The Power of the Crowd, or crowdsourcing, is a strength that’s created when members of a community work together toward a shared purpose. The result is a solution that’s much larger than the sum of its parts. Today, the Power of the Crowd has been leveraged in many practical applications that help to make our lives easier every day.
Applications of the Power of the Crowd
Crowdfunding companies such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter allow enthusiasts to help up-and-coming startups get enough funding to launch their products. Other companies like Waze, a Google company, uses the crowd to help people find the fastest route to their destination. Quora uses its 100 million monthly users to help people find answers to their toughest questions. Uber uses the Power of the Crowd to provide ridesharing solutions and companies like The Tile App and TrackR help people find their lost items by allowing their users’ devices to communicate with each other. The crowd’s power lies in its numbers, and this practice is well documented in Mike Eagan’s article, “Why the Mob Rules.”
GPS, Smart Phones, and Safety
GPS, or Global Positioning System, uses a set of orbiting satellites to trace and send precise location details back to Earth. These signals are obtained by GPS receivers, and are used to calculate the exact position of the receiver. Smart phones today are equipped with GPS receivers that use signals from the orbiting satellites and then calculates the location. Gathering GPS signals and calculating location takes power, so GPS receiver chips cannot be inserted into low power devices such as trackers and safety pendants.
That means that when it comes to tracking someone’s location for safety reasons, such as search and rescue situations, only those with GPS-enabled devices that are within range and have sufficient battery life have a hope of being picked up via GPS.
When the Power of the Crowd is applied to GPS, the community’s collective devices can be leveraged to fill in the gaps. Those without smartphones or whose phone battery has died can still be tracked with some help from the crowd. In a Crowd GPS system, certain low power devices without traditional GPS capabilities can also be tracked.
These devices emit a RF (Radio Frequency) signal uniquely identifying the device by emitting its ID. Now the crowd can come to the rescue. When a smartphone with an accompanying safety app comes into contact with this ID, it uses its current location and then sends this ID, along with its location, to the central server. The central server now has the device ID and its precise location. This creates a crowd based GPS solution that enables non-GPS devices to be located. It is important to note that if the device is not in proximity to any participating smart phone, it will not be located. This is why the breadth of the community is important to the success of a Crowd GPS network.
Crowd GPS and Safety from Wandering
To protect a person from wandering away and getting lost, that person can simply wear a small device. When the person wanders away too far from home or another safe area, that device emits a unique ID. When any member of the crowd GPS network comes within 100 meters of the wanderer, their smartphone safety app would pick up the signal and send it to a global server to be sent to the caregiver along with its location. This network could help save people who are at risk of wandering off, including people with Dementia and children with Autism.
This vision of a Crowd GPS network safeguards people from wandering and getting lost, and It’s the concept behind Safety Labs’ Anchor-WP. Wandering Protection (WP) is a system that installs in homes and (digitally) tethers itself to the wearable device. Once the person wanders too far, the central Anchor system will alert the caregiver and registered friends and family. The device then emits the unique ID which would be scanned and transmitted back to the caregiver by a member of the safety community.
What’s Next – A Network of Networks
Sanjay Chadha of Safety Labs envisions that one day these disjointed Crowd GPS networks will cooperate to increase the total membership and spread of its member community. Time will tell if separate Crowd GPS networks will cooperate to create a large Crowd GPS network, which, if large enough, could be used to track anything.