A few years ago, Tech Radar wrote about how the future of GPS would change how we use our smartphones. The article was mostly about the changing fundamentals of GPS technology, but the implications were that more accurate and communicative positioning devices would also change the ways in which we use the technology. Now two years further into the future, we’re beginning to see that change take effect, as GPS is being used for far more than finding the way to an unfamiliar destination across town.
We tend to think of GPS systems as relating exclusively to vehicles and maps. That’s to say, you’re either using a GPS program in your car to find your way somewhere, or you’re plugging in addresses or coordinates on an online map to determine distances or satisfy a curiosity. But one of the most promising modern applications of GPS actually shrinks things down to a much smaller and more precise level. As explained at A Place For Mom, we’re beginning to see caregivers make use of tiny GPS devices in order to keep tabs on seniors and other people who may need monitoring. It’s something you may not have considered unless you’ve personally cared for an elderly friend or family member, but in some cases people who require regular assistance develop a tendency to wander off or get lost accidentally. GPS can now be used to track such people’s exact whereabouts, or simply to sound an alert if these people leave pre-determined areas.
On a somewhat-similar level, Networkfleet posted an article explaining how GPS can also be used to assist the visually impaired, and in some cases potentially replace guide dogs. An app has been developed by a company called Sendero Group LLC that is meant to alert its users to “points of interest” and cross streets while they’re out and about. Think of it like the small sounds you hear at crosswalks designed to help visually impaired pedestrians know when it’s safe to cross the street, only more detailed and tailored to an individual’s path. The same app supports a “look around wand” that tells users what’s in the way when they point it. It also saves routing information to building entrances and other locations people may visit repeatedly. All of this is accomplished through a precise GPS that recognizes not just streets and routes but objects and obstacles in a person’s immediate vicinity.
And finally, more precise GPS devices for individuals can also be used for tracking the whereabouts of children. Mashable pointed to a handful of specific devices that can parents can use to be sure of their children’s whereabouts at all times. Some would naturally consider this a restriction of childhood freedoms, and even some parents are uncomfortable with the concept of surveillance at this level. However, when considered as a safeguard against emergencies, such systems have immense value. There’s very real potential for GPS-based programs to drastically reduce the number of child disappearances, not to mention alleviate a lot of parents’ stress!
These are just a few examples of how the nature of GPS is shifting thanks to modern technology. Some are anxious that the improving quality of GPS systems and the expansion of their use is opening the door for problematic things like government surveillance of individual activity, or even mistrust among friends and family. However, as the examples above make clear, there are also some significant benefits to be enjoyed from improving and expanding GPS programs.