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Tracking Devices

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Introduction

Most days, a person will rarely drive to an unknown destination without a map or more specifically a GPS system. Global positioning systems are not only used to track and map locations, but they are also used to determine a certain person’s where-abouts. This technology can be used to monitor anyone from a child playing outside with friends to a senior citizen, perhaps with Alzheimer’s, who would be in trouble if he/she wandered off alone. The following sections will discuss different tracking devices currently available to the general public.

Tracking Devices

Brickhouse Child Locator

Picture of complete Brickhouse system
Picture of complete Brickhouse system

The Brickhouse Child Locator is a very popular device being used by more and more parents each day. This hand-held device works both indoors and outdoors, sending a signal that reaches a homing tag, which is attached to the child (1). The beeping and vibration of the machine increases in frequency as the device is pointed closer to reaching the child. The tags can be attached to any item on the child, such as a key chain or watch. This device is especially helpful for children with special needs who might not be able to communicate if they find themselves lost.

Cell Phone GPS

Ever since 9/11, a new form of tracking individuals has come to surface—tracking a person through his/her cell phone. While not all cell phones have this capability, the first two that instituted this tracking system were Motorolla and Blackberry (2). The phones also must be able to connect to some sort of a wireless source. In general, GPS positioning via cell phone will not be released unless a call to 9-1-1 is made; however some locate-based services exist, and therefore make tracking by cell phone more accessible to the general masses.

Blackberry phone--GPS activated
Blackberry phone--GPS activated

RFID Microchip

An interesting article was published in 2003 discussing a potential future use of an RFID chip. First used to track cattle, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a tiny grain-like microchip (3). McCullagh, the author of the article discusses how this microchip could be implanted into clothing items. He argues that this device could be used in many different ways, ranging from stores tracking purchasing patterns to an individual trying to catch his/her spouse at a place he/she should not be. His main concern with this microchip would be related to privacy and security, and whether or not it was a violation or illegal.

Implanted Tracking Devices

A controversial form of human tracking devices is implanting tracking devices in people (5). Both moral and religious views have acted as a fighting force against this device. These chips would be tracked by satellite, not RFID technology (as discussed above). In Virginia, a bill was proposed banning a mandate making individuals who wished to be insured or employed needing to have such a device implanted into them. Health care concerns, along with a fear of lacking privacy and religious opposition to ‘violating’ the body, have formed a very strong opposition to this technology (4). Ultimately, this bill was passed, and Virginia joined California, Wisconsin, and North Dakota as states where it is illegal to force individuals to have a tracking device implanted under their skin (6).

Example of implanted tracking chip
Example of implanted tracking chip

References/Resources