If the above headline sounds a bit spooky, be prepared for things to get a lot spookier in the coming years – but also a lot more useful, valuable and fun. That’s because electronic technology has once again taken a turn that could, like the cell phone, affect much of your waking life, either directly or indirectly.

What we’re talking about is the technology, now available to anybody, to track (and record) the location and travels of just about anyone, including, in some cases, people who don’t even know they’re being tracked. This particular branch of the rapidly growing GPS/cellular tree usually goes by the innocent sounding name of Personal Location Services (PLS).

The PLS market may be relatively young, but it is trending strongly upward, and is now expected to be an $8 billion market by 2011. There are a number of companies that claim at least some portion of the market, though with different approaches and varying degrees of success.

GTX Corporation (OTCBB: GTXO) claims to be the preeminent leader in Personal Location Services. Their strength in the industry is based on the fact that, unlike many others, they offer embedded, customizable technology. By extreme miniaturization of GPS tracking and cellular location transmitting technology, their platforms can be integrated into almost any retail product, such as footwear and other wearables. Thus their market extends far beyond that of a single product line to embrace almost every potential application of the technology. Deployments currently in progress include exercise monitoring, law enforcement, maritime applications, pet tracking, cellular handsets, automotive/commercial/payload tracking, and a number of others.

There are also several other companies active in the field, though they tend to limit themselves to their own individual line of consumer retail location products.

• Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ: GRMN) is best known for their navigation products that sell worldwide, but they also have a tracking solution. Aimed towards pinpointing a dog’s position, the product kit includes a handheld GPS device and all-weather collar.
• Trimble Navigation Ltd. (NASDAQ: TRMB) offers a GPS vehicle tracking solution to help businesses more effectively manage mobile workers while increasing productivity, reducing operational costs and safeguarding drivers and vehicles.
• Location Based Technology, Inc. (OTCBB: LBAS) is a development stage technology company focused on their PocketFinder® and PetFinder® line of products for tracking people, pets, and luggage.
• GPS Industries Inc. (OTCBB: GPSN) provides GPS and Wi-Fi software and hardware for applications in golf course operations and residential community development. The company’s Inforemer-HDX® product vividly depicts each hole and provides precise distance measurement, among other features, utilizing GPS technology.

But, when it comes to Personal Location Services, the question becomes where will it end? There’s no easy-to-see boundary. If it helps you to find lost luggage, to keep an eye on your children, to locate a wayward pet, it sounds good. You may have even discovered all the gaming possibilities. But, as units become smaller, privacy issues become bigger, and must inevitably be addressed. The success of companies like GTX can be viewed as a good thing, but, as we’ve seen before, every new technology has a price.