[telecom] Keeping Loved Ones on the Grid

Keeping Loved Ones on the Grid

By FARHAD MANJOO October 22, 2012

THEY say if you love something, set it free. Good advice, but you still might want to keep your eye on it.

So the other day, I slipped a GPS tracking device into my wife's car before she headed off to work. I put another tracker in my

2-year-old's diaper bag and sent him off to the nanny for the day. I still had a few trackers left, and my parents were in town, so I also threw one into their vehicle while they took my son out to the park.

Of course, I had never suspected any wrongdoing and, later on, when I reviewed the trails left by these GPS devices, they turned up nothing untoward. My spying was meant only as an experiment, but I still felt like a heel.

As well I should have. It's precisely because of mischief like mine that tracking devices get a bad rap. These small gadgets work by connecting to GPS satellites and cellular networks to follow subjects and report back their locations to their masters. Once I sent them out into the world, I could look up the trackers online, either on the Web or through a smartphone app. They could also be configured to send me alerts based on various criteria. If my wife's car left her office parking lot during the day or my parents' vehicle broke the speed limit, I might get a text alert. If your mind reels at the universe of Maury Povichian possibilities contained within these gadgets, you're not alone.

Yet after chatting with representatives at several GPS tracking companies and trying out their products, I learned that there are many less icky, entirely defensible uses for such devices. For example, some parents use trackers to make sure their children get to school and back safely each day. Others build them into their teenage drivers' cars so they can be alerted if the kids drive recklessly. There's also the elder-care market - GPS trackers embedded into medical-alert devices can help locate and provide emergency help for parents with Alzheimer's.

And don't forget the dog: a tracker attached to its collar can let you know if it wanders out of your yard, and help you find it if it doesn't come back. The more I heard about these devices' applications, the less unseemly they began to feel; indeed, for many people, GPS tracking could soon become a regular part of life.


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***** Moderator's Note *****

Can I use one to find out if my mechanic is using my car for parts runs?

Bill Horne Moderator

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Monty Solomon
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