clothes for surveillance

(Written by Intro to GIS student, Z.J. It’s interesting that, of all the topics mentioned in the course, the one that elicited the greatest discussion was the surveillance potential for GIS.)


The Associated Press reports on Bladerunner, a clothing company in London, England that has developed a new jacket with a GPS tracker. The device is lodged within the jacket lining and can track the jacket anywhere in the world (with 43 feet resolution). Google Earth can be used to locate the individual. This raises the question: Have geospatial technologies gone too far? It isn’t so much that geographic information systems (GIS) pushes the boundaries in this case, but the product represents our desire to capitalize on any piece of technology as an expensive knee-jerk response to perceived dangers.

The company targets parents who are worried about missing children and, of course, lost jackets. The AP continues that the jacket “alerts” parents when a child skips school or goes places they aren’t supposed to. (I would imagine the child may have the sense to take the jacket off and leave it elsewhere when they don’t want to be tracked.)

The kid’s jacket costs $500; an adult size (presumably for Alzheimer’s patients) costs $700. A $20 tracking fee is charged monthly. I think that, for this price, it may just be more beneficial to save money and purchase a $70 jacket and a cellphone. [For all you parents out there, a cellphone would not necessarily be the cheaper option–Sieber.] The cellphone would allow for an open line of communication, and probably a healthier alternative in terms of trust in parent-child dynamics.

In terms of child safety, this jacket could prove beneficial in terms of kidnapping. However, at such exorbitant prices, you would potentially only be catering to overbearing, spendthrift parents who are likely already overprotective. In my opinion, it is just taking monetary advantage of overprotective parents. For instance, the battery for the tracker only lasts 18 hours and needs to be recharged, rendering it useless over a 24 hour period.

More importantly, is a jacket-tracker the best way to keep our kids safe? The company appears to have chosen an article of clothing that is commonly left in lockers, closets and the back of chairs, rendering it relatively useless in its capacity to ensure child safety. If a parent is so inclined to track his/her child then why not just spend $400 on a tracking device that can be placed in any article of clothing? Wrist GPS detectors are also available, yet I would imagine the alleged kidnapper may notice a cube with 3 inch sides weighing down a child’s arm. The site also says, “Big Brother, meet Big Mother”, which showcases the crossed boundaries encountered with this device. I advocate investing in regular jackets, cellphones, and GIS-free board games to strengthen that parent child bond.

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