taken under radical plans to slash congestion on British roads.
The scheme, proposed by the Government's independent transport advisers, would see drivers handed monthly bills charging them for every single journey.
GPS is even coming to cell phones so that callers to emergency numbers can be located.
Many rental fleets and trucking companies already use satellite positioning systems to track cars and cargo. Companies promote similar products for keeping tabs on kids, Alzheimer's patients or cheating spouses. Washington is also promoting locator technology. By October, the Federal Communications Commission wants cell phones equipped with locator technology to help emergency responders find callers.
A large assortment of other technologies are being used to help catch cheating spouses.
Whatever happened to the lipstick stain on the collar? In the old days of freewheeling adultery, a hang-up call in the middle of the night was the worst a philandering rogue had to worry about. Now there are itemized cell-phone bills, call-display screens, automobile tracking devices, Internet history folders, stealth-mode keystroke-recording software programs and spray-on sperm detectors all waiting to trip you up.
The spy business is a $3 billion a year industry in the United States, and spouses are leading the way, employing a range of techniques to catch their mates at adultery.
Lots of other technologies can be used to track and monitor people and to detect types of behavior. Semen detection tests available for order on the internet are used to detect spousal sexual activity with other people.
The Original CheckMate Semen Detection Test Kit will quickly and easily monitor your spouse's sexual activity outside of the relationship by detecting invisible traces of dried semen that is left in their undergarments after sex...
In spite of the rise of DNA testing, GPS tracking, and phone conversation recording hidden cameras are still the most popular seller.
“Spy cameras are definitely our No. 1 seller,” says Ursula Lebana, owner of Spy Tech in Toronto, Canada. “The cameras have become so small that they will fit into anything. People bring us their own items—lamps, music boxes, humidifiers—and we install cameras in them. You could be on camera anywhere. If you’re not doing anything wrong, then it should make you feel safer.”
The total surveillance society of the future will not be one where only the government is watching. Even business surveillance of employees and customers is only a part of the larger phenomenon. Individuals will increasingly track the movements, conversations, electronic messages, and activities of others in a growing number of ways. Spouses will surveil each other. Parents will track the movements and activities of their children. Portable automated chemical assay devices will make it easy for parents or others to rapidly and easily check for drug use.
Imagine the possibilities that will be opened up by steadily higher density recording media. Gifts of jewelry which have hidden audio storage capacity will provide a way to record the conversations of someone for romantic or business reasons. Nanotech electronics will likely eventually allow the recording media to be the jewelry itself. Detection of an embedded piece of nanoelectronics may turn out to be extremely difficult to do.
Automated processing of video, sound, scent, motion, location, other types of sensors, and electronic information will make it easier to sort thru the growing number of sensor feeds that individuals, companies, and governments will monitor. David Brin argues our only choice is between limiting powerful surveillance technologies solely to government use or allowing everyone to use them. Privacy is inevitably going to decrease. There is no feasible way to stop a large decrease in privacy.
Some types of technology are so easy to move around on a black market that restrictions on their use by the general public will have the effect of allowing only criminals and governments to use them. Some types of information will be so widely desired that even otherwise non-criminal citizens will opt to use them even if their use is illegal. Miniaturization of electronic monitoring devices and the ability to embed them in common items will make it very hard to detect or control their use.
One's privacy is not just a matter of where one goes or what one says or does. It includes financial data as well as medical details about oneself such as health records and even details of one's very structure. One crucial set of details is one's personal DNA code. As I've argued previously, in the long run DNA sequence privacy is going to be impossible to protect. It will simply be too easy to get a sample of someone's DNA sequence. Note how the semen detector service is a viable business because samples of biological material of even a spouse's lover is easy to get without the spouse or the lover knowing that one has done so. Once DNA sequencing machines become sufficiently fast, sensitive, and cheap that biological material will surely be usable to find out the DNA sequence of a spouse's lover. One way that information will be usable would be to predict the approximate physical appearance of the lover so that a private detective could more easily spot the lover as part of an investigation into a spouse's cheating. Once the results of DNA sequencing can be used to predict approximate physical appearance of a person then the ability to do DNA sequencing on saliva, blood, skin, semen, and other biological material will also be used by police, private investigators, and intelligence agencies to develop profiles of suspects.
The widespread embrace of the use of surveillance technology by the general public demonstrates a popular willingness to watch and track other people. This trend looks set to continue to grow with no end in sight.