Tech and Culture

GPS to catch criminals

Yet another Amber Alert has been sounded in NC, this time for a 12 year old girl who was abducted by a 27 year old man. I came to know about this while I was coming back from Burlington on Saturday evening, and saw animated signs about a vehicle registration number near the RBC Center in Raleigh.

This made me wonder; what if there was a way to use the existant GPS network to track runaway vehicles like this Hyundai Sentra. What if we could embed a GPS tracking device into every new vehicle sold? Of course, this raises privacy concerns, but what if the entire tracking system was automated? Law enforcement gets access to it only when they believe a certain car is being used by a criminal.

This would really help in curbing these kind of abductions that involve known convicts. I am guessing that the technological limitation comes in the form of processing the immense raw data that would continuously be generated by vehicular tracking systems. An artless idea that comes to mind has to do with using the already established cellular communications network to signal to black boxes/controllers in vehicles. Each box could have a unique SIM like card to identify the car, and once turned on, the box would transmit its triangulated location data to the associated tower.

I would think that such a seamless network is definitely possible with the current state of the art in cellular communications. It is high time that we deployed them to make the society a safer place to live in.

Some other interesting projects/technologies that I found related to this are Automatic Vehicle Location [pdf], and Automatic Number Plate Recognition. The latter is a really interesting project from Europe, but I doubt it is as cost effective as deploying a GPS based system. A company called TeleType also makes some interesting GPS based tracking devices.

Finally, here’s hoping that the kidnapper gets caught soon.

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