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Know Where You Are — All the Time

From keeping an eye on a loved one to finding your car, GPS devices can help you in all kinds of ways

Keeping Track of People and Things

GPS devices can offer real peace of mind if you're worried about the whereabouts of someone young or old who could get into trouble. There are several devices on the market that will help you if you need to keep track of a child or grandchild. The SecuraPAL can be dropped into a kid's backpack or affixed to a belt. The signal can be tracked on either a computer or smartphone. It's $157.88 for the device and $18.88 for the monthly monitoring service. The Amber Alert GPS device is a colorful watchlike band that sells for $179, with service plans for between $10 and $20 per month.

Location can be even more worrisome for the caregivers of dementia or Alzheimer's patients, where the results of wandering off can be tragic.

The EmSeeQ device from EmFinders looks like a black watchband and is suitable for both kids and the elderly. The device is $225 plus a monthly monitoring fee of $25. And technology company GTX is teaming up with shoemaker Aetrex Worldwide to create shoes with an embedded GPS device that can be programmed to send an alert if the wearer steps out of a prescribed "safety zone." The device is due out later this year. And yes, there is an app for this, too. Iconosys has a program called Tell My Geo for Android phones aimed at those with early stage dementia. It requires two phones: one for the caregiver; the other for the patient. The phone can be programmed to send periodic positioning notifications. The system costs roughly $10 per month per phone.

If you have a teenage driver in the household, you may want to hide a rechargeable device in the car that will let you know if he or she is really at a friend's house, and it will even tell you how fast the car is being driven. Escort, which makes radar detectors, sells the Entourage PS. The device is almost $300 and the monitoring plan another $15 a month. Before Escort licensed it from Blackline, the product was known as "The Snitch."

Good Sports

Finally, we can't overlook the slew of GPS devices that are being developed for all sorts of sports enthusiasts.

For the outdoors person, a large number of handheld GPS devices are available with topographical and marine data that will let you plan routes and back track. You can also use them for geocaching, a sort of hide and go seek game that involves hiding items based on GPS location.

There are specialized devices for bicycling, running, even ski goggles with a projected GPS display. Many of the major camera makers, including Nikon, Sony and Casio, make cameras that will stamp pictures with the GPS location. And if you're into action video, the wearable Contour HD GPS plays back video alongside the GPS track of where you've been.

You can use the technology dozen of ways. But the systems are only as good as their data and as smart as their users. If you're on a set of train tracks, or headed the wrong way on a one-way street, the excuse "But officer, that's what the GPS told me to do" isn't likely to cut it.

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