The second possibility requires embedding a GPS receiver inside each individual phone, or handset. Researchers at Haystack adapted radio astronomy and geodesy techniques they had developed for the National Science Foundation and NASA to the cellular phone system. The addition of the angle of arrival to the time of arrival helps improve the location accuracy.
TruePosition recently field-tested its wireless location system in Wilmington, Del. Of the 2, calls made within the deployment area during a three-day period across a variety of calling scenarios, 67 percent were located with an accuracy of 80 meters or better, while 95 percent of the calls were located with an accuracy of meters or better.
The FCC will require a caller's location to be calculated to within meters 95 percent of the time, and to within meters 67 percent of the time. The advantage of TruePosition's network-based system is that it can be retrofitted onto existing towers and works with existing phones. In wide-open places such as alongside interstate highways, cell phones can be located most accurately with the GPS system. In heavily populated cities, the network solution is better.
Some industry observers speculate that E is not a priority within the industry because carriers would not make money on emergency calls. Others say that carriers are waiting to see how the technology pans out before they commit to purchasing and installing new equipment. At Lincoln Laboratory's Advanced Electromagnetic Systems Antenna Test Range in Bedford, technician Tom Alosso, Rogers and Kolodziejski are testing the performance and reproducibility of the design of prototype antennas, preparing them to be manufactured commercially.
Then they, like others, will have to wait and see what happens in government and industry. Topics: Industry. MIT News Office. Browse or. Browse Most Popular.
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'E911' Turns Cell Phones into Tracking Devices
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By April, all cellular and personal communications services providers will have to transmit to operators and other "public safety answering points" the telephone number and cell site location of any cell phone making a call.
The aim of the law is to bring to cell phone users the same automatic-locating capability that now exists with wireline phones. But while the FCC's aim is simple on the surface - to make it easier for medical, fire, and police teams to locate and respond to callers in distress - the technology is also giving rise to concerns over the ease with which the digital age and its wireless accouterments are bringing to tracking individuals.
The key question for us is 'what is the legal standard for government access? Those seeking restrictions on the use of cell phone tracking information emphasize that, unlike the stationary wireline phones, a cell phone is more specifically associated with an individual and their minute-by-minute location. In December, the FCC began requiring wireless providers to automatically patch through any emergency calls made through their networks.
Subscriber or not, bills paid or unpaid, anyone with a cell phone and a mobile identification number was thus guaranteed to see their calls completed.
911's deadly flaw: Lack of location data
By April, emergency service personnel will receive more than just the call - they'll also get the originating cell phone's telephone number and, more significantly, the location of the cell site that handled the call. The FCC's "Enhanced services" requirements that wireless providers make this information available is the beginning of a tracking system that by will be able to locate a phone within a meter radius.
To provide this precise location information, Jeffrey Nelson of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association says different carriers will choose different methods of gathering location information, but all of them involve detecting the radio frequencies sent from the phone to service antennas.
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Because a phone sends additional signals to other antennas in addition to the primary one, "triangulation" lets them calculate the caller's whereabouts within that multi-antenna region. All this happens automatically when a cell phone is turned on. The upshot, Nelson says, is that cellular callers will "be able to make a call to or the appropriate emergency number without having to explain where they are.
Various systems are being tested by most providers, he reports, but many are already working with methods to provide such location information today. But this tracking issue has privacy advocates seeking preventive legislation to see that the instant accessibility of the information to emergency units doesn't just as easily deliver the same tracking information to law enforcement agencies - from local police on up to the FBI.
But to him, this obvious emergency benefit of E necessitates legal action to draw boundaries around its use by other organizations, namely law enforcement. That's where the issue runs into the same waters as the controversy surrounding the expansion of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. That law was meant to keep communications companies from letting the advancement of digital and wireless technology become an obstacle to the surveillance needs of law enforcement agencies.
But the CDT and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, among others, have argued that as CALEA undergoes actual implementation a process that is still ongoing , the FBI is seeking to expand its surveillance capabilities by seeking unjust specifications for phone systems' compliance with the law.
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