How Many Times Have I heard This Sad Story?

For many years I work in procurement for the US government,.  Specifically I was involved for along time writing specifications, Requests For Proposals  RFP’s)and evaluating contracts for GPS Fleet Tracking equipment.

I saw a lot of “good deals” for the government, a lot of not so “good deals” and a few pieces of absolute crap.

You know what made the difference between the good and the bad?

The way the RFP’s were written.  hand down the single most significant factor in getting a workable, useful system lies way back in the selection process where you define the need.

“Tacking On” tasks to existing contracts which never were about current needs?  It is not only illegal in many instances, but it is the most sure-fire path to getting one of those undesirable “crap” systems.

Do it right, people.  The system you get can not be any better than the system you ask for.

And it’s also the taxpayers money, if you hadn’t thought about that.

City changes course after skipping GPS bids

First try was linked to existing contract.

By ANDREW DENNEY

Supreme Court 1The city is continuing to accept bids from companies to develop a GPS bus-tracking system — something its law department says should have been done in the first place before asking one software company to take on the project without requesting other proposals.

"They are trying to clean this up and do this right," said Rose Wibbenmeyer, an assistant city counselor.

In May, the city promised that GPS tracking for Columbia Transit would debut with the launch of the student-centric FastCAT bus route in August, serving downtown and campus. The plan was to have the GPS service ready first for FastCAT and later for all Columbia Transit buses, allowing riders to track buses’ whereabouts from a smartphone or computer.

To develop the service, city officials — without seeking proposals from other vendors — looked to RouteMatch Software, an Atlanta-based company that since 2006 maintained a scheduling program for Columbia Transit’s paratransit vehicles. But RouteMatch was unable to develop a working GPS program for FastCAT, and the city dropped the vendor. The city since has developed its own GPS program until it hires a new vendor.

Wibbenmeyer said officials should have instead issued a request for formal proposals, which is required for city purchases totaling more than $15,000. The city expects the overall GPS project to cost as much as $400,000, with federal transportation funds covering 80 percent of that.

Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine said the city had intended to grant the work to RouteMatch as a change order to the city’s existing contract. He said that because of the short timeline to have GPS ready, and because RouteMatch’s work for paratransit had been successful, the city wanted to see whether that program could be expanded to provide the GPS service.

"At the time, it certainly made sense to do what we did," St. Romaine said. "But in retrospect, it probably wasn’t a good decision."

He said the city did not generate any documents for the proposed change order before the deal fell through…. rest of the article on How Not To Contract GPOS Fleet Tracking Systems

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, http://transportation.house.gov.

HEARING | GPS RELIABILITY: A REVIEW OF AVIATION INDUSTRY PERFORMANCE, SAFETY ISSUES, AND AVOIDING POTENTIAL NEW AND COSTLY GOVERNMENT BURDENS

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

www.saveourgps.org

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: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13506_3-20055700-17.html#ixzz1MfAWVm4A

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 — 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.