It’s remarkable to recall how utterly impressive consumer-based GPS technology was over a decade ago. Since then, we’ve evolved into a society where our global position can be checked by pulling a smartphone out of our pocket. Indeed, GPS is a standard feature on modern mobile phones. In order for competitors to keep their particular digital map services a step above the rest, they need to get a little creative.
Enter the most recent patent issued to Microsoft – a GPS service that helps people safely navigate around areas with high crime rates. It’s a wonder such a service hasn’t already appeared in the form of a downloadable app, yet even with such obvious markets as tourists, business travelers, and the good old fashioned paranoid public, the “Avoid Ghetto” GPS feature is far from immune from criticism and controversy.
At the forefront of issues taken with this technology is the matter of what crimes, and what amount of what crimes, make a particular area “unsafe.” Since not every crime happens in a bad part of town, and not every crime is one that threatens pedestrians and motorists, such particulars are important. Deeming a particular area “unsafe” for pedestrians and motorists is far from the realm of responsibility for a tech company such as Microsoft.
Critics are adamant that if such technology were to exist, the conclusions must be drawn from dedicated statistical analysis and sociological study. But as CNET points out, the real crime may ultimately be the ulterior motives lurking behind Microsoft’s push to provide the public with this technology. As it turns out, some fine print would seem to suggest that the service would lead people to walk by advertisements most likely to appeal to them based on search data.
Yet the real question is whether or not such an app will prove either to be a mere novelty, measurable benefit to the community, or a detriment to those trying to use it to lead safer lives. If the data and projections Microsoft uses to create the GPS service are outdated and/or unreflective of reality, then it won’t be worth much to people besides as a gag. If the data is sound, then such technology may very well assist people in safely navigating themselves around areas with high crime rates.
But if the technology is unable to match the wits of criminals, we may very well see such a service blow up in the faces of both the creators and the users; nothing would aid would-be muggers more than technology that helps them figure out the exact route pedestrians will take to avoid a specific neighborhood laden with crime.
Regardless, such useful technology is a little late into the game: the crime rate in the U.S. is the lowest it’s been in decades.