Malaysia 370, What if a TrakDot was onboard?

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Monday, 17 March 2014

Malaysia 370, What if a TrakDot was onboard?
As the investigation continues into Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, people are looking into a number of ways the missing plane can be found. 26 different countries are actively participating in the investigation using methods from simulated flights and projected landings, to civilian powered searches of GPS photos taken of the planes projected route. What about other options? What if a TrakDot was on a single piece of checked luggage?

The TrakDot is a device that is meant to be powered on and placed in luggage of airline passengers. It has a built in cellular modem that connects to a local 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'. Once the accelerometer senses the plane has slowed down under 100 knots, the TrakDot finds a local cellular carrier, connects to the network, and sends out the appropriate text and email alert stating its airport location.

While not a full GPS tracker able to pinpoint an exact location, the ability to aid in locating the missing plane still exists. A GPS based device is meant for one way communication, that is, receiving the GPS signal so a device knows where it is. 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. 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.

This argument that a TrakDot could help locate this missing flight does assume a few things. First, there would have to be a TrakDot on the flight in the first place. Second, the TrakDot would have had to sense a plane slowing to under 100 knots. A sudden stop wouldn't be time for it to activate and send out its location, we would have to assume the plane made a landing of some type somewhere that didn't destroy the Trakdot. And finally, there would have to be a cell signal nearby that could have been used to send the email and/or text. Since the TrakDot is totally automatic in this regard, nobody has to tell it to do its job of sending its location. As a bonus, there are only 2 countries the device can't function, South Korea and Japan, as they use a different technology for cellular communication.

We reached out to the manufacturers of TrakDot and they indicated if they were to get a passenger list, they could cross check it and see if there was a remote change that one passenger perhaps had an an activated TrakDot in their luggage.


Last Updated ( Monday, 17 March 2014 )
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