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Global Positioning System (GPS)

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Global Positioning System (GPS) is a global satellite navigation system used to pinpoint the latitude and longitude of a location.
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Global Positioning System (GPS) is a global navigation system based on a satellite network that can provide precise location information (i.e. latitude and longitude of location). Such location information is used in multiple technologies (e.g. vehicle navigation systems, e911[1],vehicle monitoring and tracking, assistive technology, cell-phone mapping, etc.).


One of the first commerical uses of GPS seen in the U.S. was with vehicle navigation systems.  With the destination corrdinates entered into the navigation system, the GPS tracks where the vehicle is and notifies the driver when to turn in order to get to there destination.  This information is displayed in real-time.  New vehicles now have pre-installed GPS navigation systems, removing the need of paper maps for determining the route from point A to point B.

Mapping with GPS cordinates is also a commonplace feature on smartphones.  Once again, individuals are able to use the GPS technology to display where they are on a map and be shown routes to destinations.  Additionally, information about restrauants, hospitals, transit and other available services in the area can also be displayed, as a mashup.  Other smartphone applications utilize the GPS mapping information for other functions, such as, showing where friends are located.


GPS currently is used for monitoring long-haul trucks and even house arrest devices.  Gaining information in real-time is the biggest asset of using GPS for monitoring.  A fleet of trucks can be monitored by the company so to keep track of shipments for the benefit of their customers. 

Using technology for tracking purposes is not a new concept.  Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is used quite frequently for tracking merchandise and livestock, amongst other things.  GPS tracking tends to be associated more with human activities.  Vehicles, cell-phones and even clothing is used to track individuals via GPS.

Most recently, there was a case at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, United States v. Maynard,[2] where it was ruled that the reasonableness requirement of the Fourth Amendment is applicable to law enforcement who track the vehicles of criminals using GPS technology (e.g. gps tracker).

Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology[3] [4] [5] is technology that people with disabilities use to perform functions (e.g. eat, type, move, etc.) that are difficult or even impossible without such help. Examples of assistive technologies include wheelchairs, sip & puff switches to drive wheelchair without hands, walkers, voice recognition software to navigate computer and type, software for individuals are blind to access websites, voice amplifers, etc.

GPS software is being used for assistive technology for individuals who are blind. The longitude and latitude of a location (e.g. shop, mailbox, bathroom) is kept in a database and retrieved by a device (e.g. cell-phone) when a person walks by that spot. People who are blind are good at navigation. They are able to get to point A to point B, however inbetween these two points is a blank. The ability to know that there is a bathroom or a mailbox along this path is useful information that can be utilized.[6] [7]


Use of GPS does cause privacy and surveillance concerns.  As with RFID, GPS is a technology that allows easy access to information.  RFID tends to hold information on the chip or in a database.  GPS tends to be more about location, although additional information could be available. The ability to have real-time location on a person can be invasive to their privacy and the potential for misuse is very high.


  1. http://www.fcc.gov/pshs/services/911-services/enhanced911/
  2. http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/common/opinions/201008/08-3030-1259298.pdf
  3. http://www.disability.gov/technology
  4. http://standards.gov/standards_gov/assistiveTechnology.cfm
  5. http://www.aoa.gov/AoAroot/Press_Room/Products_Materials/fact/pdf/Assistive_Technology.pdf
  6. http://www.loadstone-gps.com/faq/index.html#a1
  7. http://talking-points.org/

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