Perceived barriers for implanting microchips in humans


This quantitative, descriptive study investigated if there was a relationship between countries of residence of small business owners (N = 453) within four countries (Australia, India, UK, and the USA) with respect to perceived barriers to RFID (radio frequency identification) transponders being implanted into humans for employee ID. Participants were asked what they believed were the greatest barriers in instituting chip implants for access control in organizations. Participants had six options from which to select. There were significant chi-square analyses reported relative to respondents' countries and: 1) a perceived barrier of technological issues (X2= 11.86, df = 3, p = .008); 2) a perceived barrier of philosophical issues (right of control over one's body) (X2= 31.21, df = 3, p = .000); and 3) a perceived barrier of health issues (unknown risks related to implants) (X2= 10.88, df = 3, p = .012). There were no significant chi-square analyses reported with respect to countries of residence and: 1) religious issues (mark of the beast), 2) social issues (digital divide), and 3) cultural issues (incisions into the skin are taboo). Thus, the researchers concluded that there were relationships between the respondents' countries and the perception of barriers in institutional microchips.

SECTION I. Introduction

The purpose of this study was to investigate if there were relationships between countries of residence (Australia, India, UK, and the USA) of small business owners  and perceived barriers of instituting RFID (radio frequency identification) transponders implanted into the human body for identification and access control purposes in organizations [1]. Participants were asked what they believed were the greatest barriers in instituting chip implants for access control in organizations [2]. Participants had six options from which to select all that apply, as well as an option to specify other barriers [3]. The options for perceived barriers included:

  • technological issues-RFID is inherently an insecure technology
  • social issues-there will be a digital divide between those with employees with implants for identification and those that have legacy electronic identification
  • cultural issues-incisions into the skin are taboo
  • religious issues-mark of the beast
  • philosophical issues-right of control over one's body
  • health issues-there are unknown risks related to implants that are in the body over the long term
  • other issues.

There were significant chi-square analyses reported relative to respondents' countries and: 1) the perceived barrier of technological issues; 2) the perceived barrier of philosophical issues (right of control over one's body); and 3) the perceived barrier of health issues (unknown risks related to implants). There were no significant chi-square analyses reported with respect to countries and religious issues (mark of the beast), social issues (digital divide), and cultural issues (incisions into the skin are taboo).

RFID implants are capable of omnipresent electronic surveillance. RFID tags or transponders can be implanted into the human body to track the who, what, where, when, and how of human life [4]. This act of embedding devices into human beings for surveillance purposes is known as uberveillance [5]. While the tiny embedded RFID chips do not have global positioning capabilities, an RFID reader (fixed or mobile) can capture time stamps, exit and entry sequences to denote when someone is coming or going, which direction they are travelling in, and then make inferences on time, location, distance. and speed.

In this paper, the authors present a brief review of the literature, key findings from the study, and a discussion on possible implications of the findings. Professionals working in the field of emerging technologies could use these findings to better understand how countries of residence may affect perceptions of barriers in instituting chip implants in humans.

SECTION II. Review of Literature

A. Implants and Social Acceptance

In 2004, the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) of the United States approved an implantable chip for use in humans in the U.S [6]. The implanted chip was and is being marketed by a variety of commercial enterprises as a potential method to detect and treat diseases, as well as a potential lifesaving device. If a person was brought to an emergency room unconscious, a scanner in the hospital doorway could read the person's unique ID on the implanted chip. The ID would then be used to unlock the personal health records (PHR) of the patient from a database [7]. Authorized health professionals would then have access to all pertinent medical information of that individual (i.e. medical history, previous surgeries, allergies, heart condition, blood type, diabetes) to care for the patient aptly. Additionally, the chip is being touted as a solution to kidnappings in Mexico (e.g. by the Xega Company), among many other uses [8].

B. Schools: RFID Tracking

A rural elementary school in California planned to implement RFID-tagged ID cards for school children, however the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) fought successfully to revoke the program. Veritable risks were articulated by the ACLU including identity theft, or kidnapping if the system was hacked and resulted in a perpetrator being able to access locations of schoolchildren.

However, with school districts looking to offset cuts in state funding which are partly based on attendance figures, RFID technology provides a method to count students more accurately. Added to increased revenues, administrators are facing the reality of increasing security issues; thus more school districts are adopting RFID to track students to improve safety. For many years in Tokyo, students have worn mandatory RFID bracelets; they are tracked not only in the school, but also to and from school [9] [10]. In other examples, bags are fitted with GPS units.

In 2012, the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas began a pilot program to track 6.2% of its 100,000 students through RFID tagged ID-cards. Northside was not the first district in Texas; two other school districts in Houston successfully use the technology with reported gains in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue due to improved attendance. The school board unanimously approved the program, but not after first debating privacy issues. Chip readers on campuses and on school buses will detect a student's location and authorized administrators will have access to the information. At a cost of 525,000 to launch the pilot program and approximately 1.7 million in the first year due to higher attendance figures, as well as Medicaid reimbursements for the busing of special education students. However, students could forget or lose the cards which would negatively affect the system [3]. One of Northside's sophomore students, Andrea Hernandez, refused to wear the RFID tag round her neck based on religious reasons. Initially, the school expelled her but when the case went to court, she was reinstated, a judge ruling her constitutional rights had been violated [11].

C. Medical Devices: RFID Implants

Recent technological developments are reaching new levels with the integration of silicon and biology; implanted devices can now interact directly with the brain [12]. Implantable devices for medical purposes are often highly beneficial to restore functions that were lost. Such current medical implants include cardiovascular pacers, cochlear and brainstem implants for patients with hearing disorders, implantable drug delivery pumps, implantable neurostimulation devices for such patients as those with urinary incontinence, chronic pain, or epilepsy, deep brain stimulation for patients with Parkinson's, and artificial chip-controlled legs [13].

D. RFID in India

Although India has been identified as a significant prospective market for RFID due to issues with the supply chain and a need for transparency, some contend that the slow adoption of RFID solutions can be tracked to unskilled RFID solution providers. Inexperienced systems integrators and vendors are believed to account for failed trials, leaving companies disillusioned with the technology, and subsequently abandoning solutions and declaiming its benefits loudly and publicly. A secondary technological threat to RFID adoption is believed to be related to price competitiveness in India. In such a price-sensitive environment, RFID players are known to quote the lowest costs per tag, thereby using inferior hardware. Thus, customers perceive RFID to be inconsistent and unreliable for use in the business setting [14]. The compulsory biometrics roll out, instituted by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is in direct contrast to the experience of RFID (fig. 1)

Fig. 1. Taking fingerprints for Aadhaar, a 12-digit unique number has been issued for all residents in india. The number will be stored in a centralized database and linked to basic demographic and biometric information. The system institutes multimodal biometrics. Creative commons: fotokannan.

Fig. 1. Taking fingerprints for Aadhaar, a 12-digit unique number has been issued for all residents in india. The number will be stored in a centralized database and linked to basic demographic and biometric information. The system institutes multimodal biometrics. Creative commons: fotokannan.

E. RFID in Libraries

In 2010, researchers reported that many corporate libraries had begun deploying RFID. RFID tags are placed into books and other media and used in libraries for such purposes as to automate stock verification, to locate misplaced items, to check in/check out patrons without human interaction, and to detect theft. In India, several deployment and implementation issues were identified and they are: consumer privacy issues/ethical concerns, costs, lack of standards and regulations in India (e.g. data ownership, data collection limitations), user confusion (e.g. lack of training and experience with the technology), and the immaturity of the technology (e.g. lack of accuracy, scalability, etc.) [15].

F. RFID and OEMS/Auto Component Manufacturers

In India, suppliers are not forced to conform to stringent regulations like those that exist in other countries. In example, the TREAD Act in the U.S. provided the impetus for OEMs to invest in track and trace solutions; failure to comply with the regulations can carry a maximum fine in the amount of $15 million and a criminal penalty of up to 15 years. Indian suppliers are not only free from such regulations of compliance, but also cost conscious with low volumes of high value cars. It is believed that the cost of RFID solutions is not yet justified in the Indian market [16].

G. Correctional Facilities: RFID Tracking

A researcher studied a correctional facility in Cleveland, Ohio to evaluate the impact of RFID technology to deter such misconduct as sexual assaults. The technology was considered because of its value in confirming inmate counts and perimeter controls. In addition, corrections officers can utilize such technology to check inmate locations against predetermined schedules, to detect if rival gang members are in close proximity, to classify and track proximity of former intimate partners, single out those inmates with food allergies or health issues, and even identify if inmates who may attempt to move through the cafeteria line twice [17].

The results of the study indicated that RFID did not deter inmate misconduct, although the researchers articulated many issues that affected the results. Significant technological challenges abounded for the correctional facility as RFID tracking was implemented and included system inoperability, signal interference (e.g. “blind spots” where bracelets could not be detected), and transmission problems [18] [17].

H. Social Concerns

Social concerns plague epidermal electronics for nonmedical purposes [19]. In the United States, many states have crafted legislation to balance the potential benefits of RFID technology with the disadvantages associated with privacy and security concerns [20]. California, Georgia, Missouri, North Dakota, and Wisconsin are among states in the U.S. which have passed legislation to prohibit forced implantation of RFID in humans [21]. The “Microchip Consent Act of 2010”, which became effective on July 1, 2010 in the state of Georgia, not only stated that no person shall be required to be implanted with a microchip (regardless of a state of emergency), but also that voluntary implantation of any microchip may only be performed by a physician under the authority of the Georgia Composite Medical Board.

Through the work of Rodata and Capurro in 2005, the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies to the European Commission, examined the ethical questions arising from science and new technologies. The role of the opinion was to raise awareness concerning the dilemmas created by both medical and non-medical implants in humans which affect the intimate relation between bodily and psychic functions basic to our personal identity [22]. The opinion stated that Information and Communications Technology implants, should not be used to manipulate mental functions or to change a personal identity. Additionally, the opinion stated that principles of data protection must be applied to protect personal data embedded in implants [23]. The implants were identified in the opinion as a threat to human dignity when used for surveillance purposes, although the opinion stated that this might be justifiable for security and/or safety reasons [24].

I. Increased Levels of Willingness to Adopt: 2005–2010

Researchers continue to investigate social acceptance of the implantation of this technology into human bodies. In 2006, researchers reported higher levels of acceptance of the implantation of a chip within their bodies, when college students perceived benefits from this technology [25]. Utilizing the same questions posed in 2005 to college students attending both private and public institutions of higher education by the aforementioned researchers, the researchers once again in 2010 investigated levels of willingness to implant RFID chips to understand if there were shifts in levels of willingness of college students to implant RFID chips for various reasons [25] [26]. In both studies, students were asked: “How willing would you be to implant an RFID chip in your body as a method (to reduce identity theft, as a potential lifesaving device, to increase national security)?” A 5-point Likert-type scale was utilized varying from “Strongly Unwilling” to “Strongly Willing”. Comparisons of the 2005 results of the study to the results of the 2010 research revealed shifts in levels of willingness of college students. A shift was evident; levels of willingness moved from unwillingness toward either neutrality or willingness to implant a chip in the human body to reduce identity theft, as a potential lifesaving device, and to increase national security. Levels of unwillingness decreased for all aforementioned areas as follows [26]. Between 2005 and 2010, the unwillingness (“Strongly unwilling” and “Somewhat unwilling”) of college students to implant an RFID chip into their bodies decreased by 22.4% when considering RFID implants as method to reduce identity theft, decreased by 19.9% when considering RFID implants as a potential lifesaving device, and decreased by 16.3% when considering RFID implants to increase national security [26].

J. RFID Implant Study: German Tech Conference Delegates

A 2010 survey of individuals attending a technology conference conducted by BITKOM, a German information technology industry lobby group, reported 23% of 1000 respondents would be prepared to have a chip inserted under their skin for certain benefits; 72% of respondents, however, reported they would not allow implantation of a chip under any circumstances. Sixteen percent (16%) of respondents reported they would accept an implant to allow emergency services to rescue them more quickly in the event of a fire or accident [27].

K. Ask India: Are Implants a More Secure Technology?

Previously, researchers reported a significant chi-square analysis relative to countries of residence and perceptions of chip implants as a more secure technology for identification/access control in organizations. More than expected (46 vs. 19.8; adjusted residual = 7.5), participants from India responded “yes” to implants as a more secure technology. When compared against the other countries in the study, fewer residents from the UK responded “yes” than expected (9 vs. 19.8), and fewer residents from the USA responded “yes” than expected (11 vs. 20.9). In rank order, the countries contributing to this significant relationship were India, the UK and the USA; no such differences in opinion were found for respondents from Australia. [28].

Due to heightened security threats, there appears to be a surge in demand for security in India [29][30]. A progression of mass-casualty assaults that have been carried out by extremist Pakistani nationals against hotels and government buildings in India has brought more awareness to the potential threats against less secure establishments [30]. The government is working to institute security measures at the individual level with a form of national ID cards that will house key biometric data of the individual. In the local and regional settings, technological infrastructure is developing rapidly in metro and non-metro areas because of the increase of MNCs (multi-national corporations) now locating in India. Although the neighborhood “chowkiddaaar” (human guard/watchman) was previously a more popular security measure for localized security, advances in, and reliability and availability of, security technology is believed to be affecting the adoption of electronic access security as a replacement to the more traditional security measures [29] [30].

L. Prediction of Adoption of Technology

Many models have been developed and utilized to understand factors that affect the acceptance of technology such as: The Moguls Model of Computing by Ndubisi, Gupta, and Ndubisi in 2005, Diffusion of Innovation Theory by Rogers in 1983; Theory of Planned Behavior by Ajzen in 1991; The Model of PC Utilization attributed to Thompson, Higgins, and Howell in 1991, Protection Motivation Theory (PMT) by Rogers in 1985, and the Theory of Reasoned Action attributed to Fischbein & Ajzen in 1975, and with additional revisions by the same in 1980 [31].

Researchers in Berlin, Germany investigated consumers' reactions to RFID in retail. After viewing an introductory stimulus film about RFID services in retail, participants evaluated the technology and potential privacy mechanisms. Participants were asked to rate on a five point Likert-type scale (ranging from “not at all sensitive” to “extremely sensitive”) their attitudes toward privacy with such statements as: “Generally, I want to disclose the least amount of data about myself.” Or “To me it is irrelevant if somebody knows what I buy for my daily needs.” In the study, participants reported moderate privacy awareness  and interestingly, participants reported a moderate expectation that legal regulations will result in sufficient privacy protection . Results showed that the extent to which people view the protection of their privacy strongly influences how willing people will be to accept RFID in retail. Participants were aware of privacy problems with RFID-based services, however, if retailers articulate that they value the customers' privacy, participants appeared more likely to adopt the technology. Thus, privacy protection (and the communication of it) was found to be an essential element of RFID rollouts [32].

SECTION III. Methodology

This quantitative, descriptive study investigated if there were relationships between countries of residence with respect to perceived barriers of RFID chip implants in humans for identification and access control purposes in organizations. The survey took place between April 4, 2011 and April 18, 2011. It took an average of 10 minutes to complete each online survey. Participants, who are small business owners  within four countries including Australia , India , UK , and the USA , were asked “As a senior executive, what do you believe are the greatest barriers in instituting chip implants for access control in organizations?” Relative to gender, 51.9% of participants are male; 48.1% are female. The age of participants ranged from 18 to 71 years of age; the mean age was 44 and the median age was 45. Eighty percent of organizations surveyed had less than 5 employees. Table I shows the survey participant's industry sector.

Table I Senior executive's industry sector

Table I Senior executive's industry sector

The study employed one instrument that collected key data relative to the business profile, the currently utilized technologies for identification and access control at the organization, and the senior executives' perceptions of RFID implants in humans for identification and access control in organizations. Twenty-five percent of the small business owners that participated in the survey said they had electronic ID access to their premises. Twenty percent of small business owner employee ID cards came equipped with a photograph, and less than five percent stated they had a security breach in the 12 months preceding the study.

Descriptive statistics, including frequency counts and measures of central tendency, were run and chi-square analysis was conducted to examine if there were relationships between the respondents' countries and each of the perceived barriers in instituting microchips in humans.

SECTION IV. Findings

There was a significant relationship reported relative to respondents' countries for each of three of the six choices provided in the multi-chotomous question: “As a senior executive, what do you believe are the greatest barriers in instituting chip implants for access control in organizations?”

A. Barrier: Technological Issues

The significant chi-square analysis  indicated that there was a relationship between the respondents' countries and the perceived barrier of technological issues. Using the rule of identifying adjusted residuals greater than 2.0, examination of the adjusted residuals indicated that the relationship was created when more than expected participants from India selected “technological issues (RFID is inherently an insecure technology)” as a barrier in instituting chip implants (45 vs. 31.1; adjusted residual 3.4).

B. Barrier: Philosophical Issues

The second significant chi-square analysis , df = 3,  indicated that there was a relationship between the respondents' countries and the perceived barrier of philosophical issues (right of control over one's body). An examination of the adjusted residuals indicated that the relationship was mostly created when fewer than expected participants from India selected philosophical issues as a barrier in instituting chip implants (37 vs. 61.3; adjusted residual 5.3). In addition, more residents from Australia than expected (78 vs. 62.9; adjusted residual 3.3) selected philosophical issues as a barrier. In rank order, the countries contributing to this significant relationship were India, followed by Australia; no such differences in opinion were found for respondents from UK and the USA.

C. Barrier: Health Issues

The third significant chi-square analysis  indicated there was a relationship between the respondents' countries and the perceived barrier of health issues (unknown risks related to implants). An examination of the adjusted residuals indicated that the relationship was mostly created when more than expected residents of India selected health issues as a barrier in instituting chip implants (57 vs. 43.3; adjusted residual 3.1). In addition, fewer residents from America than expected (36 vs. 45.7; adjusted residual 2.1) selected health issues as a barrier. In rank order, the countries contributing to this significant relationship were India, followed by the USA; no such differences in opinion were found for respondents from Australia and the UK.

D. Barrier: Social Issues, Religious Issues, and Cultural Issues

There were no significant chi-square analyses reported with respect to respondents' countries and social issues (digital divide), religious issues (mark of the beast), and cultural issues (incisions into the skin are taboo). Thus, in this study the researchers concluded no such differences in opinion were found for respondents' countries of residence and the barriers of social issues, religious issues, and cultural issues.

E. Statistical Summary

When asked whether or not, radiofrequency identification (RFID) transponders surgically implanted beneath the skin of an employee would be a more secure technology for instituting employee identification in the organization, only eighteen percent believed so. When asked subsequently about their opinion on how many staff in their organization would opt for an employee ID chip implant instead of the current technology if it were available, it was stated that eighty percent would not opt in. These figures are consistent with an in depth interview conducted with consultant Gary Retherford who was responsible for the first small business adoption of RFID implants for access control at in 2006 [33]–[34][35] In terms of the perceived barriers to instituting an RFID implant for access control in organizations, senior executives stated the following (in order of greatest to least barriers): 61% said health issues, 55% said philosophical issues, 43% said social issues; 36% said cultural issues; 31% said religious issues, and 28% said technological issues.

F. Open-Ended Question

When senior executives were asked if they themselves would adopt an RFID transponder surgically implanted beneath the skin the responses were summarized into three categories-no, unsure, and yes [36]. We present a representative list of these responses below with a future study focused on providing in depth qualitative content analysis.

1) No, I Would Not Get an RFID Implant

“No way would I. Animals are microchipped, not humans.”

“Absurd and unnecessary.”

“I absolutely would not have any such device implanted.”

“Hate it and object strongly.”

“No way.”h

“No thanks.”


“Absolutely creepy and unnecessary.”

“Would not consider it.”

“I would leave the job.”

“I don't like the idea one bit. The idea is abhorrent. It is invasive both physically and psychologically. I would never endorse it.”

“Would never have it done.”

“Disagree invading my body's privacy.”

“Absolutely vehemently opposed.”

“This proposal is a total violation of human rights.”

“Yeah right!! and get sent straight to hell! not this little black duck!”

“I do not believe you should put things in your body that God did not supply you with …”

“I wouldn't permit it. This is a disgraceful suggestion. The company does not OWN the employees. Slavery was abolished in developed countries more than 100 years ago. How dare you even suggest such a thing. You should be ashamed.”

“I would sooner stick pins in my eyeballs.”

“It's just !@;#%^-Nazi's???”

2) I am Unsure about Getting an RFID Implant

“A bit overkill for identification purposes.”


“Maybe there is an issue with OH&S and personal privacy concern.”


“Only if I was paid enough to do this, $100000 minimum.”

“Unsure, seems very robotic.”

“I'm not against this type of device but I would not use it simply for business security.”

“A little skeptical.”

“A little apprehensive about it.”

3) Yes, I would Get an RFID Implant

“Ok, but I would be afraid that it could be used by”

“outside world, say police.”


“It is a smart idea.”

“It would not be a problem for me, but I own the business so no philosophical issues for me.”

“I'd think it was pretty damn cool.”

SECTION V. Discussion: Perceived Barriers

A. Barrier: Technological Issues

The literature revealed many technological barriers for non-implantable chips; this study suggests this same barrier is also perceived for implantable chips and is likely to be related [37]. More than expected, Indian participants in this study selected technological issues (RFID is inherently an insecure technology) as a barrier in instituting chip implants for access control; no such differences of opinion were found for the other countries in the study. However, the literature revealed in other analyses, that more than expected Indian participants, answered “yes” when asked if implants are a more secure technology for instituting identification/access control in an organization. The findings appear to suggest that although Indian participants perceive RFID implants as a more secure technology when compared with other such methods as manual methods, paper-based, smartcards, or biometric/RFID cards, participants are likely to view this technology as undeveloped and still too emergent. Further research is needed to substantiate this conclusion, although a review of the literature revealed that RFID solution providers are already in abundance in India, with many new companies launching and at a rapid pace. Without standards and regulations, providers are unskilled and uneducated in the technology, providing solutions that often do not prove successful in implementation. Customers then deem the technology as inconsistent and ineffective in its current state. In addition, RFID players undercut each other, providing cheap pricing for cheap, underperforming hardware. Therefore, the preliminary conclusion of the researchers is that adoption of implants in India is likely to be inhibited not only now, but well into the future if the implementations of non-implantable RFID solutions continue to misrepresent the capabilities of the technology. It is likely that far afield to accepting implantable chips, individuals in India would need to be assured of consistency and effectiveness for RFID chip use in non-human applications.

B. Barrier: Philosophical Issues

Fewer than expected Indian participants selected philosophical issues (right of control over one's body) as a barrier; and more than expected, Australian participants selected this as a barrier. The researchers concluded that this is fertile ground for future research [38]. The deep cultural assumptions of each country are likely to influence participants' responses. In example, although Indian philosophies vary, many emphasize the continuity of the soul or spirit, rather than the temporary state of the flesh (the body). Further research would inform these findings through an exploration as to how and why participants in India versus participants in Australia perceive their own right of control over one's body.

C. Barrier: Health Issues

More than expected Indian participants selected health issues (unknown risks related to implants) as a barrier in instituting implants; and, fewer than expected American participants selected this as a barrier. The researchers conclude that these results may be a result of the perceived successes with the current usage of the technology. The literature revealed participants from India are experiencing poor implementations of the technology. Conversely, Americans are increasingly exposed to the use of surgically implanted chips in pets (often with no choice if the pet is adopted from a shelter) and with little or no health issues faced [39]. In addition, segments of the healthcare industry are advocating for RFID for use in the supply chain (e.g. blood supply) with much success. To inform these findings, further research is needed to explore how participants from each country describe the unknown risks related to implants.

SECTION VI. Conclusion

In conclusion, the authors recognize there are significant social implications relative to implanting chips in humans. Although voluntary chipping has been embraced by certain individuals, the chipping of humans is rare and remains mostly a topic of discussion and debate into the future. Privacy and security issues abound and are not to be minimized. However, in the future, we may see an increased demand for, and acceptance of, chipping, especially as the global environment intensifies. When considering the increase in natural disasters over the past two years, the rising tensions between nations such as those faced by India with terrorism by extremists from neighboring countries, and the recent contingency plans to enact border controls to mitigate refugees fleeing failing countries in the Eurozone, the tracking of humans may once again come to the forefront as it did post 9–11 when rescuers raced against the clock to locate survivors in the rubble.

India is of particular interest in this study; participants from this country contributed most in many of the analyses. India is categorized as a developing country (or newly industrialized country) and the second most populous country in the world. The government of India is already utilizing national identification cards housing biometrics, although the rollout has been delayed as officials work to solve issues around cards that can be stolen or misplaced, as well as how to prevent use fraudulently after the cardholder's death. Technological infrastructure is improving in even the more remote regions in India as MNCs (multi-national corporations) are locating business divisions in the country. The findings, set against the backdrop of the literature review, bring to light what seems to be an environment of people more than expected (statistically) open to (and possibly ready for) the technology of implants when compared with developed countries. However ill-informed RFID players in India are selling a low quality product. There appears to be lack of standards and insufficient knowledge of the technology with those who should know the most about the technology. Further research is necessary to not only understand the Indian perspective, but also to better understand the environment now and into the future.


1. K. Michael and M. G. Michael, "The Diffusion of RFID Implants for Access Control and ePayments: Case Study on Baja Beach Club in Barcelona, " in IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS10), Wollongong, Australia, 2010, pp. 242-252.

2. K. Michael and M. G. Michael, "Implementing Namebers Using Microchip Implants: The Black Box Beneath The Skin, " in This Pervasive Day: The Potential and Perils of Pervasive Computing, J. Pitt, Ed., ed London, United Kingdom: Imperial College Press, 2012, pp. 163-203.

3. K. Michael and M. G. Michael, "The Social, Cultural, Religious and Ethical Implications of Automatic Identification, " in The Seventh International Conference on Electronic Commerce Research, Dallas, Texas, 2004, pp. 432-450.

4. M. G. Michael and K. Michael, "A note on uberveillance, " in From dataveillance to uberveillance and the realpolitik of the transparent society, K. Michael and M. G. Michael, Eds., ed Wollongong: University of Wollongong, 2006, pp. 9-25.

5. M. G. Michael and K. Michael, Eds., Uberveillance and the Social Implications of Microchip Implants (Advances in Human and Social Aspects of Technology. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2014.

6. J. Stokes. (2004, October 14, 2004). FDA approves implanted RFID chip for humans. Available:

7. K. Michael, et al., "Microchip Implants for Humans as Unique Identifiers: A Case Study on VeriChip, " in Conference on Ethics, Technology, and Identity, Delft, Netherlands, 2008.

8. K. Opam. (2011, August 22, 2011). RFID Implants Won't Rescue the People Kidnapped in Mexico. Available:

9. C. Swedberg. (2005, June 12, 2012). L.A. County Jail to track inmates. Available:

10. F. Vara-Orta. (2012, May 31, 2012). Students will be tracked via chips in IDs. Available:

11. Newstaff. (November 27, 2012, May 13, 2014). Texas School: Judge Overturns Student's Expulsion over RFID Chip. Available:

12. M. Gasson, "ICT implants: The invasive future of identity?, " Advances in Information and Communication Technology, vol. 262, pp. 287-295, 2008.

13. K. D. Stephan, et al., "Social Implications of Technology: Past, Present, and Future, " Proceedings of the IEEE, vol. 100, pp. 1752-1781 2012.

14. R. Kumar. (2011, June 1, 2012). India's Big RFID Adoption Challenges. Available:

15. L. Radha, "Deployment of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) at Indian academic libraries: Issues and best practice. , " International Journal of Library and Information Science, vol. 3, pp. 34-37, 2011.

16. H. Saranga, et al. (2010, June 2, 2012). Scope for RFID Implementation in the Indian Auto Components Industry. Available: http://tejasiimb. org/articles/73.php

17. N. LaVigne, "An evaluability assessment of RFID use in correctional settings, " in Final report submitted to the National Institute of Justice, ed. Washington DC: USA, 2006.

18. R. Halberstadt and N. LaVigne, "Evaluating the use of radio frequency identification device (RFID) technology to prevent and investigate sexual assaults in a correctional setting, " The Prison Journal, vol. 91, pp. 227-249, 2011.

19. A. Masters and K. Michael, "Lend me your arms: The use and implications of humancentric RFID, " Electronic Commerce and Applications, vol. 6, pp. 29-39, 2007.

20. K. Albrecht and L. McIntyre, Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Purchase and Watch Your Every Move. New York: Plume, 2006.

21. A. Friggieri, et al., "The Legal Ramifications of Microchipping People in the United States of America-A State Legislative Comparison, " in IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS '09), Phoenix, Arizona, 2009.

22. G. G. Assembly. (2010, January 12, 2011). Senate Bill 235. Available: nate-5.htm

23. M. G. Michael and K. Michael, "Towards a State of Uberveillance, " IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 29, pp. 9-16, 2010.

24. S. Rodota and R. Capurro, "Opinion n020: Ethical aspects of ICT Implants in the human body, " in European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologie (EGE), ed, 2005.

25. C. Perakslis and R. Wolk, "Social acceptance of RFID as a biometric security method, " IEEE Symposium on Technology and Society Magazine, vol. 25, pp. 34-42, 2006.

26. C. Perakslis, "Consumer Willingness to Adopt RFID Implants: Do Personality Factors Play a Role in the Acceptance of Uberveillance?, " in Uberveillance and the Social Implications of Microchip Implants, M. G. Michael and K. Michael, Eds., ed Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2014, pp. 144-160.

27. A. Donoghue. (2010, March 2, 2010). CeBIT: Quarter Of Germans Happy To Have Chip Implants. Available:

28. R. Achille, et al., "Ethical Issues to consider for Microchip Implants in Humans, " Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine vol. 3, pp. 77-91, 2012.

29. S. Das. (2009, May 1, 2012). Surveillance: Big Brothers Watching. Available: http://dqindia.ciol.commakesections.asp/09042401.asp

30. M. Krepon and N. Cohn. (2011, May 1, 2012). Crises in South Asia: Trends and Potential Consequences. Available:

31. C. Jung, Psychological types. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1923 (1971).

32. M. Rothensee and S. Spiekermann, "Between Extreme Rejection and Cautious Acceptance Consumers' Reactions to RFID-Based IS in Retail, " Science Computer Review, vol. 26, pp. 75-86, 2008.

33. K. Michael and M. G. Michael, "The Future Prospects of Embedded Microchips in Humans as Unique Identifiers: The Risks versus the Rewards, " Media, Culture &Society, vol. 35, pp. 78-86, 2013.

34. WND. (October 2, 2006, May 13, 2014). Employees Get Microchip Implants. Available:

35. K. Michael, ", " in Uberveillance and the Social Implications of Microchip Implants, M. G. Michael and K. Michael, Eds., ed Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2014, pp. 133-143.

36. K. Michael, et al., "Microchip Implants for Employees in the Workplace: Findings from a Multi-Country Survey of Small Business Owners, " presented at the Surveillance and/in Everyday Life: Monitoring Pasts, Presents and Futures, University of Sydney, NSW, 2012.

37. M. N. Gasson, et al., "Human ICT Implants: Technical, Legal and Ethical Considerations, " in Information Technology and Law Series vol. 23, ed: Springer, 2012, p. 184.

38. S. O. Hansson, "Implant ethics, " Journal of Med Ethics, vol. 31, pp. 519-525, 2005.

39. K. Albrecht, "Microchip-induced tumours in laboratory rodents and dogs: A review of literature, " in Uberveillance and the Social Implications of Microchip Implants, M. G. Michael and K. Michael, Eds., ed Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2014, pp. 281-318.

Keywords: Radiofrequency identification, Implants, Educational institutions, Organizations, Access control, Australia, transponders, authorisation, microprocessor chips, organisational aspects, radiofrequency identification, institutional microchips, perceived barriers, microchips implant, transnational study, small business owners, RFID transponders, radio frequency identification transponders, employee ID, chip implants,access control, organizations, chi-square analysis, technological issues, philosophical issues, health issues, religious issues, social issues, digital divide, cultural issues, USA, RFID, radio frequency identification, implants, microchips, uberveillance, barriers, access control, employee identification, security, small business, Australia, India, UK

Citation: Christine Perakslis, Katina Michael, M. G. Michael, Robert Gable, "Perceived barriers for implanting microchips in humans", 2014 IEEE Conference on Norbert Wiener in the 21st Century (21CW), Date of Conference: 24-26 June 2014, Date Added to IEEE Xplore: 08 September 2014. DOI: 10.1109/NORBERT.2014.6893929

Location-based services (LBS) regulatory framework in Australia


Location-based services (LBS) are defined as those applications that combine the location of a mobile device associated with a given entity (individual or object) together with contextual information to offer a value-added service. LBS solutions are being deployed globally, and in some markets like Australia, without appropriate regulatory provisions in place. Recent debates in Australia have addressed the need to bridge the gap between technological developments and legal/regulatory provisions. This requires an assessment of the regulatory environment within a given social context such as Australia. The core components of such an investigation include: (a) composing a conceptual framework for analysing regulation of technologies such as LBS, one that is sensitive to public policy themes and challenges, and (b) applying this conceptual framework to the Australian setting in order to sketch and define the components of the present framework, and identify areas for improvement through a process of validation. This paper addresses these aims, demonstrating how the current regulatory framework in Australia is bound by legislation with respect to privacy, telecommunications, surveillance, and national security (that is, anti-terrorism), in addition to a set of industry guidelines for location-service providers (LSPs). The existing Australian framework, however, is lacking in its coverage and treatment of LBS and location data, and does not adequately address the themes and challenges in the defined conceptual framework.

1. Introduction

Measuring the need for LBS regulation and engaging in related dialogue requires an informed understanding of regulation and public policy in general, and of existing LBS regulatory practices and frameworks. One approach is to consider regulation in the context of government and governance (Braithwaite et al., 2007, p. 3):

Governments and governance are about providing, distributing, and regulating. Regulation can be conceived as that large subset of governance that is about steering the flow of events and behaviour, as opposed to providing and distributing.

That is, regulation is concerned with “the effects of actions, not on the actions or the means of the actions themselves” (Koops, 2006, p. 6). Various theories and approaches to regulation exist. According to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), regulatory theory (in relation to information privacy) may include principles-based and compliance- or outcomes-oriented methods (ALRC, 2008, pp. 234–40).

Public policy, on the other hand, can take on various definitions and may involve ambiguity (Bridgman and Davis, 2004, p. 3). In simple terms, public policy is “about what governments do, why, and with what consequences” (Fenna, 1998, p. 3). However, there are a variety of interpretations of the term, as summarised by Maddison and Denniss (2009, pp. 3–4) based on the work of numerous authors in the public policy sphere. Importantly, the authors state that regardless of interpretation, public policy can be viewed in one of two ways: either as “the result of authoritative choice” in which government ministers play a dominant role in decision-making, or as “the result of structured interaction” involving cooperation between players and appreciation of conflicting interests (Maddison and Denniss, 2009, p. 4). That is, regulation is a set of rules designed to govern the operation and intervention of stakeholders. This operation is often in a market setting and thus lends itself to economic analysis (Stigler, 1971). Stigler's work recognised the strong interactions of the regulated with a regulator in the implementation of regulation and its enforcement. This paper similarly argues that regulation and public policy-making processes in the technology realm rely on a process of collaboration and consultation amongst industry stakeholders. With respect to regulatory choices regarding LBS, interaction between government and industry stakeholders is necessary given that the delivery of a given solution is reliant on the involvement of a range of stakeholders such as wireless network operators and handset vendors.

For the purpose of this paper, it should be noted that regulation and public policy-related processes are complex practices that vary from one context to the next and evolve as new debates emerge whereby existing processes and regulatory mechanisms must be reassessed. This interaction is made more complex in the Australian Federal environment where the constitution determines that some aspects of LBS are legislated at a national level and some at a state level. This necessitates an appraisal of current State and Federal legislation relevant to LBS in a manner that allows the regulatory framework and existing measures to be drawn, subsequently allowing the outcomes to be employed as the basis for future work. As such, this paper aims to develop a conceptual framework detailing how to examine LBS regulation, subsequently applying the framework to the Australian case. The outcome will be a sketch of the current LBS regulatory environment in Australia and the subsequent validation of the existing regime. An aspect of Australian law that assists this inquiry is the common approach taken by the States to their legislation. This common basis with a focus on Federal law means that this paper can provide a preliminary sketch of the existing national framework.

Current literature and studies relating to the LBS regulatory environment note that suitable regulatory frameworks are essential to industry development, from the perspective of safeguarding the interests of multiple stakeholders, notably, providers and users, in addition to government entities and society as a whole. Such frameworks should ideally address the ethical dilemmas and social implications of LBS, whilst also being sensitive to the regulatory and public policy challenges associated with emerging technologies in general. Furthermore, and in light of the divergent uses of LBS, Dobson and Fischer (2003, p. 51) call for protective mechanisms that enable the “legitimate uses”, while preventing undesirable exploitation. Similarly, Smith (2006, p. 725) acknowledges the potential benefits, whilst also suggesting further legislation to safeguard personal location information. The significance of adequate regulatory provisions is two-fold. First, regulation encourages fairness and consistent rules for providers. Second, regulation functions to safeguard individuals thereby increasing their support and trust in LBS (Cuijpers and Koops, 2008, p. 881; FIDIS, 2007, p. 10).

Regardless of the potential benefits of LBS, authors such as Clarke and Wigan (2011)indicate that LBS “have far outstripped both public awareness and legal and policy attention”, a situation they claim is exceedingly risky. The consequences of lack of regulation, specifically of tracking services and control over location histories by government, organisations and interested individuals, are great in terms of privacy in particular (Barreras and Mathur, 2007, p. 177). Cho (2005) claims that while concerned individuals are advocating regulation (p. 209) others are advancing the self-regulation movement (p. 253). Determining the most suitable response is indeed a challenge, one that requires the current regulatory environment and/or framework to be mapped out. However, it has been suggested that a single approach to regulation, such as legislation or self-regulation for instance, will fail to suffice. Xu et al. (2009, p. 163) agree that a single approach to regulating privacy in particular will not account for the interests of the diverse stakeholders comprising the LBS industry. Herbert (2006, p. 437), on the other hand, recommends an elementary reassessment of the manner in which emerging technologies, such as human tracking technologies, affect privacy as the basis for initiating a suitable legal response. In fact, the same sentiments apply for any regulatory issue associated with LBS. That is, a fundamental re-evaluation of the implications of LBS, in conjunction with an understanding of the regulatory and public policy challenges that apply, is indispensable.

The following section offers an overview of the significant themes and challenges pertaining to LBS regulation thereby providing a conceptual framework for examining LBS regulation; Section 3 introduces the Australian framework by applying the conceptual framework drawn from Section 2; Section 4 summarises and validates the main components in the Australian framework, noting areas for future research and Section 5provides the concluding remarks for this paper.

2. Conceptual framework for analysing LBS regulation

It is essential that a conceptual framework for LBS regulation be built on a preliminary understanding of the regulatory and public policy challenges associated with emerging technologies such as LBS. It has been noted that regulatory challenges in the LBS domain stem from the mounting gap between technology deployment and the employment of appropriate safeguards, legal or otherwise, to govern various aspects of LBS. For instance, in relation to modern surveillance technologies, Marx (1999, p. 63)observes the increasing gap between technological potential and present measures designed to offer protection. This gap has long been attributed to a lack of response in social and political spheres (Clarke, 2001, p. 13). Relevant scholarship is generally focussed on the inability for law to reflect technological change, a perspective that Moses (2011, p. 787) feels requires adjustment, given the mutually shaping characteristics of law and technology and the belief that “[t]he law should not race ahead by anticipating technological trajectories that may never come to pass. Rather, a useful goal should be to have mechanisms in place to ensure that law is designed around the socio-technical landscape of the present or, more realistically, the recent past.”

Aside from the interaction between technology and law, the study of regulation according to Svantesson (2011, pp. 243–245), often introduces researchers to a persistent set of themes which are centred on the claims that: (a) technological development will inevitably out-pace law-making processes, (b) legal professionals possess inadequate knowledge of technology, (c) globalisation and internationalisation necessitate consideration of multiple jurisdictions, and (d) the growth potential of technology has not been realised in domains such as e-commerce. While originally recommended for the internet regulation context, Svantesson's work is utilised as the basis for this framework in that it offers a clear summary of the themes relevant to all technological domains including LBS. Importantly, Svantesson's work posits that a successful regulatory framework must be sensitive to numerous challenges specific to the regulation of emerging technologies. However, that sensitivity does not mean that regulation has to be technologically determinative. A well-designed principles-based regulatory regime can address each of these four issues.

Fig. 1 provides a summary of these challenges, which have been derived from the secondary literature sources cited in this paper, in addition to a summary of Svantesson's primary themes which directly impact on the challenges. The distinct challenges are discussed below which when combined form a conceptual framework upon which the existing Australian framework and regimes in other contexts can be validated.

Fig. 1. Conceptual framework for examining LBS regulation and the associated regulatory themes impacting on the framework.

2.1. The Australian policy and regulatory context

Regulation refers to the set of rules which apply to a specific environment. These rules might be prescriptive and enforced rigidly, or they may be set by agreement between the entities being regulated. A regulatory environment can be likened to the rules for playing a game. In a regulated industry, there may be legislation, subordinate legislation made under specific laws (confusingly, often called regulations) and a set of conventions, adopted by stakeholders, which form part of the rules. In the Australian context, the rules can be changed by: changing the legislation; changing the subordinate legislation; by ministerial determination; by regulator action; or by stakeholders changing self-regulatory or co-regulatory codes.

Any changes are complicated by the Australian convention of amending legislation much more regularly than repealing and replacing it. By convention, amending legislation is named differently to the amended act. For legislation introduced since about 1990, the intention of legislation is set out in a section of the law entitled “Objects of the Act”. This section is intended to set out the principles behind the legislative framework. In the Australian context, these principles are generally designed to be general and not technology-specific. However, subordinate legislation may be technologically determinative, even if the primary legislation is not.

2.2. Technology-specific versus technology-neutral

A primary regulatory challenge exists in determining the suitability of technology-specific versus technology-neutral legislation. A popular belief in selected literature and in the government domain is the need for inclusive legislation that is broad enough to apply to present and future technologies, ensuring that laws remain up-to-date. This is the basic premise underlying the technology-neutral approach to legislation which “appears to have three main aims: future proofing, online and offline equivalence, and encouraging the development and uptake of the regulated technology” (Reed, 2007, p. 275). This approach is often incorrectly perceived in a positive sense, disregarding the fact that “technology-neutral language” does not necessarily account for the dynamic nature of technological change (Moses, 2007, p. 270). It has been argued by Koops (2006, pp. 5–6)that the phrase technology-neutral can imply different meanings and be examined from regulatory, technological and legislative perspectives (p. 26). For a comprehensive treatment of the concept and the varying interpretations and perspectives, refer to Koops (2006) and Reed (2007). According to Australia's Privacy Commissioner with reference to the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988, technology-neutral legislation refers to the regulation of “information handling without referring to specific technologies”, granting flexibility and ensuring relevance as new technologies emerge (Pilgrim, 2010, p. 23).

It has been argued that parliaments “are using the spurring notion of ‘technology-neutral’ legislation as one excuse for inaction” (Clarke, 2003), resulting in a situation in which “[n]ew powers are granted through technological ambiguity rather than clear debate” (Escudero-Pascual and Hosein, 2004, p. 82). However, Pilgrim (2010, p. 24) contends that adopting this approach does not necessarily mean overlooking developments in technology. Other authors also insist that “legal regulation should define principles, functions and requirements, drawn from the experience (or anticipation) of using specific technologies, rather than provisions regulating the specific technologies themselves” (Székely et al., 2011, p. 183). Yet, Reed (2007, pp. 279–280) and Moses (2007, pp. 270–274) are sceptical of whether such legislation can be achieved in the drafting process as language that accounts for technology-neutrality is difficult to adequately reflect the nature of technological evolution. Even if accomplished, Hosein (2001, p. 29) claims that the approach is deceitful as it may disregard critical factors unique to certain technologies.

An alternative approach calls for technology-specific legislation, which is not without its drawbacks. Several researchers maintain that seeking technology-specificity will produce issues relating to the future applicability of legislation in that technological progress may render the law ineffectual and redundant (Koops, 2006, p. 27; Székely et al., 2011, pp. 182–183). Nonetheless, authors such as Ohm (2010) declare that there is a compelling case for technology-specific legislation. In an article titled The Argument against Technology-Neutral Surveillance Laws, Ohm explains that technology-neutral concepts are often emphatically embraced (p. 1685). This thereby prohibits the potential benefits of technology-specificity from being garnered, even though there are several flaws in technology-neutrality whereby the benefits of the approach can be offset by limitations specifically in relation to surveillance (p. 1686). However, Ohm claims that “longevity” is an advantage of technology-neutral legislation (p. 1702) but also suggests general principles that can be applied to technology-specific legislation that will address issues of redundancy and achieving a suitable degree of specificity (pp. 1702–1710). The selection of the technology-neutral versus technology-specific approach to legislation should be perceived as a choice, and technology-neutrality should not be presumed the most suitable means of regulating technology (Reed, 2007, p. 282–283; Ohm, 2010, p. 1686).

In the Australian context, the use of technology-neutral primary legislation and technologically determinative, and more frequently amended subordinate legislation, is intended to provide both options to create an optimal regulatory environment. However in the context of LBS, the optimisation function is complicated by the fact that there is no primary or subordinate legislation on LBS. As will be shown in this paper, LBS crosses a range of regulatory regimes, all of which are optimised for the principles set out in the primary legislation. As a result, the extent to which each approach applies to LBS has yet to be examined and cannot be so until the existing regulatory landscape has been defined and reviewed. LBS are positioned in a complex and multi-faceted regulatory environment with no single LBS regulatory framework.

2.3. Legislation versus self-regulation

An additional concern, particularly for industry, is exercising caution in the introduction of legal measures so as not to stifle development of particular technologies or industries. The Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) at Section 5 states that telecommunications should be regulated in a manner that promotes the greatest practicable use of industry self-regulation consistent with the objects of the Act. However, the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cth) have no such reference.

In the context of LBS, the telecommunications sector stakeholders would anticipate self-regulation as the core of the regulatory environment. On the other hand, a privacy advocate would expect a regulatory approach which is strictly rules based (legislation and subordinate legislation). This creates a potential struggle between the two forms of regulatory implementation. In the context of online privacy, Hirsch (2010, pp. 22–33)describes this struggle. Hirsch (2010, p. 3) also claims that the self-regulation has been dominant to date. Self-regulation is an ideal approach for advancing the growth of the information and communications technologies (ICT) sector (Koops, 2006, p. 9). An overview of industry self-regulation theory and literature is presented in Hemphill (2004, pp. 83–84). While self-regulation can assume many forms, Gunningham and Rees (1997, pp. 364–365) differentiate between the individual and group approaches. The first refers to autonomous regulation by an individual entity and the second to collective regulation, an example of which is industry self-regulation requiring cooperation amongst entities. According to the authors, other distinctions can also be made relative to economic versus social factors, in addition to the level of government involvement in the self-regulation process, including the degree to which self-regulation is mandated (p. 365). There is the belief that self-regulation complemented by some form of government involvement is of greater value than self-regulation alone (p. 366).

The self-regulation approach is typically favoured by industry due to its ability to facilitate and adapt to market and technological developments, and may accompany government regulation particularly in cases where gaps in the latter exist (Cleff, 2010, p. 162). The approach is frequently expressed as a fitting antidote to the limiting nature of legislative action. For example, O'Connor and Godar (2003, pp. 257–260) argue that industry self-regulation is preferable to legislation, eliminating the need for restrictive laws that hamper progress within the industry as was the case in the telemarketing arena. The researchers also state that self-regulatory measures should be developed with sensitivity to ethical concerns, otherwise they will be perceived unfavourably by consumers (O'Connor and Godar, 2003, p. 259). Only then can self-regulation demonstrate potential and be beneficial. Theoretical benefits include “speed, flexibility, sensitivity to market circumstances and lower costs”, but practically self-regulation generally falls short of these expectations (Gunningham and Rees, 1997, p. 366).

This is due to self-regulation being criticised as a means of avoiding State involvement and other forms of regulation (Gunningham and Rees, 1997, p. 370; Clarke, 2003), enabling industry to achieve its goals to the detriment of the public. Furthermore, the capacity for self-regulation to address societal concerns, such as consumer privacy, is questionable due largely to the lack of transparency, and as such the approach can merely serve as an adjunct to government regulation (Cleff, 2010, p. 162). Industry self-regulation should nonetheless be considered earnestly, although an understanding of its dimensions and known restrictions is indispensable (Gunningham and Rees, 1997, p. 405). Self-regulation and industry involvement in regulatory processes may be beneficial to consumers and other stakeholders. However, validating its value when compared with legislation requires an assessment of the level of independent oversight that exists, the manner in which self-regulation is implemented and the extent to which it complements present legislation and regulatory mechanisms.

2.4. Multiple and competing stakeholder interests

In considering the balance between rules-based regulation and self-regulation, a notable challenge emerges surrounding the importance of accounting for multiple and competing interests. That is, how the views of multiple stakeholders can be integrated without creating “regulatory capture” (see for example, Dal Bó, 2006) by the stakeholders with the greatest commercial or political power. This may theoretically be achieved by employing the co-regulatory approach to regulation. While the co-regulatory approach is an involved process that embodies countless complexities and facets (Hirsch, 2010, pp. 6–8, 41–46), and has been regarded a promising means of collaboratively managing multiple interests, it is also essential to recognise that such collaboration will involve reconciling rival perspectives. From the discussion above, it is apparent that certain entities will favour particular forms of and approaches to regulation. For example, there is often opposition from the technical and scientific communities in relation to legislation, which is typically perceived as a possible impediment to the technology development process (Székely et al. 2011, p. 183). Such communities are generally in favour of self-regulation and technology-based approaches in that they ensure industry progress is not hindered. However, these sentiments are not supported by all stakeholders. The LBS industry, with its varied value chain, consists of a wide range of stakeholders and its composition is dependent on a given LBS solution.

2.5. Flexible regulatory structures

In addition to being sensitive to varying stakeholder interests, a regulatory environment must be cognisant of the rapid and/or continual changes caused by technological innovations. This may require contemplation of flexible regulatory structures. However, it is likely that a regulatory framework would have no greater level of flexibility as a standards body dealing with the same innovations. For the purpose of this discussion, flexibility simply refers to the general need for the regulatory environment to deal with constant technological change. This is an important element as the pace of technological development and usage “raises the question whether law in general manages to keep up” (Cleff, 2010, p. 161). The level of flexibility does not require the law to “keep up”. Rather, it requires the regulatory environment to be able to flex. Nonetheless, the introduction of flexible regulatory structures capable of adapting to and incorporating developments in technology remains a challenge, one which technology-neutrality and self-regulation attempt to surmount. The introduction of adaptable structures demands a nuanced understanding of the nature of emerging technologies, and related legal and ethical challenges. Székely et al. (2011, p. 183) claim this to be an issue, given that a relatively limited number of legal experts possess such knowledge, a claim supported by Svantesson (2011, p. 244).

It is within this multi-faceted and intricate regulatory environment that the need for LBS regulation in Australia must be investigated, an environment that is characterised by diverse approaches to ICT regulation and privacy, that complicate regulatory debates associated with technologies such as LBS. The following section identifies the Australian regulatory framework for LBS, which is largely legislation-based but is supplemented by self-regulation. This is followed by the application of the conceptual framework drawn together in this section to the Australian case in order to validate the existing scheme. A sketch of the LBS regulatory framework in Australia has not yet been attempted, nor has the validity of such a framework been previously measured. This paper will consequently provide the foundations for further study into the need for LBS regulation in Australia.

3. LBS regulatory framework in Australia

Research into LBS regulation is very much context-dependent as each setting will inevitably embody a distinctive approach to regulation, based on numerous factors. This approach may involve a review of existing legal frameworks, for example, in addition to an assessment of the unique cultural, political, economic and other factors that define such regulatory frameworks. These differences demand an independent reflection of respective regulatory settings. Initially, context delineates the “structured social settings with characteristics that have evolved over time (sometimes long periods of time), and are subject to a host of causes and contingencies of purpose, place, culture, historical accident, and more” (Nissenbaum, 2010, pp. 129–130). With respect to regulation and the law, context produces challenges across jurisdictions, affecting both internationalisation of legal frameworks pertaining to LBS and interpretation of laws within specific settings. Such issues are evident in the implementation of the European legal framework for LBS, in which Member States have integrated applicable European Union Directives in alternative ways, resulting in varied coverage and distinct difficulties in the respective nations, as demonstrated in a report by the FIDIS Consortium (FIDIS, 2007).

The importance of context to regulatory and public policy discussions is not restricted to the jurisdictional issues but is also apparent in sub-contexts. For example, Marx (1999, p. 46) identifies “setting” as being of particular importance in terms of LBS usability contexts. That is, a location-monitoring solution that aids a skier in the event of an avalanche is perceived in a different light to the same device being covertly installed in an individual's vehicle. To form the foundations for a context-based investigation of LBS regulation in Australia, the Australian regulatory framework for LBS is presented in this section.

The present regime in Australia is comprised of and dominated by a collection or patch-work of federal and state-based laws that relate – albeit to varying degrees – to diverse aspects of LBS, in addition to numerous industry-based codes that seek to protect the interests of consumers and organisations. With respect to legislation, federal laws relating to privacy (Cho, 2005APF, 2007ALRC, 2008Rodrick, 2009), telecommunications(APF, 2007Nicholls and Rowland, 2007Nicholls and Rowland, 2008a,bRodrick, 2009), surveillance (APF, 2007ALRC, 2008Rodrick, 2009VLRC, 2009Attorney General's Department, 2011Michael and Clarke, 2012) and national security/anti-terrorism apply (Rix, 2007VLRC, 2009Attorney General's Department, 2011Michael and Clarke, 2013). With respect to self-regulatory schemes, industry-based guidelines such as those developed by Communications Alliance and the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) are of significance. The respective approaches are now examined in greater detail.

Author of Geographic Information Systems and the Law: Mapping the Legal Frontiers(1998) and Geographic Information Science: Mastering the Legal Issues (2005) is GIS and legal scholar, George Cho. Both of Cho's works analyse the legal implications of geographic information and related technologies. In the first book, Cho (1998, pp. 27–28)explains that an elementary appreciation of the legal and policy challenges associated with GIS requires disaggregation of the terms geographic, information, and systems to define issues within individual themes. The author claims that information (and data) are central to these challenges (p. 28) given their ability to “be beneficial or detrimental to individuals, groups and ultimately to society at large” (p. 31) and to symbolise various power relations (p. 130). The “double-edged” nature of GIS simultaneously grants access while also enabling abuse and invasion of privacy (p. 131), thus requiring a policy response that may be enacted through “education of the public, facilitation, regulation and the provision of incentives” (p. 166). In sketching the LBS regulatory framework throughout this paper and considering the available regulatory choices, it is crucial to be mindful of this “double-edged” nature of LBS, specifically that LBS applications and devices can enable constructive uses on the one hand and simultaneously facilitate less desirable uses on the other.

In Cho's second book (2005, pp. 17–18) he advances the discussion by outlining the intricacies characterising GIS-related policy development given the multitude of actors, the abundance of applications and the rise in m-commerce and geo- or g-commerce services. Providing introductory material relating to policy, law and the relationship between the latter and GIS, Cho maintains that policy challenges are of equivalent value to technical considerations associated with geographic information access, implementation and usage (p. 27). With respect to GPS, and tracking more specifically, the author asserts that policy debates are generally concerned with privacy and human rights violations (p. 44). The privacy threat is largely the effect of “the new inferences that may be obtained by correlating geographic information with personal information” (p. 211). In Australia, the privacy threat and its varying implications fall within the scope of a regulatory framework that has been described as “ad-hoc”, entailing approaches such as legislation and self-regulation that aim to safeguard personal and information privacy (p. 217). The framework is based on existing legal safeguards that aim to protect public and private sector handling of information in accordance with a collection of privacy principles (p. 257), notably, the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (see also, Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Act 2000 (Cth); Morris, 2010). For a comprehensive listing of privacy-related legislation, including state-based laws omitted from this paper, see Clarke (2010) and APF (2007).

3.1. Privacy legislation

The Privacy Act 1988 was amended in November 2012 to introduce the Australian Privacy Principles (APP). These principles come into effect in March 2014. The APPs are a single set of principles that apply to both agencies and organisations, which are together defined as APP entities. While the APPs apply to all APP entities, in some cases, they impose specific obligations that apply only to organisations or only to agencies. The APP concerning anonymity or pseudonymity (APP 2) and cross-border disclosure (APP 8) will have an impact on LBS providers. The APPs extend the existing obligations on data collection to rebalance the rights of collectors of personal information and an individual's right to privacy. There are also stricter controls on the collection and use of sensitive information.

The Office of the Australian Information Commission (OAIC) offers further information about the APPs which cover sensitive personal information handling (OAIC, n.d.). The Privacy Act 1988 defines ‘sensitive information’ as: “information or an opinion about an individual's: (i) racial or ethnic origin; or (ii) political opinions; or (iii) membership of a political association; (iv) religious beliefs or affiliations; or (v) philosophical beliefs; or (vi) membership of a professional or trade association; or (vii) membership of a trade union; or (viii) sexual preferences or practices; or (ix) criminal record; that is also personal information” (Part II, Section 6). Sensitive information can also encompass health and genetic information. In the context of the Privacy Act 1988, personal information refers to “information or an opinion (including information or an opinion forming part of a database), whether true or not, and whether recorded in a material form or not, about an individual whose identity is apparent, or can reasonably be ascertained, from the information or opinion” (Part II, Section 6).

It has been argued that the major dilemma in relation to LBS, location privacy and existing legislation is that the location of an individual may not necessarily be regarded as sensitive personal information. However, the obligations under the Privacy Act 1988 in respect to personal information under the APP are relatively onerous. It has been argued that processed LBS data presents sizeable privacy implications (Cho, 2005, p. 258).

The 2012 amendments to the Privacy Act 1988 were guided by The Australian Law Review Commission's (ALRC, 2008) report entitled For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice. This took into account submissions such as the policy statement by the Australian Privacy Foundation (APF) on “the use of positional data relating to mobile devices as a means of locating and tracking the individuals carrying them” (APF, 2011). That is, current government policy is that the privacy legislation in Australia deals with LBS-related privacy concerns at the federal level. One state, Victoria, has attempted to address these issues through human rights legislation (Michael and Clarke, 2012, pp. 4–5).

3.2. Telecommunications legislation

Location data is not, however, only subject to privacy legislation but also falls within the scope of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cth). These laws collectively deal with telecommunications content and data interception, disclosure and use. The Telecommunications Act 1997 prohibits the disclosure and use of telecommunications metadata and telecommunications content. This prohibition is clarified in section 275A to include location information and a limited exemption to this prohibition for the purpose of providing “location dependent carriage services” is given in section 291A. However, there is no immunity provided for LBS which do not have a carriage component.

Relevant to this discussion, the ALRC's report outlines the interaction between the Privacy Act 1988 and the Telecommunications Act 1997 noting that both laws aim to regulate privacy and various forms of information (ALRC, 2008). The Privacy Act relates to safeguarding personal information, while Part 13 of the Telecommunications Act “regulates the use or disclosure of information or a document” (ALRC, 2008, p. 2381). The review, questions whether both privacy regimes are required, outlining a number of differing stakeholder opinions (ALRC, 2008, pp. 2385–8). Furthermore, it concludes with the opinion that while there is observable “merit in the promulgation of telecommunications privacy regulations under the Privacy Act to regulate the handling of personal information” (ALRC, 2008, p. 2388), “both the Telecommunications Act and the Privacy Act should continue to regulate privacy in the telecommunications industry” (p. 2389), however, the exchange between the two laws requires clarification (p. 2391). It would have been feasible, if it were government policy, for the amendments to the Privacy Act that were made in 2012 to have a set of consequential amendments to other legislation such as the Telecommunications Act 1997. The absence of such an amendment implies that there is no policy imperative requiring such a change.

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, on the other hand, is intended “to protect the privacy of personal communications by generally prohibiting interception of those communications, subject to limited exceptions in which privacy is outweighed by other considerations”, and functions alongside Part 13 of the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Nicholls and Rowland, 2007, pp. 86–87). However, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 does not have the objects of the Telecommunications Act (Nicholls and Rowland, 2008a, p. 349). Significantly, the Telecommunication (Interception and Access) Act 1979 generates three regimes for intercepting telecommunications content and data. The first deals with communications metadata (including in real time), the second with stored communications, and the third is concerned with the content of communications itself (Rodrick, 2009, pp. 376–378). The regulatory framework for this legislation can be analysed by using the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) approach set out in TS 101 671. This sets out three handover interfaces that relate to (in ascending order): the relationship between the communications operator and the law enforcement agency; the request for and delivery of communications metadata; and the request for and delivery of communications content. This is depicted in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2. Interaction between communications operators and law enforcement agencies.

In Australia, there is an obligation on all communications providers (carriers and carriage service providers) to provide assistance to law enforcement agencies. Handover Interface 1 does this by legislation and by contract with law enforcement agencies in the case of the largest carriers. Handover Interface 2 is used for the delivery of communications metadata and this does not require a warrant (Rodrick, 2009, p. 384). The absence of a requirement for a warrant in Australia and merely consideration of the target's privacy expectations in the case of real-time metadata is unusual (Nicholls, 2012, p. 49). Communications content, either stored or being carried across a network is delivered over Handover Interface 3 in response to a warrant.

Relevant to LBS and this paper, it is crucial to determine the extent to which location information falls within the scope of federal telecommunications legislation, specifically the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. Of particular value is ascertaining whether location information signifies telecommunications data, in which case the implications for disclosure to and access by specific agencies is great given that such data may then be lawfully “disclosed to ASIO and law enforcement agencies without a warrant and without any independent oversight” (Rodrick, 2009, p. 391). In an article titled Regulating the Use of Telecommunications Location Data by Australian Law Enforcement AgenciesNicholls and Rowland (2008b, p. 174) argue that telecommunications data, or the metadata relevant to communications including location details, are increasingly being provided to law enforcement agencies in the absence of a warrant. The authors also note that an oversight process is lacking, a situation that is inconsistent with European and US models (Nicholls and Rowland, 2008b, p. 181).

That is, Australia “appears to be isolated in its approach of placing the power to have location metadata supplied on a prospective basis to law enforcement agencies” (Nicholls and Rowland, 2008b, p. 181). This is exceedingly problematic given that a definition of telecommunications data is non-existent in the legislation (Nicholls and Rowland, 2008b, p. 174) and that a certain degree of ambiguity is required in incorporating future technologies (p. 179). However, this is likely to result in issues whereby the agencies seeking location data are able to independently control the definition or the type of metadata requested (Nicholls and Rowland, 2008b, p. 180). Thus, agencies are lawfully able to access location data on a prospective basis. This ability for close to real-time access of location data will facilitate “live tracking” (Nicholls and Rowland, 2008b, p. 176).

As examined earlier in reference to federal privacy legislation, the (privacy) risks are intensified with increases in accuracy and greater use of mobile devices for tracking purposes, further questioning the suitability of present telecommunications legislation in Australia, especially given the capability for telecommunications data to be accessed without a warrant and devoid of an “independent oversight” process (Rodrick, 2009, p. 404). There has been a push for more rigorous safeguards, summarised succinctly by Rodrick (2009, p. 407): “In light of the fact that prospective location information is tantamount to surveillance, access to it should be procured only via a warrant, and, as is the case with the interception and stored communications regimes, in deciding whether to issue a warrant, the issuing authority should be required to have regard to the degree to which the privacy of a person would be interfered with”.

3.3. Surveillance legislation

The use of surveillance devices is generally prohibited under the laws of the states and territories in Australia. Each state and territory prohibits the use of tracking devices and then provides an exception to the prohibition for law enforcement agencies. A tracking device is usually defined to mean “any electronic device capable of determining or monitoring the location of a person or an object or the status of an object”. That is, an LBS device would generally be prohibited under state law if it was used for surveillance. However, if the person being tracked by the device was aware of the tracking then the use of the device would not be prohibited. Example LBS tracking devices could include smart phone-based location-monitoring solutions and dedicated data logging devices that may be mounted to a particular surface or wired into a vehicle.

The state-based exceptions refer to the law enforcement agencies of that state. As a result, the Surveillance Devices Act 2004(Cth) was introduced to provide a regime that permitted the use of surveillance devices (including tracking devices) across state and territory boundaries. The Surveillance Devices Act 2004 sets out the process through which warrants, emergency and tracking device authorisations can be obtained in relation to surveillance devices for law enforcement and other purposes (Attorney General's Department, 2011). Part 1, Section 6 of the act presents a number of definitions important for this article: “data surveillance device means any device or program capable of being used to record or monitor the input of information into, or the output of information from, a computer, but does not include an optical surveillance device…device includes instrument, apparatus and equipment… surveillance device means: (a) a data surveillance device, a listening device, an optical surveillance device or a tracking device; or (b) a device that is a combination of any 2 or more of the devices referred to in paragraph (a); or (c) a device of a kind prescribed by the regulations… tracking device means any electronic device capable of being used to determine or monitor the location of a person or an object or the status of an object.”

Michael and Clarke (2013) note that law enforcement agencies, in particular, may utilise LBS for personal and mass surveillance, which are often justified as means of maintaining security, despite the lack of an adequate judicial process in some cases.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) published a consultation-based report on the subject of Surveillance in Public Places (VLRC, 2010). While the report is largely state-focused, it covers many aspects relevant to this investigation and discusses limitations in current surveillance laws and the need for “modernising” existing state-based legislation (refer to Chapter 6 of the report). With specific reference to the Surveillance Devices Act 2004, the VLRC's accompanying consultation paper specifies its applicability to national security and surveillance efforts, explaining that the federal law does not seek to overrule state-based legislation (VLRC, 2009). In combination with the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979, the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 does, nevertheless, intend to “provide enforcement and national security agencies with significant investigative tools, including the ability to obtain warrants to intercept communications, obtain access to stored communications, install and use surveillance devices, and to obtain access to telecommunications data while still protecting the privacy of individuals” (Attorney General's Department, n.d.).

While the federal Surveillance Devices Act 2004 generally requires a warrant for surveillance, Sections 37–39 of the legislation indicate the conditions or circumstances under which a warrant is not required. Explicitly section 39 outlines the provisions in relation to tracking devices; that is: “(1) A law enforcement officer may, with the written permission of an appropriate authorising officer, use a tracking device without a warrant in the investigation of a relevant offence” and “(3) A law enforcement officer may, with the written permission of an appropriate authorising officer, use a tracking device without a warrant in the location and safe recovery of a child to whom a recovery order relates”. A tracking device can also be used by a law enforcement agency without a warrant if there is now requirement to enter premises or a vehicle (for example, by installing a magnetically mounted GPS device).

Additional rules relating to the authorisation also apply. For example, the authorisation must specify the period of validity, which should not exceed 90 days (section 39 (7)). It is clear that there are situations in which a location-enabled tracking device may be lawfully deployed, utilised and retrieved by certain law enforcement agencies. In cases where personal information has been collected using such surveillance devices, the Privacy Act 1988 will then apply.

3.4. National security and anti-terrorism legislation

Federal anti-terrorism laws also grant organisations, notably ASIO and the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the facility to conduct surveillance activities and gather information believed to be in the interest of national security. For example, The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (Cth) enables ASIO to gather information considered to be of value in the deterrence of an act of terrorism (Attorney General's Department, 2011). ASIO is specifically granted the ability “to obtain a warrant to detain and question persons (who do not themselves have to be suspected of terrorism offences) in order to gather intelligence related to terrorist activity” as a form of preventative measure (Rix, 2007, p. 104). The Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), grants the AFP powers relating to questioning and surveillance (VLRC, 2010, p. 21). It also covers procedures relating to court orders, detention, questioning and search, and the collection of information and documents (Rix, 2007, p. 106). The implications of these pieces of legislation in particular, and the extent to which they apply to LBS, surveillance, tracking and location information have not been sufficiently examined and remain unclear. It has previously been suggested that these laws fail to protect human rights (Rix, 2007, p. 107), and with respect to the ASIO Act, the government has “unquestioningly granted powers to national security agencies to use location technology to track citizens”, justifying surveillance as a necessary means of ensuring Australians are protected from terrorist threats (Michael and Clarke, 2012, p. 2).

3.5. Industry guidelines for location-service providers

The LBS regulatory framework in Australia is not limited to legislation, but also includes self-regulation in the form of industry guidelines. The main industry body for all telecommunications operators in Australia is Communications Alliance. Its Guideline G557:2009 Standardised Mobile Service Area and Location Indicator Register, uses a coarse LBS to identify the geographic location of calls from mobile and nomadic devices to the emergency services.

Guidelines have also been released by the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA). AMTA is “the peak industry body representing Australia's mobile telecommunications industry” (AMTA, n.d.). In 2010, AMTA released guidelines intended for location-service providers (LSP) to mitigate the threats associated with misuse of passive LBS (AMTA, 2010, p. 4), which are services that do not rely on active participation by the user once initial consent has been granted (p. 5). The guidelines were developed by AMTA's working party that comprised major stakeholders in Australia, including Nokia, Optus, Telstra and Vodafone Hutchison Australia (AMTA, 2010, p. 26), providing an example of the self-regulation approach in practice. Although AMTA's guidelines were built on the NPPs and other relevant legislation (AMTA, 2010, p. 5), by April 2013 they had not been updated to reflect the amendments to the Privacy Act. The guidelines document also encourages compliance with relevant Australian laws (AMTA, 2010, p. 17) including a selection of those identified throughout this paper.

In theory, industry guidelines are significant in that they are a form of self-regulation aimed at addressing regulatory concerns, such as the risks associated with LBS usage, without the need for legislative action. As such, they form a crucial component of the LBS regulatory framework. AMTA's guidelines represent the industry's effort to ensure consumer privacy protection and safety when utilising available LBS applications – yet they have not been amended to reflect legislative change in the privacy arena. It is noteworthy that the industry-based self-regulation approach has its critics. For instance, Cho (2005, p. 236) himself claims that while self-regulation affords flexibility to industry stakeholders and symbolises a proactive approach to privacy concerns, it may by the same token be perceived an inadequate safeguard. In the context of AMTA's guidelines, Michael and Clarke (2012, p. 5) are similarly critical of the efficacy of self-regulation, claiming that industry guidelines and codes are typically “a political tool to avoid regulation.”

4. Discussion: validating the Australian framework

4.1. Summarising and sketching the LBS regulatory framework in Australia

This paper serves to sketch the current LBS regulatory framework in Australia, identifying the components comprising the overall framework, as summarised in Fig. 3. Section 3demonstrated that the LBS regulatory framework in Australia is largely dominated by legal and industry-based regulatory approaches, in particular, commonwealth-based (federal) legislation and self-regulatory mechanisms applying across Australia. The extent to which each regulatory tool applies to LBS and location data was also covered.

Fig. 3. Components of the current LBS regulatory framework in Australia.

A number of issues inevitably emerge upon closer examination of the current LBS regulatory framework in Australia. With regards to privacy legislation, it was noted that (location) information derived from LBS solutions might or might not be personal information and is unlikely to be sensitive personal information. The Privacy Act may not cover the data. Regarding Australian telecommunications legislation, location data may not specifically be classed ‘telecommunications data’ in all circumstances. The location dependent carriage service introduces ambiguity regarding definitions. The state-based prohibition on the use of tracking devices means that the provision of LBS will require explicit permission of the users of an LBS device. This is similarly the case with respect to surveillance legislation, in which tracking devices can be deployed for surveillance purposes, and without a warrant, in specific situations as outlined in the federal legislation. The implications of this lawful but covert deployment of tracking devices are yet to be fully explored. Correspondingly, national security legislation grants increasing powers to various agencies to monitor individuals under the guise of maintaining national security and protecting the interests of Australian citizens. The legal mechanisms that apply to LBS require further review, as they fail to adequately cover various aspects relevant to LBS and location data and the laws are not necessarily consistent or matching. However, opportunities for policy implementing such a review have not been seized in recent legislative change.

Similarly, industry-based guidelines are lacking in their coverage of LBS. For example, AMTA's guidelines merely cover passive LBS or those that do not require user input once initial consent is given. This is not surprising as industry bodies self-regulate a narrow group. Self-regulation is poor at involving users and other industry representatives. Supplementary to these individual issues, it is essential at this point to validate the Australian regulatory scheme in view of the conceptual framework defined earlier in this paper, in order to identify the broad challenges that surface in examining the existing framework, summarised in Table 1.

Table 1. Validation of the LBS regulatory framework in Australia.

Challenges/considerations | Validation | Areas for improvement

Technology-specific versus technology-neutral

Australian framework is largely technology-neutral (with exception of industry guidelines) and is not LBS specific.

- Subordinate legislation and regulation could be extended to cover specifics of LBS and location data.

- This may necessitate continual review of regulatory settings as LBS solutions and underlying technologies evolve.

Legislation versus self-regulation

Existing framework draws on combined legal and industry-based approach to regulation, which allows for both government and industry involvement. However, self-regulation is a characteristic of telecommunications and not privacy legislation.

- Self-regulation is created by narrow industry groups and is lacking in its involvement of users.

- There could be closer collaboration between industry and government.

- Drawbacks of current regulation and industry-based tools identified in this paper should be addressed

Multiple and competing stakeholder interests

Government and industry have largely established the current Australian framework for LBS. However, it lacks a stronger level of collaboration and user involvement.

- Collaboration and consultation are crucial in the regulatory process to ensure stakeholder representation.

- Users, in particular, must be encouraged to participate.

- Individual stakeholders in government, industry and user segments should be identified and approached.

Flexible regulatory structures

Legislation in the present framework is not particularly flexible and does not easily cater for LBS solutions in the marketplace or any future developments. Subordinate legislation is more flexible.

- Technology-specificity is required to incorporate LBS and location data into subordinate legislation.

- Industry-based tools should be continually developed and should be adaptable to technological developments.

4.2. Validation: extent to which the existing framework is specific to LBS

When considering the technology-specific versus technology-neutral debate in light of the LBS regulatory framework in Australia, it is evident that the current framework entails largely technology-neutral elements. This suggests that the framework fails to account for the specifics of LBS in that it does not adequately account for location data. This generates a risk that concerns, unique to LBS, will be overlooked in the Australian context. Technology-neutrality creates ambiguity in definitions, as can be seen in the case of the Australian privacy and telecommunications legislation in particular. However, as Australian government policy has consistently adopted technology-neutral legislation, the focus of change needs to be on subordinate legislation and self-regulatory mechanisms. The absence of an appropriate regulatory environment for LBS is undesirable from the perspective of all stakeholders, particularly individuals. The existing framework requires further provisions for LBS and location data, and it is therefore expected that legal and industry-based regulatory mechanisms will require continual review in the present technological landscape that is dominated by constant developments in both underlying technologies and emerging (and novel) usability contexts.

4.3. Validation: value of existing legislative and self-regulatory mechanisms

The Australian regulatory framework for LBS demonstrates a combined approach to regulation, in which legal and industry-based mechanisms are concurrently implemented. It is often believed that the combined approach allows for the specifics of a given technology to be better incorporated, especially at the industry level and via self-regulatory mechanisms. The Australian initiative led by AMTA can be perceived as a move towards increased industry involvement and representation, and an attempt to avoid unnecessarily stifling the LBS industry. The concern, however, lies in the limitations of self-regulation and the consequence that the guidelines are narrow in their scope and their coverage of a wide range of LBS solutions. In terms of legislation, the specific drawbacks of existing laws have been identified, requiring a review of federal legislation to ensure their applicability to LBS and that the laws are consistent and corresponding. Furthermore, closer collaboration between government, industry and users would improve the legal and industry-based mechanisms in the current framework. That is, government and other stakeholders need to be involved in industry-based processes. This type of co-regulation reduces the negative impacts of self-regulation allowing industry to impart feedback, which informs legislative processes. Importantly, consumers have an opportunity to express ‘real-world’ concerns that would directly support both legislative and co-regulatory processes.

4.4. Validation: degree to which stakeholder interests are accounted for

While government and industry perspectives have somewhat been represented in the existing framework, further collaboration is required to account for the views of users. Furthermore, individual stakeholder types must be identified within the government, industry and user segments and collaboration of individual stakeholders must be encouraged to ensure that all interests are represented in the regulatory process. In the Australian context, collaboration and consultation with a wide range of LBS value chain stakeholders in lacking, but is essential in order to incorporate multiple and competing stakeholder interests.

4.5. Validation: level of flexibility

The Australian legislative framework does not provide a flexible regulatory structure. That is, the legislation is out-dated with respect to LBS and existing provisions do not naturally enable the absorption of new LBS solutions and features. It is suggested that a higher degree of technology-specificity is required in subordinate legislation, given the unique characteristics of LBS and location data which do not always fall within the scope of current definitions. However, this approach must be carefully constructed to ensure that the chosen regulatory mechanisms are adaptable as the technology evolves. In combination with considered co-regulatory tools and guidelines that have been developed in an objective manner, this should ensure a degree of flexibility, given that regulatory systems can adapt more quickly than legislative systems.

4.6. Future research and extending the Australian framework

This paper has set the groundwork for understanding the nature and extent of the LBS regulatory framework in Australia by sketching the components of the existing scheme and defining the extent to which the respective elements apply at the federal level. It has additionally set out the regulatory and public policy context within which the framework exists and the challenges that demand a certain degree of sensitivity by presenting a conceptual framework for analysing LBS regulation. It is recommended that future studies: (a) utilise the conceptual framework as a means of measuring the validity of a given regulatory framework in a specific setting, and (b) employ the defined Australian framework as the basis for examining the need for LBS regulation in Australia and understanding the manner in which LBS regulation should be implemented.

The Australian framework presented in this paper can be further extended as part of future work. Explicit areas for prospective research include: (a) broadening the scope of the framework to account for state-based legislation and additional industry-based mechanisms, (b) encouraging a greater focus on cross-cultural comparisons by comparing the Australian case with other, more mature examples such as the European data protection regime for LBS, (c) consulting with relevant stakeholders regarding the applicability and adequacy of the Australian framework and existing regulatory measures and contrasting the results with the outcomes of the validation process presented in this paper, and (d) improving the framework based on the suggested areas for improvement.

5. Conclusion

The focus of this paper was on developing a conceptual framework for analysing LBS regulation, presenting the components of the existing Australian framework and subsequently engaging in a process of validation. The validation process indicated that the LBS regulatory framework in Australia should: (i) account more specifically for LBS and location data, (ii) better incorporate legislative, self-regulatory and co-regulatory mechanisms, (iii) encourage a higher degree of collaboration with stakeholders in the LBS value chain, and (iv) encompass a higher degree of flexibility to ensure technological developments are integrated. The benefits to be garnered from this exercise include an accurate and detailed understanding of the current framework in Australia which has allowed areas for improvement to be identified. The ensuing outcomes can be used as the basis for future research in the LBS regulation field and provide a useful starting point for determining the need for LBS regulation in Australia.


The authors wish to acknowledge the funding support of the Australian Research Council (ARC) – Discovery Grant DP0881191 titled “Toward the Regulation of the Location-Based Services Industry: Influencing Australian Government Telecommunications Policy.” The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the ARC.


ALRC, For your information: Australian privacy law and practice, (2008), (ALRC report 108). 12 January 2012,

AMTA, AMTA guidelines, 24 April 2012, (2010)

About AMTA; n.d. 21 February 2012.

APF, Privacy laws – Commonwealth of Australia, 20 February 2012, (2007)

APF, Location and tracking of individuals through their mobile devices, 20 February 2012, (2011)

Attorney General's Department, Australian laws to combat terrorism, 20 February 2012, (2011)

Attorney General's Department. Telecommunications interception and surveillance; n.d., 20 January 2012.

A. Barreras, A. Mathur, Wireless location tracking, [chapter 18], K.R. Larsen, Z.A. Voronovich (Eds.), Convenient or invasive: the information age, Ethica Publishing, United States (2007), pp. 176-186

J. Braithwaite, C. Coglianese, D. Levi-FaurCan regulation and governance make a difference? Regulation & Governance, 1 (2007), pp. 1-7

P. Bridgman, G. Davis, The Australian policy handbook, (3rd ed.), Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW (2004), 198 p.

G. Cho, Geographic information systems and the law: Mapping the legal frontiers, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, West Sussex (1998), 337 p.

G. Cho, Geographic information science: mastering the legal issues, John Wiley & Sons Inc, Hoboken, NJ (2005), 440 p.

R. Clarke, While you were sleeping… surveillance technologies arrived, Australian Quarterly, 73 (1) (2001), pp. 10-14

R. Clarke, Privacy on the move: the impacts of mobile technologies on consumers and citizens, (2003)

R. Clarke, PAIs in Australia – a work-in-progress report, (2010)

R. Clarke, M. Wigan, You are where you've been: the privacy implications of location and tracking technologies, (2011)

E.B. Cleff, Effective approaches to regulate mobile advertising: moving towards a coordinated legal, self-regulatory and technical response, Computer Law & Security Review, 26 (2010) (2010), pp. 158-169

C. Cuijpers, B.J. Koops, How fragmentation in European law undermines consumer protection: the case of location-based services, European Law Review, 33 (2008), pp. 880-897

E. Dal Bó, Regulatory capture: a review, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 22 (2006), pp. 203-225

J.E. Dobson, P.F. Fisher, Geoslavery, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 22 (1) (2003), pp. 47-52

A. Escudero-Pascual, I. Hosein, Questioning lawful access to traffic data, Communications of the ACM, 47 (3) (2004), pp. 77-83

A. Fenna, Introduction to Australian public policy, Addison Wesley Longman Australia Pty Limited, South Melbourne, Australia (1998), 454 p.

FIDISD, 11.5: the legal framework for location-based services in Europe, (2007)

N. Gunningham, J. Rees, Industry self-regulation: an institutional perspective, Law & Policy, 19 (4) (1997), pp. 363-414

T.A. Hemphill, Monitoring global corporate citizenship: industry self-regulation at a crossroads, The Journal of Corporate Citizenship, 14 (Summer 2004) (2004), pp. 81-95

W. Herbert, No direction home: will the law keep pace with human tracking technology to protect individual privacy and stop geoslavery?, I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy, 2 (2) (2006), pp. 409-473

D.D. Hirsch, The law and policy of online privacy: regulation, self-regulation, or co-regulation? (2010), p. 1–62,

I. Hosein, The collision of regulatory convergence and divergence: updating policies of surveillance and information technology, The Southern African Journal of Information and Communication, 2 (1) (2001), pp. 18-33

B.J. Koops, Should ICT regulation be technology-neutral? [chapter 4], B.J. Koops, M. Lips, C. Prins, M. Schellekens (Eds.), Starting points for ICT regulation. Deconstructing prevalent policy one-liners, IT & law series, vol. 9, T.M.C. Asser Press, The Hague (2006), pp. 1-28, (online version). p. 77–108 (original version),

S. Maddison, R. Denniss, An introduction to Australian public policy: theory and practice, Cambridge University Press, Port Melbourne, Victoria (2009), 281 p.

G.T. Marx, Ethics for the new surveillance, [chapter 2], C.J. Bennett, R. Grant (Eds.), Visions of privacy: policy choices for the digital age, University of Toronto Press, Toronto (1999), pp. 37-67

K. Michael, R. Clarke, Location privacy under dire threat as uberveillance stalks the streets, Precedent (Focus on Privacy/FOI), 108 (2012), pp. 1-8, (online version) & 24–9 (original article),

K. Michael, R. Clarke, Location and tracking of mobile devices: uberveillance stalks the streets, Computer Law and Security Review, 29 (2) (2013),

J.B. Morris, The privacy implications of commercial location-based services, Testimony before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection and Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet: 1–15, (2010)

L.B. Moses, Recurring dilemmas: the law's race to keep up with technological change, Journal of Law, Technology and Policy, 2007 (2) (2007), pp. 239-285

L.B. Moses, Agents of change: how the law ‘copes’ with technological change, Griffith Law Review, 20 (4) (2011), pp. 763-794

R. Nicholls, Right to privacy: telephone interception and access in Australia, Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE, 31 (2012), pp. 42-49

R. Nicholls, M. Rowland, Regulating the use of telecommunications location data by Australian law enforcement agencies, Criminal Law Journal, 32 (2008), pp. 343-350

R. Nicholls, M. Rowland, Message in a bottle: stored communications interception as practised in Australia, [chapter 7], K. Michael, M.G. Michael (Eds.), The second workshop on the social implications of national security (from Dataveillance to Uberveillance and the Realpolitik of the Transparent Society), University of Wollongong, IP Location-Based Services Research Program (Faculty of Informatics) and Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention (Faculty of Law), Wollongong, Australia (2007), pp. 83-96

Nicholls and Rowland, 2008b, R. Nicholls, M. RowlandRegulating the use of telecommunications location data by Australian law enforcement agencies, [chapter 14], K. Michael, M.G. Michael (Eds.), The third workshop on the social implications of national security (Australia and the New Technologies: Evidence Based Policy in Public Administration), University of Wollongong, IP Location-Based Services Research Program (Faculty of Informatics), Wollongong, Australia (2008), pp. 173-184

H. Nissenbaum, Privacy in context: technology, policy, and the integrity of social life, Stanford Law Books, Stanford, California (2010), 288 p.

P.J. O'Connor, S.H. Godar, We know where you are: the ethics of LBS advertising, [chapter Xiii], B.E. Mennecke, T.J. Strader (Eds.), Mobile commerce: technology, theory and applications, Idea Group Publishing, Hershey, US (2003), pp. 245-261

OAIC. Privacy Act; n.d. 20 February 2012.

P. Ohm, The argument against technology-neutral surveillance laws, Texas Law Review, 88 (2010) (2010), pp. 1685-1713

T. Pilgrim, Speech to biometrics institute privacy in Australia: challenges and opportunities, 27 May 2010, Amora Hotel Jamison, Sydney. p. 1–29, (2010)

Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). Commonwealth of Australia; 2 February, 2012.

Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Act 2000 (Cth), Privacy Amendment (Private Sector) Act 2000 (Cth). Commonwealth of Australia; 2 February 2012.

C. Reed, Taking sides on technology neutrality, SCRIPT-ed, 4 (3) (2007), pp. 263-284

M. Rix, Australia and the ‘war against terrorism’: terrorism, national security and human rights, [chapter 8], K. Michael, M.G. Michael (Eds.), The second workshop on the social implications of national security (from Dataveillance to Uberveillance and the Realpolitik of the Transparent Society), University of Wollongong, IP Location-Based Services Research Program (Faculty of Informatics) and Centre for Transnational Crime Prevention (Faculty of Law), Wollongong, Australia (2007), pp. 97-112

S. Rodrick, Accessing telecommunications data for national security and law enforcement purposes, Federal Law Review, 37 (2009), pp. 375-415

G.D. Smith, Private eyes are watching you: with the implementation of the E-911 mandate, who will watch every move you make? Federal Communications Law Journal, 58 (2006), pp. 705-726

G.J. Stigler, The theory of economic regulation, The Bell Journal of Economics and Management Science, 2 (1971), pp. 3-21

Surveillance Devices Act 2004 (Cth). Commonwealth of Australia; 2 February 2012.

D. Svantesson, A legal method for solving issues of internet regulation, International Journal of Law and Information Technology, 19 (3) (2011), pp. 243-263

I. Székely, M.D. Szabó, B. Vissy, Regulating the future? Law, ethics, and emerging technologies, Journal of Information, Communication & Ethics in Society, 9 (3) (2011), pp. 180-194

Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cth). Commonwealth of Australia; 2 February 2012.

(Cth)Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth). Commonwealth of Australia; 2 February 2012.

The ASIO Legislation Amendment Act 2003 (Cth). Commonwealth of Australia; 2 February 2012.

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 (Cth). Commonwealth of Australia; 2 February 2012.

VLRC, Surveillance in public places consultation paper, Victorian Law Reform Commission, Melbourne (2009),

VLRC Surveillance in public places, Final report 18, Victorian Law Reform Commission, Melbourne (2010),

H. Xu, H.H. Teo, B.Y.C. Tan, R. Agarwal, The role of push–pull technology in privacy calculus: the case of location-based services, Journal of Management Information Systems, 26 (3) (2009), pp. 135-173

Keywords: Location-based services, Regulation, Legislation, Law, Self-regulation, Co-regulation, Industry guidelines, Privacy, Australia

Citation: Roba Abbas, Katina Michael, M.G. Michael, Rob Nicholls, Sketching and validating the location-based services (LBS) regulatory framework in Australia, Computer Law & Security Review, Vol. 29, No. 5, October 2013, pp. 576-589, DOI:

Toward the regulation of ubiquitous mobile government


Mobile alerts, notifications and location-based emergency warning systems are now an established part of mobile government strategies in an increasing number of countries worldwide. In Australia the national emergency warning system (NEWS) was instituted after the tragic Black Saturday Victorian Bushfires of February 2009. NEWS has enabled the provision of public information from the government to the citizen during emergencies anywhere and any time. Moving on from traditional short message service (SMS) notifications and cell broadcasting to more advanced location-based services, this paper explores the major issues faced by government, business and society at large, toward the realization of a fully fledged emergency system for personal mobile devices. This qualitative study contains two phases: phase 1 gathered issues from the general public via an open-ended survey question, and phase 2 gathered issues from key informant interviews. The data was analyzed using qualitative content analysis techniques. The results are presented in a narrative form granting detailed insight into the main challenges faced in the deployment of a mobile government application. The complex interplay between government agencies, telecommunications carriers and the Australian public is presented, ultimately leading down a path of regulation. By using a qualitative approach it is hoped that the intimate lessons learnt in the Australian landscape can be applied to other nations considering mobile government applications. The outcome of the paper is predominantly practical providing a series of recommendations toward the successful deployment of mobile government applications.

1 Introduction

On February 7, 2009, the Black Saturday Victorian Bushfires claimed 173 lives, the worst peace-time disaster in Australia’s history. Citizenry looked on in disbelief that in such a modern society equipped with advanced technologies, so many lives were lost and a multitude more people injured given the force of the 400 raging fires. The Australian federal government responded swiftly to the tragedy by enacting an emergency declaration as an amendment to the Privacy Act 1988 on February 11, 2009. The emergency declaration now means that some government agencies, and emergency service organizations (ESOs), have access to Australia-wide consumer telecommunications details in the likely event of an emergency or during an actual emergency. Maintained by one commercial operator, the integrated public number database (IPND) is an industry-wide, commonwealth-owned database that contains all the residential and business telephone numbers, both listed and unlisted, and other subscriber information such as name, address, and the type of service delivered by each number (i.e. landline, fax, mobile, pager, etc.). During an emergency the IPND may be accessed by more than one commercial entity to assist citizens.

The Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission (VBRC) commenced on February 16, 2009 and about five months into the proceedings, the Government released a tender document to Australia’s telecommunications carriers for the supply of ubiquitous mobile technologies, infrastructure and applications that could be used during emergencies. The National Emergency Warning System (NEWS) tender was released on July 15, 2009 and following this, the request for information (RFI) for Location Based Identification of Active Mobile Handsets for Emergency Notification Purposes (phase II of NEWS) was issued on August 5, 2009. Telstra, Australia’s largest telecommunications carrier was awarded the contract on September 24, 2009. The NEWS applications have the ability to deliver personalized information direct to the mobile phone subscriber during an emergency, providing both warning notifications and alerts and specific directions, complementing traditional broadcasting mediums like radio and television. Despite the call for the deployment of ubiquitous mobile government applications in the Australian emergency management sector since as early as 2005, it took the tragic loss of life in Victoria for the Federal and State governments to make a decision to go forward with a homogeneous national emergency warning system (NEWS) with location-based features entering in phase II of deployment.

Only than two months before the Black Saturday Victorian Bushfires, the authors began to collect qualitative data on the potential deployment of location-based services in emergency management in Australia by calling on key informants to share their experiences and insights about the future prospects of location-based emergency warnings. On November 25, 2008 an in depth semi-structured interview was conducted with an official from the Victorian State Government. It was quickly realized that no matter how innovative the business model, that the complexity of a national emergency warning system with location-based service capabilities meant that operational and non-operational stakeholders would have to work together closely toward a long-term mobile solution that could be utilized by relevant government authorities to communicate with people in affected zones of natural and human-made hazards. The government official interviewed described the need for a ubiquitous emergency warning system with a degree of urgency that was to play out in that summer. So what went wrong, especially when the need for such a system was evident? Why did it take so long for such a mobile government application to be deployed? What were the barriers that needed to be overcome for such a practical solution to be instituted? The interplay between government agencies, telecommunications carriers and supporting value chain members, and the Australian people would ultimately lead down a path of regulation. This paper explores the most important issues faced by government, business and society at large, toward the realization of a fully fledged location-based emergency warning system for personal mobile devices. By using a qualitative approach it is hoped that the lessons learnt in the Australian landscape can be applied to other nations as a foundation model towards deployment of mobile government applications in related contexts.

This paper is divided into five sections. Section 1 describes the methodology that was adopted, the main sources of data, and how data was collected and analyzed. Section 2 describes the need for location-based emergency warnings and Sect. 3 describes the legislative impact of these services being utilized and liability related issues such as responsibility and accountability with respect to the government itself and telecommunications carriers. Section 4 is about the prospective barriers facing governments and carriers who wish to roll out a national emergency warning system and the fifth and final section provides recommendations toward successful deployment.

2 Methodology

2.1 Case study: Australia’s National Emergency Warning System

A case study of mobile government applications in the context of emergency management was conducted in Australia with a focus on the utilization of location-based services for emergency warning and notification systems. Figure 1 depicts a timeline of important events leading up to the deployment of NEWS. The study was conducted between 2008 and 2009 and captures sentiment in Australia both before and after the Black Saturday Victorian Bushfires. Data for this case study was collected in a two phased approach.

Fig. 1 Australia’s Path toward a National Emergency Warning System: a timeline of events

2.2 Phase 1: open-ended survey question to general public

In Phase 1, a ten page questionnaire which contained a single open-ended question was administered in 2008 to the general public providing an opportunity for written responses which were digitized, collated into a database and then analyzed.

The primary goal of the open-ended question technique was to understand the issues pertaining to the utilization of the location-based emergency service as perceived by the general public. This technique is particularly useful when there is a need to start with a broader exploration of a little-known phenomenon [1]. The comments included personal opinions, remarks, concerns and real life experiences that about 60 of the 300 respondents were willing to share.

2.3 Phase 2: operational and non-operational stakeholder interviewees

In Phase 2, nine full-length semi-structured interviews were conducted with key informants who were members of operational and non-operational stakeholder entities and highly regarded within the Australian landscape of mobile government for emergency management. The interviews were transcribed, edited, and qualitatively analyzed. The use of qualitative methods, such as interviews, has been suggested for exploratory research when little is known about the area of study and when there is a need to identify unanticipated or new issues [2, 3]. Independent experts with a wealth of knowledge and expertise, officials from Australian emergency service organizations, policy makers from Australian government departments pertinent to emergency management arrangements and policies, and representatives from the Australian mobile telecommunications industry were approached to participate in the study. The main criterion for approaching each potential interviewee was their expertise. Several government departments and organizations related to emergency management were also approached. The intention was to end up with a good cross section of diverse profiles in the location-based services (LBS) value chain that could give a holistic view of Australia’s national emergency warning system.

2.3.1 Description of key informants

Nine interviews were conducted with key informants coming from both operational and non-operational stakeholders. Interviewee 1 [Vic-Gov] was a member of the Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner in the Department of Justice in the state of Victoria. The Office provides leadership in emergency management for Victoria, with specific responsibility for ensuring the delivery of efficient, equitable and integrated emergency services. The Office oversees more effective utilization of the common resources of the emergency services and encouraging and facilitating cooperation between all agencies before, during and after an emergency [4]. It is important to note that this interview took place only a few months prior to Black Saturday Bushfires in Victoria. Interviewee 2 [expert A] is an independent expert with more than 40 years of experience over several domains including teaching in emergency management and being an emergency service officer with the State Emergency Services (SES). Interviewee 3 [SES] is employed by the State Emergency Service in New South Wales. The SES is an emergency and rescue service dedicated to assisting the community in times of crisis. It is made up almost entirely of volunteers, with 226 units located throughout the state of New South Wales (NSW) alone. Its main responsibilities are for flood and storm operations [5]. Interviewee 4, [Whispir-Rep] was a representative of the Whispir company, an Australian company providing a high availability messaging platform that enables the instant and automatic invocation of communications across web, email, SMS and voice channels, from any location including from a mobile handset [6]. Interviewee 5 [expert B] is an independent consultant from the Australian Capital Territory. He is a well-known consultant who has a professional background working as an advisor on large-scale systems for the Australian Government including the formulation of national internet ICT polices.

Interviewee 6 [expert C] is an independent expert from the state of New South Wales with a telecommunications engineering career spanning more than 30 years. His work has contributed to the development of service creation environments for Intelligent Networks (IN) with British Telecom Research Laboratories, and later with Telstra. He has also worked on several worldwide projects developing a range of solutions with a focus on wireless IN services and the development of various cellular location systems for emergency and commercial services. In addition, he was amongst the scientists who were responsible for shaping, initiating and launching E911 in the United States. Interviewee 7 [expert D] is an independent expert from the state of Queensland. His current work involves the development of new innovative technologies. He has extensive experience in Research and Development (R&D) of internet and mobile technologies. He has research interests in emergency messaging standards, new technologies and applications for emergency messaging and national emergency warning systems. Interviewee 8 [expert E] is a consultant who works for a large law firm in Australia. He is a communications specialist with more than 25 years of experience in technology, regulatory and business strategy in telecommunications and broadcasting. He has been involved with a number of significant commercial regulatory projects in the telecommunications sector in Australia and abroad. He has provided advice to Telstra, Bell Canada, the GSM Association, State and Federal Government and international organizations such as the World Bank. The final interviewee is a representative from the Redcoal Company. Redcoal is Australia’s leading SMS messaging and mobile phone tracking solutions provider, delivering services across different industry sectors and government. Redcoal’s SMS and mobile phone tracking solutions are rebranded and resold by the Optus Network. The Optus operator is the second largest telecommunications carrier and information services company in Australia [7]. A summary of the nine interviews and their background is presented in Table 1.

Table 1 List of interviewees used in the data collection phase

ID Interviewee/ Pseudonym Full title Interview date

1 Vic-Gov The Department of Justice—Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner (The State of Victoria)* Nov 25, 2008

2 Expert A Independent expert (The State of New South Wales) July 13, 2009

3 SES State Emergency Services (The State of New South Wales)* Aug 4, 2009

4 Whispir-Rep A representative from the Whispir Company (The State of Victoria)* Aug 12, 2009

5 Expert B Independent expert (The Australian Capital Territory) Aug 28, 2009

6 Expert C Independent expert (The State of New South Wales) Sept 23, 2009

7 Expert D Independent expert (The State of Queensland) Sept 29, 2009

8 Expert E Independent expert (The State of Queensland) Oct 14, 2009

9 Redcoal-Rep A representative from the Redcoal Company (The State of New South Wales)* Oct 22, 2009 *Views obtained here are those of the representatives and are not necessarily expressing those of their respective offices, departments or companies

2.4 The qualitative analysis strategy

Qualitative analysis refers to the process that requires the identification of recurring ideas, patterns of beliefs and salient themes from collected data and the attempt to demonstrate support for them [8]. Patton [9] defines qualitative analysis as the challenging process of transforming data into findings, but more importantly, for it to make sense. Patton described the transformation process as “reducing the volume of raw information, sifting trivia from significance, identifying significant patterns and constructing a framework for communicating the essence of what the data reveal” [9]. Similarly, Marshall and Rossman [1] regard qualitative analysis as the process of bringing structure and meaning to the mass of the collected data, and accordingly, postulate that the best approach to the analysis of the data is “reading, reading, and reading once more through the data, forcing the researcher to become familiar with those data in intimate ways. People, events, and quotes sift constantly through the researcher’s mind” [1]. However, in order to guide the qualitative analysis to ensure validity in the presentation of results, the transcribed interviews were parsed together through an automated content analysis tool. Figure 2 shows the main themes as determined by the Leximancer tool [10] after several interactive manual interventions to: (i) clean the auto-generated thesaurus list of words (e.g. singular vs. plural, merging synonyms or like terms, and the merging together of words into short phrases like “location based services”); (ii) delete irrelevant terms that may have been used frequently but in essence detracted from the main themes of the study (e.g. “should”, “think”); (iii) add words to the visual concept map from the auto-generated thesaurus that were considered significant in meaning by the researchers but may not have featured in the most highly ranked concepts; and (iv) consider at which level of granularity to view the concept map to best understand the inner forces at play between the major actors in the network. These themes were used to provide core issues that were explored in the narrative thematically. Issues raised in the open-ended response in the survey were manually grouped into themes and supporting literature found to validate their inclusion in the narrative (Table 2).

2.4.1 Interactive model of analysis

In Miles and Huberman’s [8] interactive model of analysis, the qualitative analysis is an iterative step that consists of a set of activities, including data collection, data reduction, data display and conclusion drawing. The textual data of the interviews went through preparation processes to make it ready for the analysis. The audio-recorded interviews were transcribed verbatim and each transcription was kept in a separate word document for easy reference. The hand-written interview notes, which were taken by the researchers themselves in each interview, were used as an additional source of information. In a similar fashion, all the comments from the open-ended survey question were typed and then aggregated and kept in one document, as all comments represented the perspective of a single distinct stakeholder of the locationbased mobile phone emergency service (i.e. the prospective user of the service). Initial data coding, including preliminary data reduction processes were performed to prepare the data for analysis. Developing concepts is regarded a way of data reduction [25] and enlisting the support of Leximancer was very helpful in reducing the volume of interview data to displaying correlated concepts into more focused themes.

Fig. 2 Leximancer concept map showing important issues forthcoming from interviews. The larger the concept the greater its importance to the study

Displaying data is one of the major ways to validate the qualitative analysis [8]. This activity is concerned with organizing, compressing and assembling information into a more readable format from the data’s voluminous, bulky and dispersed original state [25]. The qualitative data can be displayed in different forms such as charts, diagrams or concept maps. The aim of the final stage which is drawing and verifying conclusions is required to generate a meaningful and coherent picture of the data [25]. Miles and Huberman [8] noted that conclusions take place, more or less, concurrently with other stages in the content analysis and can be discerned early in the analysis, although at that time they are vague and not truly developed. In all cases, drawing conclusions is typically regarded the most difficult stage to perform amongst all the stages of the analysis since it involves developing propositions, verifying these propositions, drawing solid conclusions and confirming the obtained findings [8, 25].

3 The need to introduce location-based emergency services in Australia

Australia’s future need to utilize the location-based mobile phone service within its national emergency warning system fundamentally stems from the practical characteristics of the service, which complement other channels of safety information. As stipulated by Expert A, the broadcast media do a very good job of communicating emergency information to the public but there is no guarantee that information is received by individual persons, especially if they have no desire to keep informed at any given time period. Expert C pointed out that everybody does not listen to the radio. The Black Saturday Victorian Bushfires, more than any other single event in Australia’s modern history can be used to illustrate the need for advanced communication services. As Expert A reflected, Australians questioned where the notifications were and why so many people had to die: “[t]he notifications were being [sent] out in the normal fashion by radio, television, but because people were outside, it [did] not necessarily mean that they tuned in to those radio stations, or the television ...” It took the deaths of 173 Australians during a tragic event for the government to consider more innovative ways to communicate with the community before, after and during an event. There is now an “expectation by the community to be informed [in a] timely [fashion], rather than in a haphazard way” (Expert A). One way forward is to make use of the mobile phone, available technology already in the hands of the majority of Australian adults, which can provide crucial emergency information dependent on where the mobile phone is located. While you cannot guarantee that people will receive time-critical information via their mobile phone (e.g. it may be turned off), at least authorities are making “use of available technology to reduce the likelihood of people not knowing and increasing the likelihood of them being informed” (Expert A).

Other interviewees also acknowledged the shortcomings of the current information warning channels in Australia and the need to utilize location-based public warning notifications. Expert D was categorical in his assessment: “I definitely think we do need location-based warnings. There is no doubt about that.” While making use of landline billing address details for emergency notifications was one possible way forward using the legacy Integrated Public Number Database (IPND), Expert D preferred a warning system that could detect people roaming and provide customized location-based information. Vic-Gov also noted that they ultimately wanted a system that could be deployed during the largest and most troubling types of emergencies.


Table 2 Public acceptance issues raised in the questionnaire and supported by literature

Factor identified in open-ended response

Academic description

Sourced in the literature

Attitude. The individual positive or negative feelings toward using the location-based emergency service. Fishbein and Ajzen [11] Behavioral intention The individual decision to engage or not to engage in using the location-based emergency service. Fishbein and Ajzen [11] Trust The belief that allows a potential user of the location-based emergency service to willingly become vulnerable to the use-case outcome of the service, having taken the characteristics of the service into consideration, irrespective of the ability to monitor or control the service or the service provider. Mayer et al. [12], McKnight and Chervany [13] Perceived risks The individual belief of the potential loss and the adverse consequences of using the location-based emergency service, and the probability that these consequences may occur if the service is used. Pavlou and Gefen [14], Heijden et al. [15] Perceived usefulness The individual perception that using the location-based emergency service is useful. Davis et al. [16] Perceived ease of use The degree to which the prospective user expects the location-based emergency service to be free of effort in terms of usage. Davis et al. [16] Visibility The extent to which the actual use of the location-based mobile phone emergency service is observed to its potential user. Agarwal and Prasad [17] Perceived service quality The individual global judgment relating to the superiority of the location-based emergency service. Parasuraman et al. [18] Perceived currency The prospective user perception of receiving up-to-the-minute service information during emergencies. Zeithaml et al. [19], Yang et al. [20] Perceived accuracy The prospective user perception about the conformity of the location-based emergency service with its actual attributes of content, location, and timing. Zeithaml et al. [19], Yang et al. [20] Perceived responsiveness The prospective user perception of receiving a prompt service in the case of an emergency. Parasuraman et al. [18], Liljander et al. [21], Yang et al. [20] Privacy concerns as perceived by the prospective user The individual concerns regarding the level of control by others over personal identifiable information. Stone et al. [22] Collection The concern that extensive amounts of location information or other personal identifiable data will be collected when using the location-based emergency service. Smith et al. [23], Junglas and Spitzmuller [24] Unauthorized use The concern that the location-based emergency service information is collected for emergency purposes but will be used for other purposes without explicit consent from the individual. Smith et al. [23], Junglas and Spitzmuller [24]


Three months prior to the Victorian Bushfires, a Vic-Gov representative contacted the authors, desperately seeking to put in place a system that could be used to notify individuals anywhere they were during large-scale emergencies in order to save more lives. For Vic-Gov, traditional forms of media were passive. From their assessment of a range of technologies that were nationally consistent, Vic-Gov was convinced by the power of the mobile phone and especially its ubiquity, not requiring an individual to be anchored anywhere to receive the given information. Vic-Gov stated: “People have, invariably, got their mobile phones with them. Usually, they are turned on. And so, if that individual with an active handset is within an area that has been affected by something there is a very high likelihood that we will get a message to them, informing them that we know that they are in the area and we can point them to other sources of information. So, they do not need to be anchored to anything. It is the closest [thing] to somebody’s eyes and ears.” For the State Emergency Services (SES) the location-based mobile phone service can be considered yet another telephony-based channel to get a message to the public. SES highlighted the potential of the mobile phone to get people’s attention, especially if a disaster was to hit late at night when people were asleep.

Written comments from the survey respondents also reflected the community’s expectation toward the introduction of the location-based mobile phone emergency service in Australia in the near future. For the greater part comments focused around the need to have the location of an emergency caller automatically identified and tracked. One respondent noted that when calling emergency services 15–30 seconds “are wasted in providing the patient/caller location/address. It would be a great time/life saver technique if LBS is properly implemented by service providers as the police, hospitals and car-service providers as NRMA.” Numerous respondents thought that implementing such capability would be a good idea, practical, and very beneficial given Australia’s history of natural disasters. Some were even prepared to subscribe to such a service for up-to-the-minute information. Beyond the obvious advantages of location-based notifications via mobile phones, there is one segment of the community that would particularly benefit from the introduction of such warning systems. Vic-Gov noted that such a system would be highly beneficial to the profoundly deaf and hearing impaired which affect one in six Australians: “[i]f these people were in an area where they had been affected, they would receive a text message ... So, by default, I guess, we have addressed a section of the population who struggle to receive [comprehensible] notifications ...” Expert A showed his disappointment at the lack of urgency shown by some stakeholders, especially government, when he said: “[i]t is about time we had these systems in place. We see money being wasted in a lot of areas that are not as important as providing safety to our communities. And for a long, long time, disaster management and all those type of activities have not been at the forefront of government action. They tend to wait until after something happens.” The Redcoal-Rep echoed similar sentiments when he noted that it generally takes tragedies for a reaction to come from government, and only then when it is a vote winning issue.

4 Legislative grounds for location-based emergency systems

The introduction of a comprehensive legislative framework which would regulate the utilization of location-based mobile phone emergency services was a recurring theme which emerged from the expert interviews. In Australia at least, it was found that without a legislative framework in place the introduction of a location-enabled emergency system would be somewhat unlikely. The lag between the introduction of new enabling technology and the establishment of legislation to support that technology’s capabilities can be stifling to the development of any new product or process. SES identified the government as lagging behind in clearly providing protection around the governance and use of location-based emergency notifications to all Australians. The emphasis is on the deployment of “blanket coverage” technology which is where the government needs to get started on legislating, according to the SES. But rather than the view that legislation comes first, and then the technology can be rolled out, in this particular mobile government case study society is evolving hand-in-hand with the technology. “Location-based services can be protected by legislation and need to be protected by legislation... You have to evolve your legal framework along with the technological underpinnings of the society it involves” (Expert C).

One suggestion by Expert C was to draft legislation associated with the emergency warning system under Emergency Management Australia, via consultations through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). “Whether it is an emergency warning system under a federal agency’s control or whether it is a social networking site under a commercial operator’s control, those entities, to the extent that they are governed by our jurisdiction’s legislation, should be constrained in terms of what they can do with that location information” (Expert C). And it is here that location-based emergency warnings differ from traditional carrier-based LBS solutions. In the government context, we are not referring to a subset of consumers who opt-in to using a paid subscriber service but to all people who may be in an affected zone, including citizens and non-citizens alike. Expert E also noted the importance of an agreement between the individual to whom location information applies and the provider of that application. The agreement should be protected by law and should clearly identify “what that location information can and cannot be used for”, ensuring that the location data “not be used for any other purpose.”

The introduction of early warning systems by their very nature cannot be put in place without some kind of a legislative or regulatory imperative. For Expert E, the fact that location based early warning systems would need to be deployed unilaterally—that is across the whole population—a liability risk would be incurred as part of any set of legislative regulations or responsibilities. The actual scope of risks and responsibilities would need to be defined but in this open-ended environmental context there would be an arbitrary amount of potential liability. “There has to be a fundamental foundation from a regulatory and a policy perspective before any of this can happen”, reaffirmed Expert E.

Numerous survey respondents also confirmed Australia’s need for a legal framework to support the possible utilization of the location-based mobile phone emergency service, with clear rules and penalties to effectively control the utilization. One respondent noted that there should be “strict guidelines and rules for how and when the [location] information should be used, and significant penalties for companies that break these rules as well as appropriate compensation for the affected people.” Another respondent wrote that strict laws should govern what information is kept, how it is kept, and who has access to it. The idea of penalties for misuse of location information was also raised.

Respondents were divided on whether or not to introduce completely new legislation or amending existing legislation so that the immediate use of location-based mobile phone emergency services could begin. One respondent was concerned that quick “fixes” might open a door for potential gaps in the implementation of the amended legal framework in a way that could be employed by third parties for purposes other than emergencies. Another respondent was circumspect about the law in general: “[e]ven with policies or laws which are created, I am worried about quick laws being passed to authorities to allow them to use our data for surveillance without us wanting to.” This respondent was more concerned about the authorized use by external parties than unauthorized use.

5 The liability of the location-based emergency service providers

There can never be any absolute guarantee that an error will never occur when location-based mobile phone solutions are utilized under the national warning system in Australia. Different types of errors could originate such as, unintentional human mistakes and sudden faults in underlying technologies or infrastructure. However, several issues arise, especially if there is the likelihood of loss of life due to an error. Expert D maintains that there must be the ability to identify where the error occurred in order to take the appropriate action against an entity and that someone is held liable for that mistake, especially in the event that there is loss of life as a result of that error. Consider the complexity of the LBS value chain and the scenario whereby the Bureau of Meteorology sends out a cyclone watch message via a third party provider, who for some reason downgrades the message eventually misinforming the public. Thus, “defining the source of the error is a condition to defining the accountability of each party involved in these solutions” (Expert D).

5.1 Government accountability

It may be difficult to understand how a government can be held accountable for its actions (or inactions) but Royal Commissions in Australia are common, providing a platform for major governmental public inquiries into a given issue. For example, there was a 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission (VBRC) which handed down its final report on July 31, 2010. In the context of LBS for emergency services, the interviewees were not in agreement on who for instance would be held accountable if a person did not receive a warning message at a crucial time. The SES pondered on such a scenario: “[i]f I do not get that warning message that I have been promised that I am going to get on my mobile phone and my family or I am hurt as a result of that, my question to government is going to be: ‘Well you promised you were going to tell me and you have not and I have suffered this damage from it.’ I would be heading down the road to one of those barristers and I reckon I would have a pretty good case.” Realistically, however, another interviewee noted that no technology or system is fool proof, and that given LBS solutions rely on technology, the government cannot be to blame for system errors which are squarely outside their control. There is nothing to say that at any given point in time, something could go unintentionally wrong with the technology.

Expert A believed that the government should not be liable for any problems surrounding location-based services that negatively impact people, given that early warning systems are just one method among many available during disasters. But despite this, the government still needs to define, through an explicit legal framework, its exact responsibilities and obligations under location-based mobile phone emergency solutions. According to the SES: “[t]he government needs to have a look and make sure they have all the legal ends tied up to protect themselves so that whatever legislation they will bring in to place to cover this, it will provide appropriate protection for them to be able to provide the service.”

5.2 The telecommunications carriers’ accountability

Among the issues that should also be regarded in future legislation, or within amendments into existing Acts, is a reference to the possible inaccuracies in the delivered information disseminated by the telecommunications carriers to the people in the case of an emergency. Consider a scenario where a warning notifies the wrong group of people about a pending natural disaster, or provides the wrong list of directions on what to do (based on the location of a mobile), during and immediately after the emergency. Expert C advised that while it was good to have accuracy requirements, he believed it was a “very dangerous game to play to say that anybody has to be absolutely correct. And this is actually particularly true of location-based services with specific reference to things like the value of the location as determined ... It is actually a statistical game and it is actually not possible to be one hundred percent correct.” A notable practical example to support this can be found in the U.S. Government E-911 initiative, as the interviewee added “for a handset-based location determination technology like GPS, the operator has to be within 50 meters, 67th percent. So, in other words, you have to be within 50 meters of accuracy at a twothirds confidence. So, two out of three of those locations you provide you need to be correct within that 50 meters. And then they also said further that you need to be within 100 meters of accuracy at the 95th percentile. So, in other words, 19 out of 20 times you had to be correct within 100 meters. But, they quite reasonably said that 5 percent of the time, you may be well, completely wrong. But, there are basically two levels of confidence that are specified as part of the regulation.”

Accordingly, what is needed in the Australian context is to set comparable accuracy requirements that practically define the responsibilities of the telecommunication carriers and/or the government when location-based services are utilized nationally for emergency management. It is the operators who need to be held responsible for achieving those levels of performance, not so much the Australian Government. Expert C said, “[y]ou can use that mechanism to ensure that the operators are applying all the due diligence that they should be doing, that their network is as optimized as effectively can be on any kind of reasonable cost analysis basis, but at the same time it means that you are not going to hold liable that operator for an individual event where in fact the location information was not correct with respect to that location determination. And with respect to the performance of location systems generally, I think you have to have that realistic underpinning within the requirements of the government legislation.” Further consideration of the accuracy issue reveals that there needs to be a fine balance. The operator needs to be doing everything they can based on a given set of performance metrics without putting themselves in a liable situation so that any given individual at any given period can claim arbitrary large dollar amounts for damages (Expert C).

Service level agreements or defined contracts are the most logical and practical of options to define and regulate the relationship between the government and the telecommunications carriers. These contracts can also serve the purpose of defining the responsibilities when and if something goes wrong. Expert E complemented the views held by Expert C, looking at the dilemma surrounding accuracy of location information as a contractual issue. He said that ultimately it had to do with the contract between the service provider and the acquirer of that service. The acquirer in this instance is the Government (at the State or Commonwealth level) and they would have agreed on a series of service levels pertaining to location-based services for the emergency context. This is distinctly a jointly developed government and business model. This is a very important observation, that mobile government applications by their very nature are not, and cannot be, models exclusively built by a single stakeholder, but rather a collaborative effort between stakeholders (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3 Toward the regulation of location based emergency warning systems

Expert E played out a possible scenario based on the contractual relationship. “If somebody sued the service provider [for inaccurate location information], the service provider would say: ‘Well, I do not have a contractual relationship with you. My contractual relationship is with the state, so go sue the state. And if the state has a problem, then they will join me in that action [as a party] anyway.’ ” As Expert E’s scenario further developed, an individual who had been adversely affected might then sue the state for damages and to the extent that the state attempts to file an action against the service provider, that action will be limited by the formal contractual agreement. In this instance there are legal limitations on being able to underwrite against loss of life—“your indemnity for loss of life and the warranty on loss of life would end up being incredibly specific” (Expert E). The agreement would most probably say something like- the responsibility for life lies with the contractor, not the service provider. Expert E role plays in the shoes of the service provider: “[w]e will, of course, look after a death that occurs, for example, in the installation of the equipment that is going to be used to provide the service but not as something that occurs as a consequence of the service not being available or not working the way that you expected, except to the extent that we said it will work that way.” It quickly becomes apparent from the interviews that not a single stakeholder type, especially Government, will commit to one hundred percent availability of such services.

5.3 Roles and responsibilities under location-based emergency systems

A national location-based emergency system is yet to be fully realized in Australia, although members of the Australian public can now receive emergency alerts on their mobile phones. Among the surveyed population, most respondents said that the government had a responsibility to control the legal and operational aspects of such systems. One respondent highlighted that it was a great idea (especially if it was instituted free of charge to the consumer), but that it must be controlled by government regulation in order to protect the personal information and privacy of the individual. Another respondent noted that such services should only exist if service providers had first obtained the explicit permission of a given government organization. People generally found the idea of location-based services for emergency warnings to increase their personal security but most also noted the importance of implementing “strict laws” to prevent excessive intrusion on personal privacy. One respondent said that “it would be necessary to create government agencies that monitor the transactions by service providers, and make sure that service providers act under strict laws and government supervision.”

Expert A argued that the responsibility of the location-based warning system should be added to the existing list of responsibilities that are executed by the disaster management committee in each State and Territory in Australia. “Each state already has a committee for disaster communications. That is part of their roles and responsibilities. I see this as being very simple, easily linked into that. It should not take any additional bureaucracy to be involved.” Expert C perceived the responsibility to be a multi-dimensional role that should be distributed according to the specific function each party is fulfilling under the utilization of the location-based warning system. These parties include different government emergency services agencies, in addition to the telecommunications carriers. Responsibility is distributed across agencies that are best equipped with maintaining different aspects. Expert C stipulated that network operators should be responsible for location determination systems, the ultimate reliability of the location information, and the performance and capacity of the location determination mechanisms. Network operators would also be responsible for the integrity of the location information itself, but how that location information is used must be the responsibility of the agency and not the network operator.

Expert D held the position that the responsibility of warning messages be assigned with the most relevant department pertaining to that emergency. Expert D identified that the government agency would then outsource the requirement to send the message to one of the mobile telecommunications carriers. What is important here to note, is that it is likely that authorization for sending out specific warning messages still remains with the relevant authority, such as the Bureau of Meteorology for weather warnings, etc. Accordingly, a very important point is to clearly define the control authority, which is allowed to initiate the use of the location-based mobile phone warning system, assign the responsibility of the emergency situation to the proper government emergency agency (ies), and control the sending of the warning message to the public. The control authority should also aim to prevent the overlapping of jurisdictions between different government emergency service organizations over the responsibility of managing a specific emergency situation. Expert B provided an example from the VBRC when it was revealed that the Fire Authority wanted to issue warnings but they did not think they were authorized to do it, so they did not. Expert B identified an administrative problem rather than a technical one and noted: “I think that is what is missing and we need that worked out.”

At the time of the interviews, which government department would be granted the role of the control authority under the national location-based mobile phone emergency system was still unknown. The Victorian government official believed that it should, at least, exist at the jurisdiction level. “Who is going to run this thing? Who is going to own this thing? I do not have a clear answer for you because it is still a question that I keep asking. I think it should certainly rest on a jurisdiction level because the emergency management arrangements exist at that level” (Vic-Gov). But more importantly, a control authority at the federal level should also exist to ensure consistent quality levels of the location-based mobile phone emergency services anywhere in Australia. “Every Australian citizen is entitled to receive a message if they are potentially in an emergency situation. Now, if I was traveling throughout the Northern Territory, Queensland or Western Australia, I would dearly hope that the quality of the service provided to me was equal to that which I received in any other State or Territory. So, from a federal perspective, there would need to be guidelines around what that meant... ensuring that [each state] was delivering that same quality of service countrywide” (Vic-Gov).

Expert C identified Emergency Management Australia (EMA), which belongs to the Attorney-General’s Department, as a good candidate for the role of the control authority over the location-based mobile phone emergency system on the national level in Australia. It was the opinion of a number of experts interviewed that a common approach and platform within a consolidated agency was required for the successful implementation of a national warning system, alerting people of diverse emergencies as they occurred. Among the responsibilities that the EMA might enjoy include: maintaining the reliability of the national emergency warning system platform, maintaining the privacy of any personalized location information gathered according to the Privacy Act, the structure and contents of distributed warnings, the management of the geographic boundaries and the integrity of the interfaces to the networks for getting the location information (Expert C).

6 Opt in and opt out system design issues

In regard to the opt in/opt out design aspects, a number of interviewees agreed that every person in Australia should receive the warning message without having the opt-in option built into the location-based mobile phone warning system. In addition, most viewpoints concurred that the system should not have an opt-out option. In other words, each individual in Australia is obliged to receive the warning notification if they are located in a defined emergency area (see Fig. 3). The role of the government is to provide societal securitization to protect citizens and non-residents from harm. As the SES representative pointed out, if you make it an opt-in system does that mean you let all those who opt-out just die? There is something inherently unethical about such a systems design. Expert B emphasizes that during an emergency there is no opt-out, “[i]t is compulsory to receive the warning message.”

Implementing an opt-out feature in a national emergency warning system complicates the network design. Expert E plainly concurred with other interviewees, “I cannot see that working.” Opting-out is fraught with a number of concerns. For instance, what if two people share the same phone, and one wishes to opt-in and the other opt-out? Taking the possibility further Expert E developed the scenario: “[i]f one opts-out and the other dies because they did not get an emergency warning because of the opt-out, I would not like to be representing, for our firm, the people who are sued because of that.” Thus opting-out just does not make sense. The official from the Victorian Government also shared a similar opinion: “[i]f they opt-out and they did not receive the message and then the unfortunate event occurred where they lost their life, it would not be well received within the Coroners Court as to why they did not get the message and why we could not have, when provided everybody else, with a means of maintaining their safety.” For Vic-Gov the national warning system should neither be opt-in nor opt-out.

However, the following are some interesting points of view on why there is a need to enable the opt-in and opt-out options in the location-based mobile phone warning system. Expert C in particular voiced his bewilderment at why the Government placed such constraints on the solution, without allowing people to opt-in or opt-out, instead automatically applying the solution to everyone. Expert C correctly identified the usefulness of opting-in to emergency warnings, because one might have an interest in a given area despite not actually being there during a disaster, and want to be kept informed about the latest developments. For Expert D, the facility to opt-out should be an option, independent of why someone does not wish to receive messages that might aid their survival. He noted that there are five levels of threats, and that one could build a warning system that was dependent on the severity of the warning. Level four and five warnings, for instance, may not provide an opt-out feature due to the severity of the emergency, simply if one is in that geo-location then they will receive a warning message. But for lower level warnings that do not have an impact on one’s life, an opt-out option should be offered.

“Some people will be interested in certain things for different reasons. I think it should be recipient driven because you cannot make too many assumptions about the communications people want to receive”, said the Whispir-Rep. There are some complex use-cases surrounding the deployment of such warning systems but providing people with the choice is very important and not difficult. The Whispir-Rep considered that such a choice could be made by providing an interface whereby people could manage and maintain their own profile. For instance, what happens to people who have several mobile phones for different reasons, should all their phones ring at the same time to let them know a single message has arrived in their inbox.

The perspective of the survey respondents who specifically wrote comments pertaining to the issue of a opt in/opt out system design as a means to maintain the individual privacy and as a mechanism to control the use of the service under the utilization of the location-based mobile phone warning system is somewhat divided in opinion. One respondent wrote: “[t]his service should be regulated by the government and made compulsory in all phones and the choice would be to the individual to use or not.” Another wrote: “LBS should be an opt-in service. In regard to emergencies, in a triple zero call, the first question should be ‘can we access your location information?’ Some people might be deterred from calling for help in an OD [Over Dose] situation if they do not want authorities knowing where the OD happened (someone’s house).”

A number of respondents stipulated an opt-in service to ensure they had more control of their own privacy. The ability to switch off the LBS functionality to protect privacy was prevalent in numerous responses. “Obviously, people are going to be concerned about data being used inappropriately, so measures to put users’ minds at ease would be the biggest thing,” wrote one individual. Some respondents had clear concerns about the possibility they would be constantly tracked in the name of “emergencies.” There seemed to be a constant struggle in individuals who wrote about the usefulness of LBS in emergency situations, only to follow up with a statement that was seemingly contradictory. Most people wanted to use LBS only at a time that was necessary during an emergency but definitely not when engaged in personal errands. Others were still suspicious over where their personal location data might end up, such as in the case of targeted advertising campaigns. “I would stop using LBS the moment information was used for targeted advertising, even if it meant not having the service available in an emergency. I would also not use the LBS if it had no government “anti terrorism” opt out option. I do not need be told the “threat level” of any area I visit, nor do I want to know about riots, etc. as the decision is mine to make without government influence.”

7 Location-based emergency service quality dimensions

Survey respondents from the general public did identify factors related to accuracy, currency and responsiveness of location-based mobile phone emergency services. Most prominent in their remarks was the need for acceptable quality levels. A recurring theme amongst respondents was that for such a warning system to work, the information provided by the service must be accurate and timely and reliable. In this manner it would lead to personal safety but otherwise fail. Respondents did not expect a service that was always accurate as they did not consider technology to be perfect per se, but they did emphasize the need for only a very small margin of error. One respondent wrote: “I have some concerns about the accuracy. Sometimes it may not direct you to the right position in the shortest available path.” A number of respondents distinctly discussed “quality” and others “product reliability” but emphasized that without quality and reliability the LBS warning service would be useless. Other conditions the general public identified included that the service should be heavily regulated, controlled, optional, and free to use. Some respondents were also very concerned about how personal information might be misused but when it came to safety were concerned about the possibility that incorrect information would be dispersed or late data arrival would only add to the confusion during an emergency. People also highlighted the pitfalls of late data arrival via SMS which if not timely could cause panic and chaos amongst the general community which would be even more hazardous during an emergency situation.

8 People’s trust in location-based services

When Expert C was asked about the impact of trust on location-based services for emergency warnings, he replied “[u]sing the telecommunications network channels as a mechanism for warning people in emergency services is something I would trust to the extent of it being better to have it than to not have it.” It is perceived that most people who received an emergency alert from an emergency authority would consider it to be beneficial. Expert C explained further: “the information that I received by that alert I would trust to the extent that I trust emergency services to get it right, but that is not the technology’s problem, that is just the general perspective on how reliable and trustworthy public authorities are in any case.” Similarly, Expert B commented that people trust firemen more than they trust politicians, so trust in a location-based emergency warning alert system for tsunamis, fires, earthquakes and so on, should be accepted by the general public, if not highly favored.

A close examination of the responses by the expert panel implies that people’s trust in the location-based mobile phone emergency service would actually reflect their trust in the actual services, in addition to their trust in the authority that controls and provides the services. The Redcoal-Rep preferred to rephrase the question reflecting: “Will people trust it? I think the question should be will they trust it more than the existing modes of communication, which is the media? I would imagine, to a large extent.” However, building people’s trust in these advanced services may require educating the general public about the specific benefits of these services for emergency management and also on the limitations of the capabilities. For Vic-Gov awareness was very important where trust in services and the authorities who offered them was a concern. “Once we have educated them [the public] on the fact that this technology exists and that, potentially, at any time they could receive such a message, a large percentage of the public would trust the message they will be receiving.” In general, people’s trust in location-based services is a key element to the success of the services within the national arrangements of emergency management in Australia. One respondent commented that while the service was good, that her only concern was whether LBS would be a trusted product for emergencies. This respondent also drew a close tie between trust and privacy. Another respondent rightly commented that if LBS became a highly trusted service that could be used for emergencies, only then would it be possible to prevent many deaths and other losses.

9 Risks associated with using location-based services

The risks associated with the use of location-based services as emergency services were considered to be just like any other technology (Expert C). Nonetheless, one of the social risks that could be specifically associated with using location-based services is the possibility of not informing or instructing individuals properly in the case of an emergency. According to Vic-Gov the risk was not so much with the LBS technology but rather how people might react when receiving a message.

Another risk that is not related to the characteristics of location-based services but in the way they might be utilized within emergency management activities is to rely entirely on these services in emergencies. Expert D described the risks with an over-reliance on any one technology or communication channel. There are inherent risks with using just a mobile phone to keep updated on the latest emergency news, without some kind of backup secondary outlet like television so that information could be reconciled in more precarious situations. Expert D noted: “I suppose that would be the biggest risk if their sole information source was their mobile handset and were not getting any sort of secondary information from television or radio, then there would sort of be that risk because it is always useful and very important to have ... secondary sources to make sure that they are consistent with each other.”

However, one of the experts argued that it is more important to think beyond the risks that are associated with LBS technical failures and to consider the risks associated with LBS in relation to the surrounding political environment in which these services are utilized by the governing forces in power. With regard to the social risk, Expert C claimed that LBS was just like any other technology, that it could be used for a variety of purposes: “[i]t is not the technology itself that is fundamental actually. The fundamental control that people have with respect to how much surveillance they are under, what controls they are under, to what extent their freedoms are constrained, is more fundamentally linked to the strength of their democracy than it is to any one or other technology that exists within their daily lives.” Accordingly, it is the political environment that can introduce concerns for people in the way location-based services might be utilized. Thus, Expert C was adamant about any social risk that could arise from LBS in emergency management: “[it] has more to do with the extent to which their society and the strength of their democracy protect them [the general public] than it does anything to do with the technology itself.”

In all the interviews with the expert panel it was found that any potential risk that may be associated with location-based services utilization for emergency management in Australia will be far less than the risk of not introducing these services at all. The Redcoal-Rep spoke about the difference between perceived risk and actual risk. For him, the perceived risk from the public is that the LBS infrastructure might be used for other applications other than for emergencies, heralding a type of function creep. But in terms of the actual risk, the Redcoal-Rep was circumspect in saying that “you need to consider the fact that any business technology may fail. That risk is common for any new service or even existing service that is in place.” The Redcoal-Rep also discussed the notion of relative risk, in this case, the risk of not implementing a nationwide emergency service. Quite often the perceived risk far outweighs the actual risk. Indeed, the risks of not introducing location-based services for emergency management in Australia have been manifested in the recent trend of the Australian Government which followed the tragic 2009 Victorian Bushfires in identifying the compelling need for utilizing location-based mobile phone technologies for emergency management purposes on the national level [26, 27].

10 Privacy issues

Emergencies, as unique usage contexts of LBS, should by their very nature be enough to alleviate any concerns people could have about privacy and the way these services are utilized. That is, it is generally hard to believe why someone might wish to exploit others during a time of crisis. SES were very honest in their appraisal: “I think there are privacy issues, but it is probably in our best interest to waive those privacy concerns, and it is more about people keeping safe. And to keep people safe you need to be able to tell people they are in the path of danger, and I think that waives those privacy issues.” A similar sentiment was echoed by Expert E, “[m]y personal opinion is that there would be a general expectation that, perhaps, privacy should fall away when there is a threat, particularly when the individual is threatened.”

The position of Vic-Gov on the matter of privacy was quite straightforward: “[i]t is not something that we are going to use to even identify the name of the person necessarily. All we are interested in is that phone number within the emergency area at the time of the event.” For Vic-Gov it has more to do with making the individual more resilient and providing them with information which helps them to make informed decisions. If people can call triple zero in Australia without any expectation of privacy, then the privacy associated with this [LBS] should similarly not be an issue reasoned Vic-Gov. It will be the same organizations which will handle the information, save for the potential for evidence to be used in exceptional circumstances like in a Coroners Court.

In the case of an emergency the essential identification of personal information, such as the mobile phone number, should never be perceived as a threat. This sort of identification might be the only approach for the government to provide locationbased mobile phone emergency services to people, thus the needed safety information to counter or deal with that emergency. The only difference here is that in triple zero calls, an individual volunteers their personal information for safety purposes, while in an emergency warning setting the Government makes a judgment regarding the safety and well-being of their citizens. Vic-Gov again reiterates: “[t]he only aspect that we are interested in is the number. If there was another way we could send a notification to that handset whether to the IMEI [International Mobile Equipment Identity], or something like it, that would do us as well. It is whatever will allow us to get the message to that handset in the most efficient manner.” The Vic-Gov official insisted that this mode of identification for emergency purposes cannot be labeled as collection of personal information and, therefore no privacy concerns should be perceived. She said: “[i]t depends ...on what your definition of collection is. I would prefer to talk about it as being purely identifying active handsets at a point in time because a particular event has occurred and we feel an obligation to notify those handsets that an event has occurred and there is the likelihood that they could be impacted by it. We are not collecting anything. We are identifying the handsets that were there at that point of time and that is the extent of it.” There needs to be a clear distinction between the possibilities of a breach in privacy in government applications like the national warning system, and those pertaining to commercial entities. In a commercial context it is expected that consumers might have grave reservations about LBS, even though carriers have been storing this information since the inception of their networks.

The identification process of individuals cannot trigger any privacy concerns since there is basically no breach to people’s privacy. Vic-Gov further explained that from the emergency management perspective, the Government will not have visibility of even who the individual is; they simply require a mechanism to notify a person that they may be in a potentially dangerous situation. Whether it is the handset ID or a handset phone number is irrelevant. Nonetheless, while the majority of people would most likely overweigh the potential benefits of LBS over any associated concerns, the benefits alone may not stop some individuals from continuing to perceive the use of LBS as an invasion to their privacy even during emergencies. “There are people in the community that would actually find that an invasion of their privacy. Strange as it may seem, there are people like that out there, but I think the majority of people would not be too concerned about receiving a message if it was aimed at helping them to survive a threatening situation” said Expert A.

It is argued that privacy in today’s society has been augmented as an issue of concern due to the political climate that has been progressively characterized by the introduction of unprecedented security measures forcefully attempting to counter all identifiable human- and natural-caused security risks. These measures, such as the CCTV Ring of Steel initiatives in New York and London, and body scanners in many airports around the world were introduced by several governments, including the Australian, as indispensable to the general public’s safety. They are however perceived by many as the beginning of the “total surveillance society” [28, 29]. As a result, new security initiatives such as the national location-based mobile phone emergency system, with the ability of its underlying technologies to locate and track mobile handsets almost everywhere, could easily trigger genuine concerns about privacy. For Expert E, things became a lot greyer once the extent of an emergency becomes drawn out, in a similar way to the issues surrounding Homeland Security in the United States. In this instance, the national security threat has lasted for eight years and is not about to go away any time soon, so privacy is curtailed for the public good. Now ask someone in the general community whether they would like to use such a warning system for a one off event like a Tsunami, versus some kind of terrorist threat and you might end up with some quite different results to what you expect. Expert E summarized his position as follows: “[s]o, would I mind if personally identifying information, which I have not given permission to use, was used by the police to warn me that there was a burglar in the street? Then no, I would not, and I do not think most people would. Would I mind if that information was used for something, which was generally for the good of police operations in Sydney? Yes, I would. I would be much more upset about it.”

Although there was an overwhelming appreciation for LBS utilization as an additional useful emergency tool by the survey respondents, nonetheless several comments heavily expressed the concerns people had about the privacy of the individual in Australia if and when LBS were utilized for emergency management. One respondent wrote: “I am very concerned about the impact this technology would have against civil rights, including lack of privacy.” Numerous individuals were concerned about the misuse or abuse of individual location data: “[m]y concern is what happens if government abuses the use of LBS?” and again, “there must be limits on the access of the services”, and another “I would be concerned with the negative aspects that may arise, specifically if the data is misused.” Now in all of these instances, individuals did point out that they saw an emergency warning system facilitated through their mobile as a good, beneficial, and positive idea that they would support, but individuals also were not devoid of thinking about the “what if” scenarios. One respondent listed his concerns as follows: “1. Loss of control over personal data, including location data. My privacy would be compromised. 2. The potential for my data to be misused by unauthorized individuals. 3. Anxiety relating to other parties knowing my location at any given time and making inaccurate assumptions about me/my family. Safety concerns are also relevant here.” On the latter issue of personal safety, one respondent raised the point of the potential for private information collected about geolocation to be distributed or shared amongst the third parties affiliations of telecommunications carriers. This issue was not just about sharing data but also that the data collected by the carrier could in no way be guaranteed in terms of integrity. The risk of unauthorized access of an individual’s location data would in fact be a breach to personal privacy, said another respondent.

Privacy issues associated with utilizing location-based mobile phone emergency services were perceived as a problem and a real source of concern to the people who had responded to the survey, and who were likely to consider themselves amongst the prospective users of these government emergency services. This is despite people’s critical appraisal of the significant benefits of the services for emergency management purposes (Table 3).

Interestingly enough, one explanation of why people might perceive the use of location-based services as an invasion to their privacy, even during emergency situations, is given by an emergency management expert who believed that individuals who had never been in a serious emergency before would still outweigh his or her privacy over anything else. The expert from SES who works in emergency services has experienced situations where people can be caught up in danger very quickly. While he did not mind receiving an SMS if he was found to be in the area, to assist others out of harm’s way, he commented that a citizen who had probably never seen a lot of these situations, might find himself/herself thinking that access to sensitive location data was an invasion of their privacy.


Table 3 People’s perceptions of privacy: representative responses

Table 3 People’s perceptions of privacy: representative responses ID Representative privacy related comments from the survey response 1 I agree that there are many advantages in using LBS. But, I also note that my location information can easily be misused as well. Tough laws need to be passed prohibiting unauthorized use of personal information (location) without user’s consent/authorization. But, even with the existence of tough laws, the possibility remains for others to use information about one’s location. 2 I like the idea that LBS should be used in case of emergencies. However, with recent events ... that law enforcement here ignored the rights to privacy, the conflict of rights to privacy and the importance of security need to be addressed. 3 I would be concerned about my location information being used without my permission. If part of using LBS included my location information being used by third parties e.g. advertisers, I would not use it at all. 4 I strongly support the use of location-based services for emergency management as I believe that it could really help save lives. At the same time, I hope it is used only for these purposes so that people’s privacy could be retained. 5 I would like the telecommunications firms to use LBS but only for emergency situations ... But, the problem these days is that our privacy is violated by these companies, and would you believe these companies would treat our privacy in full confidence? These days we all supervised by the government, security cameras on the streets, and even sometimes these reach our rooms and houses. Moreover, spy satellites can identify and get us even in our own places. Would you accept that LBS violates our freedom? These technologies are pretty nice but only if we use them right. 6 It is a good idea, but can be very intrusive and annoying if advertising companies get access to it. 7 LBS sounds like a good service for emergencies. However, if a person can be located constantly wherever they are this may cause concerns about being ethical to know where someone is 24/7. While many would use it for good, some may use it to benefit their own behavior. 8 Whilst I can see the benefits of using LBS, I have major concerns over the fact that these mechanisms can be used to track my location. I understand that my mobile phone can easily give a rough location as this is just a by product of the technology of mobile phone towers. I do not want my exact location to be known 24x7. I believe the technology should exist where with 100% certainty the feature can be turned off. 9 Although I have a few concerns of being tracked by the service provider, if it does not impinge on rights of personal freedom too much, I think that it is valuable and definitely beneficial. 10 This is an interesting idea as long as it does not affect people’s privacy or personal life in any way. 11 LBS would be a great help in emergencies as long as it is not used to interfere with the privacy of people using it in daily activities. 12 Something like LBS would be exceptionally useful if the privacy concerns are looked at; then the advantages will outweigh the concerns. 13 For me, I am totally on board with the use of LBS for emergency management. The only concern that I have is the potential abuse of personal information. Organizations must handle personal information properly when no emergency exists.

In addition to the lack of awareness about the seriousness of emergencies, and accordingly the possible benefits of LBS in such situations, people might also be unaware about the fact that providing mobile location information to the government in the case of an emergency is actually part of the service agreement package with all mobile service providers in Australia. Although these agreements only cover citizen-to-government (C2G) types of services, without any explicit mention to the government-to-citizen (G2C) service type. The possibility of provisioning such information is nonetheless consented by each person once he or she enters into a mobile phone service in Australia. Expert A reiterated the importance of this fact and emphasized that emergency warnings were an “information service” supported through service providers and definitely not a breach in privacy. It is a public service announcement and thus it cannot be opt-in or opt-out, “it is there permanently and you just have to accept it as being part of your acceptance of a service provision” (Expert A).

In regard to privacy and location information, one of the key experts who has long worked with location-based technologies argued that the pervasiveness of mobile phones and the abundance of technologies and applications that successfully integrate location information as part of the regular service offerings have all helped to positively change the social attitude towards the use of the personal locational information. As the expert discerned, location information has become a “common topic” amongst the general public that does not raise high sensitivity today as it used to about a decade ago. According to Expert C, much of this has to do with time. At the turn of the millennium when 911 happened there was a lot of talk about new location-based applications like friend finders, child finders, local information, navigation and the reaction of the people was “ ‘Oh, I don’t like the sound of that’. There were the big brother implications. There were the surveillance implications. There were the government control implications ... [but] come forward ten years and the last few years in particular, and the proliferation of personal navigation devices, there is an increasing amount of comfort with things like GPS and knowing where you are.” Indeed the introduction of “free” services like Google Maps (e.g. StreetView and Latitude) has somewhat desensitized users on the one hand, and educated them on the potential application on the other hand. For Expert C, location-based emergency services are a “social service” that he could not believe would be a controversial or contentious issue with the general public, and definitely not an election winning issue.

Expert C stressed the need to acknowledge the technical and physical limitations of the current telecommunications networks and positioning technologies in Australia, as these limitations would ultimately provide a rationale for the public to eliminate any misconceptions about possible infringements in privacy. It is worth quoting him in full: “[f]or a system like an authority to citizen warning service, there is that implication associated with the whole concept that you have to know where everybody is, and that actually ... is a significant technical challenge, practical challenge. A network operator cannot actually know moment to moment where everybody is. The actual determination and specific geographic location in a mobile network context requires resources, requires network signaling resources, it requires device resources if the device is contributing to the location determination. To be continually doing it moment by moment, to know where everything is actually is not a practical proposition. It is not a practical proposition with today’s technology. It is not even a practical proposition with foreseeable technologies because you have got to acknowledge that you are actually going to be consuming resources, and if it is moment by moment at arbitrarily small intervals that you are going to be consuming resources, it is something approaching infinity.” While Expert C raises some very important points to do with the feasibility of tracking citizenry moment by moment, the granularity of tracking still remains a relevant discussion point. Most people would agree that you do not require such fine granularity to understand the location profile of an individual. And as humans are creatures of habit, predictions are usually accurate to an established margin of error.

What is perhaps irrational, beyond the technical feasibility of tracking and monitoring citizenry is why a government would actually wish to track everyone anyway. The Vic-Gov representative dismissed the idea completely: “... the things not going to be on all day long just monitoring who is moving in and out of a network all around the country.” She concurred with Expert C regarding the load such a scenario would have on a carrier’s network. She also believed that a carrier would not want the government probing and monitoring to that extent. Expert E also pointed out that no carrier would want to risk damage to its brand or reputation by using the available locational information potentially for purposes other than emergencies. “The carriers themselves are terribly concerned to make sure that they do not abuse... personally identifying information ... in a way that could result in almost any criticism” (Expert E). Expert B emphasizes that the community will accept that some of their normal rights will be limited or waived in the event of a state of emergency. In this instance, people might not only accept, but expect to be ordered around for their own good and survival.


Fig. 4 Trust, privacy and risk

Nevertheless, there is still a need to clearly reflect the potential invasion of privacy in future government legislative amendments. The Whispir-Rep asserted: “I would like to see a recipient controlled system. That is the most respectful and appropriate way to engage communications. But that might not be practical. If there is a political will to or a desire to communicate to every handset, then all you are talking about is overriding people’s preferences and sending them a message regardless ... There are privacy issues to be dealt with. I am not saying that it is a reason not to provide a service but certainly the legislation needs to be changed to send a message to those people whether or not they have asked for them. My understanding of the legislative framework is that it needs to be changed to this use case.” Finally, as there shall always be concerns from some individuals and associations about infringements in privacy, even if the intended purpose of location-based mobile phone service utilization is for emergency management, the government of Australia can genuinely help to alleviate such concerns through communicating a set of guarantees about the use, collection, and storage of the location information under location-based mobile phone emergency solutions. As the Redcoal-Rep insisted, a large part of it had to do with how the government communicates the need for such services in case of emergencies. Expert D puts it all in perspective by saying that there are always going to be privacy issues concerning the general public. “You have always got to have a sector of the community who will be concerned about whether that information is somehow leaked out or made available or used for other purposes. So, the community-related determinant matters between stakeholders would have to be assured that the collection of location [information] would only be for the specific purpose of warning you of a quite threatening emergency. And even in that case, any information collected by the agencies about your current location would then, somehow, be de-identified if the information needs to be stored.” A summary of trust, privacy and risk-related matters between stakeholders can be found in Fig. 4. It should be noted that the union between two stakeholders indicates the dominant matter at hand. For example, the dominant theme found in the analysis between “government” and “customers” is “Trust”.

11 Potential barriers in the national utilization of location-based services for emergency management

11.1 Lack of national coordination

Had it not been for interstate disagreements, Australia would have already had a realized national location-based mobile phone warning system [30], some believe even as far back as 2006. Expert B discusses the problem as a lack of national coordination. A possible reason for this lack of coordination could be the lack of viable attractive business propositions of location-based mobile phone solutions through which emergency services can be successfully utilized on the national level in Australia. Expert B blamed the professionals involved who failed to come up with viable proposals for a national emergency warning system, and not due to a lack of political will. “I think it is partly that emergency experts need to get together with the technology computer experts and work out what to do because I cannot imagine the politicians are going to say: ‘No, we do not want a reliable integrated emergency warning system’. I think the problem is politicians will naturally react at short term. That is normal for them. So, you have to know how to cope with that when you are proposing something to them.” However, the lack of an inclusive national coordination to emergency management between the different States and Territories of Australia can possibly still be manifested in the decision of the government of Western Australia to keep its StateAlert emergency system instead of adopting the recently deployed national emergency warning system (NEWS). Under the COAG agreement, each state or territory retains full autonomy about the warning system it chooses to implement [31]. This provides an impetus for the future need of an extensive collaboration between the government of Western Australia and other governments of Australia to resolve certain issues related to systems integration, regulations and legislative jurisdictions.

11.2 Lack of a common approach for emergency warning in Australia

Another potential barrier in the plight towards the realization of a national location based mobile phone emergency solution in Australia is the lack of a common approach for the warning notification between different emergency organizations in the same State or Territory. This is despite the fact that comparable government emergency organizations from different states or territories in Australia have developed equivalent warning notification arrangements to the general public in the case of a specific emergency event [32]. This issue has also been noted by Expert B in the perceived need to get the relevant emergency authorities to agree on a common approach for emergency alerts before even talking technology. “[I]f you magically built a system to send everybody a message tomorrow, we still would not be able to send them messages because we do not have a coordinated decision-making process as to what message you should send.” This just further demonstrates that it is not merely a technology problem.

11.3 Financial issues

Some of the financial implications of utilizing location-based mobile phone services within the national emergency warning system were identified by expert interviewees and survey respondents alike. Expert A said that the cost of such a system was a “huge impediment” to progress. The two options to overcome the cost barrier included waiting until things got cheaper to build, or waiting until the pressure from the public was so great that cost no longer was a factor because it was overtaken by need. “I think lots of people will have considered it but they probably were reluctant on the cost of it and how often it will be used”, commented Expert D. If we ponder that an early warning system of this nature will rarely be utilized yet has to be available 24/7, it is a hard sell. Indeed, several comments from the survey respondents actually raised people’s concern about the financial burden of these services once they are utilized. Some respondents were concerned that the service would be fee/tariff-based and that only those who could afford it could opt-in which would raise significant equity issues. “As long as there is no extra cost to users, it is alright”, noted one individual. And another said categorically, “[i]t should be cheap or free.” Nonetheless, all interviewees basically agreed that the responsibility lay with the federal, state and territory governments in financing location-based mobile phone emergency solutions under the national emergency warning system. Vic-Gov said, “[e]very Australian citizen has the right to be advised if they are likely to be life threatened ... it probably rests at both a Commonwealth and a Jurisdiction level, the funding of such a solution.” A complementary remark by a citizen was that the additional cost should be borne/ supplied by government and that part of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) should be allotted to the scheme.

One of the interviewees suggested that part of the financial burden could be carried by the telecommunications carriers and mobile service providers in Australia as a condition of their operating license. Expert B pondered, “I think it has to be directly government funded and partly industry funded. So, for example, in the case of television and radio broadcasting, the radio and television broadcasters pay the cost themselves already. They do not charge the government a fee when they issue an emergency broadcast. It is a condition of their license and I think similarly with telephones you would do the same thing.” However, the Victorian Government official who was interviewed entirely dismissed the idea of the participation of the private sector in financing such systems: “[w]hen you dial triple zero you do not get an ad while on hold waiting a call taker. It has never been our intention that a system like this would be ever financed through any kind of advertising or support or a sponsorship.”

In all cases, the cost of funding these systems must be clearly justified to the public. Expert A reflected, “[i]t costs a lot of money to put these things into process and a government has to justify to the people and also to the opposition why that money has to be expended. And with the economic situation at the moment I think they are under more pressure to cut costs and when they look at the impact of a disaster it is only when we get impacts like the Black Saturday disaster, where a lot of people died in very small communities in our heartland, that we start to take notice.” Finally, the cost factor should never stand as a barrier in the face of realizing locationbased warning systems in Australia, although realistically there would be some kind of return on investment (ROI) figure that would need to be calculated somewhere. The Vic-Gov representative was not naïve about this, stating that it would potentially depend on a cost per message figure. But she also said, “[it] would break my heart that somebody might hover over that “cent button” thinking there is enough money in the budget to save those lives.”

11.4 Australia’s small emergency management budgets prevent the use of new technologies such as location-based services

Australia does not invest much in technology to counter the effects of natural events compared to the country’s investments on counter-terrorism technologies and programs. This is despite the fact that terrorism attacks are very rare in Australia [33]. Australia’s Federal Government cumulative investments on counter-terrorism programs, including public campaigns, has exceeded Aus$10 billion since the September 11, 2001 attacks, compared to only Aus$500 million in managing the potential consequences of a large-scale natural disaster occurring in Australia [33]. Expert A argued that such small budgets have prevented Australia from exploiting or investing heavily in technology, including location-based technologies, specifically in countering natural emergency events. As he argued, the main reason for keeping these budgets small is Australia’s great reliance on voluntary manpower during these types of emergencies. Expert A said: “... although we follow best practice [in emergency management] ... the use of technology has been a little bit overlooked or not been as embraced as it could have been.” Expert A points to the fact that Australia has a great reliance upon volunteerism. So to an extent we are already dealing with emergency services that are heavily restricted by budget constraints. To start discussing the potential for a technology-based system that would require a significant outlay to begin with and then to operate and maintain is probably being exorbitant.

11.5 Population distribution in Australia prevent effective mobile location-based emergency service

The use of location-based mobile phone services implies the government’s commitment and need to adequately reach and effectively target all mobile handsets within a defined emergency area of all carriers in Australia [27]. However, covering all of Australia with functioning mobile phone services would require massive investment in networking and underlying infrastructure, something that is not economically viable or practically feasible today or even in the near future, despite the notion of universal service obligation (USO) being so pronounced in Australia. For one respondent the vision of Australian-wide coverage was good but the reality was that the reception of signals was unreliable in some non-urban locales, and that things would remain the same until some major spending occurred. Expert A believed that this type of technology worked well in cities but for those who lived in smaller regional and rural communities the technology was not always reliable. He said, there was the potential for individuals to miss out on timely and valuable data. Expert A identified an issue of equity, when some members in the community would receive a timely message, and others would not. For looming emergencies that could be predicted 24–48 hours prior to enactment, timeliness was not such a great issue, but for those that needed more imminent warning, messaging to those greatest at risk was a problem. “We have a responsibility to all the communities and we should provide that equally. So, I think focusing on people that live in the urban areas because there are more of them is not actually doing what is best for the communities as a whole. And we should not go that way because we then start separating rural and urban. It becomes an equity issue as well and everyone is equally threatened by hazards in a place where hazards exist” (Expert A). To date the focus has been on providing communication services to Australia’s coastal strip but there is now a need to offer all Australians the same access to services.

11.6 Technology constraints and limitations

As one of its core obligations toward people, the Australian Government needs to seek a technology that is accessible by all mobile handsets in the case of an emergency. Constraints may be forced on location-based mobile phone emergency solutions if no such technology exists. The Redcoal-Rep advised: “[w]hatever service is developed, it has to be accessible by everyone. There is no point in having an emergency alert system that sends out emails when not everyone has an email address.” Unfortunately, none of the currently available technologies can fulfill the prime requirement of reaching every handset in the event of an emergency. In addition, the very few technologies that are accessible by most handsets working today do not represent an attractive solution to the Australian Government due to their coarse coverage definition and inaccuracies. These issues were clearly reflected in the comments of the official from the Victorian Government who specified the State’s thorough but unsuccessful efforts researching a technology that can be effectively utilized in location-based emergency systems on mobile handsets. The main issue is the existence of a mix of mobile technologies in Australia, and that 3G technology is not as straightforward as 2G. “I am not quite sure whether anything might even pop its head up, still on the 3G network that looks something like cell broadcast, but we will still have issues with the very large reach cells that are in more regional and remote locations. I do not have a good answer yet on how we would narrow that down when using something like cell broadcast. Where these things have been deployed elsewhere in the world, they are all based on cell broadcast. It is still a bit unknown even how well received or accepted they are” (Vic-Gov). So the geo-demographics of a given country have a great deal of impact on the success of location-based emergency solutions. A summary of the barriers that held back the Australian government’s introduction of the national emergency warning system are depicted in Fig. 5, juxtaposed against the mechanisms that supported their ultimate deployment.

Fig. 5 Toward the successful deployment of a National Emergency Warning System

12 Recommendations and road ahead

12.1 Towards a solution that evolves

Viable location-based emergency solutions should be capable of evolving over time by adapting to new technologies while not entirely relying on one specific technology. Expert C said it was imperative to look for a scalable and evolvable technical solution that would cater needs well into the future, at least ten years. For example, a focus on using SMS as a key or only warning channel would be concerning as it is an old technology. Expert C explained further, that while SMS had a high penetration, it was in the words of Peter Drucker: The future that has already happened. SMS is a switch circuit, public switch telephone network technology, and not a broadband internet technology. Expert C predicted the disappearance of SMS in the future. “If you look at LTE [Long Term Evolution] which is the next generation of 3G or 4G networks from the standards, they do not even support circuit service. There is no SMS in LTE. There is no SMS in WiMAX. There is certainly no SMS in DSL [Digital Subscriber Line] or cable connectivity. And yet, they are all telecommunications and network channels by which, if you are making a plan to have a national system for alerting people about emergency situations, they are the kinds of technologies that you should actually have at the forefront of your mind, to know how you are going to address that” (Expert C). In summary Expert C warned against going down a “blind alley” or “dead end” with SMS, and called any investment into it as “sunk capital.”

Other concerns about a SMS solution have also been voiced by other interviewees, specifically the scalability of its underlying technologies for mass public warning purposes. This concern was, particularly, expressed in response to recent trials in Australia in which several State governments used SMS to disseminate safety information to the people. Expert B was clear that neither the fixed landline solution nor the SMS solution was workable or would scale. Expert D supported this opinion, “[t]hey need a system that is definitely scalable from sending ten messages a minute to 100,000 messages in seconds or whatever. The scalability is a major issue.” In addition to SMS, concerns about cell broadcasting technologies have also been expressed since these technologies do not represent an attractive option for emergency management purposes. Expert B admitted to liking cell broadcast technology in mobile phones but added that it was not well supported by carrier or handset manufacturers. Expert D acknowledged that while cell broadcast was a feature that some ninety percent of mobile phones had set to default, that some handsets would have it turned off, leading to major issues after an emergency. One advantage of SMS over cell broadcast is that SMS was usually carrier independent, but from a performance point of view it is quite smart to get the cell tower to broadcast a message to all mobile phones in range (Expert D). However, most people are not familiar with cell broadcast or have not knowingly used it before, so “[f]rom a public acceptance point of view there would need to be some form of public awareness campaign because you do not just simply want someone right now to simply receive all these cell broadcasts and not knowing where they are from and what they all really mean” (Expert D).

Similar concerns about the cell broadcasting technology have also been shared by the Victorian Government official. She stated, “we have pretty much discounted it as the means by which we would move forward, because it is too coarse and it is too broad in its reach. And we are very specific, as good emergency management practices would say that you only notify the individuals that are within the area of the likely impact.” In Australia, going down the path of cell broadcasting for emergency warnings would probably mean that people who should not be contacted for a given warning are, due to the large cell size. As a result, you might have people who are completely disconnected to a warning, preparing as if they would be impacted, only to find the message is entirely irrelevant to them. This could have the effect of desensitizing the individuals from future warning alerts, like the boy who cried wolf. Such a message, depending on the directions given by the authorities, bring people closer together to an epicenter of a problem, rather than keeping people who are not connected with the emergency out of the affected zone. As an example, the Vic-Gov official spoke of a certain cell within Australia that had up to 18 kilometers of reach. She then went on to provide a scenario of an emergency that only needed to notify persons within a one kilometer radius from where the centroid of the cell was located. It quickly became apparent in this scenario that by using cell broadcast, there would have been “over-notifications” and the target segment of persons affected “over saturated.” Who knows what the effects of advising people 17 kilometers away from the epicenter of the problem would be, beyond the obvious issue that people would begin to feel that warnings were just irrelevant or unreliable to them in the future.

While there is a need to build a solution that evolves over time, by embracing newer technologies, a careful consideration should nonetheless be given to enable backward compatibility, allowing the solution to reach every handset still in service, including legacy devices. While evolvability is a key, as Expert A put it, “technology is always changing.” What is important is that the chosen technology is “equitable to everyone ... So, the service has to be at the lowest common denominator rather than the highest. It has got to be able to go out to the person who has the oldest machine rather than the latest.” One must not be at a disadvantage because of the device they use, and people with smart phones should not be in an exclusive club any more deserved of receiving warning messages than anyone else.

12.2 Creating a resilient solution

There is a need to build a solution that can withstand the severe effects of extreme events and be resilient enough to be ‘self-healing’ if disrupted for any reason. Expert D considered technical issues which would need to be resolved if mobile services were used near hazards like fires. Fires might, for instance, affect the actual channels of communication, and as a result reduce the ability to get messages out to the people who need them most. According to Expert D, these issues have yet to be resolved, despite their seeming simplicity. There is also the fundamental problem of extreme conditions that would render cell towers inoperable which are all part of the deployment issues that need to be considered when rolling out a national emergency service based on mobiles. “Even in a flood or a cyclone, if all your cell towers get blown over or lose power then your messages going out to location-based devices are going to be affected” (Expert D). Carriers in Australia, in cooperation with government authorities, have demonstrated that networks can be quite resilient even under the worst conditions (e.g. Cyclone Larry) and are particularly prepared to get business customers back up and running after a disaster within 24 hours wherever possible. One survey respondent said that “fail-safe’ technological systems need to be introduced as far as that is possible ...” So, from a deployment point of view the chosen system needs allow for the rapid set up of mobile phone towers to get the message out to people.

12.3 Avoid the ad-hoc system design approach

There is a need to avoid the ad-hoc uncoordinated approach in designing location based emergency solutions. Expert B was clear that if the government, the emergency agencies and the IT professional did not design the national warning system properly, that “lives [would] be lost and they [would] be held legally and criminally liable as a result.” Expert B was worried by this haphazard approach, examples of which emerged from the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.

12.4 Communicating with the public using mobile platforms

The content of the location-based warning message has to be crafted with great care, lest individuals receiving the message misinterpret warnings and directions. It cannot be complex. Expert A spent some time discussing the issues around mobile communications from the Government. He said the information sent out to the public had to be accurate and well intended, effective, correct at the time of delivery and from the very beginning well thought out and structured. There need to be clear guidelines that in the event of a problem in communications or interpretation that the next time a message is sent out the authorities get it right, so that the public do not become complacent or lose faith in the medium. The public need to understand that every personalized message they receive is urgent and is not just being sent out as a matter of course. It must not be treated as just another piece of junk mail. It has to be both professional and appropriate.

In addition, the dissemination of location-based mobile phone warning notification should adhere to well-defined protocols to assure the correctness of the message content and its intended destination. Misinformation or even disinformation would just add to the woes of an emergency response. Expert A insisted that there must be strict protocols for the dissemination of information and they must be adhered to, just like the processes that are presently in place with communicating emergencies to inform the media who then in turn inform the general public through traditional channels. “Currently, we have processes in place for informing the media, and it goes through a series of checks, certain people are only allowed to inform the media of things. They have special training in media management, they provide media releases, they are written in a certain way, they are vetted and then it goes out and it is put out” (Expert A). However, if we liken the correspondence on mobile phones to that more attuned to email communications, rather than television or radio, we begin to see the risks more clearly. “When it is instantaneous, you tap something on a computer screen and it is gone. You cannot retract it. So, the protocols have to be in place to ensure that only the right information goes out” (Expert A).

Moreover, the content of the message must be carefully chosen to match the exact intended purpose of the warning. And this, all within the context of a warning which needs to be sent out not hurriedly but in a timely fashion. A warning that does not arrive on time to avert disaster, is not a warning at all. And yet, despite the urgency “[t]here needs to be some hard thought and consideration to the content of the message depending on what the event is” (Vic-Gov). Some events will be easier to determine content for than others while other events might require multiple messages to be sent in succession as the nature of the disaster unfolds hour by hour. In the latter instance a “close-out message” would be advisable as you do not wish to have people waiting in anticipation and with some level of anxiety over next steps. Vic-Gov provided the following example of a chemical spill situation. “[T]he initial message maybe to inform the people who have been potentially affected by that chemical spill to go indoors, shut their door, turn off their air-conditioning. So, we have given them the message to keep them safe, depending on how long the impact of that chemical spill remains for. We need to also keep those people updated, I believe, and that might be an hour later, two hours later. We certainly also need to provide those people with a close-out message to tell them that it is now safe to open their door and open their windows” (Vic-Gov).

But, in addition to the content of the warning message the way the message is conveyed, being in text or voice, should be carefully considered, taking into account the timing of the emergency event. Vic-Gov demonstrated their advanced understanding on the topic when they pondered on the time-of-day issue. “If the event is occurring at night particularly, or in the very early hours of the morning a text message may not wake somebody up. And we are also pretty certain that there is a technology which will allow us to over the air, kind of, send an update to particular handsets before the messages got sent, and that could be an over the air distinctive type of siren, or it could be something more like a ringing of the phone and then deliver a text message.” It was also noted that unified messaging would be at play. A message sent between midnight and 4.30 a.m. would be in the form of a voice message, but otherwise text-based.

Finally, with the right technological advances the message designers should consider at some stage the rich ethnic diversity of Australia and the need to provide an option for the message recipient to choose the language of the location-based mobile phone warning message like most other electronic government services currently available to the public in Australia today. These issues are already within the interest of the Australian Government. While Vic-Gov was only considering the message content to be in English, they were open to the idea of—way down the track—to send the message in a translated form. Vic-Gov said this would be the only case in point for an add-on opt-in channel feature.

12.5 Trialing location-based emergency systems

Conducting trials and exercises on the chosen location-based mobile phone warning system before the national implementation is a point that has been explicitly expressed by SES representatives, who are on the frontline of emergencies almost on a daily basis. Trials and exercises should, however be dealt with great care so as not to cause any adverse outcomes on the public (e.g. panic or false alarms). The SES could not underscore this enough: “[y]ou have got to practice this sort of stuff and you have got to be very careful of the wolf business ...”

12.6 Use the location-based warning system for major events only

The location-based mobile phone warning system should only be used in case of a large-scale emergency or imminent disaster. As the SES pointed out: “[a]m I going to go and wake up a million people at 2 am in the morning to tell them there is a thunder storm coming through?” Expert A agreed with SES when he said: “[i]t cannot be something that is used on a daily basis for minor things, because we will end up causing grief to ourselves. It should only be used in situations that are deemed, where it is the only means of getting information out quickly.” For Expert A, other existing channels of communication could be used in situations where information did not have to go out immediately, such as in news reports on television and radio, etc. What you do not want is a system in place that people actually complain about as opposed to appreciate.

An optimum level of notifications needs to be achieved, as the frequency of receiving a notification may be a determining factor of the system’s usefulness by the general public. This issue has been recorded before in other emergency warning systems, as the representative of the State Emergency Services explained in more detail. “They [the Government] put these big signs on top of big sticks and they test them every day. And so, if the dam goes over the siren goes and after a couple of years the people got so sick of the thing going off. They go up and cut the wires. They did not want to know and it was becoming painful. That is a reality. That is another part of it, people’s perception. Do I want to be warned? People do not want to know about disasters, until they go wrong, and this is precisely what happened in Victoria” (SES). The Whispir-Rep reiterated the comments of the SES: “[t]he introduction of these technologies should be managed carefully so as not to lose face with the public.” The Whispir-Rep recounted that shortly after the Victorian Bushfires, every person in Victoria and Tasmania were sent messages by their carrier which “broke all the rules in terms of communication management.” Such messages actually have the propensity to harm mobile government communications. By their very nature they are disregarded by people because they are not real: “[s]o, the whole idea of this is the context of the boy who cried wolf too many times. What we want to see is fewer communications sent but those communications sent are targeted, well structured communications that people would be anticipating” (Whispir-Rep).

12.7 Acknowledge the limitations of location-based services

Just like any solution on the market, location-based mobile phone emergency solutions also have their limitations that need to be acknowledged by all parties from the outset. The first reality is that no matter how hard the government tries, they are never going to get 100 per cent coverage because people will have their phones turned off. “So, it is really important to understand the operational context in terms of what you are trying to achieve and what is a realistic outcome” (Whispir-Rep). At a more practical level, the SES emphasize the limitations of human comprehension, despite the brevity of the message, content can be misinterpreted. “Based on work we have done we know factoring in evacuations you need to provide time for message assimilation. I think when you are looking at a telephony-based warning system or an SMS one, some of the limitations is that you can only have a very small message. It is more about how to get somebody’s attention to then go and do something else, to go and get more information” (SES). The short message sent to the mobile phone can be likened to a siren. If nothing else, the siren gets your attention, so that you can listen to the radio, turn on the television, or pay closer attention to the directions given by in-person emergency services staff in the vicinity of the emergency. It is certainly not straightforward, and at times utterly complex when you are trying to tell people what to do or not to do based on their given circumstances. According to the SES there would be a specific notification sequence so that evacuation routes are not congested, causing even greater problems in surrounding areas. This would be extremely difficult to implement using a SMS system.

In addition, some extreme events could impose a challenge that cannot be met or is basically beyond the capabilities of LBS solutions due to the speed or high level of unpredictability of these events. This fact would require careful consideration from the government to plan for only a narrow selection of emergency event types that can be effectively managed under location-based mobile phone emergency solutions. Therefore, an early assessment of location-based mobile phone capabilities for Australia’s specific requirements and characteristics is highly necessary before the implementation of the services. For this reason, the system should be designed to deliver what is actually possible within the current capabilities of the extant technologies of location-based services. Plainly, as spoken by Expert B, “[w]e should avoid trying to build more than is technically possible at the moment, and we should limit the expectations of the community, because the information we can give via the warning system is going to be limited in its accuracy and timeliness. We have to limit the expectations people will get. They are not going to get much information. They are not going to get very precise information in most cases.”

12.8 Build a wide partnership and share responsibility of location-based emergency systems with non-government organizations

Toward a comprehensive national approach for location-based mobile phone emergency systems, there is a need to involve not only all levels of government in Australia but also to effectively acquire the participation of every voluntary and nongovernment organization (NGO) in Australia that has a close relation, one way or another, to emergencies. For Expert A, there needs to be an inclusive participation from all areas of government. Government agencies are ultimately responsible for communities. And if a Government notifies people to “evacuate”, there needs to be some explanation of the best method of evacuation. Not everyone who receives a message to evacuate is physically mobile. And what you do not want is a state of panic and to be flooded with calls coming back questioning directions. Some members of the community will need assistance in acting on directions. Expert A suggests that early warning systems are actually a “partnership between the system being put in place and the types of activities required for those notifications to be planned for and more effectively carried out. You may end up having to use local service groups, volunteer organizations to assist in doing some of the actions that are required, for example, the evacuation or the management or the leading of people to safe areas.” It will most certainly be a partnership between government agencies, local community groups and welfare and support groups that are called upon in normal emergency management practices. These are the groups that will especially have to embrace location-based mobile phone emergency notifications as they continue to provide their services on a voluntary basis. Expert D also identified a consultative stakeholder group that was as wide a group as possible to ensure acceptance. Expert D reflected, “I think that it is very critical that you incorporate as much consultation with a wide group as possible, because it is relatively fragmented in terms of the different federal, state and local levels, all have their own sort of emergency management groups and strategies, and it is always quite important that everyone be involved in any type of new system being developed or evolving. Otherwise, your acceptance level will be very low. If you do not do that, then you will find people saying: ‘Well, we were not involved in that consultation so we are not going to accept whatever the outcome is of that consultation’ ” (Expert D).

12.9 Educate the people of Australia about emergencies and emergency solutions

All levels of government in Australia need to start preparing the public on how to cope and how to deal with the potential threats of human and man-made emergencies and disasters, towards creating resilient communities that are capable of withstanding these extreme events until further professional assistance from different government emergency organizations arrives. Building resilient communities would greatly assist the objectives of the national emergency warning system in Australia including the future LBS component of the system, where these systems could truly be utilized as initial safety information channels. The SES contend that psychology should play a vital role independent of the technology used. They provide a plausible scenario that hits home the importance of having a community ready. “[Imagine] you have got people standing up there at the doors at Bondi [a well-known beach in Sydney] and the word says ‘There has been a 9.7 earthquake, just north of New Zealand and you have got exactly 45 minutes, you have got 2.5 meters of water coming up Sydney Harbour.’ You know what is going to happen? Absolute panic. All of the plans we have in place of orderly evacuation routes, of you go here, you go there, it is not going to happen.”

How best to avoid such panic is to work on building resilient communities. In a severe event, the SES or other emergency services personnel will probably not be able to reach individuals given the amount of infrastructure that has been damaged. During this time, individuals, families, business owners, need to work together to overcome hardship. This has very little to do with location-based services per se and more to do with social networking. In fact, what might eventuate is that support groups begin to post messages online to help people share vital information and provide feedback to government authorities of the situation on the ground, if a disaster is to continue for some time. While the SES acknowledged there might be some problem with the cultural mix in Australia, education was a key to breaking the barriers when it came to people in the community helping one another. “What we need to be moving to is to that preparedness mitigating mindset, where we are educating our children and our communities how to prepare for a natural disaster. You have got to take it back to the beginning. The preventive side of things. You have got to stop people being in situations and then of course if they are going to be in those situations prepare them for what needs to be done” (SES).

Part of this public preparation should be spent towards educating the people on what to do when they receive the location-based warning message on their mobile handsets. The Whispir-Rep agreed with SES that the challenges of introducing such a warning system were not going to be technical, as so much as cultural and how best to educate people on how to respond to the messages they are receiving. “So, it [location based mobile emergency warning system] needs to be going hand-inhand with an education program and people need to be made aware of that they may from time to time receive those messages. So, I think those hurdles need to be addressed as part of the solution.” While the preparation could target the vast majority of people in Australia, there will be still some people that need the help of the local government service groups or volunteer organizations. The Whispir-Rep gives two scenarios—the aged person who is a little deaf and is sent a tsunami alert on their mobile phone, and the bus loaded with Japanese tourists. “What are those two communities of people going to do in those circumstances and how do you manage the fall out of just broadcasting these types of communications?”

Fortunately, educating the public is a concern that is already on the agenda of the Australian Government. Vic-Gov confirmed that they had always planned to deploy this type of technology with a substantial education campaign. “It is not simply education to the public, it is education within the various emergency service agencies. It is education through all layers of other interested parties as well” (Vic-Gov). These would include, among others, principals or authority figures of schools who have hundreds of children under their care on a daily basis. Education would be necessary wherever there was a large concentrated gathering of people. Vic-Gov followed up by providing the following examples: major places of interest, building managers, shopping centre managers but added that she was unsure whether she had yet considered all the layers and levels that would go into a substantial education campaign.

12.10 Real collaboration between the telecommunications carriers mobile and service providers

Realizing location-based mobile phone emergency services on the national level in Australia requires the effective collaboration between all the telecommunications carriers of Australia, not just the incumbent operator. The Redcoal-Rep imagined a better collaboration between the major carriers was needed, and noted that this relationship would be significant if the service was to be successful. Indeed there is a need not just for carriers and service providers to better collaborate but for the business side to be more in tune with the government mandate(s). In the context of emergency services, one cannot solely talk about an innovative business model but about the jointly developed government and business model that is required to get such a service off the ground.

12.11 A solution the telecommunications carriers can also gain from

The participation of the mobile telecommunications carriers in Australia is central in location-based emergency systems. The Whispir-Rep stated categorically, “[n]othing is going to happen without the support of the carriers.” This was also expressed by the Victorian Government official: “[t]o collect the data, we need the cooperation of the carriers.” The carriers are able to provide a fundamental piece of the puzzle in that they know the make-up of their infrastructure better than anyone else, and they can provide details of their assets, their sites, their cells and even their customers, if required. Vic-Gov noted the need for this data would be to purely know to whom they should send out the message to the active handsets that have been identified.

There has been some contention over whether or not a carrier should charge for such a service during an emergency to the general public but the overwhelming consensus in Australia’s case, is that the cost should be borne by the government. This does not mean that the carrier does not receive any revenue. On the contrary, by the mere fact they are sending a message to a handset, the revenue must go back to them (Vic-Gov). Accordingly, utilizing the carrier networks to provide location based mobile phone emergency services strongly imposes the cost factor as one of the possible determinants of their participation. The Whispir-Rep is clear that the government must engage the carriers with respect to emergency service messaging of this nature, as such a system would place a heavy load on the infrastructure of any mobile network provider. In addition, more infrastructure would be required to enable the government the capability to speak to everyone’s mobile handset in a given area. Unless carriers receive some type of subsidy or have an interest in the solution or outcome, they would be unlikely to make such a significant outlay for little in return.

13 Conclusion

This paper presented the results of a qualitative study into the issues surrounding the national utilization of location-based mobile phone emergency services in Australia, as articulated by the stakeholders of the services. The results of the analysis showed Australia’s need for the application of location-based mobile phone services within the country’s national emergency management arrangements, and the need to regulate and control the services under a well-defined legal framework. Several disagreements between stakeholders were recorded in the analysis over some of the issues pertaining to the utilization of the location-based mobile phone service within the national emergency warning system, specifically in relation to some of the design aspects of the location-based emergency system, the privacy of location information under the system implementation, and the administrative structure needed to deploy the services. Other issues of importance were also revealed. These included the government and telecommunications carrier potential liabilities under the utilization of the national location-based mobile phone emergency system, the expected responsibilities and roles of the government and other stakeholders in the utilization, and some of the social implications of the location-based government emergency services, such as people’s trust in the services and in the government, and the risks perceived as associated by utilizing the services. Potential barriers to the national utilization of the services and recommendations toward setting realistic objectives for the services in Australia are also presented. What is clear from the study is that future mobile government applications will require a greater interplay between stakeholders, including telecommunications carriers and supporting value chain members and the general public who are the ultimate end users of such a system. Such personalized communications between government entities and citizens has begun to occur on electronic commerce systems related to taxation and social security but the introduction of personalized communications based on the location of a mobile device is heralding in a new breed of adaptive solutions that will revolutionize the manner in which people respond to their context.


1. Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (1999). Designing qualitative research (3rd edn.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

2. Cecez-Kecmanovic, D. (2001). Critical research in information systems: the question of methodology. In E. M. Trauth (Ed.), Qualitative research in IS: issues and trends (1st edn., pp. 141–163). Hershey: IGI Publishing.

3. Hennink, M. M. (2008). Emergent issues in international focus group discussions. In S. Hesse-Biber & P. Leavy (Eds.), Handbook of emergent methods (1st edn., pp. 207–220). New York: Guilford Press.

4. Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner (2008). Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner. Department of Justice. Melbourne, Victoria. Available via. au/wps/wcm/connect/DOJ+Internet/Home/About+Us/Our+Organisation/Business+Area+Profiles/ JUSTICE+-+Office+of+the+Emergency+Services+Commissioner. Accessed 20 November 2008.

5. The NSW State Emergency Service (2008). About the SES. Wollongong, New South Wales. Available via. Accessed 09 April 2009.

6. Whispir Company (2009). The Whispir story. Accessed 17 September 2009.

7. Redcoal Company (2009). Enterprise SMS Solutions: Email SMS/Web SMS Solutions: Mobile Phone Tracking. Accessed 17 September 2009.

8. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: an expanded sourcebook (2nd edn.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

9. Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research & evaluation methods (3rd edn.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

10. Leximancer Company (2010). Leximancer: from words to meaning to insight. https://www. Accessed 16 June 2010.

11. Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (1975). Series in social psychology. Belief, attitude, intention, and behavior: an introduction to theory and research. Reading: Addison-Wesley.

12. Mayer, R. C., Davis, J. H., & Schoorman, F. D. (1995). An integrative model of organizational trust. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 709–734.

13. McKnight, D. H., & Chervany, N. L. (2001). What trust means in e-commerce customer relationships: an interdisciplinary conceptual typology. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 6(2), 35–59.

14. Pavlou, P. A., & Gefen, D. (2004). Building effective online marketplaces with institution-based trust. Information Systems Research, 15(1), 37–59.

15. Heijden, H. V. D., & Ogertschnig, M. (2005). Gaast Lvd effects of context relevance and perceived risk on user acceptance of mobile information services. In The 13th European conference on information systems (ECIS 2005), Regensburg, Germany, May 26–28 2005.

16. Davis, F. D., Bagozzi, R. P., & Warshaw, P. R. (1989). User acceptance of computer technology: a comparison of two theoretical models. Management Science, 35(8), 982–1003.

17. Agarwal, R., & Prasad, J. (1997). The role of innovation characteristics and perceived voluntariness in the acceptance of information technologies. Decision Sciences, 28(3), 557–582.

18. Parasuraman, A., Berry, L., & Zeithaml, V. (1988). SERVQUAL: A multiple-item scale for measuring service quality. Journal of Retailing, 64(1), 12–40

19. Zeithaml, V. A., Parasuraman, A., & Malhotra, A. (2000). A conceptual framework for understanding e-service quality: implications for future research and managerial practice (Working Paper 00-115), Marketing Science Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Accessed 09 November 2007.

20. Yang, Z., Peterson, R. T., & Cai, S. (2003). Services quality dimensions of Internet retailing: an exploratory analysis. Journal of Services Marketing, 17(7), 685–700.

21. Liljander, V., Van-Riel, A. C. R., & Pura, M. (2002). Customer satisfaction with e-services: the case of an on-line recruitment portal. In M. Bruhn & B. Stauss (Eds.), Jahrbuch Dienstleistungsmanagement 2002—Electronic Services (1st edn., pp. 407–432). Wiesbaden: Gabler Verlag.

22. Stone, E. F., Gueutal, H. G., Gardner, D. G., & McClure, S. (1983). A field experiment comparing information-privacy values, beliefs, and attitudes across several types of organizations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 68(3), 459–468.

23. Smith, H. J., Milberg, S. J., & Burke, S. J. (1996). Information privacy: measuring individuals’ concerns about organizational practices. MIS Quarterly, 20(2), 167–196.

24. Junglas, I., & Spitzmuller, C. (2005). A research model for studying privacy concerns pertaining to location-based services. In The 38th annual Hawaii international conference on system sciences (HICSS’05), Hawaii, January 3–6 2005.

25. Punch, K. F. (2005). Introduction to social research: quantitative and qualitative approaches (2nd edn.). London: Sage.

26. The Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission (2009). Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission interim report. Parliament of Victoria, Government State of Victoria. Melbourne, Australia. Available via. Accessed 03 October 2009.

27. The Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance (2009). Request for Information (RFI) for: location based identification of active mobile handsets for emergency notification purposes. RFI Number: SS-06-2009. Melbourne, Victoria. Available via. display/ Accessed 19 November 2009.

28. Garfinkel, S. (2000). Database nation: the death of privacy in the 21st century (1st edn.). Sebastopol: O’Reilly & Associates.

29. Rule, J. B. (2007). Privacy in peril: how we are sacrificing a fundamental right in exchange for security and convenience (1st edn.). New York: Oxford University Press.

30. Bita, N., & Sainsbury, M. (2009). Bungling silenced Victoria Bushfires warning. Available via. Accessed 02 August 2009.

31. The Australian Government: Attorney General’s Department (2009). Rudd government implements COAG agreement on telephone-based emergency warning systems (joint media release). Barton, Australia Capital Territory. Available via. nsf/Page/MediaReleases_2009_FirstQuarter_23February2009-RuddGovernmentImplementsCOAG AgreementonTelephone-BasedEmergencyWarningSystems. Accessed 02 August 2009.

32. The Australian Government: Department of Transport and Regional Services (2004). Natural disasters in Australia: reforming mitigation, relief and recovery arrangements. Commonwealth of Australia. Canberra, Australia. Available via. rwpattach.nsf/VAP/(99292794923AE8E7CBABC6FB71541EE1)~Natural+Disasters+in+Australia+ -+Review.pdf/$file/Natural+Disasters+in+Australia+-+Review.pdf. Accessed 18 February 2009.

33. Templeman, D., & Bergin, A. (2008). Taking a punch: building a more resilient Australia. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Available via. publication_details.aspx?ContentID=165. Accessed 02 February 2009

Anas Aloudat is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Information Systems and Technology, at the Faculty of Informatics, at the University of Wollongong. His thesis is investigating the utilization of nationwide location-based services for emergency management within Australia from social and behavioral perspectives. Mr. Aloudat holds a Master of Science in Computing from the University of Technology, Sydney (’03), and a Bachelor of Science in Computing from the Faculty of Science at Mu’tah University in Karak, Jordan (’93). He is presently a sessional lecturer/tutor and research assistant at the University of Wollongong. He is a member of the Civil Emergency Alert Services Association (’07), a member of the Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Response Association (’09), a member of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (’09) and has been a member of the Research Network for a Secure Australia since 2006.

Katina Michael (MIEE’04, SMIEEE’06) holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) from the Faculty of Informatics at the University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia (’03); a Master of Transnational Crime Prevention from the Faculty of Law at the University of Wollongong (’09) and a Bachelor of Information Technology from the School of Mathematical and Computing Science, NSW, Australia at the University of Technology, Sydney (’96). She is presently an Associate Professor at the University of Wollongong in the School of Information Systems and Technology (’02–‘10) in Australia, and has previously been employed as a Senior Business and Network Planner at Nortel Networks (’96–‘01). She has also worked as a Systems Analyst at Andersen Consulting and OTIS Elevator Company. Michael has published several edited books, but more recently co-authored a 500 page reference volume: Innovative Automatic Identification and Location Based Services: from Bar Codes to Chip Implants (Hershey, PA: IGI, 2009). She has published over 90 peer reviewed papers including in Proceedings of the IEEE, IBM Journal of Research and Development, and Computer Communications. Michael researches predominantly in the area of emerging technologies, and has secondary interests in technologies used for national security and their corresponding social implications. In 2007, Michael was a recipient of a substantial Australian Research Council Discovery Grant DP0881191 entitled: “Toward the Regulation of the Location-Based Services Industry: Influencing Australian Government Telecommunications Policy


The authors dedicate this paper to the 173 people who lost their lives in the Black Saturday Victorian Bushfires in Australia on February 7, 2009.


The authors wish to acknowledge the substantial funding support of the Australian Research Council—Discovery Grant DP0881191 entitled “Toward the Regulation of the Location-Based Services Industry: Influencing Australian Government Telecommunications Policy.”


Location-based services, Emergency management, Mobile government, Regulation 


  • COAG: Council of Australian Governments
  • EMA: Emergency Management Australia
  • ESO: Emergency Service Organizations
  • GPS: Global Positioning System
  • GST: Goods and Services Tax
  • IPND: Integrated Public Number Database
  • IN: Intelligent Networks
  • IMEI: International Mobile Equipment Identity
  • LBS: Location-Based Services
  • LTE: Long Term Evolution
  • NEWS: National Emergency Warning System
  • NGO: Non-government organization
  • R&D: Research and Development
  • RFI: Request for Information
  • ROI: Return on Investment
  • SES: State Emergency Service
  • SMS: Short Messaging Service
  • USO: Universal Service Obligation
  • VBRC: Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission
  • WiMAX: Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access

Citation: Anas Aloduat, Katina Michael, Toward the regulation of ubiquitous mobile government: a case study on location-based emergency services in Australia

Barriers to RFID Adoption in the Supply Chain


This paper will explore the interplay between the retailer's dilemma of product shrinkage and the solutions advocated by RFID vendors and associations to minimise product shrinkage. RFID as an emerging technology holds the potential to fulfil the needs of stakeholders in the supply chain.

Section I.


This paper will explore the interplay between the retailer's dilemma of product shrinkage and the solutions advocated by RFID vendors and associations to minimise product shrinkage. RFID as an emerging technology holds the potential to fulfil the needs of stakeholders in the supply chain. The recent ratification of Generation-2 (Gen-2) RFID and the Electronic Product Code (EPC) standard developed by Global Standards One (GS1) has greatly influenced the adoption of RFID in certain industries. Despite these current standards supporting the technology, there still remain a number of challenges that prevent RFID appealing to the retail industry. These challenges involve overcoming barriers and inhibitors to the adoption of RFID implementation for the tracking of goods, especially at carton-level and item-level. An important point raised by the retailer's Delicatessen Manager is that “[i]t's hard to keep track of how many items we have in the supermarket.” If so, then why have we not seen a more effective supply chain management (SCM) solution in the Australian retail industry, such as RFID?

Section II.

RFID: The Emerging Technology

Rivalry among businesses leads to the relentless pursuit of competitive advantage. According to research conducted by [1], across all industries 28 percent of organisations are planning to experiment with RFID technologies within the next two years. This interest in RFID technology suggests that it could also be used by retailers for strategic advantage. Consider Michael Porter's [2] theory that well established organisations are in the best position to integrate new technologies with SCM by leveraging existing assets (legacy barcode systems) to further support their investments. In this light, retailers willing to minimise product shrinkage, now have the ability to do so by complementing existing legacy barcode systems and other supply chain processes with RFID. Today, retailers and manufacturers are using RFID technologies to manage their supply chains. U.S. based companies such as Wal-Mart, Tesco, Target, Proctor and Gamble, and Gillette have implemented RFID technologies across their supply chains. According to the RFID vendors and associations involved in this study, RFID is currently used by Chinese and Korean airports, pharmaceutical industries and casino and gambling industries. RFID is a reality in these industries by the support of Gen-2 RFID standard of tag and EPCGlobal for data storage. However, even with the proliferation of RFID across a diverse spectrum of industries, it is yet to engage the Australian retail industry.

Section III.


Interview transcripts were combined and then analysed using the Leximancer content analysis software. The program is designed to automatically detect concepts in interview transcripts and create an analysis report or concept map (Figure 1). This map illustrates the interaction between concepts and provides an overview of how concepts relate to one another. The size of a circle which encapsulates a particular concept represents the relative importance of a concept and overlapping circles characterise association or closely allied concepts.

Figure 1. Leximancer Concept Map

Figure 1. Leximancer Concept Map

The concept map for this study was used to create themes for further discussion topics (Table 1). A total of six major concepts were discovered within the interview transcripts, each ofwhich forms part of this paper.

Table 1. Discussion themes created from the concept map

Table 1. Discussion themes created from the concept map

A. RFID Interviewees

RFID Vendor: 1 Business Development Manager

RFID Vendor 2: Systems Engineer

RFID Vendor 3: Managing Director

RFID Vendor 4: VP Marketing & Business Development

RFID Vendor 5: Managing Director

RFID Vendor 6: Managing Director

RFID Vendor 7: National Sales Manager

RFID Association

RFID Consultant

RFID Standards Standards Development Coordinator


Section IV.

Barriers To Adoption

There are a number of challenges that are currently restraining the proliferation of RFID in the retail industry as a SCM solution and as a means to minimise product shrinkage. These barriers to adoption were identified as cost, lack of awareness, immaturity of RFID technology and differing perceptions of product shrinkage and RFID.

A. Cost

This study revealed through supporting evidence that RFID is currently too expensive to be implemented by a retailer. The retailer's existing application of EAS tags to certain products is cost driven by the unit price or product lines deemed to be high-theft targets. According to the retailer's Loss Prevention Manager (1), cost prohibits the investment of newer generations of RFID at this stage. Although the technology has improved dramatically over the past decade, the cost of various RFID components remains a significant inhibitor to its adoption. It was agreed on by both the retailer and the RFID vendors and associations that cost was the most dominant barrier to the integration of RFID in a retail setting. In addition, RFID was dismissed as a possible SCM solution on most occasions solely based on this factor. As recognised by the Business Development Manager from RFID Vendor (1): “I think it'll take a fairly low cost tag and cost effective reader for them to implement an RFID system… the manufacturers of the technology are doing their best and investing a great amount of money into improving the technology. I think it's only going to get better and it's only going to get more cost effective, which means eventually it will be implemented.”

RFID readers and tags were found to be costly outlays in an RFID implementation. However, RFID tags in a supply chain solution require constant replenishment. RFID readers on the other hand have an initial outlay, but in most cases require little maintenance. A large scale operation, such as integrating RFID within a retail supply chain, requires a large number of RFID tags. Consequently, it was discovered that tags represented the larger expense of the two. The Systems Engineer from RFID Vendor (2) claimed: “[i]t's the tag cost that does sting, especially when you're comparing it to things like barcodes.” The price of an RFID tag is relative to the law of economies of scale. Economies of scale refers to the decreased per unit cost as output increases [3]. In other words, when RFID tags can be produced on a larger scale with less input costs economies of scale are thus achieved. The latest silicon technology and other advancements in RFID are to influence production volumes due to the lower costs of such materials (RFID Vendor 4). As illustrated in Figure 2, as the price of RFID tags fall and become more affordable, the adoption of RFID will increase. As predicted by RFID Vendor (2) “the magic number in the industry is 10 cents a tag” and retailers are more likely to see a return on investment with an RFID solution that is consistently cost effective. Nonetheless, the technology relies on other components rather than readers and tags alone.

Figure 2. RFID adoption model (cost vs production volume) Adapted (Kleist et al. 2006, p. 39 [4]; Lahiri 2006, p. 230 [5])

Figure 2. RFID adoption model (cost vs production volume) Adapted (Kleist et al. 2006, p. 39 [4]; Lahiri 2006, p. 230 [5])

It is most likely that an RFID solution for a retail supply chain would need to integrate a middleware application.

Middleware was also found to be an expensive component of an RFID system. As suggested by RFID Vendor (4): “you might need to get a middleware company involved like IBM or SAP and that's where your large costs are.” Many vendors were providers of hardware-based solutions and relied on a third party to integrate middleware and the communication between RFID tags and a Warehouse Management System (RFID Vendor 2). It was therefore confirmed that the overall costs involved in an RFID implementation are a barrier to its adoption. The technology may exist to build an RFID solution for a retail supply chain, yet it all comes down to developing business cases (RFID Vendor 3) and improving the general awareness of the technology in the industry.

B. Lack of Awareness

Another commonly occurring concept was ‘think’ which represents the lack of awareness of RFID technology. It was found that the overall awareness of Gen-2 RFID within the retailer studied was generally low. Loss Prevention staff members had a reasonable understanding but failed to recognise the true potential of RFID as a retail SCM solution and an effective loss prevention mechanism. This lack of awareness requires information sources to be directed at retailers to instigate a solution.

The RFID Association involved in the study was a nonprofit organisation, solely established to increase awareness of RFID through communication and forming a knowledge base. An interesting point raised by the RFID Consultant was that RFID “brings different knowledge into the same room” (RFID Association). This suggests that integrating RFID across the supply chain may require more than just the retailer and an RFID vendor. Perhaps other parties need to be involved such as; standards bodies, government departments, product manufacturers, logistics companies, wireless and other innovative technology providers. Forming business consortiums may instigate an alternative driver for RFID.

Table 2. Australian Demonstrator Project [6]

Table 2. Australian Demonstrator Project [6]

As quoted by RFID Vendor (1), “there really has to be a business case, and I think people really need to understand that”. So far, the Australian retail industry has only witnessed the Australian Demonstrator Project, chiefly conducted by Global Standards One (GS1) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) [6]. The study involved numerous participants (Table 2). As part of a pilot study, these participants set out to discover the benefits of RFID in a retail supply chain environment. The project formed a business case with a principal finding that internal knowledge and the use of standards is essential to a successful RFID implementation [6]. The study also advised that it is important that retailers in search of similar solutions investigate their own business challenges [6]. This could be made possible by forming consortiums and establishing a common goal through forming agreements or industry compliance mandates. A business challenge identified through the research in this thesis was product shrinkage; the retailer's dilemma.

C. Immature Technology

To be become a well established and accepted technology, like barcodes, RFID needs further development. As acknowledged by RFID Vendor (4) retailer's have “got some pretty good systems that have matured over time and it would be difficult to see where RFID could actually improve those systems.” In this instance, the vendor is referring to legacy barcode systems. RFID Vendor (1) also supported this theory: “retailers have invested an immense amount of money in moving their products from their distribution centres out to their stores and they do that quite well in this point in time.” RFID has a long way to go before its proliferation industry wide.

The suppliers of RFID equipment are also limited. For example, the Managing Director of RFID Vendor (5) claimed that his company is the only manufacturer in Australia for ultra long-range active tags. Using advanced battery management technology, similar to that of mobile phones, this type of tag has a battery life of seven to eight years (RFID Vendor 5). As a leading edge technology only recently available to the Australian market, suggests that these tags would most likely be expensive. This is yet another inhibitor to the adoption of RFID.

When asked whether RFID was hype or reality, the RFID Standards Body claimed that it is “somewhere in between”. In the case of Wal-Mart in the United States RFID is a reality (RFID Standards Body). However, in Australia, even though we consider RFID a reality, there are only fifteen major deployments including toll-ways on motor highways (RFID Standards Body). Conversely, RFID Vendor (5) responded: “It's a reality, definitely a reality… there's very, very few people that are actually providing solutions. There are a lot of people that are supplying tags, readers, technology and what have you. But you go and approach them and ask them how to solve a particular problem, they'll go huh? You'll have to go see an integrator to do that. Where are these integrators? So, unfortunately in that regard the industry is in its infancy.

It's only some of the big players that are only interested in the multi billion dollar deals with the likes of the Department of Defence and Wal-Mart, that are really getting into this. Down at the normal level, there are very few players that provide an actual solution. We're one of the few that do.”

In this light, RFID may well be a reality, yet in an Australian context it is still considered to be in its infancy. The barriers to entry expand even further when considering user perceptions of the technology. As this thesis is concerned with product shrinkage as a means to minimise product shrinkage, it was relevant to discover the differing views of product shrinkage and RFID.

Section V.

The Convergence of RFID and Legacy Systems

Australian retailers have invested large amounts of time and capital into refining their existing legacy barcodes systems. What was highlighted by numerous RFID vendors and associations involved in the study, is the inevitable convergence of RFID and barcode systems, suggesting that both technologies be integrated into the retail supply chain.

Figure 3. Dis(advantages) of Barcode and RFID

Figure 3. Dis(advantages) of Barcode and RFID

Interestingly, The Managing Director (RFID Vendor 6) mentioned that he would be very surprised if bar code systems were ever phased out completely. The future potential for barcodes to operate in conjunction with RFID as a backup system was also envisaged (RFID Vendors 3–6). The RFID Consultant from the RFID Association also stressed the importance of smart labels. A smart label is an adhesive label with a barcode and an RFID tag (Figure 3). This technology is designed to support cross-compatibility between barcode and RFID systems within a supply chain configuration. Dual compatibility of smart labels has required the development of a new standard for data storage.

Technology standards also need to converge if RFID and barcodes are to coexist. The Standards Development Coordinator from the RFID Standards Body was asked about the convergence of UPC, EAN and EPC standards. He explained that EAN and UPC form part of the EPC standard which is known as tag data standards (RFID Standards Body). Uniting barcodes and RFID using smart labels and tag data standards faciliates a transition period from a combined barcode and RFID solution, to RFID only. However, RFID Vendor (6) predicted an ‘RFID only’ solution for a retail supply chain to be highly unlikely. The levels at which RFID tags are to be applied to products and other assets across the retail supply chain is also significant.

Figure 4. The Barcode and RFID Adoption Lifecycle

Figure 4. The Barcode and RFID Adoption Lifecycle

A. Level of Tagging

RFID tags can be applied to objects at various levels. The three main levels include: item-level, carton-level, pallet-level and container-level (RFID Vendors 1–7; [7]). The most appropriate level of tracking depends on the application and the industry vertical in which a solution is to be implemented (RFID Vendor 2). According to the RFID Standards Body, the most realistic application for a retailer at this stage is carton-level or pallet-level tracking. This type of tracking monitors individual cartons or groups of cartons on a pallet. Other than the inhibitor of cost previously mentioned, item-level tracking is presented with a number of problems including read ranges and the complexity of integration throughout the entire supply chain (RFID Vendor 2; RFID Standards Body). However, the Vice President of Marketing and Business Development (RFID Vendor 4), suggested that item-level tracking is definitely an enabling technology in areas such as; access control and asset tracking but, “it doesn't make sense to put them on cans of beans or on clothes where barcodes are suitable.” Comparison of Characteristics BARCODES RFID Cost Relatively cheap, as the technology is quite mature. Expensive, although costs are expected to drop significantly as uptake increases and economies of scale are created. Ease of Use Simple and easy to use with little or no training required. The removal of human intervention and the level of automation negates any operating difficulties Ongoing Innovations Although barcodes are a mature technology, there are still continual innovations in the technology such as mobile phone barcode scanners and multimedia messaging service (MMS) barcode tickets such as “mobi-ticket”. RFID development is at a relatively immature state which means new applications are continually emerging. Reliability and Accuracy Barcodes are quite reliable and accurate, but are subject to operator mistakes and environmental hindrances. Some initial read reliability and accuracy issues have been discovered through pilots, however these are being solved as the technology matures. The technical nature of RFID and lack of human involvements means that theoretically its reliability and accuracy will be extremely high. Line-of-sight Barcodes are limited by line-of-sight optical scanning. Consequently, objects often have to be manually manipulated through human intervention. The radio nature of RFID means tags can be scanned remotely through packaging. It also leads to simultaneous reading where large numbers of items can be scanned within seconds. Information and Data Properties Traditional barcode symbologies only hold a minimal amount of information. Symbology innovations like two-dimensional (2D) and reduced space symbology (RSS) allow more information to be stored. Their uptake has been limited. Tags can typically hold as little or as much information as required by users, although this is limited by cost. Tags will allow for each individual item in the supply chain to be uniquely identified. In addition to this, tags can be updated as they move along the supply chain creating an audit trail. Environmental Considerations Asset Tracking Inventory Tracking A significant limitation of barcodes is the environment. As barcodes have to be in view of scanners they are subject to damage, weather and other stresses associated with movement across the supply chain. Barcodes can be used to track assets, enabling businesses to monitor the use of many investments such as tools. Limited inventory tracking is available; however, barcodes can generally only specify what type of product an item is, limiting its effectiveness. RFID tags can be very durable with some tags withstanding harsh chemical and extremely high temperatures. They are not subject to weather, nor are they typically damaged by rough handling, as they are stored inside packaging with the product. RFID tags allow organisations to track their assts as they are used. Tags can be attached to returnable items such as beer kegs to help maximise their use. The individual tracking of objects as they move along the supply chain is easy with RFID. The information on tags can also specify a product's expiry date. Inventory Management and Visibility Inventory control is one of the primary reasons for using barcodes in SCM. They provide better visibility, allow management systems to better forecast demands, and manage stock on hand, utilising practices such as just in time inventory management. Once fully deployed, RFID would provide organisations with an accurate picture of inventory levels in real-time. This allows management systems to act with enhanced knowledge and monitor all inventory details to maximise efficiency. Quality Control and Recall Management The inability to track unique items across the supply chain means that recalls and quality control cannot be very accurate. Individual item level management allows organisations to undertake stringent quality control practices and make very specific recalls when required. Tags can also monitor shock and temperature levels to ensure the quality of the end product. Level of Visibility The requirement of manual scanning at many SCM phases limits the availability and timeliness of information. Non-line-of-sight properties allow the continual monitoring of objects, which equates to real-time visibility. Security Barcodes provide limited or no security capabilities. Information rich, always-on tags give organisations the ability to constantly monitor tagged objects. Should an item go missing in the supply chain, systems can immediately initiate the appropriate response. Tags can also authenticate products to ensure they are not counterfeit. Error Reduction Compared to manual data entry, barcodes can reduce errors significantly. However as the scanning of barcodes is a physical process, human error can creep into the process with staff forgetting to scan items. RFID is highly automated and when setup correctly can achieve near perfect read rates. Automation removes the need for human manipulation, further lowering errors. Cost Savings Barcodes can help companies improve inventory management and efficiency; however, the physical scanning requirement of barcodes means that a large labour component is required. Once fully integrated into the supply chain, RFID could substantially lower operating costs and improve efficiency, reducing problems such as out-of-stock occurrences. Labour Considerations Provides a reduction compared to manual data entry, although scanning items still requires a sizable labour contingent. Automation directly eliminates a substantial labour component from SCM. As the technology becomes more pervasive, further labour reduction could be achieved through things like automated checkouts and smart shelves. Deployment Considerations Aside from environmental factors, there are few deployment considerations as the technology is inexpensive and widely used. Radio interference can prove to be a major issue in deployment, requiring numerous pilots and testing. The cost of RFID deployment and training are some other considerations. Established Barcodes are highly developed and are the standard in auto-ID SCM technology. It will be around for quite some time. RFID has a limited number of deployments in SCM. Despite this, recent mandates from leading companies mean that in the near future the technology will be used extensively. Privacy Concerns The barcodes inability to track individual items limits consumer privacy concerns. Tags are information rich and as they are quite durable, they can remain active for the lifetime of many products. The pervasive ‘always-on’ nature of the technology has caused concern among many privacy advocates.

A. RFID Source-tagging

Retailers drive their EAS source-tagging initiative by forming agreements with their suppliers. This initiative currently focuses on EAS anti-theft tags that are applied at point of manufacture and play a minor role in SCM processes. A high-end product may come source-tagged, but the tag's only function is to operate at store entry and exit points solely as an anti-theft mechanism. Consequently, the retailer's Store Trading Manager claimed that EAS does not minimise product shrinkage to a significant level. The enhanced functionality of Gen-2 RFID technology holds the potential to improve business decision making, especially when including all players in a retail supply chain.

Preliminary EAS agreements between suppliers and retailers may create the foundations for future agreements for an RFID enabled supply chain. This topic is closely linked to the notion that awareness and the formation of consortiums play a large role in the tagging of products at the point of manufacture. It was recommended by all RFID vendors and associations involved in this research that a successful RFID implementation requires the participation of all parties involved in a retail supply chain.

Section VI.

Integrating RFID Across the Entire Supply Chain

The levels at which products are to be tagged for distribution across the supply chain needs to be determined for the implementation of an RFID solution. When considering item-level tagging RFID Vendor (4) proposed the following: “[t]he whole benefit of barcodes wasn't established until everything had a barcode on it. So if you're going into a retailer and say I'll tag all the expensive stuff, but I won't tag all the cheap stuff, then they're not really utilising the benefits of RFID, you really have to tag everything, because otherwise you've got to have two systems. A system for the products that are tagged and one for the products that aren't tagged.” This quote suggests that stakeholders of a retail supply chain need to apply tags at item-level to utilise the full potential of RFID. Furthermore, RFID needs to be implemented across the entire supply chain to function in this manner and “[t]hat's where the real effort comes in” assured the Systems Engineer (RFID Vendor 2). Setting up a system at a distribution centre with over thirty truck bays can be extremely complicated (RFID Vendor 2). From a hardware perspective, testing and fine-tuning RFID solutions regularly encounters issues such as cross-over, multiple reads and other types of read errors (RFID Vendor 2). The task becomes “hugely complicated if we're talking about a full supply chain” (RFID Vendor 2).

Section VII.


This paper discussed the current issues surrounding RFID as an emerging technology for a SCM solution and as part of a loss prevention strategy for a retailer. Primary themes discussed the barriers to RFID adoption encompassing the costs involved in a solution, lack of awareness, RFID as an immature technology and the differing perceptions of product shrinkage and RFID. As each barrier to entry was examined, reciprocal relationships were found to exist between the retailer and RFID vendors and associations involved in this study. Investments made by retailers in legacy systems, was found to influence the convergence of RFID and barcodes supported by smart labels and tag data standards. With the various levels of RFID tagging available, it was determined that both pallet-level and carton-level tracking were most appropriate for an Australian retail application. Building upon business cases like the Australian Demonstrator Project and forming consortiums was found as a primary instigator to the future deployments of RFID. Source-tagging products at the point of manufacture was also supported by both the retailer and RFID vendors and associations as a means to minimise product shrinkage at various point across the supply chain, other than point of sale. These types of initiatives are likely to reinforce the overall success of an RFID SCM solution as part of a loss prevention strategy. Finally, it was discovered that the incorporation of retail supply chain stakeholders is critical to the overall effectiveness at which an RFID solution can function in order to minimise product shrinkage.


1. C. Bass, "Enterprise Solutions Mean Always Having New Opportunities to Add Value Outlook Point of View", 2003, [online] Available:

2. E.M. Porter, "Strategy and the Internet Harvard Business Review", vol. 79, no. 3, pp. 62-79, 2001.

3. D. Besanko, D. Dranove, Schaefer, S. Shanley, "Economics of Strategy" in , Chichester:John Wiley, 2004.

4. R.A. Kleist, T.A. Chapman, D.A. Sakai, B.S. Jarvis, "RFID Labeling: Smart Labeling Concepts and Applications for the Consumer Packaged Goods Supply Chain" in , Irvine:Printronix Inc., pp. 39, 2005.

5. S. Lahiri, "RFID Sourcebook" in Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River:IBM Press, pp. 230, 2006.

6. "EPC Network Australian Demonstrator Project Report", Global Standards One Australia, 2006, [online] Available:

7. J. Borecki, "RFID Overview: Challenges and Opportunities", 2005, [online] Available:

IEEE Keywords: Radiofrequency identification, Supply chains, Pharmaceutical technology, Supply chain management,Australia, Code standards, Standards development, Information systems, Investments, Manufacturing

INSPEC: supply chain management, radiofrequency identification, product shrinkage, radiofrequency identification, supply chain management

Citation:  Nicholas Huber, Katina Michael, Luke McCathie, Barriers to RFID Adoption in the Supply Chain, 1st Annual RFID Eurasia, 2007, Date of Conference: 5-6 Sept. 2007, Conference Location: Istanbul, Turkey, DOI: 10.1109/RFIDEURASIA.2007.4368128


The importance of conducting geodemographic market analysis on coastal areas: a pilot study using Kiama Council

Katina Michael, School of Information Technology and Computer Science, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia, 2500

Full Citation: Katina Michael, 2003, The importance of conducting geodemographic market analysis on coastal areas: a pilot study using Kiama Council, eds. Colin Woodroffe, Ronald A. Furness, Coastal GIS 2003: an integrated approach to Australian coastal issues, Proceedings of the Workshop, University of Wollongong, 7-8 July 2003, Wollongong Papers on Maritime Policy No 14, pp. 481-496.


In February of 2003 Kiama Council launched a preliminary survey to gather community attitudes on the future growth of Werri Beach and Gerringong, NSW (Nelson). The survey focused primarily on what actions Council should take to manage population growth within existing neighbourhoods. This paper aims to support the preliminary survey by proposing that a geodemographic market analysis be conducted to complement the findings of the study published in May 2003 (Wiggins). The use of a Geographic Information System (GIS) can add great value to the strategic decision-making process and it is the recommendation of this paper that GIS should become an integral component of Council’s day-to-day planning function. This type of analysis does not negate the requirement for community participation in local issues rather it enhances the planner’s ability to make more informed decisions using a holistic approach throughout the lifetime of a given project. The findings of this paper indicate that GIS is an important element of any coastal assessment. The process outlined here could be adopted by councils located all along the Australian coastline.


Kiama Council covers a surface area of 256 square kilometres. Within its bounds is the rapidly expanding coastal town of Gerringong, located within the post code 2534. Gerringong is known for its picturesque rolling hills, lush evergreen dairy farms, and famous surf beach (Werri Beach), all of which make it a popular holiday destination and ideal for residential settlement. However, so many attractions undoubtedly place pressure on the environment as increasing numbers of tourists visit, and demand for housing continues to rise. Council is left with the challenging task of catering for the diverse range of needs both of the permanent local and temporary populations. This paper will identify the need to conduct geodemographic market analysis using a variety of statistical and spatial sources from different data suppliers, including the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). It will explore how GIS could be applied by Kiama Council to better plan for the future growth of Werri Beach/ Gerringong and Gerroa and finally offer some preliminary findings. Throughout the paper space will also be dedicated to some of the more practical issues that the GIS analyst could be faced with in conducting such a study.


Kiama Council is typical of most local councils. It has a small planning team and a defined annual budget for information technology (IT) requirements. In 2002 the need for Council to invest in a state-of-the-art GIS was investigated and several platforms evaluated. As a result GIS software and support hardware was purchased in 2003 and a newly-established GIS team was formed. Council is actively trying to incorporate GIS into a range of functions because it foresees positive flow-through effects through this type of inter-departmental collaboration. However, in the short-term resource constraints mean that specific applications of GIS pertaining to the planning function may be delayed, in preference to other core council requirements. One of the problems identified by the planning team was actually defining those important applications that would help them do their work more efficiently and effectively. This is a common hurdle that non-GIS professionals face as they are trying to come to terms with the value the software can bring to their organisation and more specifically, to their job role. The very positive attitude the planners have toward one day integrating GIS into their existing processes and practices means that successful implementation is likely. The following pilot study is representative of what is possible in the future.


A semi-structured interview was conducted with one of Kiama Council’s strategic planners to ensure that a gap was being filled with the proposed pilot study. The interview was open-ended and probing questions were asked to determine the current state of GIS practice within the planning department in the Council. A subsequent literature review found the link between geodemographic market analysis and coastal issues to be severely lacking. Some of the more relevant publications included Maguire et al. (1991), Grimshaw (1994), Goss (1995) and Birkin et al. (1996). As an outcome of the interview and literature review it was decided to document the high level process required to build a GIS for geodemographic purposes and outline how spatial analysis could be used to aid Council’s strategic planning function. The contribution of this paper is not in its statistical output but in demonstrating the value of GIS for strategic planning in coastal areas. Admittedly one of its limitations is that it does not take into consideration longitudinal trends and patterns, but it does illustrate the power of GIS to represent cross-sectional demographic data.


A work-in-progress custom GIS was created using the MapInfo Professional application with supporting data sets from a variety of suppliers and vintages. The following steps were taken to build the GIS:

(1)  understand the various spatial units of analysis and determine which level(s) of detail are appropriate and useful for Council;

(2)  identify and acquire the separate layers of spatial data required to conduct meaningful research and consider how these could be used in prospective applications (e.g. roads, parks, rivers and other features);

(3)  gather demographic data for residential and business market segments (either internally or externally available to the Council, and of primary or secondary research sources);

(4)  geo-reference demographic data to designated spatial units;

(5)  determine how the custom GIS can be used to shed light on issues of human geography and the environment; and

(6)  conduct geodemographic analysis using structured query language (SQL) and thematic mapping to uncover specific trends and patterns.

Spatial Units of Analysis

Prior to building a GIS for a specific area the planner must be able to identify all those important units of analysis that are relevant and meaningful to the study. Depending on the scope of the study, one may choose to start their analysis at a coarse level of detail, such as a local government area (LGA) unit and work their way down to a census collection district (CCD) level. The top-down approach is to be preferred in large-scale projects like the Comprehensive Coastal Assessment (CCA) initiative proposed by the Department of Infrastructure Planning and Natural Resources. Only in this manner can planners prioritise responses to pressing issues over a variety of locations. What is paramount, independent of the scope of the study is that recognized spatial units are used in the GIS, such as those defined in the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) hierarchical list (Castles 1993). In the case of the Kiama Council pilot study, which focused on the post office area (POA) of Gerringong, planners specifically requested the need to use CCD level information, and if possible, to perform an even more granular investigation. This especially posed a challenge to the author, particularly because the public availability of demographic data at the street or dwelling unit (cadastral level) is very limited, save for internal Council intelligence information. Provided that strict controls were placed upon the access and use of the latter, Council would be adhering to Australia’s Information Privacy Principles.

Spatial Layers of Information

The three categories of layers in the pilot study included: natural features, non-natural features and government-defined spatial boundaries. The vector layers are represented as region, line or point objects dependent on what they are depicting. Natural features included layers like rivers, lakes, the coastline, parks and reserves, while non-natural features included layers like roads, bridges, railways, residential and business dwellings, and public amenities. As a general rule, the more layers of spatial information one can acquire for a particular study, the richer the results. Important to note however, is the scale of the map layer in question, its currency (in terms of lifetime), its quality, and its purpose to a given GIS project.

MapInfo (among many other suppliers, like ESRI) develop and supply spatial layers that proved to be useful in this pilot study. The first are the ASGC administrative spatial boundaries as defined by the ABS in the CDATA2001 product; everything from LGAs to CCDs, including POAs. The second is the detailed road network that is available in the StreetPro® Australia product that contains street addressing and an additional fourteen layers of data. The third is the MapInfo® CadastralPlus product that contains individual land parcels from which centroid longitude and latitude locations can be extracted. And finally the MapMarker® Australia product, which includes an intelligent address parser, and can be used to pinpoint dwelling locations using either internal Council address information or external sources like Brylar’s Australia on Disc (AOD) database. MapMarker’s capabilities differ significantly from the Cadastral spatial layer, in that the former allows for residential and business names to be geo-referenced to a street address (i.e. a longitude and latitude location). Apart from vector-based data, raster data like aerial photographs could also be used to enhance the planner’s perspective of a given problem. Other spatial data, like hardcopy building approval plans could be scanned and geo-referenced, although such a process would be time-consuming and expensive, it would in the longer-term pay for itself.

Demographic Data

There is usually a plethora of demographic data available at high levels of granularity, such as at the statistical local area (SLA) and POA levels. While the data at this level is considered coarse, by most regional Councils, the overall key indicators are helpful in establishing a background setting for the study. There are also two broad categories of demographic data that can be acquired; these are either primary or secondary in nature. In general, secondary data is usually a lot more affordable than primary research data. Examples of secondary data used in this study include: ABS CensusData and the Australian Business Register (ABR). Additional data sources that would prove useful include: the ABS Integrated Regional Database (IRDB), the ABS Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), Salmat’s MarketFind database and Dun & Bradstreet’s Marketing List. The specific fields of data included in the above-mentioned sources are too many and varied to list, even in a tabular format- the CensusData data source alone would fill several pages. However the demographics can be categorised as pertaining to either the residential or business market segment.

Residential data that can be obtained includes (aggregated down to the CCD level) attributes like: the number of people, the number of household dwellings, resident age and background, the average individual/ household income, the number of employed/ unemployed persons, the qualification level reached by residents and their occupation, housing status and level of ownership. Other residential-specific databases aim at providing predefined target groups based on the level of income earned or other economic or education-based indicators. For example, Salmat’s Marketfind tool distinguishes 24 demographic profile types, ranging from the ‘Prestige’ category to ‘Suburban Welfare’ and also brings together customer lifestyle and attitudes profiles. Specific AC Nielsen data can be added to this as well, if required. Business data that can be obtained (down to the POA level) includes the size of business, in terms of the number of employees or annual turnover amount in dollars. The type of business, based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industry Code classification (ANZSIC) can be obtained at either the industry division (17 categories) level or subdivision (53 categories) level. At the individual company level, the industry classification can be acquired (as specified in the Australian Yellow Pages), including full postal address and telephone/ fascimile details, as well as a web site and email address if provided. The Dun and Bradstreet Marketing List also includes a contact name for each company, the line of business, revenue, exact number of employees and more.

As for internal intelligence sources, these were not obtained for the pilot study but it is assumed, that if Council adopted the findings of this paper, that they would be able to use appropriate internal data to further enhance the GIS. The attributes that would be useful, among others, include ratepayer information per dwelling/ land parcel, land-use zoning information (such as residential, commercial, industrial categories), specific building regulation constraints and the number of temporary versus permanent residents (for instance during public and school holiday periods).

Geo-referencing Demographic Data to Spatial Units

One of the fundamental uses of GIS is to bring spatial data together with aspatial data. Potentially this also presents the GIS administrator with one of the greatest challenges- how to integrate two or more sets of aspatial data sources that are not 100 per cent compatible with the designated spatial layers. While the use of ASGC boundaries has been encouraged in this paper, planners should be aware that boundaries like SLAs and CCDs are variable in nature, depending on the growth or decline of a given area over time. For instance, the 1996 and 2001 Australian SLA boundaries differed in number and in name. A SQL statement could easily identify the discrepancies in the spatial layers from year-to-year but this still does not resolve the problem of matching databases of various vintage successfully to base spatial layers. And this is not only a problem limited to ABS-defined boundaries; this same problem is recurrent in natural and non-natural spatial layers. Consider the case where new roads are added to a town as a result of a new housing estate being established, among many other examples. GIS users need to think about how their organisation will overcome ungeocoded records (i.e. those records that remain unlinked using a given primary key), without compromising the overall accuracy of the results. The ideal situation is to continue to upgrade data sources as they become available, although this becomes an expensive exercise and is not always feasible given that some databases do not follow a periodic release schedule. Whatever solution is sought, what is certain is that guidelines need to be drawn and implemented. These guidelines may also vary dependent on the type and size of database being geocoded. Sometimes manual manipulation is plausible, other times it is not. For example, hit rates for the geocoding of telemarketing information to street addresses commonly range between 60-70 per cent of total records dependent on the intelligent addressing product in question and how clean the database being geocoded is (Drummond 1995; Holloway 1998). Checking one hundred ungeocoded street address records manually (one-by-one) may be a manageable exercise, while one hundred thousand would be unacceptable.

Council Applications of GIS

Once a GIS inventory has been created and appropriate data sources geocoded to spatial locations, an organisation can begin to program automated applications, in order of priority. The planning function at Kiama Council has been identified as being made up of mainly routine tasks. GIS applications lend themselves well to such tasks, allowing for automated reports to be generated periodically that show results not only in tabular and graphical views but also in spatial ways as well. The spatial element, in a digital form, can add a lot of value to decision-making processes as it grants the planner an additional perspective to the problem(s) at hand. GIS can also be used for non-routine tasks that require specific inquiries to take place as requested by council members. The applications that may be considered for implementation by Kiama Council are described below.

§  Basic geodemographic profile: defining discrete places within Gerringong which are meaningful to Council planners and extracting demographic data based on these areas, such as “Gerringong Central Business District” (CBD) and “Werri Beach”. The statistics should incorporate both residential and business information over time. Forecasts of these figures should be calculated as well using appropriate types of trend analysis.

§  Re-evaluating land-use zoning development controls: the ability to consider whether a given area should be classified as a particular type of zone (e.g. residential or light industrial).

§  Considering building proposals: Council has the ability to either accept or reject a building proposal based on evidence provided in the GIS (using both raster and vector spatial layers of information). Geographic data such as the area of the dwelling in proportion to the rest of the block, the gradient of the driveway, the aspect the dwelling faces (i.e. energy-saving measures), even the distance between one dwelling and the next, can all be factored in to preserve the local character of the location in question.

§  Calculating the dwelling height: the ability to calculate the heights of existing dwellings within a given area and to determine whether proposed structures meet height restrictions (e.g. careful design of buildings that does not lead to overly dominant structures).

§  Considering residential redevelopment proposals: Council can consider residential subdivision, dual occupancy development, integrated housing and villa homes, based on perspectives offered by the GIS. Additional layers acquired from utilities would also be helpful, including water, sewerage and electricity pipeline locations.

§  Choosing areas suitable for housing development: Council can determine the most suitable location for a new housing estate and comply with current standards without compromising, despite the pressure for more land parcels to be made available to prospective residents on permanent housing waiting lists. The size of the block for instance, should remain as close as possible to the existing average land parcel. Roads and pathways as well as reserves should be intelligently scoped into new housing estate areas. For example, the new Elambra Estate (see figure 1).

§  Approving local business opportunities: considering the needs of local residents and acting according to these needs. For instance, the approval of the Independent Grocer’s Association (IGA) supermarket.

§  Ensuring adequate commercial and industrial floor space: calculating the availability of business floor space for particular types of companies, as increasing numbers of people reside in Gerringong.

§  Protecting the coastal strip: Council can ensure that development within the coastal strip meets all rules and regulations. The distance from the coastline can be measured precisely and appropriate action taken in a given scenario. For example, preserving the character of Werri Beach, despite the obvious opportunities to invest in high-rise apartments, such as on the southern headland.

§  Services to the community: identifying areas where particular services to the community are required and targeting those clients, dependent on the service. For example “meals on wheels”, or the possibility of a local high school or police station. The relocation of Gerringong Primary School to Greta Street is another example.

§  Demand for public amenities: understanding the need for amenities such as public pools, barbecues, toilets and bins in key locations or pathways leading to the beach to ensure that sand loss does not occur. For instance, the decision to rebuild the local surf club and associated bowling club on Pacific Avenue.

§  Catering to increasing traffic pressures: the consideration of adequate parking facilities that meld into the surrounding streetscape.

§  Sewerage and drainage schemes: identifying those residents that are yet to connect to the new Gerringong-Gerroa sewerage scheme and those areas that are prone to flooding after heavy rainfall.

§  Sustaining the needs of increasing numbers of visitors and temporary residents: determining whether there is enough temporary housing such as caravan parks and hotels as well as parks and reserves.

§  Affordable housing: determining the mix of housing available and planning for a range of options in terms of affordability.

Figure 1 New housing estate areas: Using the GIS to assess prospective locations for new housing estate areas and planning for development that is in accordance with the local character. For example, Elambra Estate in southern Gerringong comprises of 250 sites with a range of land and house size and style options, including duplex and integrated sites. Elambra Estate is considered to be an environmentally responsible land development project initiated by Kiama Council.

Figure 1 New housing estate areas: Using the GIS to assess prospective locations for new housing estate areas and planning for development that is in accordance with the local character. For example, Elambra Estate in southern Gerringong comprises of 250 sites with a range of land and house size and style options, including duplex and integrated sites. Elambra Estate is considered to be an environmentally responsible land development project initiated by Kiama Council.

Summary Facts and Figures

Reports that have been commissioned by Council, such as those compiled by Wiggins (2003) and ESD (2002) would be aided by the use of a GIS. Not only could qualitative outcomes from the reports be captured spatially for future re-use by Council planners but quantitative data could also be extracted to enhance report outcomes with accurate facts and figures (both current and forecasted). The following is a summary of some of the fundamental cross-sectional data that was captured by the work-in-progress GIS for the post code of Gerringong (2534). The extracted data is shown by unit of analysis and should be considered in light of the GIS applications proposed above. While these figures do not depict clusters of typologies, nor consumer behaviour or attitudinal patterns, they do indicate the vital demographics any planner should be aware of before drilling down further. Only when a planner is comfortable with the high-level numbers, after laying the foundations of a basic GIS, can they fully appreciate the implications of particular geodemographic trends (Schensul 1999).

Post Code Analysis

The post code 2534 covers a surface area of about 86 square kilometers. There are 9 suburbs in the post code including: Gerringong, Gerroa, Werri Beach, Foxground, Toolijooa, Broughton, Omega, Rose Valley and Broughton Village. In 1996, the ABS census recorded 1458 residences and a total population of 4047. According to the ABS ABR, in 1998 there were 145 businesses operating in the post code and in 2001 there were 433 Australian Business Numbers (ABN) registered in the post code.

Collection District Analysis

There are 10 collection districts in post code 2534 which cover a surface area of about 82 square kilometers. The residential and business dwelling count per CCD can be found in a graduated thematic map in figure 2. In 1996, the median age was 40 years old and the median household income was between $500 and $699. Save for the United Kingdom and New Zealand, a very small proportion of persons residing in Gerringong were born outside Australia.

Figure 2 Demographic distribution analysis: Understanding the distribution of residential and business dwellings by Census Collection District (CCD). Above can be seen a graduated thematic map (green dots) overlayed against a ranged thematic map (shades of red). This visual representation allows the planner to consider where there is peak demand for public amenities.

Figure 2 Demographic distribution analysis: Understanding the distribution of residential and business dwellings by Census Collection District (CCD). Above can be seen a graduated thematic map (green dots) overlayed against a ranged thematic map (shades of red). This visual representation allows the planner to consider where there is peak demand for public amenities.

Roads Analysis

There are 129 roads in post code 2534 stretching a total of 80 kilometres in length. Seventy-five percent of residential dwellings are located in 30 roads and streets. Four streets have over 100 residential dwellings each, including Belinda Street, Renfrew Road, Fern Street, and Stafford Street. Forty percent of businesses are located on three roads, including Fern Street, Belinda Street and Rowlins Road. The respective graphs representing these statistics can be found in figure 3.

Figure 3 Targeting populated places: The graphs above depict the density profile of Gerringong by street. Typical of a regional coastal town in Australia, 50 per cent of residential and business dwellings are located in only about 10 per cent of roads. Viewing residential and business counts graphically in order of their prominence, such as in the above line graphs, can help the planner identify areas of peak traffic (both pedestrian and vehicle).

Figure 3 Targeting populated places: The graphs above depict the density profile of Gerringong by street. Typical of a regional coastal town in Australia, 50 per cent of residential and business dwellings are located in only about 10 per cent of roads. Viewing residential and business counts graphically in order of their prominence, such as in the above line graphs, can help the planner identify areas of peak traffic (both pedestrian and vehicle).

Dwelling Analysis

As of 2002 there were approximately 2000 residential dwellings in post code 2534, which equates to approximately 5200 permanent residents. Over 225 businesses are located in the area. Eight-four percent of businesses employ less than 5 employees. Over 50 per cent of business can be categorized as ANZSIC type Construction, Manufacturing or Retail.

Figure 4 Household dwelling distribution: The thematic map above shows the distribution of households by road. The thicker the road segment and darker the shade of red, the more households are located on that street. This thematic map can help planners to strategically place parks, reserves and rest areas in positions that will be utilised by the neighbouring population.

Figure 4 Household dwelling distribution: The thematic map above shows the distribution of households by road. The thicker the road segment and darker the shade of red, the more households are located on that street. This thematic map can help planners to strategically place parks, reserves and rest areas in positions that will be utilised by the neighbouring population.


Local councils are beginning to understand the power of geographical information systems (GIS). While GIS is not a new concept, many councils are only now adopting the technology. Spatial analysis provides a whole new dimension to the strategic planning process that can aid in producing a holistic perspective rather than a piecemeal approach to solving real and anticipated problems. A top-down analysis of a given scenario is always to be preferred to gain a macro to micro perspective, without accidentally omitting pieces of information, important to making a particular decision. Councils located in coastal areas in particular can benefit from using GIS for both human geography and environmental geography issues. Considering both of these aspects together is paramount for the preservation and conservation of a given area. GIS can incorporate both qualitative and quantitative data and capture patterns and trends more readily than any other information system. While this pilot study was cross-sectional in nature (i.e. a snapshot), an ideal study would incorporate a longitudinal view and forecast population growth rates that were sustainable for the area based on Council parameters. The most important outcome of the study was demonstrating the need for Council to quickly adopt GIS into its planning practices. While the cost of acquiring the data sources and spatial boundaries identified throughout this paper would total in excess of one hundred thousand dollars (i.e., for a single user license for the area covered by Kiama Council alone), the investment would have positive long-term implications.

Figure 5 Pinpointing company locations: The MapMarker® Australia product allows for intelligent address matching. In this pilot study, telemarketing business records from Brylar’s Australian on Disc (AOD) product were geocoded to street address locations. Council planners can query individual company records in the GIS or extract data to analyse the various types of businesses that are located in Gerringong. It can also help planners in re-zoning land parcels for re-development based on local business and employment demands.

Figure 5 Pinpointing company locations: The MapMarker® Australia product allows for intelligent address matching. In this pilot study, telemarketing business records from Brylar’s Australian on Disc (AOD) product were geocoded to street address locations. Council planners can query individual company records in the GIS or extract data to analyse the various types of businesses that are located in Gerringong. It can also help planners in re-zoning land parcels for re-development based on local business and employment demands.


Birkin, M., Clarke, G., Clarke, M. and Wilson, A. 1996. Intelligent GIS: Location Decisions and Strategic Planning. GeoInformation International, Cambridge.

Castles, I. (ed.) 1993. CDATA91: Data Guide. 1991 Census of Population and Housing. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.

Drummond, W.J. 1995. Address matching: GIS technology for mapping human activity patterns. Journal of American Planning Association 61: 240-251.

Ecologically Sustainable Design [ESD] (ed.) 2002. The Charrette Report. Kiama Council, New South Wales.

Goss, J. 1995. We know who you are and we know where you live: the instrumentality of geodemographic systems. Economic Geography 71(2): 171-198.

Holloway, G. (ed.) 1998. The Math, Myth & Magic of Name Search and Matching. SearchSoftwareAmerica, Connecticut.

Maguire, D., Goodchild, M., and Rhind, D. 1991. Geographical Information Systems: Principles and Applications. Wiley, New York.

Nelson, P. (ed.) 2003. Preliminary Survey: Community Participation Process, Place-based residential Strategies for the Future Growth of Werri Beach/ Gerringong & Gerroa. Kiama Council, New South Wales.

Schensul, J.J., LeCompte, M.D., Trotter, R.T., Cromley, E.K., and Singer, M. 1999. Mapping Social Networks, and Spatial Data, & Hidden Populations. Sage Publications, London.

Wiggins, D. (ed.) 2003. Final Report: May 2003. Kiama Council Community Participation Process, Place-based Residential Strategies for the Future Growth of Gerringong and Gerroa. Kiama Council, New South Wales.

Suggested Resources for Spatial and Aspatial Data

ABS. 2003. 1353.0 Integrated Regional Data Base (IRDB), Australia.!OpenDocument.

ABS. 2003. 1369.0.55.001 Australian Business Register - Counts of ABNs.,ABR.

ABS. 2003. CadastralPlus — Overview.

ABS. 2003. CDATA 2001 – Brochure.!OpenDocument.

ABS. 2003. Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas 96 (SEIFA).!OpenDocument.

Data Dependables Data. 2003. Brylar’s Australia on Disc.

Dun & Bradstreet Australia. 2003. D&B Australian Marketing Lists.

MapInfo. 2003. CDATA 2001 - Detailed Base Map — Overview.

MapInfo. 2003. MapInfo Professional® — Overview.

MapInfo. 2003. MapMarker® Australia — Overview.

MapInfo. 2003. StreetPro® Australia — Overview.

Salmat. 2003. Marketfind.


I would like to thank sales representative Brinda Rabi of MapInfo Australia who supplied free GIS software and associated spatial databases to the Faculty of Informatics at the University of Wollongong for research purposes in 2002. I would also like to thank the University of Wollongong who funded a New Researcher, and Start-up Researcher grant for the Spatial Database National Australia (S-DNA) project to the total value of $7,500 of which this study is a part of. Strategic planner, Peter Nelson, of Kiama Council was also helpful in establishing the scope for this GIS pilot study.