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  • GPS Devices Put to Novel Uses in Japan
Jun 2003
TOKYO, June 24 -- Two novel uses of the global positioning system (GPS) have been developed for security-minded residents of Japan. The security company Secom Co. Ltd. plans to unleash a new service later this month to track missing dogs using satellite-based GPS and mobile phone networks, and National Bicycle Industrial Co. Ltd., affiliated with the consumer electronics giant known for its National and Panasonic brands, will soon market the world's first electric bicycles equipped with GPS, enabling owners to trace stolen bikes.

The bicycle GPS will be linked to Secom, and the users will be able to locate their bicycles in real time, National Bicycle said in a statement. The electric power-assisted bicycles will be available in Japan in mid-August; prices will be from 74,800 yen ($637) to 124,800 yen.

With the canine model, owners can place a sensor -- which Secom said is the world's smallest and lightest mobile GPS terminal at 1.7 ounces -- around a dog's neck in a small pouch, or on its back using a full-body harness. (The company said the sensor might be too heavy for small dogs and cats.) Owners can locate a missing pet, within 164 feet, on a Web site by typing in a username and password or by placing a call to the Secom phone center. The technology used by Secom is an extension of a similar service offered since April 2001 for tracking young children, the elderly and missing automobiles. The service will carry a 5,000 yen ($43) registration fee and a monthly fee of 800 yen (about $7). Each call to the Secom center will cost 200 yen. Secom said it aims to register about 10,000 canines by March.

The bicycle GPS tracking service will cost 900 yen a month. If the bicycle is stolen, its location can be tracked, and a Secom security agent will rush to the spot on the user's request, said a National Bicycle official. Users can also install the system on earlier models of electric bicycles manufactured by National Bicycle.

According to a Reuters article, the market for bicycles with battery-assisted power is growing in Japan with the introduction of lower-price and lighter models. About 200,000 were sold in Japan last year, at prices from about $550 to $1100 dollars.

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