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Old 03-13-2005, 10:32 AM   #1
Colin Dunstan
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Using a cell phone to locate your destination

Pitney Bowes invented a system (Patent US2005048956) helping cell phone owners to receive directions by doing a single phone call.

First the user calls a specific service center. With the received call, the operator at the center can automatically obtain the location of the mobile user from the communications network using a triangulation method. With this knowledge, he can give the appropriate directions to the desired destination, which could be anything from a gas station to a restaurant.

I don't have to tell you that sophisticated triangulation could be easily abused. Even today, cell phone providers can determine their customers' location when they dial an emergency phone number. A mailbox bomb suspect was once tracked because of his mistake to turn on his cell phone. Which seems fine in this particular case. But what if someone uses the same technology to track individuals he just doesn't like for personal or political reasons? Where are the limits and who is in control of using triangulation techniques?
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Old 03-13-2005, 12:27 PM   #2
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This reminds me of that service (can't recall the name, will Google later) that lets you take a picture of a building with your cellphone's camera, and it will tell you exactly where in the US (world?) you are, based on that picture. Pretty slick stuff..

Hertz started doing this with their rental cars that were equipped with GPS and navigation systems. What happens if their GPS says you had to be speeding to make it from one toll stop to the next in such a short period of time? Do they just report you to the authorities and send you a speeding ticket in the mail? What happens when these systems go into every new vehicle? "But if your car is stolen, we can track and retrieve it!". Sure.

...but the conspiracy theorist in me thinks they'll use these "wonderful features" as a way to drive more technologies that are used to violate our freedoms. Triangulation of the phone's location is only the first step. As technology gets better, smaller, faster, we'll see this in everything.

Back in 1998 when I worked for a pharmaceutical company (largest in the world) in Emerging Technologies, I attended a small meeting with Symbol Technologies, and they mentioned that their RFID tags (remember, this is back in 1999) were the size of a grain of rice, and could store 6k of information on them. 6k is a lot of information, if you encode it properly.

They said they could take a palette of up to 50 boxes which had these RFID tags in their labels, and run them through a door with an RFID scanner, and scan all of the tags within 1 second. This sounds great for warehouse operations. They put the scanner on the warehouse door, and they can track inventory in and out, saving lots of time and man-hours and possible human error with manual scanning of boxes with barcode scanners.

Now the downside to that technology.. Foxwoods Casino (the biggest casino in the world, coincidentally about 10 miles from where I live), puts these same sort of RFID tags in their "Wampum" cards. These cards are like basically debit cards for gambling, and are the same size and shape of a normal credit card. You put your card in the slot machine, and it deducts from your account (or adds to it, if you win).

They mailed thousands of these cards out to random people. When someone walked onto casino property with one of these cards in their pocket, wallet, whatever... a casino liason would immediately be notified of the person's full name, home address, physical location in the casino, etc. so they could go find them and talk to them about "upgrading" their Wampum card to something with greater value. All from just walking through the door with one of these cards in their possession.

Technology is a double-edged sword, and can be used for good, or for ill. We just have to make sure that these companies are made aware of that before they start spending thousands of dollars on solutions that do nothing but violate our privacy and rights.
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Old 03-13-2005, 12:33 PM   #3
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Update: Here is the technology I spoke of above.
You are lost in a foreign city, you don't speak the language and you are late for your meeting. What do you do? Take out your cellphone, photograph the nearest building and press send.

For a small fee, photo recognition software on a remote server works out precisely where you are, and sends back directions that will get you to your destination. That, at least, is what two researchers at the University of Cambridge in the UK hope their software will one day be used for.

Roberto Cipolla and Duncan Robertson have developed a program that can match a photograph of a building to a database of images. The database contains a three-dimensional representation of the real-life street, so the software can work out where the user is standing to within one metre.

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Old 03-13-2005, 02:00 PM   #4
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It was only a matter of time before someone patented these technologies. The photo-of-a-building one seems cool and less intrusive. The find-you-whenever-we-want-to one does seem Big Brother-ish. But unless the common person bugs their government representive to pressure these companies for full disclosure and regulations, these techs are going to dictate how we spend the next 50 years.
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Old 03-20-2005, 06:20 AM   #5
TadW
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Morpheus
But what if someone uses the same technology to track individuals he just doesn't like for personal or political reasons? Where are the limits and who is in control of using triangulation techniques?
Good question and here is your answer from the present day: According to MosNews.com Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev claims that the whereabouts of killed rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov were discovered by Russian Security Forces because they managed to intercept his mobile telephone calls:

"Maskhadov made a number of phone calls every day after negotiations were suggested by Russian authorities in the fall of 2004, Basayev says. He spoke to his representatives abroad and to rebel leaders based in the Caucasus Mountains, and sent lots of SMS. Although he did not use the cell phone himself, it was obvious that the answers on his behalf were given immediately.

“Aslan did not need arms. Concealment was the best way to stay alive and he broke it by excessive use of a mobile,” the warlord stresses.
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