Ok, so you have a groovy—and expensive—little gadget called a GPS. As a surveyor you use it in your work on a regular basis. As a geocacher, you depend on it to find caches. You may have even used your GPS for a few other applications like arriving at a destination you’ve never been before or finding a restaurant in a new city. But, are you aware that innovators are coming up with uses for GPS technology that you may never have imagined? Here are a few:
Monitoring. Safety and privacy are now part of the GPS conversation. New GPS applications are touching everyone’s life in one way or another. For instance, did you know GPS technology has been developed to assist caregivers of children and Alzheimer’s sufferers? Worried about your inquisitive toddler wandering off? Now it’s possible to attach a monitoring device that will sound an alarm if the child leaves a prescribed area. Has your elderly parent been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease? Are they prone to wandering off? An Alzheimer patient may remove a piece of jewelry but rarely their shoes—an ideal place to install a small GPS monitoring device dramatically reducing the danger and the panic of having a loved one wander off. Employers are also using GPS tracking in fleet vehicles to monitor when, where and how fast employees are using company cars.
Micro-chipping is a new trend in pet care where, for a small fee, a small microchip is inserted under the surface of your pet’s skin. Some figures say that while only five-to-ten percent of un-chipped pets are returned, ninety percent of micro-chipped pets are returned if lost.
Safer Driving. Automaker GM has been using Onstar since 1997 using GPS technology to find a stolen vehicle, or provide assistance in case of an accident. Now auto insurance providers like Progressive Insurance Company are using GPS-based systems to calculate insurance rates based on when, how far and how fast you drive. Do you have a teenager about to obtain their driver’s permit? GPS-based monitoring devices can be installed in vehicles alerting parents to not only location, but also rates of speed.
Anthropology. Scientists are using GPS technology to study animals like chimpanzees in the Ivory Coast, wolves in Norway and elephants in Malaysia. While safety of a species is always a primary concern GPS technology is speeding up the learning curve and answering questions like “Are migration paths fixed?” and “How do chimps navigate a jungle?” GPS tracking is also saving African elephants by alerting a base when elephants leave the safety of the conservancy. The mighty mammals can be reached and redirected back to their safe zone before falling into the hands of poachers.
Farming. According to the University of Illinois Extension, “Farmers use tractor-mounted GPS receivers to record location. This information helps determine how much fertilizer, weed control, and water is needed in various locations of the field. Additional soil analysis combined with market information about predicted crop prices helps farmers decide what is the best crop rotation. In precision agriculture, farmers combine GPS data with other information such as soil samples, moisture content, weed density, and crop yield in a computer spreadsheet.”
What other GPS applications are you aware of? Have you heard, read, seen or, better yet, used GPS technology in other ways or in your career field? Use the “Contact Us” button at the bottom of this page to let us know how you’re using your GPS and perhaps we’ll feature you in a future issue.
Originally published July 2009.