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CES 2004

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Wherify LG Overseas Sanyo Concepts  

Wherify is the "kid-locator" company. They're known for making body-worn devices that parents can use to see where their kids are at any time. Their past devices have been rather bulky wrist- or ankle-mounted affairs.

But at CES, Wherify introduced their new "GPS Universal Locator" device, a dramatically smaller device that also includes voice functionality. The Universal Locator is essentially a complete CDMA phone with GPS, that's not much larger than a few dollar coins stacked.

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The interface is consists of just two buttons and two LED lights. One button dials 911, while the other dials a pre-programmed number, such as a parent's cell phone. It's basic, but for the intended uses, it's perfect.

The amazing miniaturization is due to several factors. First, the device uses a multi-frequency antenna that handles both dual-band CDMA and GPS satellite signals. Second, Wherify is using Qualcomm's gpsOne solution - the same GPS technology found in nearly all new CDMA phones for E-911 purposes. gpsOne integrates GPS functionality onto the main CDMA chip, eliminating many of the extra components usually required for GPS.

The Universal Locator weighs under 45 grams, including the 300 mAh battery, which provides about 70 hours of standby time. It is expected to cost less than $150, with monthly service (via Sprint) starting at $10/month. It is expected to be available around mid-year.

The service itself is pretty simple: you just log on to the web site, click "locate", and it shows you the location on a map.

While parents wanting to track their kids is the main target market, Wherify also suggests other uses, such as: alzheimer's patients, hikers and joggers, fleet management, and asset tracking.

But with its amazingly small size and light weight, there are a lot of places you could put a Universal Locator where it wouldn't be noticed. There are all kinds of sneaky ways you could use this. Anyone who's ever seen a James Bond movie knows what I'm talking about. I expect this will be very popular with private investigators. Of course, check your local laws before using this in any kind of sneaky way.

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