Switzerland

Using GPS Technology To Track Down Wayward Pets… And Straying Spouses?

An American manufacturer has come up with a device that allows people to “track what’s important.” For some that could mean pets or property. But what happens when the tracker’s target is of the two-legged variety?

GPS trackers can help owners reunite with thier beloved dogs
GPS trackers can help owners reunite with thier beloved dogs
Anouch Seydtaghia

Pet owners are often tormented by the thought that their beloved companion might one day go astray and disappear. It's understandable, therefore, that they might be interested in buying a device that promises to keep track of their potentially wayward animals. But are they the only ones who might be intrigued by such a gadget? Don't bet on it.

An American company called Garmin has recently come out with a tiny GPS tracker called the GTU 10. Like something out of a James Bond film, the high-tech gadget could indeed be a godsend for someone desperately hoping to bring Lassie home. But it's not hard to imagine people might find some other interesting uses for the tiny tracker. Ethical issues aside, a GTU could be just the thing for a controlling boss keen to know the whereabouts of his employees, or a suspicious spouse worried about his or her partner's wandering ways.

Garmin markets its device as a way to "track what's important," but limits its suggestions to "children, pets and property." No mention of cheating husbands. One can assume, however, that the company has considered some of the device's more questionable "alternative" applications. In one of its press releases, Garmin warns customers that "for data security reasons, it is forbidden to keep a watch on someone without his or her consent." Minors can only be tracked if the parents have a reasonable reason for doing it, such as in kidnapping cases.

Impressively small and light – about the size of a disposable lighter – the GTU 10 would make any professional private detective green with envy. Under its shock-resistant plastic shell, the device contains a GPS chip and a SIM card. Completely invisible, the latter informs the Garmin servers about the device's GPS location, which is then available for users to see on their computer or mobile phone screens.

The device is also quite user-friendly. The first thing you need to do is download a software program that enables the computer to detect the GTU 10; then you have to register it and set the desired parameters. After 10 minutes, the device is ready for use. The GTU 10 is sold with a small pouch and clip that can be easily attached to a dog collar.

With the push of a button, the device is turned on or off. GTU 10 owners can set their own individual parameters by logging into the my.Garmin.com website and creating up to 10 "geo-fences," or virtual surveillance zones. Whenever the GPS locator exits a geo-fenced area, Garmin will notify its owner by sending an e-mail or cell phone text message. Creating a geo-fence only takes a few mouse clicks, and surveillance areas can be as large as a soccer pitch, a city or even a country.

Users have the possibility to set the frequency with which the device updates its location: every 15 minutes, every 5 minutes or every 30 seconds. Information about the device's remaining battery life is permanently available. Depending on the chosen update frequency, the battery can last up to several days between charges.

Users receive an e-mail or a text notification whenever the battery is low, or as soon as the device enters or leaves a certain geo-fenced area. Thanks to the high-precision maps provided by Navteq and Microsoft, it is possible to zoom in on the GPS tracker's location to know exactly where it is. Obviously enough, the device does not perform very well if it is in a building or onboard a train, because the GPS signal – which is relayed through a satellite – cannot be detected. But then again, do lost dogs often take the train?

In cities, the GTU 10 sometimes has trouble connecting to Garmin's data network if surrounded by high buildings. But the signal is detected often enough to indicate an accurate location of the device, and the system provides access to a daily track history.

The most interesting (or entertaining) aspect of your GPS tracker is that you can follow it through your iPhone or Android phone. But the fun comes at a rather steep price. The device costs $347, which includes an annual subscription covering 20 European countries. Owners then have to pay for a 60-dollar annual subscription in order to continue to track down their Labrador or their spouses' attaché cases.

Read the original article in French.

Photo - Protographer23

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Geopolitics

Ingrid Betancourt, A Hostage Heroine Reinvented As Feminist For President

Although Betancourt is best known for surviving six years as a hostage of the Colombian terror group FARC, and is considered a centrist politician, her unlikely new campaign for president will be centered on gender issues.

Betancourt in Bogota announcing her candidacy Tuesday

Chepa Beltran/LongVisual via ZUMA
Felipe García Altamar

-Analysis-

BOGOTA — Exactly 20 years after she was kidnapped by the FARC terror group in the middle of her campaign for Colombian president, Íngrid Betancourt is launching a new campaign to lead her nation. She will do so on behalf of her party, Verde Oxígeno, becoming the only female candidate from the Centro Esperanza Coalition (CCE), which for months received a barrage of criticism for grouping only male candidacies and traditional politicians.

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