Data pushers

11Jun07

This is the kind of devices used by the security industry, which pushes (i.e. “sends”) the position of the device, at regular intervals, to a determined server, that can instantly analyze the data.

These devices started to become popular and cheaper at the same time as mobile phones. The falling prices of the SMS services, and smaller sizes of phone allowed to integrate the technologies at a fair price. A GPS receiver and a mobile phone sit side-by-side in the same box, powered by the same battery. At regular intervals, the phone sends a text message via SMS, containing the data from the GPS receiver.

The applications of these kind of trackers include:

* Fleet control. For example, a delivery or taxi company may put such a tracker in every of its vehicles, thus allowing the staff to know if a vehicle is on time or late, or is doing its assigned route. The same applies for armored trucks transporting valuable goods, as it allows to pinpoint the exact site of a possible robbery.
* Stolen vehicle searching. Owners of expensive cars can put a tracker in it, and “activate” them in case of theft. “Activate” means that a command is issued to the tracker, via SMS or otherwise, and it will start acting as a fleet control device, allowing the user to know where the thieves are.
* Animal control. When put on a wildlife animal (e.g. in a collar), it allows sciencists to study its activities and migration patterns. Vaginal implant transmitters are used to mark the location where pregnant females give birth. Animal tracking collars may also be put on domestic animals, to locate them in case they get lost.
* Race control. In some sports, such as gliding, participants are required to have a tracker with them. This allows, among other applications, for race officials to know if the participants are cheating taking unexpected shortcuts or how far apart they are. This use has been featured in the movie “Rat Race”, where some millionaires see the position of the racers in a wall map.
* Espionage/surveillance. When put on a person, or on his personal vehicle, it allows the person monitoring the tracking to know his/her habits. This application is used by private investigators, and also by some parents to track their children.

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