Archive for March, 2019

Location Tracking: Getting Under The Skin

March 11, 2019 Leave a comment

We’ve written many times over the last few years about the varying ways devices can track our location, with or without our explicit consent. In most cases our tracks are determined by our interaction with and/or our adjacency to a tracking device; the boundaries of our location privacy determined by the range and sophistication of those devices and to some extent our application preferences. To stop the location tracking, all we needed to do was change the settings, turn off the device or leave it at home and avoid the cameras. However, recent advances in microchip technology look set to change the boundaries of location tracking once more.

Microchip implants have been around for over 20 years, from early experiments proving RFID (radio frequency identification) implants could be used to open doors and turn on lights, to pet and patient microchips for storing identification and medical information. The next generation of microchips will see the inclusion of location tracking technology. Within the last year some new microchips have been introduced that can be read from a distance, are connected to the internet and GPS-enabled. With an embedded GPS-enabled microchip, we become the tracking device.

One company involved in this area, Three Square Market (32M), have been working on a voice-activated, body-heat-powered chip that will monitor an individual’s vital signs and track their location via GPS. With plans to test the new chips this year, 32M are focussing initially on dementia patients. With all such new technology, there always the potential to misuse and abuse the information collected, and as with the introduction of other tracking devices such as drones, the legislation governing the use of GPS-enable microchips lags behind. As Weiss notes (2018) ‘… how will lawmakers and experts in security and tech react when required to define consent for a patient with advanced dementia?

With embedded microchip devices that can transmit and receive location and other information over an increasingly wide area, can there be any guarantees that the individual hosting the device will have complete control over who has access to their location information?

A Report Card on the U.S. National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI)

The Coalition of Geospatial Organizations (COGO) recently released its 2018 Report Card on the U.S. National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). The report card utilizes a letter grading system to depict the status and condition of the USA’s geospatial infrastructure.  COGO commissioned 24 content area experts to develop this second Report Card for the NSDI. These experts, drawn from the 12 member organizations of COGO, focused on the NSDI Framework to grade national efforts, and also candidly point to some of the shortcomings of those efforts.

The national assessment of the NSDI’s ability to meet future geospatial data, based on address, cadastral, elevation, geodetic control, government units, hydrography, orthoimagery, and transportation themes rose from a C in the 2015 Report Card, to a B- in the 2018 Report Card.   Grades improved across all themes; cadastral and transportation scoring a C- and a C, respectively.

The report also contains updated statements about the Federal Geographic Data Committee and the NSDI, which should be useful for anyone immersed in using geospatial data as well as to anyone teaching these concepts.  For example, on page 11 is a concise statement about what the NSDI should be, namely:
• A geographic resource for both the present and the future.
• A foundation for helping the public and private sectors use geospatial data for better decision making.
• A resource for many people and organizations working together towards common
• A collection of current and accurate geospatial data available for local, state,
national, and global use.
• An infrastructure for geospatial applications and services.
• A flexible resource that changes as technology, business requirements, and user needs change.

This 100-page document provides some excellent information about the history of data development and about the major data sets available for each theme.  In that sense, outside of the recommendations, the document is helpful as a short of “Data 101” document.  Plus, in some ways similar to the reviews that we have done on this blog, the authors review the major ways to access geospatial data.  The document provides insightful recommendations on how access can be improved, and how the data sets themselves can be improved, and so in the interests of all of us in the GIS profession, it is my fervent hope that these recommendations will be read and acted upon by those in the organizations responsible for each data set.


Report card on the NSDI–a detailed and helpful document.

–Joseph Kerski

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