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GPS and Geofencing: The Keys to Tracking Employee Hours

24 Apr

No matter what industry you happen to be talking about, the ability to accurately track and analyze employee hours is a major pain point in the lives of essentially any business professional you ask. A solution that requires an employee to physically “punch in” before they start work or when they take their breaks is one thing – when you have people who are working offsite and in the field, as is increasingly common in the modern era, you suddenly have a major issue with no clear solution.

Thankfully, that solution seems to have recently presented itself thanks to the wonders of modern technology. A new company called Timesheet Mobile has developed a unique time clock system that uses both GPS and geofencing to allow employers to keep a watchful eye over their remote employees through smartphone applications.

Timesheet Mobile: What You Need to Know

Once the Timesheet Mobile application is installed on a user’s smartphone, it uses both the GPS and location-based geofencing technology already included in the device to create a “virtual perimeter” around a physical location while employees are working remotely. If an employee makes a house call, for example, the application can “see” where that environment begins and ends.

When an employee gets back in their car to leave for the day, the application will prompt them to “clock out,” thus helping the company they work for achieve a greater degree of visibility over the amount of time they actually spend working.

The president of Timesheet Mobile, Bob Drainville, said that his system was designed to be helpful for small and medium-sized businesses in particular. He said his average customers usually fall within a few particular fields, commonly in trades professions like plumbers or electricians, and have between 15 and 25 employees. Timesheet Mobile would make it incredibly easy for an offsite employee to manage their hours while making house calls, for example.

The size and initial investment of the system make it a perfect option for these smaller organizations who may not be able to afford a larger, more advanced enterprise-grade solution.

Insight, Visibility and More

In addition, a solution like Timesheet Mobile is also a great way for business leaders to compare the actual number of hours worked versus initial estimates – actionable information that can be used to get deeper insight into individual employee productivity and the accuracy of those estimates in the first place. GPS and geofencing also make it easy for environments where employees may spend a small number of hours at multiple locations throughout the day, as they would if they worked for a security company, a cleaning company, or even in a healthcare environment.

Depending on how far an employer wants to take things, they can also use Timesheet Mobile to generate automatic alerts if an offsite appointment doesn’t happen exactly as it should. An employer can program every aspect of an appointment into the system and that data will then be “pushed out” to the employee’s mobile device. This can include where the appointment is taking place, when the employee is supposed to arrive, etc. If the employee doesn’t show up exactly when they’re supposed to, an alert can be automatically generated and sent to the business owner so that corrective action can be taken.

GPS and geofencing solutions like Timesheet Mobile can be a terrific way for small businesses owners to save money – not just by preventing things like time theft, but by creating a more accuracy in terms of productivity reporting in the first place. All of these features allow a business to get a better idea of how much time, effort and money goes into a single job, which can allow them to better price their services accordingly.

According to one study, roughly 7% of annual gross payrolls is lost to time theft. From that perspective, even if an employer had to buy a smartphone for an employee to use the application in the first place, this investment would more than pay for itself on an ongoing basis.

 

GPS Tracking Darts and the Colorado Police: What You Need to Know

19 Apr

GPS technology has come an incredibly long way in just a few short years. In “the old days,” you had to buy a large and expensive standalone unit that would give you turn-by-turn directions between any two points. If you didn’t want to do that, you were stuck with an old-fashioned atlas – or printed directions from a site like Mapquest. Flash forward to today and nearly every consumer smartphone available on the market comes with a more advanced version of the same tech baked in from the moment you purchase it.

With GPS becoming such a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, it makes sense that people would start looking for newer and more innovative applications of it. Case in point: Police in Colorado recently started using GPS in a way that will potentially change the face of law enforcement as we know it.

Colorado’s GPS Darts

The Arvada Police Department in Colorado recently made history when it became the first – and to date, the only – department in the state to use a specially designed type of GPS tracking dart to monitor people who speed away from officers during routine traffic stops. The system, dubbed StarChase, uses a real-time GPS imaging technique that gives officers a strategic advantage in a wide range of different situations.

Without this type of technology, a suspect speeding away from the scene of a traffic stop would almost certainly lead to a high-speed chase – something that is particularly common in heavily populated areas like Los Angeles in particular. Now, officers can prevent these chases from happening altogether and still apprehend their suspect at the same time.

In a statement made to local news affiliates, StarChase president Trevor Fischbach said that the technology was intended to help provide a “de-escalation” path for law enforcement. Spokeswoman for the Arvada police department Jill McGranahan echoed those sentiments, saying that the main object of using a system like StarChase in the first place was to keep both officers and community members safer when these types of incidents occur.

The StarChase darts themselves are designed to be deployed from a squad car in seconds. They use a special type of adhesive solution that allows them to stick to nearly any surface and also withstand many environmental conditions like wind and rain. Each squad car that is outfitted with the technology represents a roughly $5,000 initial investment – though StarChase says that in subsequent years that costs can drop as low as $1,000 per car.

The Arvada police department has been using the technology for the past nine months, but even in such a short period of time they still say that the results have been overwhelmingly positive. A representative for the department said that the program currently has an 85% success rate, though that number is expected to increase as officers get more comfortable with the darts and become more familiar with how to use them.

Things have been going along so well that a number of other law enforcement agencies in and around Denver have already said that they are very interested in trying StarChase out for themselves. It’s easy to see a time in the not-too-distant future where this or similar types of solutions begin to roll out in departments across the country.

As is always the case when GPS tracking is involved with law enforcement, one question that is immediately raised is one of privacy. Representatives from both the department and the ACLU say that when the darts are used as intended, they are totally legal under constitutional protections thanks to provisions regarding warrantless searching and tracking. A local Denver criminal defense attorney also said that they would be permissible in situations where an officer had probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed – something they absolutely have if you get pulled over and then speed away from an officer.

 

Ivory Smuggling Route Revealed Thanks to Fake Elephants and Real GPS Trackers

12 Apr

GPS tracking has a wide range of additional uses that go far deeper than just providing you with turn-by-turn directions to that next business meeting or appointment. Entire industries have been founded on the same basic technology – it’s how with the right system installed, you (or local law enforcement) can effortlessly locate your car in the event that it’s stolen. Indeed, GPS technology has a number of noble uses all around the world, as is the case with an effort to curb elephant poaching in Africa. Recently, GPS trackers embedded inside a fake elephant were used to blow the lid off an ivory smuggling ring that otherwise would have gone undetected.

Ivory Poaching: Facts and Figures

According to the experts at National Geographic, Central Africa has lost an incredible 64 percent of its total elephant population in just the last ten years alone. Over 100,000 elephants were killed illegally by poachers in only the last three years, shedding an important light on a problem that is much worse than many believed it to be. Approximately, 24,000 of those elephants came from eastern Africa, while an incredible 42,000 were from the central African region.

Much of the ivory obtained during poaching goes to China, which is currently the biggest consumer of illegal ivory in the world. Just a few short years ago, businesses in China purchased 60 tons of ivory directly from poachers in Africa – a trend that showed no signs of reversing anytime soon.

In 1979, there were approximately 1.3 million elephants in Africa. Flash forward to 2007 and that number had dwindled to just 472,000 to 690,000. It was clear that something had to be done, but policy changes alone quickly proved to be inadequate. Creating a new law is one thing – actually enforcing that law and curbing a problem inherent to an industry built upon lies and deception is something else entirely.

A new approach was needed and thanks to the break-neck rate at which technology continues to advance, that approach involved the use of global positioning systems.

Fake Tusks Save the Day

Investigative journalist Bryan Christy wanted to get to the bottom of the ivory poaching situation across Africa and he took a decidedly unique approach in order to do it. He commissioned an experienced taxidermist to create two face ivory tusks – virtually indistinguishable to the naked eye from the genuine article. These fake tusks, however, had a secret – they were embedded with specially designed GPS trackers connected to the Internet.

Once these fake tusks were hidden among real ones, Christy and his team got to work. They tracked the smuggling of ivory from their original location north into the Congo and all the way to the Sudan. What he and his team were able to do was unprecedented – they had for the first time total visibility into where ivory was going, how it was being transported and the methods that were used to both obtain it and trade it. In addition to winding up in China, it turns out that much of the illegal ivory obtained each year is actually traded for other types of illegal goods like guns or medicine – particularly in the Sudan’s Darfur region.

It also turns out that elephants are being killed by nearly every method you can think of. Sometimes poachers will poison an elephant’s watering hole and wait for the animals to die. Other times they use poison spears, poison arrows, and even AK-47s and other heavy weapons.

With his actionable data intelligence complete, local authorities now have more information than ever that they can use to curb this problem as much as possible. The important thing to understand from this is that absolutely none of it would have been possible without the type of sophisticated GPS tracking technology that exists today. Christy’s activities were so successful that they’ve even been the subject of their own documentary on the National Geographic channel called “Warlords of Ivory.”

China Takes the Bold Step of Ordering GPS Tracking on EVERY Car in a Problematic Area

10 Apr

GPS technology has become such a ubiquitous part of our daily lives that most people don’t even think about how its used. The fact that you can use your smartphone to get turn-by-turn directions between any two points, or the ability to be able to remotely track your vehicle in the event that it’s stolen, are features that are so convenient and valuable that many don’t think twice about the potential privacy implications that come along with it.

Residents of Xinjiang in China are certainly considering those implications very carefully, however, especially after February. The crime and general violence problem in Xinjiang has gotten so bad that security officials in the area have taken the unprecedented step of ordering all residents to install GPS tracking devices into their cars so that local law enforcement can keep essentially constant tabs on their activities. If an owner chooses not to comply with the order, they will be denied gasoline for that same vehicle – essentially rendering it useless.

China and GPS: The Situation

Xinjiang, a region located on the border between China and the central part of Asia, has had a violence problem for quite some time. Consistent instances of deadly violence have become a way of life, much to the chagrin of the people who actually live there. Experts say that this is due largely to Islamist extremists, as well as ethnic friction between Han Chinese migrants and members of the Muslim Uighur minority who inhabit Xinjiang.

Everyone knew that something had to be done, but few could have anticipated a move as far-reaching as this one. Loulan News, in a post to the Bayingolin government’s propaganda office website, said that the GPS trackers were intended to “help guarantee social security and safety in the area, as well as promote social stability and harmony.” The move was motivated in part by the fact that cars have been a frequent tool used in terrorism incidents around the world. Not only are they one of the primary ways that guns and other weapons are transported across the country, but many have often been used as weapons themselves. Officials say that the move to install GPS trackers is meant to curb all of these activities, hopefully returning Xinjiang to the peaceful state it once knew.

China’s Action and the Court of Public Opinion

Terrorism experts have a lot to say about this move and what it means in terms of privacy. James Leibold, an expert from La Trobe university in Australia, says that he believes the action was motivated in part by the fact that GPS tracking is a much more reliable, much cheaper option than installing tens of thousands of security cameras across Xinjiang. He indicated that it was just one of the many investments in surveillance that the government has made over the last several years.

In terms of what it means for citizens, he indicated that it will likely push resentment further underground – stopping some violent events, while strengthening the will and motivation to commit others.

The Shape of Things to Come

The GPS order, which began on February 20 and continues to June 30, affects all private, secondhand and government vehicles. Additionally, large vehicles like construction equipment and lorries will also have to comply or they’ll face the same gas-related restrictions. Interestingly, people can’t just use any brand of consumer-grade GPS to remain in compliance. They MUST use a specially designed Beidou satellite navigation system that was made in China.

The project is currently in the pilot stages and for the time being only affects the Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang. If it is successful – which everyone involves predicts that it will be – it is expected to roll out across all of Xinjiang in the not-too-distant future. If it is just as successful once it expands to that scope, there is no telling how much larger the program will get in the next few years.

 

Wearable GPS Tracking for Children, Invaluable Peace-of-Mind for Parents

6 Mar

To say that the use of wearable technology has exploded in recent years is something of an understatement. According to one study, the market for wearable devices hit $2 billion in 2015 and is expected to grow to over $4 billion by 2017. Growth in the entire market is expected to increase by roughly 35% by as soon as 2019, thanks largely to the versatility of the technology.

children-gps

Though you may think of wearables as only fitness trackers, they actually have a host of other unique applications that stand to benefit nearly every aspect of our lives. Employees who are given wearable devices to use at work not only report an 8.5% increase in productivity, but an overall 3.5% increase in job satisfaction. Many parents around the country have also recently begun to turn to wearable devices as a way to keep track of their children, generating peace of mind you just can’t put a price on.

Wearable GPS Tracking for Kids

GPS tracking is certainly nothing new, but it isn’t just for turn-by-turn directions any longer. One company has recently released a GPS-equipped wristband (which is also available in an ankle bracelet variety) that allows parents to check in on their children at all times, making sure that they’re not getting into any trouble.

Dubbed the Kidsport GPS, the device is both colorful and waterproof – perfect for younger children, in particular. The device also comes with a number of emergency features like a “panic” button that kids can quickly press to send a warning in the event of an abduction.

Should the wireless connection of the device be severed in any way, or the device itself removed without permission, an alert is instantly pushed to the parent’s smartphone or tablet so that they have actionable information as quickly as possible.

Not only is this a wise investment for safety conscious parents, but the wearable nature of the device itself also makes it perfect for long-term applications. Parents can give their children a fun, colorful device to wear without having to worry about it being lost, or without trying to convince a child that it’s a good idea to carry a particular piece of technology around with them at all times.

Because they’re targeted at younger users, they’re also a perfect solution for parents who want more visibility into their child’s activities but who may not want to take the step of buying that child a smartphone quite yet. Kids get a fun device to play with, and parents always know what their children are up to with the press of a button – it’s a situation where everyone wins.

The Future of GPS Tracking and Wearable Technology

Though the Kidsport GPS is certainly one of the most notable wearable trackers for kids, it is far from the only option available on the market today. Many companies – with LG being just one example – are expected to release similar devices worldwide over the next year. The LG KizON, for example, is a waterproof wristband that connects to 2G, 3G and Wi-Fi networks that can also run for an incredible 36 hours on a single charge.

What makes the LG KizON so notable is that it also doubles as a communication channel between a parent and their child. It features a unique “One Step Direct Call” button that, when pressed, automatically dials a parent’s cell phone. A microphone built into the device essentially lets that child use it like a phone, and it can even be activated by the parent if they find that they can’t reach their child for whatever reason.

For parents, the safety of their little ones is – and will always be – a top priority. Though children do deserve a certain degree of freedom, there are some dangers that you will just never be able to protect them from no matter how hard you try. Options like wearable GPS trackers for kids go a long way toward keeping kids out of harm’s way at all times.

 

Use GPS Devices For Pets to Track Your Lost Animals

27 Feb

There is no worse feeling for an animal lover than looking around your home and suddenly realizing that your furry little friend is nowhere to be found. Cats, in particular, tend to wander, and even though they likely just want to get outside and experience the best that Mother Nature has to offer, it’s still a harrowing experience for their owners.

Dog Tracking

Instead of worrying yourself sick, printing up “missing” posters, and offering a reward to a potential good Samaritan, you can go a long way towards making sure that you don’t find yourself in this situation ever again by using GPS devices to track your lost animals. There are a few key devices that are built with pets in mind that you’re absolutely going to want to know about.

PetTronix RoamEO

The PetTronix RoamEO features a rubber collar with a built-in GPS unit and battery compartment. You attach it to your pet the same way you would any other collar, only this one is constantly communicating your pet’s location to an associated handset at all times. It doesn’t require cell phone service or any other type of subscription. If you’re curious about where your pet is, all you have to do is turn on the handset and the RoamEO will take care of the rest.

The range on the RoamEO is roughly half a mile and it features a 24-hour battery life.

 

Tagg Pet Tracker

Unlike the RoamEO, the Tagg Pet Tracker is a separate device that actually clips to your dog or cat’s existing collar. Once activated, it connects to a cellular network and allows you to instantly track your pet’s location from either a smartphone app or from any Web browser.

Thanks to the fact that it uses cellular service for GPS, the range is unlimited – your pet could somehow wander halfway across the country, and you would still be able to track their every move down to a range of just a few feet. The only potential downside is that the device’s “minimum zone” is roughly four acres in size, so it isn’t necessarily the best option if you’re just trying to keep an eye on your pet around the house.

 

The Gibi Pet Locator

Another worthy addition to the list is the Gibi Pet Locator, a highly durable and waterproof device with a number of sophisticated features. It’s another GPS tracker that uses a cellular data network, allowing you to track your pet using a smartphone app, your Web browser, your mobile device and more. One of the more valuable features that the Gibi Pet Locator brings to the table involves letting you create pre-determined “safe zones” for your pet.

Based on your preferences and your pet’s habits, you can specify where your animal usually plays. If they ever wander outside of the boundaries of those safe zones, you can be instantly alerted – making sure that precious time is always on your side when it comes to locating a missing animal. The Gibi Pet Locator is also natively compatible with Google Maps and can be attached to any existing collar that you have.

 

Tractive GPS Tracker

Finally, we have the Tractive GPS Tracker, a real-time GPS tracker designed for animals that weigh 10 pounds or more. It comes with a battery life of between two and four days, making it perfect for long-term use. You can use the device to instantly get accurate GPS coordinates for your pet from the associated Android or iOS apps or right from your Web browser.

The only potential downside is that the Tractive GPS Tracker currently requires a $9.95 monthly subscription outside of the original purchase price. As it does allow you to instantly find the current location of your pet at any time of day or night, that investment may be more than worth it depending on your preferences.

 

Scotland Is Using GPS Tracking and Other Technology to Fight Repeat Offenders

23 Jan

For years, people have been using GPS tracking for a lot more than just receiving turn-by-turn directions. Are you curious about what your cat is up to at night while you’re fast asleep? Just put a GPS tracker on its collar and let technology take care of the rest. Are you sick and tired of losing your keys all the time and finally want to do something about it? Put a GPS tracker on your key ring and, with the right app by your side, you’ll never lose track of them again.

scotland police

Law enforcement agencies around the world have also been using GPS technology to combat a wide range of issues in our society. Case in point: Officials in Scotland are using GPS tracking in association with alcohol testing to help keep an eye on offenders in the area. Their efforts, which are already a tremendous success, are directly responsible for bringing conviction rates for repeat offenders to a 17-year low.

GPS Tracking and Scotland: Fighting a Problem

The use of GPS technology is just one small but essential part of a much larger whole. People who have been convicted of alcohol-related offenses, particularly driving offenses, can be ordered to have their sweat tested for alcohol limits by the Scottish government as a part of their rehabilitation program. This, coupled with the GPS-tagging technology, helps keep an eye on their whereabouts. This is being done in an effort to avoid rushing repeat offenders to jail as the only option. Given the major declines across the board and the positive results with young people in particular, the program already seems to be working.

A representative from the Scottish government, Michael Matheson, said that there are always going to be crimes in which jailing someone is the most logical course of action to take. However, so many offenses — particularly those involving drugs or alcohol — need to embrace a much more reasonable response for long-term success. International research has long suggested that merely jailing someone is NOT the best way to prevent the person from offending again in the future.

In these cases, GPS tracking is less about being able to prove whether someone did or did not go to a bar but more about opening up new opportunities to help address the root cause of the issue at hand. A criminologist from Stirling University, Hannah Graham, said that GPS tracking helps to closely monitor someone and offer targeted support in the days or weeks leading up to their trial, all while continuing to guarantee public safety as a result. It isn’t about creating a situation in which committing a crime is impossible — this is woefully short-sighted on the best of days. Instead, it’s about offering the necessary rehabilitation to foster an environment in which an offender must leave crime behind.

It’s important to note that the alcohol problem in Scotland is a serious one. According to a group called Alcohol Focus Scotland, alcohol is a major contributing factor in more than half of the violent crimes across the country. The use of GPS tracking is not concerned about jailing someone until they no longer have a drinking problem; instead, it offers the offender the support they need to address those problems head on.

This is also not the first time that GPS tracking technology has been used in law enforcement in Scotland. A pilot program was instituted in recent years focused on both child sex offenders and in specific immigration cases. Similar programs are being carried out across the United Kingdom as well. The Scottish government indicated that they were so pleased with the results thus far that they have already begun to study how to roll out GPS tagging to a much wider audience. They indicated that they would like to get to a point that it is used in more than just cases involving specific offenses, such as drug and DUI convictions.