The Internet of Things (or IoT) is arguably the most significant technological development since the advent of smartphones. Most believe that we’re still relatively early in the process of IoT expansion, and we’re already seeing connected systems and devices altering innumerable aspects of our lives. Some changes, from alarm clock signals turning on coffee makers to implanted devices relaying health information to doctors, represent entirely new ideas. However, a lot of the more mainstream developments we’re seeing in the IoT relate directly to GPS technologies that have been around for years.
As one article describing GPS as the “Grandfather of the IoT” put it, the two phenomena are a perfect match. GPS was one of the first methods to track digital data in the physical world, making it an essential influence on the IoT. Now, a few years into IoT expansion, we can see a few specific ways in which GPS is being used.
We’ll start with something that a lot of people are concerned about as a potential negative IoT development. As Data Floq put it, enabling GPS on smart devices diminishes your privacy, in that you can theoretically be tracked by IoT-connected systems almost everywhere you go. Many have written about the potential of the IoT in government surveillance, and it’s not a far-fetched concern. Everything, from sensors in streetlights to Bluetooth beacons in retail stores, is attempting to connect to our mobile devices and recognize our position by way of accessing GPS data. There are plenty of potential positive effects that can come from this connection, but surveillance is a chief concern for many.
2. Assistance For The Disabled
Getting into some of the positive effects just mentioned, we’ve also seen GPS in mobile devices used to make the world more accessible to people with certain disabilities. Telogis describes an app that uses GPS to help people with visual impairments to navigate the outside world, in a rather spectacular way. The app uses the technology to track the user and communicate with its surroundings. It can direct the user and recognize points of interest or obstacles in the immediate area, serving as a sort of digital seeing eye dog.
3. Fleet Tracking & Management
This is a development that’s a little bit less evident to many of us, but it’s one with wide-reaching effect. Thanks to the connection of GPS technology to IoT networks, shipping fleets in large companies are beginning to operate in new ways. Fleet managers can now easily view their entire networks of trucks and implement real-time routing information that can make the whole operation work quickly and more smoothly. This keeps drivers from working unnecessarily long hours and keeps product moving efficiently. It’s also very practical to use driving GPS by vehicles and motorcycles, get from one destination to another is easier and faster if drivers have this device. See this list of the best motorcycle GPS.
4. People (& Pet) Tracking
We’re also seeing small tracking devices being armed with GPS to connect to related smartphone apps for the purpose of keeping tracks of things, people, and even pets. The earliest mainstream example of this might have been Tile, the tiny instruments meant to clip onto keychains or stick onto the back of phones to keep track of these items and devices. Now, the same concept is branching out. Even back in 2015, TechCrunch wrote up a similar device meant to track pets, and we’ve also started to see other versions meant to keep tabs on elderly family members or young children who might wander off. This falls under the surveillance category in a way, but it’s a friendlier use.
5. Autonomous Driving
Finally, it must be noted that autonomous driving—a phenomenon we expect to see explode in the next few years—would not be possible without advanced GPS. It’s true that self-driving vehicles also use all kinds of additional sensors and technologies to navigate their environments but GPS also plays a major role. Basic routing and positioning are provided through GPS, which works with built-in sensors and technologies in one of the most fascinating and intricate examples of the IoT at work that we’ve seen yet.
By Blaine Kelton
Blaine Kelton is a budding writer with interest in technology, among other subjects, and is based in California, USA.