• Jason Goodin

White Paper on Detection SATCOM Tracking for Rural & Remote Areas

Background: Legislative requirements associated with the legalization of recreational and medical marijuana have resulted in location tracking requirements for transportation and delivery of product. Tracking and location monitoring in rural and mountainous areas of Colorado presents unique challenges. Most tracking and location monitoring systems, software, and smartphone applications rely on 3G, 4G, LTE, and/or WiFi signals to transmit tracking and location data even if GPS is used for the location information. In rural and mountainous areas, cellular signals are intermittent at best with large areas of no coverage being more common. Computer Access Technologies (CAT) provides a low-cost SATCOM tracking capability that is effective in rural and mountainous areas.

Issue: Tracking and location monitoring is required for various purposes in marijuana industry: regulation compliance, safety, security, law enforcement support, and business logistics. The dominant tracking and location monitoring hardware and software providers for the industry use capabilities that are dependent on cellular and/or Wi-Fi coverage. These devices either receive GPS signals to calculate geolocation, use cell signal triangulation, or use WiFi access locations to calculate the geolocation. They then transmit the location of the tracking device via a cellular or WiFi signal. In the rural and mountainous areas of Colorado these devices are inadequate based on the inherent struggles of the commercially provided infrastructure. Cellular service coverage maps for several major commercial carriers are provided in Figure 1.

Only basic coverage maps for general cellular service are shown in Figure 1. To fully understand impacts on location monitoring devices and applications presently used for marijuana tracking, it is necessary to examine the “types of service” available within coverage areas such as in Figure 2.

Figure 2.Commercial Carrier 2019 Service Type for Colorado

Existing tracking and location devices used in the marijuana industry fail in rural and mountainous areas because they either cannot transmit their location, they cannot determine their location, or both. Even if they are able to operate at some limited functionality, the geolocation error rate is high with significant time gaps in location reporting. This provides significant opportunities for criminal activity, hijacking, theft, and black/gray market activity.

Solution: CAT provides devices and service to meet marijuana industry requirements for identification, geolocation, tracking, and monitoring in rural and mountainous area where existing capabilities fail (see Figure 3).

CAT uses a combination of Satellite Communications (SATCOM), commercial & opensource software, and in-house algorithms to generate identification, geolocation, tracking, monitoring, and activity alerts for complete geographic coverage. To demonstrate this capability, CAT performed a tracking experiment in a mountainous area of Colorado to the top of Loveland Pass where commercial cellular coverage is known to be intermittent and/or non-existent (see Figure 4). The tracking device ~(2”x2”) was mounted to the dashboard of the vehicle for the test.

During the test, CAT Engineers drove the vehicle from an area with strong cellular coverage (Frisco, CO) to an area known to have intermittent and no cellular coverage (Loveland Pass) and back. Throughout the route, cellular coverage strength and “No Service” was monitored and is depicted in Figure 5. The test was successful in that CAT was able to effectively identify, monitor, and track the test vehicle even when outside of cellular range (see Figure 5). The peak geolocation along this route was a significantly remote location at 11,916’, a detailed illustration of this point is shown in Figure 3.

CAT is able to provide this data via any number of common methods, e.g. table or graphical map (see Figure 6). Additionally, CAT is able to export this data via any standard format for ingestion directly to any existing Government, industry, or opensource database or tool (.xlsx, .xls., .csv, .xml, .dif, .ods, .txt, etc.). CAT can also ingest data and fuse this data with any number of additional sources.

Along with general geolocation and tracking information, CAT facilitates a variety of general automated alert features such as:

  • Movement Start Alert

  • Movement Stop Alert

  • Tracking Device Powered Off Alert

  • Geofencing Capabilities

Future Requirements (Dual Verification): Current legislative and regulatory requirements only demand single-source geolocation information for the marijuana industry. Average, reasonably tech-savvy criminals and nefarious actors already possess the capability and knowledge for basic geolocation spoofing. This information is highly proliferated on the open internet, within academic papers, and the Dark Web. CAT has found no initial indicators that this is occurring within the marijuana industry yet, but there is no need at this time since the black/gray market is able to freely operate within existing regulations. As regulations and tracking requirements are refined and improved, geolocation spoofing is expected to facilitate the black/gray market. The first countermeasure logically employed against geolocation spoofing is “Dual Verification”.

While average criminals and nefarious actors are able to employ geolocation spoofing against a single location/tracking capability, it takes a much higher degree of technical expertise to spoof dual location/tracking capabilities. Additionally, Dual Verification can enable automated detection and altering of potential geolocation spoofing activity as shown in Figure 7.

Conclusion: CAT LLC offers a low-cost location and tracking capability with the advantage of full operations in remote and mountainous areas. In addition, CAT capability enables current and future requirements for Dual-Verification (geolocation spoofing countermeasure), data fusion, data analytics, forensics, interoperability, and open architectures. CAT capability supports Government compliance and enforcement, business operations and logistics, and law enforcement initiatives.

Point of Contact:

Mr. Jason Goodin 720-275-4455