European businesses could soon be tracking their employees via their mobile phones, using technology being tested by a major European cellular operator.
Having a system for locating mobile phone users will become mandatory for cellular network operators in the US after October 2001. The US policy requires mobile users to be tracked to within 125 metres, to enable emergency services to locate mobile 911 callers.
But while such systems are not compulsory in Europe, and there are no signs that they could become mandatory, tracking systems are being tested in Europe and could be offered to companies to monitor their employees.
Three companies are working with an unnamed operator in Europe to test a tracking system. Alcatel is providing mobile handsets, Symmetricom is making Global Positioning Satellite location technology, and UK company Aircom is supplying location software.
The system will be used in the US, but it is being developed for use anywhere, according to Dave High, business development manager at Aircom. "Legislation is coincidental as far as the US is concerned - demand for this type of application is there," he said.
Cellular network operators in Europe are very keen to support the technology, according to High, since they see it as a strong value added service for businesses. Tracking mobile sales workers, fleet haulage and providing location for emergency services are all potential uses of the technology, said High.
Concerns about tracking systems breaching mobile users' privacy have been expressed, but are outweighed by the benefits, according to High. "Providing people are aware that the capability [to track users' locations] exists, it could be used to benefit workers," he said.
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