GPS + GPRS + Event Processing = A New Magic Application Triangle

by Charles Brett, President, C3B Consulting Ltd

I’m delighted to welcome my friend and colleague Charles Brett to my blog. He’s graciously offered to allow me to post this piece here – it’s well worth your time.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) has been around for a long time, and is now firmly embedded in both commercial and consumer devices (including the iPhone). The General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)—a packet-oriented, mobile data service available to users of 2G and 3G GSM networks—has been available across the globe for many years. Event processing (EP) has also been around since computing started (think real-time systems) but in recent years it has made huge strides in handling complexity, and many of the big vendors have responded by buying the innovators (Progress bought Apama, IBM bought Aptsoft, Oracle bought BEA, etc.)GPS, GPRS and EP have largely existed as disconnected technologies but recently C3BC sees a ‘magic application triangle’ emerging. Old challenges are attracting new solutions which combine the position generating capability of GPS with the two-way, almost universal communications coverage of GPRS and EP’s ability to analyze, in near real-time, the implications of tens of thousands of events being generated a second. The implications of this development are profound.
These technologies have been tapped to address a broad range of ‘social problems’— everything from stalking to pedophilia, from drink/driving to probation monitoring, from prisoner location tracking to preventing domestic violence (to list but a few). In the past there have been many attempts to use technologies to address these problems – for example using RF ankle devices for probation observance. But such approaches possessed many downsides, including cost and complexity of operation, as well as often unreasonable restrictions on the individual. Worst of all, these solutions were simply inadequate to the task.
This situation is changing for what we believe is the better. In Spain, for example, the Ministerio de Igualdad (Ministry of Equality) has recently put out to tender for a system to address Violencia deGénero (gender, or domestic, violence). In many Latin countries, including Spain and South America, there are far too many women being beaten up (or killed) by male partners. In Spain alone, some 2000+ women are currently at high risk (and this does not include their children or close relatives). Thousands more may not be officially registered or are at a lesser perceived risk that could escalate unpredictably. How does the GPS/GPRS/EP magic triangle apply? Consider one potential supplier to the
Spanish requirements, a Madrid company called Navento . The company offers a commercial solution combining GPS/GPRS/EP where:

  • The ‘aggressor’ wears a bracelet that links to a GPS receiver communicating that person’s position by GPRS to a special EP platform.
  • The ‘victim’ either carries a location device (with GPS/GPRS and a panic button) or just a commercial GPS/GPRS smart phone that communicates her or his position to the EP platform(this can also receive alerts from the EP platform).
  • A platform running EP software analyzes the relative positions of bracelet pairs (or trios—or more—if children or others are included) and can communicate not only with the victim (to warn about possible danger) but with the aggressor and with the forces of law and order, as well as social security.

Thus, once set up by court order, the positions of the aggressor/victim pair can be actively monitored by software and only generate alerts when predefined thresholds are crossed (such as if the two come to close together or the aggressor appears to be lurking near the victims home or place of work, etc.). Indeed, the combination of the above characteristics enables a form of “socialization” around prevention by providing different enforcement authorities with real-time information and risk assessment via constant yet automated position access.
But this is not all. Along with up-to-the second location information, including pictures and locations positioned on Google Maps, speed can also be taken into account. If victim and aggressor are 5Kms apart and the aggressor is walking at 5Kmh, there is minimal imminent danger; but if the aggressor starts to move at 25Kmh on a bike or 60Kmh on a motorbike, the threat horizon could change significantly and requires more urgent action. It is the EP software that analyzes and automates this threat escalation process in a hugely more sophisticated way than has been possible in the past.
This application of the GPS/GPRS/EP magic application triangle is not limited to social issues.  In one discussion between Rámon Fernández (the CEO of Navento) and C3BC, he described at least another 10 wholly different scenarios where the GPS/GPRS/EP combination enables the delivery of super high-added value, whether measured monetarily or otherwise. What is also clear from C3BC’s ongoing work in this area is that relatively few vendors (spread across distinctly different technology areas like GPS or GPRS or EP) understand that it is not any singular technology but the combination that creates the greatest opportunity. Right now, for the most part GPS vendors do not relate to GPRS and/or EP; the mobile telephone companies have nonsensical GPRS pricing aimed at discouraging or preventing usage, and EP vendors have concentrated on Wall Street, largely ignoring what they might achieve.
C3BC believes that the GPS/GPRS/EP combination will establish a magic application triangle. We will be investigating these efforts in several countries and markets. What also seems likely is that it will be the nimble and imaginative smaller vendors that will drive these new markets, at least until the major vendors wake up. It will be interesting to see who wins the Ministerio de Igualdad contract in Spain and the consequences of that choice. C3BC is watching closely.

About cccbrett
Charles Brett is a technology analyst, technology commentator and consultant whose focus is applying common sense to technology for deployment in organizations of all sizes. His company, C3B Consulting, publishes INSIGHT-SPECTRA which this looks at key issues and developments in the management and application of IT (to obtain this, email requestcopy@insight-spectra.com). In 2012 C3B Consulting addiliated with Constellation Research (www.constellationrg.com).

One Response to GPS + GPRS + Event Processing = A New Magic Application Triangle

  1. Rob says:

    Great stuff for sure. I would certainly agree that the telco costs inhibit a lot of the innovation here, especially in this part of the world (NZ). What are some of the other areas that you’ve heard the vendors focusing on in this marriage of technologies?

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