Top safety-related uses of GPS technology

The launching of the Soviet satellite, Sputnik, was demoralizing for Americans during the Cold War. However, the radio signals it transmitted gave U.S. scientists the conceptual framework for developing the global positioning system (GPS). Today, GPS technology is integrated into all sorts of applications, most notably those intended to enhance safety, but also fleet tracking.

Operating autonomous vehicles

Autonomous vehicles have already hit the nation’s roadways, and they rely on GPS technology to safely navigate. The GPS technology plots vital details about the car, including its location, speed, and direction. Then, the car’s computer uses the GPS data, along with data from cameras and other sensors, to navigate to the destination.

It’s not feasible to rely solely on human vision to prevent collisions at a mine, as poor visibility, blind spots, and heavy traffic can all inhibit the timely detection of potential collisions. That’s why Hexagon has developed the GPS-based collision avoidance system, which can be integrated in all mining vehicles to protect assets and operators.

Tracking the fleet

Before GPS, the flow patterns of trucks in the mine were optimized by central computing-optimization software that used linear-programming techniques, as well as embedded systems running on beta processors in trucks. Operators were sent small text messages to the remote field panels, indicating the next shovel assignment or the next dump assignment. Before GPS, you couldn’t actually track where a truck was going all the time. The truck location was only known when it would arrive within transmitting distance of a low-powered RF beacon.

When Hexagon’s Jonathan Olson and Sergio Blacutt formed Jigsaw Technologies in 2003, the forerunner to HxGN MineOperate OP Pro, the idea was to develop a more modern fleet-management system (FMS). This FMS would use distributed database technologies to take advantage of GPS monitoring and continuously gather information onboard the vehicle. Previous systems were based on a central computer, such as the VAX-11/780, which cost about $1 million and had about one-thousandth of the capabilities of your smartphone.

Thanks to GPS, we now know second by second, exactly where the truck is on the road, what it is doing and when it will arrive. It has allowed us to develop much more intelligent systems that integrate automated haul cycles and detect when buckets dump in the back of the truck.

Preventing wandering in loved ones

Elderly people with Alzheimer’s disease and individuals with autism are at a higher risk of wandering away from home and other safe locations. They may also not respond to their names when called by searchers. Wandering is a serious safety risk, as vulnerable individuals may wander into traffic or fall into bodies of water. Fortunately, there are many types of GPS-based tracking devices, including wristbands that vulnerable individuals can wear. Their loved ones can locate them quickly in the event of wandering. Some of these GPS trackers include geofencing technology, which sends an alert to a family member’s phone when the individual wanders out of a predetermined area.

Preventing shark attacks

Compared to traffic accidents, shark attacks kill and injure a relatively small number of people each year. Yet, the potential for a shark attack strikes terror into beachgoers around the world. Scientists have attached GPS tags to many sharks, and some of those tags send alerts to lifeguards when a tagged shark strays too close to a populated beach. This allows swimmers to get out of the water before an attack can occur.


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