They go together like a horse and carriage. Global positioning systems (GPS) and wireless communications have always had their own security applications. GPS locates and tracks to manage assets and protect people. And there are a variety of means of wireless communications, from cellular telephones to mesh, just to name a few.

It now is a matter of how they integrate into security and life safety solutions. The possibilities continue to arise: the iPhone now has a turn-by-turn GPS navigation application, the AT&T Navigator, which includes map updates, speech recognition, ETA updates, real-time traffic alerts, and more.

At construction sites, using GPS technology, wireless communication and the Internet, emerging applications supply information to analyze and improve asset productivity and overall construction operations, saving time and eliminating project costs while providing a higher level of security. For example, through a Google Maps API, such systems use Google Maps street, terrain, hybrid and satellite
imagery as background for mapping sites and tracking construction assets.

Security video now can be added to the horse and carriage combo. For example, in a university in Saudi Arabia, looking for a way to provide 24-hour video surveillance of the perimeter with automatic intrusion detection, now uses outstood security video that also provides long-range, GPS-based alarms and target data for security command center display.

There’s no doubt that there’s more to come. Security executives see increasing value in location services, mobility and myriad types of wireless communications.

Separate Uses

The horse can also stand apart from the carriage, especially when it comes to the need for highly secure wireless communications in isolated or special locations. For example, Fort Irwin, Calif. is located in the High Mojave Desert, a remote area midway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. The location, in particular its isolation from densely populated areas, makes it difficult for service members to communicate securely over a wired network. The Fort needed a secure network solution that could securely interconnect with the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Global Information Grid (GIG).

With assistance from Telos Corp., Fort Irwin deployed a wireless network that utilizes both mesh and non-mesh technologies. Wireless networking is especially important to Fort Irwin as it is the home of the National Training Center (NTC). NTC trains Army units by conducting force on force and live-fire joint training for ground and aviation brigades using a live-virtual-constructive training model, according to NTC.

The project included Telos engineering, furnishing, and installing a secure turnkey wireless data network that complies with 802.11 mesh and non-mesh architectures, which means that data down to the client level and across all the wireless mesh links is secure. The wireless network will cover one third of the installation and consists of a combination of more than 100 mesh and wireless access points.

The Future of GPS

What is the future of GPS, which provides position, navigation and timing data to users worldwide? The most certain aspect is its increased usage. For example, Bradford Parkinson, from the University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies, predicts there will be more than 50 million GPS users by 2010.

The U.S. Air Force, which is responsible for GPS acquisitions, is in the process of modernizing GPS, but it is uncertain whether it will be able to acquire new satellites in time to maintain current GPS service without interruption, said a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. If not, some military operations and some civilian users could be adversely affected, the report said.

“In recent years, the Air Force has struggled to successfully build GPS satellites within cost and schedule goals; it encountered significant technical problems that still threaten its delivery schedule; and it struggled with a different contractor,” the report said. “As a result, the current IIF satellite program has overrun its original cost estimate by about $870 million and the launch of its first satellite has been delayed to November 2009 – almost 3 years late.”

Further, the report said that the Air Force has had difficulty synchronizing the acquisition and development of the next generation of GPS satellites with ground control and user equipment, which can result in additional delays in GPS satellite capabilities.

Among its recommendations, GAO suggested that DoD appoint a single authority to oversee the development of the GPS system to minimize potential disruptions.