Smartphones Getting Better Tools for Precision Tracking

Instead of relying on just GPS, one company’s platform is also using carrier signals and Wi-Fi to solve the “location problem.”

Local and state governments may soon be able to track personnel on emergency calls or important business with precision, using smartphones.

Geoloqi, of Portland, Ore., a location-based services developer platform, which uses geo-sensing, messaging and smartphone applications to track users, has been praised by application developers as helping to solve “the location problem” (the ability to precisely locate where an application user is at a given moment). The company has also seen its software used in a way that local governments can appreciate.

The platform relies on geo-fencing, location tracking and location-based analytics to provide information on where exactly users are, the route that took them there and what they do once they reach that place. Instead of just relying on GPS, which can quickly deplete a phone’s battery life, it works in the phone’s background and tracks the user with location sources such as carrier signals and Wi-Fi.

Tate Inc., a private government contractor, trains military and civilian personnel on ways to orient themselves in unfamiliar or chaotic territory using Geoloqi’s platform, said the company’s president, David Ayres. Tate specializes in recovery of personnel abroad for the U.S. Department of Defense, but much of the training — including the training utilizing Geoloqi — is done domestically.

“It gives us a way to monitor how much they’ve learned over the course of the training,” Ayres said. Tate works with personnel to discuss, for example, areas in a city that might be dangerous or become potentially hazardous in a crisis. The company uses the geo-fencing technology Geoloqi provides to see if the trainee has crossed into an area he or she was supposed to avoid.

“It’s a great system to train people with in real time,” Ayres said. “Before, we’d have to just keep calling or texting someone to ask where they were. Now, we know where they are.”

If the trainees venture into an area they weren’t supposed to be in, Tate can contact them immediately, Ayres said, and try to find out why they’d done so or if the training was unclear. “When we’re training, we always want to know how they get there. The geo-fencing system works well,” he said. “The more information we have, the more we can provide a very intense and focused training session.”

The platform is just as effective in rural areas, Ayres said. Often, Tate trains personnel in ways to navigate in case of natural disasters or political instability. The platform can help those trainees orient themselves in unfamiliar surroundings. The platform also can provide information about how someone arrives at a destination.

Such information can be very useful in emergency management, Ayres noted. It might allow for emergency personnel to find out quickly whether or not a road is impassable and if an alternate is needed, or in orienting during hazardous conditions.

Geoloqi co-founder Amber Case said the company is providing a number of different levels of features for various clients.

“It’s very customizable,” she said. The company has also done due diligence in terms of testing at speed. “We’ve tested it in an airplane,” Case explained, noting that the platform was able to track the user at a speed of 500 mph.

End-users also would be able to control how much information they receive at any given point. The platform has “sliders” that control how much data is being collected and sent back, allowing for less information to be collected, if so desired. In an emergency situation, the sliders could be turned up, allowing as much data as possible to be collected. For example, police and fire could be monitored all at one time, and the platform would allow for messages to be sent to all personnel simultaneously.