Monday, March 17, 2014

TrakDot Luggage GPS Tracking Technology: Could a Luggage Tracker Help Locate Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370?

When you are the president of a highly service-oriented telecommunications sales company and you enjoy finding technical solutions for people and businesses, you're always considering new and better solutions. That's what Michael Ginsberg, President of 3GStore, was doing this morning in the shower. The missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was on his mind, and like what often happens in Ginsberg's mind, he linked a problem and possible solutions. He thought of TrakDot, a product that his company sells.

TrakDot is a wireless device that is designed to track an airline passenger's luggage. TrakDot is powered on and placed inside a passenger's luggage. TrakDot has a built in cellular modem that connects to a local cellular network, and has the capability of sending an email and text alert to its owner(s), letting them know their luggage has safely arrived with them at the airport. When the TrakDot and its built in accelerometer sense the takeoff of a plane, it goes into a sleep mode, so it doesn't congest the airwaves, and since at high altitudes it's not going to connect with a cellular tower anyway. However, as soon as the built-in accelerometer senses the plane has slowed down under 100 knots, the TrakDot finds a local cellular carrier if available, connects to the network, and sends out the appropriate text and email alert and reports its airport location.

TrackDot isn't a full GPS tracker able to pinpoint an exact location, but the ability to aid in locating the missing plane was a possibility. A GPS-based device functions with one-way communication, that is, it receives the GPS signal so a device "knows" where it is located. This is great for technology like the GPS in your car so it knows where the car is and where to direct you. Your car GPS though can't be located since its not a 2 way radio. Ginsberg explains, "The TrakDot on the other hand has the ability to communicate its location to a cellular network, although not with the pinpoint accuracy of GPS. However, for something the size of a plane, and with the resources available looking for it, a location in the world is better than a stretch of multiple countries over a projected multi-hour flight with no clue as where to start."

There are a few conditions that would have to exist for the TrakDot to help locate Flight MH370.

1. A passenger would have had to have placed a TrakDot in their luggage.

2. The plane would have had to decelerate -- not suddenly stop for it to probably work properly. The accelerometer is designed to detect deceleration, and might not have the time to work properly if it stops suddenly.

3. The TrakDot could not be destroyed by an explosion or fire.

4. The TrakDot would have to be in a location that is close enough to a cell tower to get its signal out.

5. The TrakDot would have to be in a country where cell towers accept its signal. Currently there are only two countries in the international airline passenger network where cell towers don't function with TrakDot -- Japan and South Korea.

Ginsberg reached out to the manufacturers of TrakDot, and learned that if Globa Trac LLC were provided with a passenger list a passenger list, they could cross check it and see if there was a remote chance that one passenger had an an activated TrakDot in their luggage.

Ginsberg developed software that merged a database and web server into a single program, which was called Web Server 4D (or WS4D). In 1998, this software program become WS4D/eCommerce which was one of the first programs that allowed companies to publish and sell products directly on the Internet. He also developed one of the first software solutions that automatically updated computers over a network.

Ginsberg focused his efforts on mobile broadband and took his e-commerce experience to launch in 2005. Initially the inventory for was often stored in his garage, but the company soon outgrew the home's two-car garage, and 3GStore expanded to a warehouse in Cary.

Over the years, 3Gstore has received many customer support awards, which include awards from StellaService for outstanding customer service. has featured as a case study in how to properly support customers in Seth Godin’s book “Meatball Sundae”.

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