Can “Big Brother” Be Your Friend?

“The best books…are those that tell you what you know already.” George Orwell said that in his book about a vision of the future 1984. I thought that was an appropriate start to this post since what I am going to share, you already know. The topic of this blog is certainly something George would have classified as an ‘evil construct of The Party’. Their slogan was in fact, “Big Brother is Watching You.”

The vision of Big Brother watching in 1984 was through the use of Telescreens and  surveillance helicopters.  The first Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) hadn’t been launched when 1984 was published back in 1949, but if they had started launching the location tracking satellites there is no doubt that Mr. Orwell would have referenced them in his novel. Many people today fear the use of GPS in their business and think that if they track their vehicles or people that they are being invasive. In this article, I would like to point out several of the beneficial uses for the technology.

1.  Navigation

When people think of GPS the first thing that comes to mind is using the tech to get turn by turn driving directions from where they are to where they want to go. There are navigation systems built in to many current cars: you can purchase stand alone products from Garmin, TomTom or Magellan, and you can run direction giving applications on your smartphone. Several of these navigation devices can even connect to traffic databases and provide alternate paths to avoid heavy traffic, road construction or even accidents.  When used in business, you can provide your drivers the most direct route and save on fuel usage.

2. Fleet, Assets and Personnel Tracking

Checking a monitor to see where your trucks, heavy equipment or workers are gives you, the company owner, manager, or dispatcher visibility into where the work is being done.  Current systems can provide remote engine diagnostics, speeding and hard breaking reports,as well as notification if a vehicle is stationary and idling for longer than is legally permitted.  This can save a company thousands in fees and fines.  Personnel Tracking can alert a dispatcher to the closest worker to a job or perhaps one who has completed their list of tasks and is now ready to be reassigned.  See here for more details and

3. Notes sorted by location

Using a service such as Evernote, you can record audio clips, take photos, or type out quick notes on your GPS enabled smartphone on the spot.  Later you can pull up a map to see where all of your notes have been collected.  This can be very handy to recall specifics of certain job sites or details of a process that differs by location.

Pronto Forms replaces the paper forms stacked together on a clipboard.  It electronically transmits all the information many workers write on paper  today that get entered in to the back end databases once they find their way to the office.  With Pronto Forms, the data is collected and entered at the point of origin and the location is recorded to verify when and where the work was done.

Droplat is an application for Android smartphones that makes your notes public for others to see when they launch the app on their phones in the location where you left the note.

4. Local Search

For many, this has become a replacement for the traditional phone book.  Searching for items based on where you are is extremely convenient when looking for the nearest parts store or a repair shop.  It is most frequently used for finding the nearest pizza place, but the uses for a business man can be just as critical. A terrific post by our own Alan See was recently written on this.  If you haven’t read it yet, please do so.

5. GeoTagged Photos

Photo services such as Flickr, Picasa and iPhoto take the geo coordinates of a photo into consideration when displaying it.  They have the ability to pinpoint the location the photo was taken on a map.  This can be handy for realtors, developers, surveyors, insurance adjusters and the list goes on.

If we make the correlation between Big Brother and GPS we are sure to be concerned, but I hope you can see how this powerful tool can be very beneficial when used in the constructive and productive ways listed here.

How are some of the ways GPS has helped you in your business? We’d love to hear your comments.
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