GPS Science For Non-Scientists (NASA, Please Copy)

U-blox has released a handheld version of its tool for evaluating and analyzing GPS performance. U-center mobile provides a highly flexible platform, adapted to the limited viewing area of handhelds, to configure and test GPS products and visualize the collected GPS data, the company says.

According to u-blox, u-center mobile provides satellite status and positioning information, facilitates 2D representations of any GPS parameter in real-time, and offers extensive configuration options. Additionally, the system has a data recorder with playback functionality that enables GPS data logging. Log files created with u-center-mobile are compatible with desktop u-center, allowing log files to be analyzed either on the handheld or a PC, the company says  Full article here: 

A nice GPS Tracking test and development tool released here,  The average consumer-level user never needs to be concerned with the mechanics of the GPS but there are many civilian applications that could benefit

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Use of Public Transit is Soaring — ITYS

For years now as city mayors and mangers rode to work by themselves in their BMW’s and Cadillac’s, that transit is going to be the salvation of your city — if it can be saved, that is. You read it here first. Now read what USA Today has to say ..

Use of public transit is soaring.

Transit agencies had record or near-record ridership in the first three months of the year, thanks to high gas prices, a mild winter and, in one city, the Super Bowl. By Joe Raedle, Getty Images Mass transit systems around the nation have seen a spike in ridership. Mass transit systems around the nation have seen a spike in ridership. At least a dozen communities set records for the number of people riding buses, trains and light rail, even though some cut service because of tight budgets, according to the American Public Transportation Association. More people returning to work helped, says Michael Melaniphy, the association’s president and CEO.

Public transportation use up across the nation in 2011

He says ridership on what’s called:

  • Heavy Rail — subways and elevated trains — increased in 14 of the 15 systems that have such transit.
  • Light Rail — streetcars and trolleys — rose in 25 of the 27 cities that have it.
  • Buses — 34 of 37 large cities saw increases in ridership.

"It’s nationwide," Melaniphy says. The result: fuller trains and buses straining the capacity of systems….

So why are you reading about this on a blog about GPS tracking system,s and technology?  Simple.

One of the most commonly overlooked aspects of operation on these systems is the role GPS tracking can play in absolute bottom-line savings.

Sure. customer service is nice, but when the chips are down, as when you have to move more and more people with the same strained resources, GPS tracking should be one of the first places to look to improve your bottom line.

We in the industry have known this for years, but it’s surprising how many senior managers still think that GPS tracking is an excess cost that they can’t afford.  In fact, it pays.

GPS and Trucking — HOS (Hours Of Service) Part 1

Here’s another installment in the mini-series on why American trucking executives should pull their head from the sand and start maximizing the bottom line with GPS.

If you’re John Q. Public reading the mail here you may not even know what HOS represents.  If you’re a trucking manager you probably think of it as a nuisance.

Basically the US Federal Hours Of Service rules govern when a driver can and can’t drive.  In simplistic form they dictate that a driver can work 14 hours a day and be off for 10 … but oh my goodness it’s ever so much more complicated than that.

Here’s a great presentation I came upon courtesy of the Nebraska State Patrol.   look it over and then reflect on how well you think you can manage a trucking business just by sitting at a desk and relying on paper reports on an irregular basis,  Nebraska State Patrol Training Brief

Got that all committed to memory now?  Are you willing to risk fines of up to $11,000 per day per driver in violation?  And in some cases even criminal prosecution?  See here and here and here for just a few examples.  Notice that in addition to guilty please in a federal felony case one of the owners was ordered to pay more than a million dollars in fines and restitution.  Got that much headroom on your business errors and omissions policy?  Of course, many insurance policies don’t cover intentional criminal acts anyway

Want to think over something a lot cheaper and more reliable than insurance?  You can put a very accurate passive GPS tracker on your vehicles for less than $600 each and absolutely no monthly cost.  It would unalterably show when the vehicle is moving, sitting at idle or shut off.  Get hit with a charge of violating or letting your drivers violate the HOS rules and this could be a life saver.  Not to mention the fact that it would be continually monitoring the use of the vehicle, unauthorized idling time, speeding, taking free roads and charging you for tolls and any of 10,001 other ways you could be losing money.

If you want to spend a dollar a day you could get all that information real time.  Save 45 minutes of excess idling each day and the unit is paid for.  Get one extra delivery per month by managing driver’s hours more effectively and you’re making money hand over fist … and most GPS tracking users find they make an extra delivery per week, or more.

So would it cost, or would it pay?

Who Says Police Need Warrant for GPS Tracking? Supreme Court, That’s Who!

This has always been a hot topic here at, the place where you can learn about GPS ROI.  There are 50 states in the US, plus the district of Columbia .. all with their own laws regarding GPS tracking.  There have also been a number of Federal Court cases on this subject.

However, this recent US Supreme Court decision is going to weigh very heavily on the clandestine tracking industry, and on overly zealous police agencies in the future, in the view of Mr. GPS that is.

Police need warrant for GPS tracking: court

(Reuters) – The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that police cannot put a GPS device on a suspect’s car to track his movements without a warrant, a test case that upholds basic privacy rights in the face of new surveillance technology.

Supreme Court 1The high court ruling was a defeat for the Obama administration, which had argued that a warrant was not required to use global positioning system devices to monitor a vehicle on public streets.

The justices unanimously upheld a precedent-setting ruling by a U.S. appeals court that the police must first obtain a warrant to use a GPS device for an extended period of time to covertly follow a suspect.

The high court ruled that placement of a device on a vehicle and using it to monitor the vehicle’s movements was covered by U.S. constitutional protections against unreasonable searches and seizures of evidence.

There are no precise statistics on how often police in the United States use GPS tracking in criminal investigations. But the Obama administration told the court last year it was used sparingly by federal law enforcement officials.

The American Civil Liberties Union rights group hailed the ruling as an important victory for privacy. "While this case turned on the fact that the government physically placed a GPS device on the defendant’s car, the implications are much broader," Steven Shapiro of the ACLU said.

"A majority of the court acknowledged that advancing technology, like cell phone tracking, gives the government unprecedented ability to collect, store, and analyze an enormous amount of information about our private lives," he said.

Some of you realize, of course, that I am a former GPS program manger and former CEO of my own company selling GPS tracking systems into the industry and government verticals.  I’m a big, big believer in the use of GPS tracking, not only for catching ‘bad behavior’ … everything from slacking off at work to criminal deeds.

But I am also a great believer in personal freedom and especially wary of what Steve Shapiro of the ALCU says in his final paragraph above.

GPS tracking is a GREAT tool for it’s intended purpose.  Including the catching of criminals.  BUT, and it’s a big but, I firmly believe police ought to be restricted to using it in cases where it has met the tests of probable cause before a judge … exactly as they have to do today in order to tap phone conversations.

Never mind the personal privacy issues.  If you can just collect rams and reams of data on everyone … and then go fishing through it, the potentially harmful effects are mind boggling.

Is there anyone reading this article who HAS NOT done something in his/her car s/he would just as soon not be held accountable for?

If you stopped at that porn movie store or went 85 on the freeway in a rush to get home home Friday, should that be made apart of your permanent records … open to manual data analysis, or worse yet, automated systems like “Carnivore”, which is reading this message right now, as I send it … although the NSA will “neither confirm or deny” … because me writing this article or you reading it might affect “national security”.

Let’s make great use of GPS tracking technology whenever and where ever it’s appropriate … but let’s remember the whole reason we live in the USA .. The Constitution.

If You Care About GPS and the Future!

We wanted to let you know that Representatives of three members of the Coalition to Save Our GPS will testify tomorrow morning at a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation and the Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. Details are below. If you would like to watch it live, it will be streamed at the Committee’s website,


2167 Rayburn House Office Building

June 23, 2011

9:00 am EST

Witness list for the hearing, with Coalition members in bold:

· Roy Kienitz, under secretary-policy at the Department of Transportation;

· Teri Takai, acting assistant secretary-networks and information integration and chief information officer for the Defense Department;

· Rear Adm. Robert Day Jr., assistant commandant-command, control, communications, computers and information technology and chief information officer for the U.S. Coast Guard;

· Margaret Jenny, president of RTCA, Inc.;

· Phil Straub, vice president-aviation engineering for Garmin International, Inc.;

· Craig Fuller, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association;

· Thomas Hendricks, senior vice president-safety, security and operations for the Air Transport Association; and

· Jeff Carlisle, executive vice president-regulatory affairs and public policy for LightSquared

Anne Tyrrell

The Coalition to Save Our GPS

GPS Tracking Isn’t Always About GPS Tracking

GPS Tracking Can’t Be This Invasive

A lot of folks come here to the GPS ROI Tracking Blog searching for answers about legalities and concerns regarding GPS Tracking.

Tracking their cell phones, tracking their cars, tracking their pets or even tracking their spouses.

Some of their concerns are sort of “way out there in Left Field”.  Some of their comments and concerns are very real and very close to home, though.

There’s a LOT of unauthorized tracking going on out there today … but it’s not always GPS tracking, for sure.

This news here is scary .. and I say “scary’ as a tracking professional who lives, eats and breaths the stuff … I’m a tracking fan not a tracking phobic … and this still scares the dickens out of me

If this doesn’t scare you, it ought to.

Cell Phone Tracking Can Be Much More Invasive Than GPS Tracking

Clandestine GPS Tracking

iPhone, iPad track users’ whereabouts

A map showing location-tracking information from the iPhone.

(Credit: O’Reilly Radar)

Apple iPhones and 3G iPads running iOS 4 might be tracking their owners’ movements, a new report from O’Reilly Radar claims.

Alasdair Allan, senior research fellow in astronomy at the University of Exeter, and writer Pete Warden say they have found evidence that the iPhone, 3G iPad, and backups on users’ computers contain detailed location information, including latitude, longitude, and time stamps, that show where the mobile devices have been. In addition, the information is "unencrypted and unprotected, and it’s on any machine you’ve synched with your iOS device," they claim.

The information is reportedly stored in a file called "consolidated.db." The writers claim that the information, which isn’t "always exact," started being collected around the time of the launch of iOS 4 last year. They say that they have found "tens of thousands of data points in this file" that, they believe, were collected via cell-tower triangulation.

The fact that the iPhone or 3G iPad can be tracked isn’t all that surprising. Apple currently offers a free app, Find My iPhone, that lets users track their smartphone from another device. The service is also available to iPad and iPod Touch owners.

However, the claims made by Allan and Warden are a bit different. For one, in their findings, users don’t know that they’re being tracked. Moreover, exactly why that information is reportedly being tracked is unknown at this point. And as they rightly noted, "cell phone companies have always had this data, but it takes a court order to access it."

Although the alleged findings will raise some red flags in the privacy and security community, it’s worth noting that the information the writers allegedly came across is not being leaked out over the Web.

People who are concerned that their iPhone or iPad is tracking their locations can find out with the help of an application Allan and Warden released, named iPhone Tracker. The open-source application maps all the points of location information saved in the user’s devices.

I ran the application on my computer to find out if my iPhone has been tracking me. It returned a detailed map showing the many places I’ve been with my smartphone.

Read more:

GPS Tracking — Am I Safe?

Well, I’ve mentioned before, time and again, that GPS Tracking, while it certainly does pose privacy concerns in some ways, is way, way less invasive and ubiquitous than simple cell phone multilateration service.

The reason GOPS tracking is much “safer”, privacy-wise, is that GPS tracking requires, at the minimum, an application be turned on in your mobile device.

Unless, I guess, you buy the device from Apple.  Then, I am not so sure.

If this doesn’t make you unhappy with Apple, well it really ought to as well.

That’s my professional opinion, not just some “Apple Fan Boy” off on a rant.

I own no Apple devices, and boy am I glad I do not. One reason being that I have observed other, equally as invasive forays into unscrupulous data gathering by Apple in the past.  What they might be still doing, right now, today, I have no idea.

And if you are carrying and Apple device, I would submit, in my personal opinion, neither do you. 

Something else that the CNet article doesn’t go into is that these devices are made, tested, packaged and sent directly to the Apple Store (or any other authorized outlets” from Apple’s Shenzhen (Communist) China manufacturing facility.

Who else might be tapped in without anyone in the USA knowing about it?

Obviously, not me.  Not you.  And possibly, not even Apple.  Scary.

Stick to GPS Tracking, It’s much less invasive.

GPS Tracking ROI — Alzheimer’s GPS Shoe

LONDON, England (CNN) — A new shoe outfitted with a GPS chip aims to offer peace of mind to Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. It’s common for people with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia to wander from their homes. The embedded GPS tracking system will allow the wearer of the shoe to be located instantly online and for their whereabouts to be monitored in real time. The shoe may offer hope to the growing number of people with Alzheimer’s disease. More than 26 million people worldwide live with Alzheimer’s, and the figure is set to exceed 106 million by 2050, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health. "This could not only save lives but potentially save governments billions in search and rescue operations," Andrew Carle, a professor at George Mason University who was an adviser for the project, told CNN. Patients of Alzheimer’s, the leading cause of dementia, can easily become confused or disoriented, and it’s common for them to wander from their home and not be able to find their way back. Read more .

I frequently get queries here at the GPS Tracking ROI blog regarding ways to track individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other problems that may cause them to wander and get out of touch.

gps shoe There are a number of solutions out there, some sponsored and endorsed by communities and support groups.  Most solutions on the market today are “bird dog” style devices … that is the patient wars some sort of transmitter and when they go missing, searchers carry a receiver that (hopefully) picks up the signals from the patient’s device and helps them follow it to the patient’s locations.

This technology has a couple significant advantages.  First, it works any time the patient isn’t completely shielded from electronic emissions.  In a building, in deep woods, on a bus, no problem, if the search team can receive the signal, they can find the “wanderer”.


Second the devices are small, light and relatively cheap.

Third, use of the location technology is typically under the control of police or other first responder organizations so random or nefarious location attempts are minimal or none existent.

Child Locator 250x250But major problems in this type location are huge.

First and foremost, if the patient gets out of range of the homing device, they are gone … vanished.  No chance of finding them unless they wander back in range.

Second, because they tracking device is typically under government agency control, every ‘wander off’ has to be handled by first responder professionals who might well be needed elsewhere for more life critical situations.

And third, there is no level of response option.  Find the person or don’t go find him,.  No possibility of more subtle monitoring like a loved one being able to tell the patient is still in their nursing home, at the park where they like to spend a few hours, in the library where they sometimes spend an afternoon, etc.

Properly designed GPS tracking equipment can eliminate all these negatives and work to the advantage of the patient’s family or the care giving agency.  Wearable, non-intrusive GPS tracking deices are what’s needed. 

They are coming on the market now, but all too slowly in my view.  The GPS shoe idea looks very promising.  In the meantime, some of the devices in our GPS store or the very promising BrickHouse Child Locator might help., Trusted by Law Enforcement and Security Professionals

GPS Tracking — Is The Sky Really Falling?

I’ve been meaning to post on this current issue for a few days now.  I came across this excellent summary from my blogging colleague John Ewing, the Aviation Mentor, so I might as well point it out to you and avoid covering a lot of the ground that John has already written informatively and sensibly on.

Constellation GPS I particularly like John’s blog as he is one of a select few who actually writes about some of the real-world uses of GPS rather than the toy aspects so many focus on.  GPS is so much more than a dashboard car navigator or a pocket caching device, and it’s hard to explain things so that the average person gets the picture.

John is a professional pilot and Gold Seal flight instructor and he specializes in modern aircraft “glass dashes” which typically include integrated GPS systems.  Usually worth a read even if you don’t have wings.

The issue at hand is that the US General Accounting Office (GAO) has recently released a report Global Positioning System: Significant Challenges in Sustaining and Upgrading Widely Used Capabilities that is pretty critical of the USAF (the folks who actual build and run the GPS for the world) and in particular their efforts in getting the IIF (Block I Follow-on) birds built, tested and launched.

As a former USAF employee, directly involved with the GPS program since the days there was only one satellite on orbit, I’m a bit troubled too.  I’m disappointed by two things, two issues that are in some ways diametrically opposed to each other.

First I have been troubled for years by the way senior levels of US government have treated the NAVSTAR program.  I am a firm believer that my former USAF colleagues can accomplish most any reasonable task, but the mission of the USAF is to fly and fight.  The GPS is a national, nay, world public utility, and it’s contrary to logic and good leadership practices to just tell the USAF, “Okay general, while you are at it, promoting political change in SW Asia, providing the only space object catalog orbital control utility for the world and keeping those 50 year old KC-135 tankers in the air, take care of this little GPS project too.” 

The GPS, like the Internet, is another US military project that has expanded beyond all rational expectations and is being left to run as best it can.  Where is the higher level national interest and the world interest in these now essential international systems.  The European Union over the past few years have shown true “raised middle finger” leadership by wasting billions of Euros on their competitive and ill-advised Galileo program, essential just so they can be ‘different’.  What is needed her is cooperative leadership, not national pride and flag waving.  This deserves attention at much higher levels than the GAO.

As an aside I get a bit of a chuckle out of John’s concerns about the age of the current GPS constellation … “That means about a third of the GPS satellites are between 12 and 19 years old; a sobering thought” … valid concern, but how much more sobering to consider the age of the existing USAF aircraft and missile combat forces .. the GPS turns out to be one of the youngest and most technology ‘fresh’ systems out there.

The second issue that concerns me that the GAO report draws attention to at the intellectual level is faulty expectations.  The GPS today is exceeding expectations in virtually all aspects.  The life of the satellites has been prolonged far beyond the dreams of the original designers … to a large degree by the ingenuity and dedication of the folks in the 2 SOPS out there on the barren eastern plains of Colorado.  As an example, technicians in the 2 SOPS developed a technique years ago to ‘recondition’ batteries aboard the satellites remotely … one significant factor in the record levels of longevity. 

Also, since the first Gulf war, the accuracy of the navigation solution in the areas of combat has been greatly enhanced by ‘touching’ each bird (making more frequent ground to space contacts to enhance clock accuracy) bringing the overall accuracy in the area of interest up to better than 5 times the system specified figure.  A side effect from this work has been a sort of artificial world-wide increase in observed performance, leading to greater and greater expectations. 

USAF 2 SOPS logo How would anyone actually codify these efforts much less write them into a contract to operate the system?  My fear is, at some date that may be closer than we think, the Air Force is going to be forced to cut back on this labor-intensive ‘hand tuning’ and the system overall will revert to a level of performance far closer to its design document specifications.  The USAF will still be doing a highly creditable job … they always do .. but there may be a lot of customers who have grown used to getting a lot of extra performance for free that may become quite disappointed.

Here’s a great resource that shows a lot of data about the age of the GPS fleet.  Some areas for concern?  Indeed, but fear not, I think the system will stay healthy through the foreseeable future … there are a lot of my former colleagues, Civil Service, officer, enlisted and contractor personnel who are well aware of how critical the GPS is, even though it is actually so far outside their “job description”.  Hat’s off, guys, sometimes I wish I was still there.