GPS for All reasons

Did you know GPS could be used for paying bills, remote controlling your car, tracking buses and containers and even for sport? Find out about its out-of-the-box applications

We know you’re overspeeding

GPS tracking is very popular in fleet management. Many companies have fitted all their trucks or buses with tracking devices. That means thousands of vehicles can be monitored from a single computer. Their position and speed can be seen at all times. What’s more, SMS and computer alerts can be got if any vehicle overspeeds or stops too long at a particular place. At the same time, the vehicles can press an emergency SOS button at any time in case of a problem. Tracking can also be put on containers and monitored as they are shipped all across the world. In many cases data can be stored for months on end. If the tracking device is attached to a ship, then an SOS alert can be sent if it starts sinking. It does this on seeing if the water level at the base of the ship goes below a certain level.

Goodbye to the water inspector

A GPS device can be integrated with any type of machine. So a little known fact is that GPS devices can be attached to gauges like those related to water or electricity or gas. After that they can be read and inspected at a remote location. That does away with the physical need of checking and inspecting. In fact when the required device is fitted, the readings can be monitored on a regular basis and bills can be sent out automatically to the person. Tampering of the above is also very difficult. It can be attached to any type of utility meter.

Your car’s remote control

Apart from car navigation, for practically every parameter in the car, you can connect a GPS device for alerts. For example, is the door open or closed? What’s the engine temperature? What’s the fuel status etc? So if a thief steals your car, the GPS device will alert you the precise location and speed of the car. You’ll also know the status of the fuel, what music he’s listening to and all other sundry details. But the fun starts here and you can actually disable all the controls for him and take control of the car! You’ll be able to drive it like remote control. But all you’ll have to do is simply disconnect the fuel connection and the car will come to a grinding halt. Set the car alarm after that. Howzzat?

To see without seeing

There are many GPS-based tools for the visually impaired. The BrailleNote GPS is a PDA device that tells the person where he is and can direct the person to a particular point of interest, like a restaurant or airport. The Victor Trekker, on the other hand, has talking maps and menus. The visually impaired person can get navigation info and create routes. Plus there’s a comprehensive searchable database full of airports, restaurants, hotels, stations etc. The experimental NOPPA project of Finland was designed to help visually impaired pedestrians through a network of roads, trains and trams. The Brunel Navigation System for the Blind is also an ambitious project that aims to integrate GPS positioning with GIS, an electronic compass and a remote vision (wireless digital video transmission) with an accuracy of upto 4 metres.

Cache ‘n dash

For all of you who have enjoyed a good treasure hunt, imagine one spread across all over the world to be searched with a GPS device? That’s geocaching. In this sport, a geocache is placed anywhere in the world and can be found out through a GPS device and the Internet. This is how it works. A person places a geocache generally in a waterproof container with a logbook and certain “treasures”. The coordinates are then put out on the Internet and can be sought out by anyone. A player then will use a GPS receiver to find it. They can then claim the treasure, put their exploits in the logbook and if they want, put different treasure and get someone else to find it. Now if you don’t think this isn’t adventurous enough, then some geocachers place the treasure deep under water, on high mountain peaks and even in Antarctica! It’s estimated that more than 150,000 geocaches have been put out all over the world. For those interested, check out In geodashing, waypoints or “dashpoints” are randomly selected all over the world. Then teams, which reach the most amounts of dashpoints in the allotted time, win.

Duped no more: Call centers in India had to take the word of taxi services regarding distance traveled and petrol consumed for bills related to employees’ night drops. That was till they took to GPS tracking devices. So how does that work? Well, small tracking device are attached to all the taxis and after that they can be tracked all the time. The devices will tell a computer the exact distance covered and amount to be paid on a per kilometer basis.

What’s GPX? GPX stands for GPS eXchange Format. It’s an XML format used for transferring GPS data between different software applications. This basically means it’s a common standard to facilitate GPS data transfer. If someone has some GPS data, he or she can put it up on the Web, you can search and find it and have it read by your GPS device. Useful for tracks, routes and waypoints.

Out of India: m-Trak is a popular tracking device used in India by many trucking, taxi and emergency services. Brought out by MobiApps, it’s a comprehensive fleet management solution. It allows a company to track and manage mobile assets, which could be trucks, cars or even containers. A centralized command simultaneously keep track of thousands of vehicles, including location, speed and stoppage time.

(This article appeared in Living Digital magazine in July 2005)