Microsoft to Factor Crime, Weather Into GPS Routes

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft claims it has taken steps to protect tourists from accidently stumbling into unsafe areas by developing and patenting a new feature for GPS (Global Positioning System) devices.

One of the rarely discussed features of GPS is their ability to guide users through areas in which they would not normally venture. Although GPS devices are typically very helpful in plotting routes, so far they have not paid attention to the relative convenience, condition, or safety of those routes.

It stands to reason that sometimes the shortest route to a destination might lead through a relatively unsafe or hazardous area. Now that GPS devices are available for mobile phones, pedestrians have become as susceptible as motorists to being guided through questionable areas.

Crime Stats, Weather Data Inspires Re-Route

Microsoft has taken the first step to avoid these problems, pledging that its new feature will allow travelers to stay away from "unsafe neighborhoods or being in open areas that are subject to harsh temperatures."

Microsoft's technology utilizes the latest in both crime statistics and weather data, and includes these factors when calculating a route. (Source:

The new system also takes into account the walking history of the individual (such as the paths previously taken by the user).

Some Wary of "Crime Area" Label

Some observers foresee a few potential problems in this new technology.

For example, much depends on the way the information is presented to the average individual. Some believe the label itself is an insult to certain neighborhoods, while others question exactly what kinds of crime statistics Microsoft's technology will use in making these route changes.

For instance, most people believe the term "crime areas" refers to places where visitors are unusually susceptible to physical assaults, armed robberies, etc. But areas that are prone to home break-ins or car thefts might also be factored into these "crime statistics" calculations, and relatively nice areas that appeal to dishonest people with criminal intentions could wrongly be avoided by the GPS guidance. (Source:

This new feature is expected to be inserted first into Microsoft's Windows Phone GPS devices. However, no release date has been announced as of yet.

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