FBI tries to retrieve their GPS tracking devices after Supreme Court ruling

After Supreme Court’s ruling stating the practice is against 4th amendment FBI is making some changes to comply. We’re not sure how many GPS tracking device the FBI has in their hands but apparently they stopped tracking 3000 units that were actively in use - most possibly under some people’s vehicles.

Of course they wanted to retrieve their expensive toys but this time had to back to court to ask for permission to turn the tracking back on briefly so they could find where they were…

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FINIS open water swimming GPS tracker

You’re looking at the new FINIS open water swimming GPS tracking system called the Hydro Tracker GPS. It attaches to your goggle straps, and faces upwards towards the sky and does not interfere with your swimming. It is designed for open water swimming but you can use it on land thanks to the include armband. It also supports online mapping as well as performance data.

Some provided stats include splits, speed, total time, elevations, distance, and more. FINIS open water swimming GPS tracker comes with Li-Ion battery which can last anywhere between 8 and 16 hours depending on how often you want a position update. Some other features include the ability to export data to CSV format or Google’s KML format. Obviously it is waterproof, and works on both PC and Mac. See it here.

on FBI and GPS tracking

Recently a federal decision allowed the FBI to embed a GPS device to a suspected Missouri man’s vehicle. Does this mean they come after the rest of us? That is still up in the air until Supreme Court decides what it thinks about the practice which won’t be until later this year. Supreme Court will actually be hearing a different case, but it is still about warrentless GPS tracking. From the Missouri case for example the federal judge said the suspected person could not expect a reasonable amount of privacy on the outside of his car.

According to the same judge:

“Here, installation of the GPS tracker device onto defendant Robinson’s Cavalier was not a ‘search’ because defendant Robinson did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the exterior of his Cavalier. Agents installed the GPS tracker device onto defendant’s Cavalier based on a reasonable suspicion that he was being illegally paid as a ‘ghost’ employee on the payroll of the St. Louis City Treasurer’s Office.

Installation of the GPS tracker device was non-invasive; a magnetic component of the GPS tracker device allowed it to be affixed to the exterior of the Cavalier without the use of screws and without causing any damage to the exterior of the Cavalier. The GPS tracker device was installed when the Cavalier was on a public street near defendant’s residence. Installation of the GPS tracker device revealed no information to the agents other than the public location of the vehicle. Under these circumstances, installation of the GPS tracker device was not a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.”

The results could’ve been different if the case was based on the violation of the first amendment as the defense team had hoped but instead it was about the fourth amendment.

how to check if your GPS running app / watch is accurate

Recently there was an article in NYT which claimed GPS watches can be unreliable and give you the wrong distance. One example is running around a track and then downloading the map data to your computer. You’ll see that none of your laps will actually overlap and they may not even look like ovals. This is mostly true but there are always workarounds. I’m not talking about a certain kind of GPS watch but more about GPS apps for tracking. For example with Google’s own My Tracks app there’s are several settings that help you keep tabs on your accuracy. The most important one of these is the “time interval” which is defined as the smallest distance between two recordings of your position. You want this value to be as small as possible (and it is by default set at 1 seconds we believe).

Another important setting is the distance interval. If your path is filled with switchbacks or just a lot of turns this setting may help you smooth out the turns and make it more realistic. The recommended setting for this is by default 5m but if you’re crazy about collecting the most realistic data you should set this to it’s smallest value which is 1m.

A third setting that helps you keep track of your accuracy is the “GPS accuracy”. Google My Tracks has this setting at 200 meters by default. This means when that blue circle around you is at 200 meters or less your data will be recorded. Now to be honest 200 meters is a long distance and may make a big difference if you’re running. You can set this at 10m accuracy which is a pretty darn good signal. But this means your phone will stop recording your workouts when the signal gets even a little worse. I’d rather have the app record my workout rather than it stop and complain about the signal.

One final thing you can do to test your GPS devices’ accuracy is to measure your path on Google Earth. In one window bring up the path you uploaded from your tracking app and on a another window bring up Google Earth. Now go to Tools->Ruler->Path from the menu bar. Using your mouse start clicking on the path you followed. Make it as accurate as possible. Now compare that distance to the distance reported by your GPS app. Is it off by a lot? Probably not. 99% accurate? If that makes you happy great. Nothing to worry about. If not you can bring up Google Earth every single time, correct your path, and record the actual distance.

PocketFinder tracks vehicles, pets, and people

Location Based Technologies is expanding their line of products for PocketFinder and now the news is that they will be available at Apple stores in the U.S. and the U.K. You can actually pick them up online from Apple’s web site.

  • Personal GPS locator: $150 plus $13/month
  • Pet GPS locator: $150 plus $13/month
  • Vehicle GPS locator: $190 plus $13/month

Some of the features of these live GPS tracking devices include app and web interface that work seamlessly with your Apple toys, water-proof and rugged design, ability to view and download location history, and speed and zone alerts. The vehicle device actually includes push notifications too. Like we mentioned the monthly cost is $13 which gets you unlimited location lookups, unlimited email alerts, SMS alerts, 45 day log history, touch tone phone location lookups, and unlimited zone and speed alerts. Not a bad deal actually.

kayak thief caught with GPS tracking device

More than a dozen kayaks were stolen over the last few weeks from a small business owner at Hopkinton State Park. The owner decided to setup a trap and bought GPS tracking devices and hid them inside the kayaks. In the end GPS devices led to the arrest of a 33 year old man with two kayaks still on top of his vehicle.

The owner setup the device so that he would get email alerts when the GPS tracking device was moved. He sure got an email Monday night and reported the theft to the police. Police staked out where the vehicle was parked, waited for him to get into his vehicle and arrested him minutes later.

The thief, Alexander, had about 15 more kayaks in his possession and had a sign up offering them for sale…

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GPS enabled quadcopter drone put to use, FAA is cautious

MD4-1000 is an aweseome GPS enabled quadcopter that can be used for all sorts of surveillance. The device is proudly built by Germans, by a company called MicroDrones Gmbh, and is better described if we called it an AUMAV (Autonomous Unmanned Micro Aerial Vehicle). It has some amazing specs - such as the ability to carry a payload of up to 5lbs, travel at about 15m/s and climb at 7.5m/s. Obviously it has for electric rotors - each of which generates 250W of power and can last up to 70 minutes.

It has a variety of sensors which include barometer, hygrometer, accelerometers, gyroscopes, a magnetometer, and a thermometer. It constantly sends all of this data to its base in real time. They are actually more advanced than this. They can actually fly themselves, collect lots of data and video footage or just photos using a GPS Waypoint navigation system. Completely autonomous.

News Corp has one of these and even setup its own page to show off the videos captured. Most recently it was sent to cover the floods in Mississippi and Alabama. However not everyone is allowed to fly drones. It is used heavily by the military abroad, and even within U.S. borders by a few police departments. According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) these unmanned aircraft can be used by hobbyists as long as they don’t go over 400 feet. Under no circumstance they can be used for compensation or hire. For a private party to fly a quadcopter such as this it has to receive an airworthiness certificate which requires lots of paperwork.

The News Corp’s MicroDrone MD4-1000 did fly for commercial purposes and apparently FAA is investigating to figure if they need to take any legal action against them.

GPS implants not here yet

An article is kind of stating the obvious - at least for us - saying that GPS implants, the size of a grain of rice is not technologically feasible considering our current state with batteries mostly.

This Mexican security company claim they made 178 rescues using a small RFID implant that goes under your skin and it relays a signal to a nearby GPS receiver. If the GPS and the RFID implant get separated the company claims they can pinpoint person of interest.

This sounds a lot like science fiction however since RFIDs do not have a power source of their own and can not transmit signals. An RFID reader can only pick up their existence from at most a couple of hundred meters provided the person is still near the last location of the GPS tracking device.

GPS technology not ready for tracking sex offenders

Researchers at Sam Houston State University concluded in a recent study that GPS monitoring should not be used as a control mechanism for tracking sex offenders but only as a tool. Study used sex offenders in Maricopa County, AZ over a two-year period. Study says that the GPS technology has many limitations and can not be depended upon as a control mechanism.

The study found that a significant number of equipment-related alerts were triggered by a loss of a satellite signal, rather than offender violations. Those alerts resulted in a significant increase in the workload of probation officers. In addition to wasting agency’s resources with these false alerts, a secondary impact is the possibility of complacency by probation officers because of these non-violation alerts, which may result in a failure to act and liability for offender actions, the report concluded.

It is estimated that 70% of alerts are false positives and mostly caused by technological limitations.

The study was published in the Journal of Criminal Justice.

GPS computer coupon - QSTARZ SR-Q2100

We got a coupon code (NAVI10SALE) for those of you who are interested in a GPS computer. QSTARZ SR-Q2100 is mostly designed for cyclists in mind but you can pretty much use it to track any kind of workout. The software even lets you download your workouts and put them in a calendar for you so you know how your performance is changing over time.

Once again, the code is NAVI10SALE and you can get it from here.

Here are some of the other features:

  • Track recorder
  • Cycle Computer
  • Location Finder
  • 8-directional digital compass
  • Route Guider
  • IPX-7 waterproof
  • E-Temperature
  • Large 1.8″ LCD display with backlight support
  • Route Plan mode can support 1 route with 99 turn points, which can guide remaining distance/direction/time to target point
  • Support pre-loading 4 Location Back points and pre-planning 99 turn points of route
  • Utilizes latest high sensitivity -159dBm GPS chipset
  • Smart power saving and support 25 hours usage (22hrs with backlight)
  • Waterproof design with IPX-7 class
  • Download data via mini USB interface