5/18/2006
01:35 PM
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Big Brother On Campus: Cell Phone-GPS Combo To Track Students' Whereabouts

Campus security at a New Jersey university is getting help from an eye in the sky. Combining global positioning satellite and cell phone technologies, campus security officials can be alerted if a student fails to arrive at a destination on time.



Campus security at a New Jersey university is getting help from an eye in the sky. Combining global positioning satellite and cell phone technologies, campus security officials can be alerted if a student fails to arrive at a destination on time."Next semester, Montclair State University hopes to teach students a lesson that sounds chillingly Orwellian: Let campus police electronically track you," according to a story in the Newark Star-Ledger. "It isn't Big Brother, school officials insist. It's Guardian."

Guardian is a service from Rave Wireless that lets students activate a timer on their cell phones when they feel unsafe, such as when walking late at night from a classroom to a dorm. Campus security is alerted if the timer isn't turned off in an allotted time. The system immediately displays the student's location as well as other key information, such as medical conditions, a photograph, and a local address. Guardian uses the same GPS technologies as 911 emergency centers, so students can use it on- or off-campus, anywhere in the United States.

At Montclair State, the information will soon be accessible in laptops in campus patrol cars. "It's like a LoJack for people," university Police Sgt. Paul Giardino told the paper, a reference to the system that tracks stolen vehicles. With 90% of college students carrying mobile phones--"They carry mobile phones the way the rest of us carry our keys," Rave Wireless CEO Rodger Desai says--providing security and other services via the cell phone presents a great business opportunity.

The wireless service offers more than security. According to Rave, Montclair State students can subscribe to a package of applications that the company customized specifically for the school. The package, which uses Sprint Nextel's cell phones and network, furnishes students resources to manage their academic and social lives. An example cited by Rave: Students can identify the GPS location of campus shuttle buses, check class assignment changes, get specials at local merchants, and share their GPS location with friends.

Student Jessica Abrams told the Star-Ledger she likes Rave's bus-tracking service, but isn't happy about the mandatory subscription to Sprint Nextel. Abrams fancies Verizon, so she carries two cell phones. Does Guardian make her feel safer? "I don't know how it works," Abrams says. "They sent an E-mail, but I didn't read it."

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