Lost and Found: Technology to Help Us Track Everything

In shoes? On lions and elephants? In golf balls? We ain’t seen nothin’ yet. GPS and other tracking technology is about to start finding its way (pun intended) into all sorts of things. Ultimately this is going to beg a lot of questions about who’s tracking whom, and what privacy means when you can locate anything at anytime, but for the moment, marvel at these interesting GPS spottings.

A former UN scientific analyst turned shoe designer, Isaac Daniel was inspired to launch this line of GPS-enabled footwear after his seven-year-old son went missing from school. His son was fine, but Daniel created Compass Global, a collection of sneakers with GPS devices built into the soles to help families track their kids, aging family members, or others prone to getting disoriented and wandering.

Pet tracking is a growing business. To track your dog, for example, a collar with a GPS transmitter and a GPS-enabled cell phone let you track your dog right on your phone. GPS-Practice-and-Fun has a complete list of pet GPS products.

Looking for something bigger than a dog? Over at Environmental Studies they’ve got equipment for tracking bears and lions as well as small birds. Follow along as GPS devices track lions in Kenya and Scandinavian brown bears.

In a California, vineyard research is being done to use GPS along with near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to locate and map the best quality grapes in the vineyard.

Keeping tabs on the kids continues to evolve with location-based services, a technology that transmits your location based on a GPS chip built into your cell phone. Some of the new phones like the Buddy Bear look like toys, but alert parents with a pre-programmed SMS message to four different recipients. For under $50 the ChitterChatter phone will also send an SMS message. A UK-based company has Sazo, a credit card-sized unit that makes it easy for kids to carry (and lose).

Using a different technology, RadarGolf puts radio frequency tags inside its golf balls and gives golfers handheld trackers for the course. And SmartWear Technologies uses RFID (radio frequency) as part of its location-aware clothing line. They say that RFID technology is advantageous because it’s smaller and doesn’t have the same obstructions that GPS devices have (canyons, high-rise buildings, etc.).

Me? I’m still looking for the product to track my reading glasses and car keys—the things I misplace most, but it’s becoming really clear that tracking things is big business. What do you want track most in your life?

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