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  • Sage Laxton, Texas Tech University

The future of GPS and its potential affect on society

Global Positioning Systems, or GPS technology, as we know it is still in its infancy. Even though we have GPS systems in our smart phones and can access maps within seconds this is only a taste of what GPS has to offer, especially to the public. Global Positioning Systems are a technology that falls under the Geospatial Information Systems umbrella, a science and technology field that covers any and all geolocation technology. GIS along with Nano technology are two of the fastest growing technology fields in the United States. These two fields create the possibility of a combination that opens up the opportunity for micro-gps units that could be available within only a few years. After the Russian launch of Sputnik, the GIS field blew up with the development of the NAVSTAR satellite constellation for the purpose of national security and defense, which is still the leading force behind GIS technologies to this day. While GIS is a powerful technology for government and military use there is a second group of people who want to utilize the convenience of nano-gps technology, the general public.

These Nano gps units will most likely be patented, mass produced, and sold commercially. Companies like Apple, Bing, and Google have their own mapping departments and GPS applications for smartphones. These companies are going to want to get in on the ground floor on what could be the next major technological industry. When this happens companies like Apple or Samsung, who are arguably some of the biggest developer and commercial electronics companies in the world, will be willing and ready to mass produce nano-gps units.

These nano-gps units will be sold by the bag to the general public with the intent that the consumer will be able to find whatever they need by the click of a button on their phone, their key chain, their wallet, or their significant others car. These nano-gps units will open up the possibility for people to be able to track not only their own items, but other peoples' items, or other people. GPS technology is not inherently dangerous but when its available to anyone there is the potential for abuse. This technology could take stalking to a new level that the justice department has never seen before. There is also the danger of a civilian taking the phone of another civilian and using it to find all of that persons most valuable possessions through their nano-gps units.

People will no longer be worrying that the government is spying on them, but that their neighbor is. Nano-gps could be used to assist in a large range of crimes, stalking, burglary, or murder. What is stopping this technology from entering the hands of the cartel or any other organized crime body? At what point do the benefits outweigh the potential danger? When this problem of gps-assisted crime arises, the judicial system will have a huge problem on its hands, lawyers will have to learn about the technology and adjust for cases, and congress could have to pass legislation regulating nano-gps units. Unfortunately, the judicial system and the legislative branch can be more reactive than proactive and the American public may not see legislative action over nano-gps until a civilian loses their life.

Could there be a way to prevent this problem? Like other products, companies could assign a serial number to each cluster of nan-gps units they sell with distribution to keep track of which shipments go to what stores. From there, when customers purchase units, the store will have on file who purchased each unit by serial number, verified by drivers’ license. In theory, this could work, but like other products where such a purchasing process is required, units fall through the cracks and people will take advantage of the system. This regulation works in tracking a nano-gps used in a crime until John Smith, who bought the units at a store, trades his gps cluster for an x-box. From there it is all detective work and there is no actual paper trail to say who had possession of the nano-gps at what point in time.

Most of this is theoretical and speculation, but the one thing that is for sure is that GPS technology has a very exciting future.

Sage Laxton is a senior at Texas Tech University, majoring in Russian Language and Area Studies with a minor in Geospatial Information Systems. She is sitting Vice President of the Youth Mappers chapter at TTU. After college, she would love to pursue a career in GIS for wildlife conservation, particularly in Southern and Eastern African Parks.

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