Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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8/6/2007
01:06 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Forget RFID. GPS Is The New Tech Bogeyman

So you're thinking of using GPS-enabled technology in some way, from optimizing sales calls to offering directions to route drivers. It's getting easier, with GPS built into more smartphones. But execs would be wise to remember the lessons of RFID, and the depths of tech paranoia it revealed.

So you're thinking of using GPS-enabled technology in some way, from optimizing sales calls to offering directions to route drivers. It's getting easier, with GPS built into more smartphones. But execs would be wise to remember the lessons of RFID, and the depths of tech paranoia it revealed.The latest dustup over GPS is with New York cab drivers, who are threatening to strike over a requirement to have GPS-enabled systems in every taxi. The city's Taxi and Limousine Commission announced several years ago it was headed this way, and it has promised not to use it to track drivers to see if they're sloughing. But suspicion reigns.

CIOs will need to consider the potential for giving employees GPS-enabled tools as costs fall and ease-of-use rises, potentially changing the cost-benefit. To date, that's been a hard sell for IT execs outside the logistics business. But Nokia is among the companies that see big potential for embedding GPS in cell phones.

GPS in cell phones isn't yet being met with universal rave reviews. A Cnet review says GPS mapping on the Nokia N95 smartphone looks promising, but its reviewer had technical problems with it, as did N95 fan Robert Scoble. BlackBerry gets its grumbles, too. But IT execs need to be ready for the consumer effect: as reports keep coming of GPS being used for tracking dogs and teenagers, it's bound to come up as a discussion point at work.

Just be ready for distrust, and combat it with absolute transparency. We all know what happened when companies starting experimenting with RFID more widely, in a few cases doing so in stores without telling customers. People assume the worst and envision capabilities for the technology far beyond the realm of possible.

So let's be clear. If you are thinking of using GPS to track employees in any way, shape, or form without informing them and helping them understand the technology, may a thousand Storm worms descend upon your home computer. You're making life harder for anyone trying to do this right.

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