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Should we be encouraging tracking and always knowing where you are?

Technological advances over the last decade has seen tracking technology become a huge part of our day-to-day lives, and can be an important tool for our emergency services.

Technological advances over the last decade have put satellite navigation in cars, maps on our phones, wearable sensors around our wrists and smart devices in our homes, all of which are integral to millions of lives across the globe.

New and improved technologies are being developed all the time and we are starting to see a glimpse of the future – drones being used to map fields, robots in the street making home deliveries and sensors in street furniture to monitor traffic, air pollution and waste – all making use of geospatial data.

As well as making everyday lives easier, location data and the innovations that spring from it have even greater potential to connect people, organisations and services. Location data can help us respond to the great challenges of the future such as climate change, as well as tackle the immediate health and safety threats that we face today.

Tracking technology even playing an important role in our fight against the Coronavirus, helping to track the spread of the disease, evaluate interventions to slow its spread, and distribute vital medical resources where they are needed most.

This rapidly advancing technology has cause some people to feel concerned though. From well-documented privacy and data protection issues around vehicle and person tracking, to concerns that always being connected, contactable and visible can cause mental health issues for some.

So, should we be encouraging tracking technology?

Tracking Technology

The Global Positioning System (GPS) has changed the way we move. Applications like Google Maps, Waze (owned by Google), Apple Maps among others have transformed how we navigate. GPS isn’t limited to just telling us when to turn right; its new functions include detecting and even predicting traffic jams, warning us of roads that are closed and of weather conditions, and providing valuable information about what caused an accident. Through these continuing advances, GPS is transforming the role of maps in our lives.

So how does a GPS tracking device work? GPS units use a method called trilateration to determine the position, speed, and elevation of an object. GPS satellites broadcast their location and time constantly, and every satellite has a sophisticated atomic clock inside to be used for timing calculations. Tracking devices calculate the distance and time that it takes the GPS signals to travel to the surface from the satellites.

As the GPS technology improved, various industries have started adopting the advanced tools it introduced to the market. Especially for the vehicle industry, GPS tracking systems have been a ground-breaking development. Today, tracking devices are being used for many purposes; mainly to monitor the movements of people, vehicles, and assets. Features such as real-time tracking, route history, geofence zones and event alerts allow users to provide personal safety measures for family members and enhance vehicle security. Fleet companies use the data provided by GPS and telematics devices to reduce operational costs and enforce better driving habits. On the other hand, concerned parents and family members employ the services of personal locators to keep an eye on their loved ones.

More recently, other location tracking technologies, such as radio-frequency identification (RFID), Wi-Fi positioning, near-field communication (NFC), Bluetooth beacons, and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) sensors have become part of location technology infrastructure.

Emergency Services: Harnessing data to save lives

Emergency services and civil defence agencies use detailed location data to plan emergency response actions, whether responding to an urgent 999 call, defending against flooding, or orchestrating complex inter-agency responses to major incidents. Having accurate information about building entry points, floorplans and the location of vital infrastructure is critical. New location technology offers the potential for faster response times, as well as real-time information about how a life-threatening situation is unfolding – whether on the ground, at sea, or inside a building.

When responding to urgent situations, emergency service teams need to get to the situation as quickly as possible. One of the biggest challenges to 999 responders has always been identifying a precise location, especially when individuals are lost or incapacitated.

Advanced Mobile Location (AML), developed in the UK, now uses mobile location technology to transmit a precise location directly to 999 responders, to an accuracy of within just a few metres. It increases the chance of our paramedics, firefighters, and police officers getting to a precise location quickly enough to save lives.

Similarly applications such as what3words are using a combination of GPS data and a unique 3 word address to map the whole planet into 3 metre squares. When it’s hard to describe where you are in an emergency, you only need to read out three words for 999 to know exactly where to find the incident. Emergency service control rooms across the UK have integrated this technology with a little help from NEC Software Solutions and are already saving lives through use of this technology.

Control Room Mapping and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Software

Combining the best in mapping technology with the latest in security and quality to identify and track what matters to your organisation. Whether that’s officers, vehicles, incidents, callers, or points of interest at any location.

GIS is used in our Control Room technology to accurately locate emergencies and track assets – such as police officers, emergency crews, emergency vehicles, local transportation and mobile equipment – in real-time. We also recently integrated what3words into our GIS location software to add near pinpoint precision in locating emergencies.

Similarly, it can be used for those serving in the field; providing real-time and intelligent information to make them safer and better informed to make the right decision. A great example of this is real-time warnings sent to mobile devices to alert police officers and other emergency personnel about potential threats. This could include:

  • knowing which households have active or inactive firearm licences
  • which areas are known for regular violence
  • proximity to dangerous locations, such as potentially explosive areas in the case of a fire
  • proximity to dangerous weather

We understand that you need precision and an advanced level of situational awareness. With our range of solutions you’ll have the right combination of tools to give you the data and visibility you need to make accurate decisions, streamline your response and maximise efficiency.

Find out more

If you’d like to find out more about how this GIS and location data is supporting our next generation of Control Room products, or interested in finding out how our GIS and Gazetteer software can support your Location-centric solutions.