Odense, the third largest city in Denmark, has come up with an ingenious plan to track the whereabouts and congregation of the homeless population through the use of GPS tracking devices.
The plan is simple, homeless volunteers agree to carry the tracking device in their pockets for one week in exchange for three warm meal vouchers in exchange.
The small pilot program involves 20 volunteers and will specifically gather data on the places where the homeless eat and sleep as well as how they live.
Why is Odense going to all this trouble?
The GPS devices allow city planners to observe the normal activities of the homeless in hopes that they can provider shelters, coffee rooms, and warming areas in locations where they are needed most.
This also helps social workers know where the people who need their help most are generally located. In a city that had nearly 6,000 homeless in 2013 – 1,349 of which were between the ages of 18 and 24 (nearly double the homeless population in this age group from the year before), these services are sorely needed.
The idea of the program for the city of Odense is so that groups and organizations who want to help the city’s vulnerable homeless population know where to go to offer the services they have available including things like food, blankets, coats, health screenings, and ore.
The program offers a great deal of promise including for groups and organizations interested in building shelters in areas where they are needed most – and creating safer places for the homeless to gather.
Some have questioned the ethics of this particular pilot program. The small scale and completely voluntary nature of the program, however, make it largely benign. It is far less harmful or exploitative than attempts other cities are making to help curb or cull the homeless populations, or exploit them, within those cities.
The way the city sees it, the participants are receiving much-needed nourishment in exchange for participating while the city is receiving valuable data. It’s a mutually beneficial experience that promises better long-term services for the homeless throughout the city in years to come.
What Kind of GPS trackers are being used?
The technology involved in this pilot program is the same type of technology used to track dementia patients who have habits of wandering off and getting lost.
While it isn’t unheard of to use GPS tracking devices to keep track of people, Odense council member Tom Rodding believes it’s the first time this technology has been used to track people for this purpose. He goes on to say, “As far as I know, this has never been tried anywhere else in the world before.”
The Phoenix Business Journal reports that 69 percent of workers in the U.S. admit to wasting time on the clock daily. With payroll costs steadily rising in practically every industry, it makes perfect sense that employers are looking for new ways to eliminate waste and maximize productivity in your workplace.
GPS Tracking and the Law
Fortunately, technology is rising to the occasion and can provide you with many tools to help fill that need. Before you begin though, it’s important to understand your rights, risks, and responsibilities when it comes to tracking your employees with GPS.
At the moment, there is some degree of uncertainty about the side laws will eventually come down on. Technology is evolving faster than lawmakers are able to find common ground or agreement. One thing to remember is that there is a fine line between keeping track of employees in order to ensure they are where they are supposed to be and invading their privacy.
Responsible Monitoring 101
HR Daily points out that legitimate monitoring of employees through GPS tracking during the word day should not violate an employee’s privacy provided that monitoring is for business purposes and not abused. In order to avoid liability, the article recommends that employers notify employees that they may be monitored by GPS tracking and what that means.
For instance you may want to explain that you have GPS tracking devices on your equipment that may be used to monitor the location, safety, and activity of drivers – for business purposes.
Under current laws notifying employees that company vehicles have GPS monitoring equipment installed and that they may be monitored lets employees know they have little expectation of privacy when driving company vehicles. To protect your business interests, however, it’s wise
to get consent forms in writing acknowledging that you have informed all employees
It’s when companies ambush employees with the information that you have been monitoring their activities without their knowledge and/or consent that problems could arise.
Potential justifications for GPS monitoring include the following:
- Locating vehicles in aftermath of accident, emergency, or theft
- Monitoring drivers’ activities to ensure proper rest and meal breaks
- Determine location and movement (this aids with dispatching nearest vehicles for callouts)
It is possible that courts would rule, in some instances, that an employer’s need to monitor the actions or drivers or location of vehicles would outweigh the employee’s expectation of privacy, but it’s better to err on the side of caution and inform drivers of your intention to monitor all vehicles for the sake of your business interests.
How Beneficial is GPS Tracking?
Of course you may be wondering if GPS tracking is beneficial enough for the potential legal fallout. The bottom line is that it saves businesses money at every turn with benefits like those below.
- Lower insurance rates.
- Lower fuel consumption.
- Routine maintenance notices (leading to fewer breakdowns).
- Less time lost to traffic jams.
- Reduced labor costs (creating more efficient routes for drivers leads to fewer overtime hours and much greater efficiency all around).
- Repeat business (happy customers who appreciate more accurate time windows estimates).
These are just the highlights.
In addition to getting signed consent to GPS tracking from all your drivers, make sure you check local and state laws to see if there are any have restrictions related to GPS monitoring in place.
Knowing the laws in your state, as well as laws that are in the works, can help you keep your business ahead of the curve.
A park in Minnesota is undergoing a research project that is meant to protect people who are at risk of wandering from their park. They will use GPS tracking devices for this project.
In Twin Cities, Minnesota, a research team is utilizing the advanced technology of global positioning systems (GPS) and GPS tracking technology to locate visitors who might become lost. This typically includes people who visit their parks that are at a higher risk for wandering, such as those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or autism.
“This technology is a great public safety tool,” said Three Rivers Police Chief Hugo McPhee. “It is ideal for guests with Alzheimer’s, dementia or autism — anyone who has the potential for wandering. With this tool, a vulnerable individual will be able to go camping and enjoy an outing with family, but at the same time the family can have peace of mind that their loved one won’t wander off.”
There are currently four gadgets that are being tested, each of which includes a personal GPS tracker that can be worn by the person that needs to be tracked. There is an alert, which sounds like an alarm, if that person wanders off too far. It also includes a GPS mapping tool that lets the caregiver see exactly where they have wandered off to, just in case they miss the first alarm.
The wearable and portable GPS tracking devices will look just like watches and fit comfortably on the person’s wrist. There will be an app that is monitored by their parent or caregiver, so that they can comfortably visit parks and enjoy nature without worrying about what might happen.
Many people fail to take their friends or loved ones to parks and other outdoor places because they fear losing them or them getting injured. The researchers hope to prevent that by allowing the caregiver to track their whereabouts at all times and be alerted if they start wandering off.
Users will be able to set a proximity on the GPS watches, so that it works with the caregiver’s app or device. That way, they are always near the caregiver during these outings.
The city’s parks have had 57 reported missing persons in the last year alone, each of which was due to people wandering off. While these cases were all resolved, they don’t want to risk people getting injured when it could be avoided.
Jonah Weinberg, who works as director of the Autism Society of Minnesota, said:
“Many parents who have children with autism don’t go to the park for fear that if they look away for three seconds, their child might be gone.”
It could mean enjoying activities that were previously too risky and dangerous. If someone with Alzheimer’s or autism wanders off, they could quickly become lost, confused and risk serious injury.
Once the project is complete, park officials plan to have the GPS devices free of charge to be used at any Three Rivers parks, which include 26 different locations in the area. Visitors will be able to go on hikes, enjoy nature or even go camping with their family, and always be able to locate their loved one. It gives everyone excellent peace of mind.