HElloo0OO0! I will show you the way.
Imagine yourself in a department store. You’re lost—alone and stranded somewhere in hosiery. What will you do?! How will you ever find your way to the shoe department? Take a deep breath. Look around you. Are those LED light bulbs on the ceiling? Take out your smart phone, raise the camera so it can see the bulb, and pray that you’re right.
Yes! The LEDs are sending location information to your phone, which, via a newly developed indoor navigation app called ByteLight, provides you with detailed instructions: “Go the the end of the aisle. Turn left. Walk until you can see the escalators. Go up one floor. You are in footwear.” Weeping with relief, you accept ByteLight’s offer to give you detailed step-by-step directions to a pair of shoes that is on sale (in addition to providing navigational information to particular items or areas, it also beams you information about nearby deals).
Doing good is getting easier. Soon, you’ll be able to do your civic duty of reporting potholes without even lifting a finger. The city of Boston is working on a smartphone app that would automatically report potholes to authorities–making it easier to find and fill the more than 19,000 potholes Boston grapples with each year.
The in-development Street Bump app uses a smartphone’s GPS and accelerometer technology to register the moment when a car lurches into a pothole and to identify the location. No need for the driver to call or email city officials, the app just goes ahead and sends the message on its own.
On a midday stroll through Park City, Utah, you decide to turn onto the quaint-sounding Deer Valley Drive. You see this:
If you think you should turn back, you are not the intrepid Lauren Rosenberg. Armed with a Blackberry and Google Maps, she marched on, and could not believe when Patrick Harwood struck her with his car. According to Search Engine Land, which first broke the story, Rosenberg is now suing both Harwood and Google.
Since our entire lives have moved online and we’re all as wired as someone who has just gulped down ten cups of coffee, why should our Easter egg hunts be old-fashioned? This year, give your egg hunt an upgrade and embark on a high tech search with “geocaching.” Geocaching is a craze sweeping the great outdoors in which people use GPS coordinates to look for hidden treasures.
The organizer gives the participants GPS coordinates of the first stash, or cache. Using a GPS-enabled device, the hunters look for the cache–which could be a simple weatherproof container like a Tupperware box or thermos–hidden somewhere outdoors. A container typically contains a log book for the finder to sign, a few trinkets, and the coordinates for the next stash. This ensures the treasure hunt keeps going on till the seeker finds all the caches. For the Easter variant of geocaching, event organizers are planning to hide the stash coordinates in plastic Easter eggs.
According to enthusiasts, this high-tech treasure hunt is good fun and can also be exhausting, as GPS coordinates only take the hunter to within six to 20 feet of where the treasure is buried. Once the GPS has done its best to get a seeker to the desired location, it’s anyone’s guess which rock or tree hides the cache.
Naturalist Jill Snyder, who is organizing one such geocaching event this Easter, told the Associated Press that these hunts can reveal the searcher’s inner child:
“If you loved looking for Easter eggs as a kid then geocaching definitely is for you…. You approach finding caches in the same way that you would an Easter egg except that you have a GPS to guide you.”
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How much time and energy is wasted as drivers circle around blocks and creep down streets, on the prowl for open parking spots? Burning fuel, they simmer silently in their seats, running late for work and appointments. Thankfully, technology has some solutions to ease the pain of finding parking.
Engineers Marco Gruteser and Wade Trappe of Rutgers University have combined ultrasonic sensors, GPS receivers, and cellular data networks to create a handy and ultra-cheap “parking-spot finder.” Their system distributes the task of finding vacant parking spots to sensors placed on a number of roving vehicles, and then combines the info to make a map of all the available parking in a region. That map could theoretically be accessed through smart phones or dashboard navigation devices.
We’ve written about how GPS technology can make airports more efficient or help protect endangered elephants. Now, that same technology has turned up in a much more intimate place. In Brazil, a new line of lingerie features a built-in GPS device that allows anyone with a password to track the whereabouts of the wearer.
Lucia Lorio, the designer of the line, expects the lacey numbers to be a hit with “modern, techno-savvy woman.” It certainly would give a whole new meaning to “playing hard-to-get.” On the other hand, Lorio says the GPS-enabled lingerie could also provide a measure of protection for damsels in distress – presumably by sending for help when they’re alone and in danger. We’d like to note that similar devices already exist for pets and young children in distress.
The shortest route between two points is a straight line. But if you manage to get on a flight these days, you’ll probably end up zigzagging across the skies. That’s because the radar-based navigation system used by airlines, developed more than 50 years ago, limits air traffic to a grid of narrow highways—meaning that planes have to wait in a single-file queue for their turn to take off. So it’s a good thing the FAA is proposing a new satellite-based GPS navigation system, called NextGen, that would let pilots fly shorter routes—and use less fuel.
NextGen would let pilots determine their own position and the position of other flights, potentially shifting flight patterns. The current radar system takes 10 seconds to scan an area, so planes have to be kept extra far apart. Supporters of NextGen say it would allow more planes in the air while reducing accidents and delays—while also saving 3.3 billion gallons or $10 billion per year in fuel costs.
Of course, there’s the matter of up front costs.
Farmers near the Ol Pejeta conservancy in Kenya used to have to bang on pots and pans and wave burning sticks to keep elephants from destroying their crops. Now they rely on GPS and text messaging.
Kimani, a bull elephant who used to be a habitual farm raider, has been sporting a collar with GPS and a cell phone SIM card attached and maintained by the advocacy group Save the Elephants. Whenever he approaches the virtual “geofence” on the boundaries of the conservancy, a text message is sent to rangers who swiftly arrive to drive him back.
Using the text method, rangers have prevented potential human-elephant conflicts 15 times in the last two years, and Kimani now rarely approaches farms.