We all know the obvious reasons why GPS devices have become necessary in the average person’s life. Used to track packages, family members, and business assets, GPS trackers have become more and more commonplace. However, there are several uses for GPS tracking that you may never have heard about before.
1) Tracking Wildlife
If you think it’s hard to find where your house cat is napping on an arbitrary day, consider the difficulties associated with tracking wildlife. A plethora of animals can be monitored using GPS trackers for reasons that range from information gathering to human interest. For example, scientists recently used GPS trackers to observe the habits of Arctic wolves. With GPS tracking technology, scientists have been able to discover information that would have otherwise been unobtainable, due to the harsh Arctic weather conditions that make it too hard for humans to accurately monitor how these animals survive. GPS tracking allows scientists to discover this information when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. GPS devices are also being used to track the endangered Himalayan black bears in India, where only 300 are still alive. Scientists use GPS location to determine where the bears are so that they can be better protect travelers and warn them about areas of possible bear encounters. Bear attacks in this location are relatively common, with over 170 people either killed or injured in the past four years, so GPS aids in the harmonious simultaneous existence of both species. In California, the Fish and Game Department put 16 collars on adult female deer to track their locations in real-time. Since the winter weather is too harsh on the deer and they migrate to better conditions, scientists can now track their whereabouts and deal with the deer as they see fit. In addition, drivers can now feel safer knowing that if deer are approaching a road or highway, the Fish and Game Department is alerted. Tracking wildlife is not limited to land animals only; GPS is now used to track marine life. Currently it is possible to put GPS devices on certain types of fish for scientists to track their location trends, which would otherwise be logistically impossible. Here’s how it works: whenever a fish comes close to the surface of the water, a satellite detects its position and duration spent in that location. Governments, fisheries and scientists benefit from this information, and the idea is that one day the GPS devices will be small and efficient enough to track the locations of tunas and sharks for commercial purposes. Knowing exactly where to go to catch certain types of fish will save fishermen time, energy, and money because arbitrary guessing is no longer needed.
Overall, GPS tracking is providing information about animal location, migration patterns, and lifestyle that may have never otherwise been available. Providing insight where humans can’t go, scientists have gathered more information than ever before using this technology. The information has been used to make scientific advancements as well as fostering a healthy balance between civilization and wildlife.
2) Bus Tracking/Schedules
As any commuter knows, the existence of a schedule does not correlate with the bus being on time all the time. In selected areas, commuters are now lucky to benefit from the improved convenience of mass transit thanks to GPS tracking. If the GPS tracking works for these communities, maybe in the future the systems will be expanded to include other areas and more commuters. Pike County recently began using Sprint’s GPS system to track school buses. Parents’ concerns over the safety of their children is now relieved, as the GPS system can tell in real-time the location of the bus as well as the mileage and speed. Especially useful is the new ability of the department to resolve a parent’s potential issue without distracting the bus driver. To be clear, the phones will be used for tracking purposes only and not for calling. In Asheville, North Carolina, concerned citizens recently proposed a program to the Transit Commission that calls for a relatively inexpensive GPS system on all city buses. If it all works out, commuters will have access to the location of their bus in real-time and can therefore better plan their mass transit travels. These bus issues are prevalent even across the pond. Scottish administrators have recognized one central issue of commuting, that buses arrive all at once, and are combating it with the assistance of GPS tracking. The fleet managers now have precise control over the bus system and have gotten the “system accurate to less than one metre,” according to Neil Herron, marketing director for Fleet M8.
For public transportation, having exact GPS location data provides both administrators and riders detailed transit information. If riders know exactly where the bus is, they can cut down on the amount of time waiting outside or consider other options if the bus is running late. For administrators, they can better plan dispatch and relocation to improve efficiency among the bus fleet and clear up what would have otherwise been a public transit nightmare. Overall, GPS tracking technology is slated to be used in public transportation to improve efficiency.
3) Tracking Alzheimer’s Patients
Anyone who has a loved one afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease understands the worry and ramifications associated with wandering. Alzheimer’s can cause someone to wander and possibly forget their home address. Having patients wear GPS devices can help ensure their safety because loved ones or hospital faculty can log online and see exactly where the person is. To tap into this technology Indiana state legislature passed the Silver Alert Program over the summer of 2009. The Silver Alert program, similar to the Amber Alert but for the elderly with Alzheimer’s, is still in a testing phase. The idea is that family or hospital administrators can log online and locate patients, before any damage can be done. But the question that arises is how exactly would an elderly person wear a GPS device? One solution is a new shoe with a GPS device embedded, and you can find out if your loved one has overstepped a pre-determined boundary via the Internet, your phone, and even Facebook. In addition to finding your loved one quickly, the product could “potentially save governments billion in search and rescue operations,” said Andrew Carle, a professor at George Mason and an adviser for the project.
4) Boat Races
Why would anyone think to put a GPS device in boats during a race? The participants know where they are headed (well, one would hope), so the GPS wouldn’t make sense in its primary purpose. In fact, Michigan.org cleverly thought to implant GPS devices so that they could broadcast the locations of over 200 boats in real-time. As a result, the website experienced a record number of online traffic; over 36% of those directed to the site were there because of the GPS tracking. The visitors felt as if they were actually there experiencing the race first hand. The sense of involvement was furthered engrossed by a map showcasing the real-time boat locations. GPS tracking now has another use-marketing and promotion!
Even the world of sports can benefit from GPS tracking. From protecting valuable possessions and important people to monitoring if the last hit an athlete took was one too many, the sports world is being transformed with the help of GPS systems. At the most recent Super Bowl, GPS devices were put nearly everywhere-from equipment bags to team buses to elected officials. Since the players are worth millions of dollars when their salaries are considered, it is of utmost importance to keep track of their location when they are traveling. Even more directly involved with the athletes’ safety is a new GPS product that can tell the coach the player’s vital signs. The device will monitor and record how quickly the athlete ran, the distance ran, and the degree of impact of any hit the player took. The consequences of this new technology will keep players safe at a level never before known. Athletes who suffer multiple concussions can end up having lifelong problems, but they no longer have to worry because of the new product from Australian based GPS Sports.