Monthly Archives: December 2011

Google and Other Major Players Vying for Lead Over Indoor Location Market

GPS tracking technology has come a long way. Location tracking and navigation were once limited to maps and routes outlined by pen. The technology was eventually improved by radio signals which can measure long distances and detect other radio signals. GPS tracking is simply an extension of the radio technology. Instead of measure radio signals on Earth, where countless interferences occur, like storms and mountains, the signals are coming from satellites in space. However, with each new improvement in technology, new limitations are revealed.

The next advancement in location tracking technology is indoor location tracking. Unfortunately, despite the incredible accuracy provided by GPS tracking, the technology is limited when devices are inside buildings. GPS requires a line of sight to best receive signals, meaning that walls and ceilings interfere with the tracking signals. Google was the first to develop and launch indoor position tracking with their “My Location” feature in Google Maps. The technology works by analyzing radio signals and/or Wi-Fi hotspots. Alternatively, indoor tracking could be achieved by measuring the device’s distance from the closest trackable GPS location, like a building’s doorway.

“This area is set to explode,” suggests Grizzly Analytics founder, Bruce Krulwich. “It’s the logical next step for what people are using phones for.” Several companies have filed patents involving the development of indoor tracking technology. According to research conducted by Grizzly Analytics, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm and Research In Motion (RIM), all have developed significant research for indoor tracking. Krulwich adds that although Google has a first-mover advantage, the research developed by Microsoft and Nokia make it quite “likely someone else will come out with something better.” He predicts that Microsoft and Nokia will launch a similar service sometime in 2012.

Man Loses 150 Pounds with the Help of Nike+ GPS App

Channel coach, Stuart Selbst, has a lot to be proud of this year. Since February 2011, dedication, hard work and modern science allowed Selbst to drop a whopping 146 pounds of body fat. His success story began when he noticed his weight had spun so out of control that he was 400 pounds and morbidly obese. Selbst credits his success to weight loss surgery and a much needed change in his exercise and dieting habits. He underwent a procedure called a Sleeve Gastronomy, which required a liquid diet for the 2.5 weeks prior, in order to reduce the fat around his liver. However, in order to keep weight off, Selbst needed to make some serious and permanent lifestyle changes.

Exercise is a very important component of staying healthy and minimizing fat storage. After struggling to make it to the gym regularly, Selbst turned to his smartphone for help. “I did join the gym, but bad habits don’t go away. I didn’t like going so I cancelled my membership. One of the things that I enjoy doing is getting in my walk/run. Each day my wife and I doing two to four miles. We track our walking with Nike+ GPS,” Selbst said in a recent interview. The app is available at the iTunes store for only $1.99, much more reasonable than a monthly gym membership, and uses the iPhone‘s GPS tracking features to monitor work outs.

The Nike+ GPS app is currently only available on Apple devices running iOS 4.0 or later, but there are several similar running apps that use similar GPS tracking features of other phones and devices. The user simply turns on the app when starting the workout, and the GPS tracking technology maps out the run. Users can monitor lots of useful data about their workout, such as distance and speed to improve their performance. The Nike+ GPS app is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Portuguese.

Mother of Missing Girl Finds GPS Device on Vehicle

5-year-old Jhessye Shockley was reported missing in Glendale, AZ, 6 weeks ago by her mother, Jerice Hunter. Unfortunately, as with all too many missing persons cases, Shockley is believed to be dead. According to the Glendale police, her body is somewhere in the Butterfield Landfill. This sad story just keeps getting sadder, as the primary suspect is the victim’s own mother. Jerice Hunter, despite being the one who reported her daughter missing, is suspected of causing Jhessye’s death. The mother then allegedly disposed of the body in a dumpster in Tempe, which was eventually transported to the landfill.

Jerice Hunter was recently released from an arrest in November on child abuse charges related to Jhessye. Not surprisingly, many people learning about this story are very angry that Hunter is out of jail. Pages are popping up on Facebook, calling Hunter a monster. Undisclosed evidence also has police fairly certain of Hunter’s guilt, which has resulted in a search of her apartment, as well as finding GPS tracking devices attached to her vehicle.

Despite the general outrage expressed by most people learning of this tragic story, some people are defending Hunter, and have even befriended her. “[We] visited her while she was in jail and basically told her that we were there to show her the love of God and to give her spiritual guidance.” said one supporter, who wished to remain anonymous. When Hunter was released from jail, the woman continued to help Hunter run errands, and was quite surprised to find a GPS tracking device attached to her car.

A device was also found on her husbands car and on another woman’s car, who was helping Hunter. The third woman thought perhaps the device was part of her airbag system, and took her car into the dealership to have it looked at. When she was at the dealership, a police officer jumped out of his car and snatched the GPS tracking device out of her hand, saying “Give me my property back.” The U.S. Supreme Court is currently deciding the constitutionality of warrantless GPS tracking, which would certainly affect this case, should Jerice Hunter find herself back in court.

New App Combats Road Rage and Traffic Jams in South Florida

Traffic jams are a problem all year, but they seem to peak around the holidays, particularly around airports and shopping malls. Around the end of the year, the roads become packed with shoppers and holiday travelers. When combined with the stress many people feel around this time of year, driving is especially dangerous. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) recently developed a mobile application called Know Before You Go, which uses GPS tracking and map technology to inform drivers about traffic conditions. That way, people can avoid traffic jams if possible, or at least be more prepared for delays.

“We are constantly working to have a zero-fatality transportation system and [the program] is a key component of that plan,” said Ananth Prasad, FDOT Secretary. “Knowing about what’s ahead on the road can help travelers stay calm, make wise decisions and even choose a less congested route.” The app is available for the iPhone, iPod and iPad, and uses GPS tracking information to provide traffic conditions within 200 miles of their route.

Congested areas are indicated with a red pin, and even displays video of the jam wherever possible. Users are also encouraged to report unlisted traffic jams to the FDOT through a voice file. The GPS tracking technology of the user’s phone automatically sends the exact location data to the department.

Police and FDOT developers stress the “Before You Go” instruction in the title. Using the app while driving is dangerous, and at the very least, could result in a ticket. “I always recommend ‘Know Before You Go,’” said 511 Public Information Officer Vicky Mixson. “It’s important that people are not distracted when they’re driving. We always say look at the app before you leave, or have a passenger do it.” According to Mixson, the app has already been downloaded an estimated 25 thousand times. She predicts that the app is the future of personal traffic management, saying “It’s the next wave of how traffic information should be decimated.

Here Comes the Sun — Really!

 

Since the shortest day of the year has officially passed, you can expect to see sunnier days ahead. As the summertime draws closer, the days will become longer (maybe you’ve noticed this already!). If you, like most people, don’t enjoy being surrounded by darkness throughout the wintertime, news that the sunshine will be staying longer is great news. Not only does this mean more Vitamin D consumption (and better skiing days!), it also means that scientists in Ellicott City, Maryland, will be able to harness solar power better than ever before.

How? With the help of GPS tracking technology, of course! The solar panels that are currently attached to the George Howard Building in Ellicott City will follow the sun, quite literally. These panels are equipped with GPS trackers that track the movement of the sun. When sunshine is detected, the solar panels move in the direction of the sun’s rays, which allows the panels to capture as much sunshine as possible. The result is a set of solar panels that are far more efficient than any other solar panels out there.

Scientists have told press that the new solar panels can gain up to 30% more electricity (through sunlight) than any other panels on the market. The Ellicott panels are currently being tested, but, so far, the panels work like a charm. This solar experiment could mean that future panels will follow the sunshine instead of simply waiting to capture any rays that pass by.

If you are considering adding solar panels to your home, I recommend waiting to see what comes of these GPS-equipped panels. It’s safe to assume that GPS-powered solar panels may soon become the hottest eco-friendly product on the market. For now, sit back and enjoy the emerging sunshine!

Hoboken Food Trucks Must Have GPS

 

Food trucks are something of a staple in New York City. Just a few miles across the river, food trucks have been popping up in Hoboken, New Jersey too. This past summer, Hoboken residents benefited from a bevvy of great food trucks, and food truck owners benefited from tidy profits. While food trucks will be allowed to line up on city streets again this summer, the laws in Hoboken have changed drastically. Now, food truck owners must choose between a four-day parking permit or a seven-day parking permit. In addition, all food trucks in Hoboken must be equipped with a GPS tracker.

Prior to this new law, food vendors each paid $500 for a food cart permit. Now, vendors will have to shell out $1600 for a 4-day permit and $2500 for a seven-day permit. In addition, the cost of a GPS tracker must be considered.Why do vendors need to have GPS trackers? The city of Hoboken told press that GPS is the only way for law enforcement to keep track of trucks…and enforce vendor laws in the process.

Needless to say, many vendors are outraged by these new prices. Further, most people who run food trucks simply can’t afford these prices — consider the vendor who wants to park in Hoboken for one month!

As a result of these new laws, many food vendors are leaving the Hoboken area. Even though Hoboken residents support food trucks in droves, the revenues generated from food sales are not enough to keep vendors afloat. Many food truck vendors will be moving to different parts of New Jersey, and some will take a chance in NYC. While the cost of running a food cart is on the low side (as compared to running a restaurant), these prices are simply too steep for those slinging good eats to adhere to.

If you live in Hoboken, you can expect to find a lot less food truck offerings this year as compared to last year. Seemingly, if you want to grab some food from your favorite food cart, you may have to drive to Brooklyn or some other NYC borough.

Envirol to Keep Illegal Grease Dumping at Bay

Dubai has teamed up with Al Serkal group and created Envirol, a facility designed to transform waste grease from environmental hazard to numerous products such as biodiesel.  This will help the city clean up its act and pinpoint businesses not doing their part towards a cleaner world.

Elham Pourtangesti is the plant manager at Envirol, and explains that only a small amount of grease is harmful to the environment, and over time this will ultimately lead to the demise of the sewer system, causing extensive damage costing the city millions of dirhams.

He adds that it will also be detrimental to restaurants, contaminating their kitchens.  “The solution is grease traps…and the recycling plant set up jointly between Al Serkal and Dubai Municipality to recycle the waste to irrigation water, biodiesel, clean oil and fertilizer.”

How will this work?  The companies manufacturing and selling the grease traps will issue the buyer an Envirol coupon developed to aid in tracking who exactly is disposing of the waste grease in an illegal manner.  These companies will also be required to install GPS tracking devices on any vehicles that will dispose of this grease at Envirol, and this does not make business owners happy.  Some have already voiced their concern over Envirol being able to see their every move, and a lot of these owners have already pumped massive amounts of money into installing GPS devices on their vehicles already.  However, Envirol is seeing whether they can link these existing devices up to their own tracking system to appease them.

The majority of the companies affected by these regulations agree with it all, like Simone Macatangay of Trashco.  “It is a good thing.  It will eliminate the people that are not really involved in the system and that are not consious of our environment.  All of us here have a deep concern for our environment and we want the help of Al Serkal and Dubai Municipality to help solve the problems of Dubai.”

The use of the coupons will begin immediately, however the GPS device installation is still up in the air.

Trip Journal App Updated: Offered for Free

iQapps, creators of the award-winning Trip Journal app, has released version 7.1 which updates the app for iOS 5. The company also announced that the app will now be offered free for users of Android, Facebook, Bada, iPhone, and Symbian.

The app was created to allow users to record all aspects of their trip, document important happenings along the way, and share these moments with family and friends.  The updates enable the app to pinpoint your location on a map and track your travels around town even if the app is closed.  Users are able to add video content or photos taken during their travels with ease, anywhere along their route, and sharing via sites like Facebook, Twitter, Picassa, Google Earth, or even email a snap.

Winning a Google award back in 2009 for top app for innovative concept and design (and a not too shabby $100,000 grand prize), Trip Journal remains one of the best.  As Valentin Vesa of iQapps says, “This update further solidifies Trip Journal’s status as the ultimate travel app…Trip Journal is not only functional and feature-filled, but it’s  now free to download.  That means everyone can easily create a rich media travelogue of their travel experiences, record their trip with GPS tracking, add their favorite places and destinations, and do so much more.  [It] makes traveling a fun, interactive, collaborative, mobile and memorable digital media experience – and it’s so easy and enjoyable to use!”

Since winning the award, Trip Journal has been downloaded to the smartphones of thousands of users in locations all over the world, whether a travel expert or average everyday citizen.  Download the app for your iPhone, iPod touch and iPad running iOS 4.0 or later.

Carrier IQ Targeted in Latest Privacy Scandal

Carrier IQ is a company that allows wireless carriers, such as AT&T and Sprint Nextel, to monitor how their networks are being used and also track performance. Recently, concerns have been expressed that the company is violating the privacy of mobile phone users. The source of the concerns seem to stem from a patent filed by Carrier IQ, which states that the company is capable of monitoring and recording every keystroke entered into the user’s mobile device. Carrier IQ is just one of the many corporations targeted in privacy violation scandals and it is increasingly difficult for the average consumer to tell whether or not there is actually a violation of privacy involved.

Protecting individual privacy from the powers of government and giant corporations is not a new issue. Many, decades-old staples in science fiction deal with exactly this issue. With advances in technology, however, the Orwellian nightmare society of 1984 creeps ever closer to real possibilities. GPS tracking is a perfect example of how technology can potentially strip people of their privacy. The simple act of buying a modern car or mobile phone can open one up to the possibility of being remotely monitored on a minute-by-minute basis.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen several GPS tracking privacy scandals make their way to headlines. One of the major scandals arose when it became apparent that Apple and Google were monitoring their customers using the smart phone’s built-in GPS tracking ability. After some digging, however, it turned out that the companies were merely tracking where the smart phones were in relation to Wi-Fi networks in the area. The information was used to better the user experience.

Although all of the information has yet to be gathered, the same is likely true of the Carrier IQ scandal. Carriers, such as AT&T, must monitor the user activity within their network in order to navigate the ever-changing needs of customers. There are legitimate reasons for concern, but it’s important not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Gulls Gathering in Dangerous Numbers at Wachusett Reservior

Wildlife abounds in the Boston area, specifically in the Swift River and Wachusett Reservoir. Unseasonably warm weather means people are heading outdoors to take advantage of all the activities they will soon be unable to enjoy, like fishing. All along the lower portion of the Swift River, Ted Merchant and Larry Bush, from Trout Unlimited, have been catching plenty of fish from the usually productive region of the river. Less common, however, are the loads of salmon being caught farther upstream. In addition to unusual numbers of fish, there are also reports of alarmingly large populations of seagulls gathering around the Wachusett Reservoir. Scientists are using GPS tracking, among other things, to understand where the gulls are coming from and why.

Just above the Route 9 bridge in Belchertown, the Swift River is home to dozens of landlocked salmon. The excess of salmon was brought to the area by natural causes. The large amounts of rainfall brought on the area by Tropical Storm Irene caused flooding which carried the salmon from the reservoir over the spillway. The team from Trout Unlimited have had success catching some surprisingly large salmon using proven fly fishing techniques. In fact, they’ve had so much success, that they are offering free fly-tying workshops every Thursday at 6 p.m.. The workshops are open to the public and held at the Mass Audubon’s Broadmeadow Brook Sanctuary.

The dense population of gulls congregating at the Wachusett Reservior, however, is believed to be caused by human influence and likely has much more serious consequences. DCR scientist Dan Clark is leading a team to study the massive influx of gulls. He’s attached GPS tracking devices to study the migration habits of the birds.

The GPS tracking has shown that the gulls have travelled from as far as Iceland, stopping at the reservoir in order to feed on their way back from breeding at the Great Lakes. The over-population is believed to be due to people illegally feeding the gulls. It is dangerous for too many birds to gather at reservoirs, as their feces and parasites contaminate our drinking water.