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Watch where you're walking

A beach jogger

It used to be that when someone said you had a smart new pair of sneekers it meant you had good fashion sense. Now it could mean that your shoes have a good sense of direction. Just recently stepping onto the footwear market is a new generation of shoes fitted with GPS devices. GPS, or Global Positioning System, devices uplink to a ring of satellites surrounding the earth. That allows them to know their exact position on the earth's surface. It's the same technology used in car Satnav gadgets, but now the devices are small enough and tough enough to be fitted into shoes.

The Geofencing shoe

Like any technology it's what you do with it that's important. The smart shoes currently send the wearer's position to a central location tracking facility. The company are suggesting that the shoes can be used for "Geofencing". Parents or guardians can set what they feel are safe areas for their kids or elderly relatives to wander around in. The shoes will send them a text message if the wearer wanders out of the safe zone.

A question of safety or surveillance? What do you think of this new shoe? A cool gadget? A useful way to improve safety? Or a step too far in sinister surveillance? Questions like these are important for computer scientists and companies to consider. New technologies can change society, and as a society we need to decide what we are willing or unwilling to accept. So over to you. Best foot forward! What do you think?

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