Honda’s Musical Road


This afternoon I was driving back to the office after presenting at the Intergraph Forum in Auckland and listening to the Car Tech Podcast from CNET, which was excellent by the way.

They had some really interesting stories including Nissan signing up to a system where your mobile phone is your key to get into the car and even start it, but that’s another story.

One that tickled my fancy was that Honda, as part of a promotion for their new Honda Civic in the US, cut grooves in the road, not dissimilar to the grooves on a vinyl record. The grooves are similar to the ones you sometimes find on a freeway to let you know that you are easing out of your lane. These grooves were cut in such a way as to play The William Tell Overture, optimised for a Honda Civic Driving at 55 Miles Per Hour.

Honda has long been known for its innovation including their internal competiton for making novel cars. One of my favourites years ago was the one that had a spa pool in it. Not sure how it handled on corners though.

Anyway, if you are in Lancaster Calif, don’t bother looking for it as they have painted over them. As you can see in the video, could be a bit dangerous if you had someone coming the other way wanting to play it in reverse.

This is great ingenuity from someone in Honda.

I wonder if they could do something like that to warn people that they are going to fast. Perhaps a Beethoven’s fifth with the last not flattened.

Feed-in Tarriffs and The Greens Party


So election year is hear and in less than 2 months the political fate of New Zealand will be decided for the next 3 years. With Greenhouse / Global warming , Kyoto and the global call for positive action on sustainability, I would have thought that The Green Party would have had the perfect opportunity to become a dominant force.

In several parts of the USA there are government subsidies and interest free loans on the purchase and installations of solar panels for domestic use. New Zealand has major problems with power. This year the lakes which are used to generate hydro electricity in the South Island were close to empty and given that this has been a recurring situation, it is only a matter of time before we start having enforced power cuts.

The government has been quick to sign the Kyoto Protocol which apparently gives us a sustainability debt which we will have to pay to other countries. In my humble opinion this is stupid, not the least because countries including our Australian cobbers and the USA have not signed. But more so because we would be far better using those funds, taxpayers dollars, to do better things at home, such as interest free subsidies for urban water tanks for drinking water and solar panels on our homes to generate water to heat it. Surely that would make better sense?

When I started to research this, I found that South Australia is enforcing a concept that they got from the NZ Green Party which is a Feed-in-Tarriff. I’m amazed that I had never heard of it! I’m not sure if that reflects more poorly on me for not knowing or on the Greens for not being more vocal about it. Anyway, rather than providing subsidies and interest free finance, which I feel we should still enforce, this concept requires the power companies to purchase excess power from consumers who have solar power in their homes, at a price higher than they pay to the commercial grid.

If we are in for some serious problems as a consequence of global warming, rising sea lavels, increased pollution in lakes and rivers, exacerbated by increasing water temperature, how is it that the Greens do not feature high on the political radar. I suspect that a lot of it is driven by their perception as tree huggers, driving sooty diesel vans who used ot be extremely vocal, but just didn’t seem like us, the average Joe Public. They don’t fit the mould of the ordinary politician, perhaps because they represent only one (important) facet of life on planet Earth today. They haven’t convinced us that we need them, which is a shame, because they may have some great ideas that we dn’t know about. Maybe they need to make some changes to the way they present themselves.

So here’s the problem. I can’t afford to spend between $30,000 for water heating and $100,000 for generate power to my home equivalent to what I get off the grid today. But if I could borrow the money interest free and pay for it from savings as well as selling excess back into the grid I’d be keen.

What happened to bird flu?


My whole family has the flu and we all feel like s**t. This got me thinking, what happened to Bird Flu? One minute everyone was worried that there wasn’t going to be enough Tamiflu vaccine to go around and now it seems it has been forgotten altogether.

Not everyone has forgotten about it. Last week 1200 people attended the 3rd European Influenza Conference in Portugal in order to make sure that the world is ready when the H5N1 virus flares up again.

One of the biggest concerns is that the virus continues to mutate and chances are that the current vaccines may not be effective any more. The front line of defense may not do the job in a pandemic situation.

So what is your plan? Do you have the supplies you need to stay home for a fwe weeks and ride it out if it comes? How will your company function if half of its staff are home ill? Do you have a business plan? I’m sure the company I work for hasn’t got one. Like most people bird flu is long forgotten and other issues such as elections, tax rebates and recession are far more pressing.

What would you do if your business closed it’s doors. The supermarket shelves were half empty because the wholesalers, truck drivers and grocery workers are all at home in bed?

What is happening in your community? Does your doctor have anough doses of Tamiflu to cove all their patients? Has your company done anything to help? Even if it did, what if Tamiflu doesn’t work anymore?

I’m not being a fatalist here, but influenza has decimated populations in history and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that sooner or later there will be a pandemic of some sort. If not that, then some other form of disaster.

So what is your plan?

I want Super HiVision TV


One of the things I have always wanted, ever since I was little, was a TV screen that covers the whole wall. I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged about this before. I believe Bill Gates has something like that, but it’s probably a video stack, like a Pioneer Video Wall.

I want something that covers the whole wall and when I’m not watching one or multiple channels, it can be a screensaver that can take me from a beautiful beach or underwater scene in winter or a ski scene in Canada or France in summer. Something that doesn’t give me eye strain from being in the room.

Then I also want real surround sound, so I can immerse myself in the environment.

This week I was listening to the Digital Planet podcast from the BBC and they were talking about exactly this. They were talking about the demonstration of Super Hi Video at the Interneational Broadcasting Conference in Amsterdam and the demonstration of this technology being streamed live from London.

The technology is Super Hivision which offers “a video format with 7680 x 4320 pixels (16 times higher than standard Hi-vision, NHK’s HDTV system) . This world’s first video system with 4000 scanning lines delivers ultra-clear, realistic three-dimensional images that can be achieved only by ultrahigh-definition technology.
- The individual scanning lines are not visually noticeable even when relatively close to the screen, reflecting the high resolution of the system. What’s more, a wider viewing angle conveys a stronger sense of a reality.
- The new 3-D audio system with 24 loudspeakers dramatically enhances presence.”

According to the people who were watching it, it is very similar to what you can see and hear in real life. It’s taking the gloss off my HD TV (through which I am not yet watching HD)

So if anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas, give me a call and I’ll give you the dimensions of my lounge wall. I suspect the price will be much more than the value of my home right now, but that’s ok.

The Right Track Programme


This morning I read a story in The Aucklander about The Right Track programme which is an intense program for first time motoring offenders to get them to think twice in the future about boy racing, drinking and driving and other motoring activities that are dangerous to themselves and innocent bystanders.

According to the police this programme is having good results, but it seems that funding from Manukau City Council is going to end. They said that it was never a long term exercise.

Amongst other things members of the programme visit the Otara Spinal Unit and meet survivors who now need a wheelchair for their mobility. Funeral Directors talk to them about how they have to pick up body parts after an accident and try to put them together for funeral viewing.

It’s all about having the ambulance at the top of the cliff according to John Finch who developed the programme which is a world first.

My father in law has had throat cancer and as a consequence had a laryngectomy. In conjunction with the NZ Cancer Society he visited many primary schools and told his story. He let the children have a look at the whole in his throat and see how he can talk. He let them ask questions and gave them honest answers. It’s interesting how onto it kids are. He has dozens of letters from students saying that they will never ever smoke. I would say he has probably saved at least one or two lives, which probably represents a six figure sum at least to our health system.

An ambulance at the top of the cliff has to be significantly greater than the cost of mopping people of the road after a needless accident, but unless funding is found, this excellent and selfless service will disappear.

I wrote a song about situations that kids find themselves. It’s called One More Time Around the Block and you can hear it at Music Forte.

It thundered down the road like a young boy racers dream

The Rockford Fosgate sub beat like a life support machine

They never saw what hit them on the wrong side of the bend

They didn’t have an inkling that their lives were going to end.

The mourners stood in silence dressed in dark clothes, mostly black

A mother screamed her lungs out, cried “I want my baby back”

Their friends stood round in circles, still not coping from the shock

They said they be five minutes, one more time around the block.

They were best of friends like they were tied at the seam

They knew what each was thinking and they shared the same big dreams

They were just young men in the prime of their life

Their futures lay before them, empty pages still to write.

But now those days are over and their lives have been snuffed out

The sub’s no longer thumping and their hearts have lost their clout

If only they had listened, if only they had stopped

They said they’d be five minutes one more time arouind the clock.

And now the music’s playing and the mourners begin to pray

They sing the Lord’s Prayer and ask themselves

Why did it end this way?

The V8′s sound like thunder, can’t you hear the engine’s roar?

Car horns sound a last salute with feat flat to the floor

Wish we could have changed the outcome, wish we could have stopped the clock

They said they’d be five minutes, one more time around the clock

They said the’d be five minutes, one more time around the clock.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

Is Vehicle Tracking (Fleet Management) an Invasion of Employee Privacy?


An interesting story originating from the Sydney Morning Herald last week, and doing the rounds in New Zealand, says that ‘Privacy Experts’ and Unions are saying that vehicle tracking systems used by companies are an invasion of staff privacy.

It goes on to talk about a former Telstra employee who committed suicide shortly after having a vehicle tracking system attached to his company vehicle. The employee was being treated for depression and the story infers that his suicide was in part a consequence of Fleet Management equipment being installed in his vehicle.

Over the last decade I have been in various ways involved with Vehicle and Personal Tracking technology and only once have I come accross a company that wanted it to be able to check up on the honesty of their staff.

There is no question that some companies have found a sudden increase in profitability and decrease in vehicle costs since they put FM systems in place, but monitoring staff integrity was not the reason the system went in. This particular company wanted to know which vehicles were close to clients that needed urgent service so that they could allocate the nearest vehicle to provide a quality reponsive service.

A few years ago I met the CEO of a rapid response plumbing firm. They guaranteed a minimum response time for people who needed a plumber in an emergancy. He was able to manage this as a consequence of using Navman Wireless technology to locate the nearest vehicle to the job.

They also wanted to compare time based service contracts to the actual time the vehicle was parked at the client site. They wanted to know if they had under or overquoted because there was sometimes a gap between the sales person’s enthusiasm to win a contract and the reality of the job being done.

What did happen was that a number of staff people whom they had suspected of taking liberties with the vehicle on the job and after hours, left the company within a month or so of their own volition.

I am against (and it may well be illegal) tracking people and their vehicles without their knowledge. The only people able to do that should be the Police and even then, only with a legal warrant produced through the courts.

On the other hand there are many potential benefits. In the courier and freight industry, Fleet Management means that people can easily apply track and trace to good being picked up and delivered without needing additional staff to place calls to drivers.

In the security industry it means that security guards on patrol can confirm the safety and location of their staff and also provide clear evidence to clients that their premises have been visited when they said they were. It can also mean that these people can be backed up in an emergancy. This technology is used internationally to track and protect the safety of VIP’s such as politicians in government vehicles.

Another area that is becoming popular is using this technology to keep track of a personal vehicle’s location. For example, when Dad lends the car to his son or daughter who is just popping down to the shops or a mate’s place, who could be boy racers. There have been a number of occassions where a stolen vehicle has been recovered with the thief still inside, such as the case earlier this year. Sometimes a car is irreplacable such as a classic, or sports car. Insurance money can’t always allow someone to recover the time spent in restoring or bulding a vehicle. This technology can also be used to secure trailer water craft and motorcycles which are often easy targets for criminals.

Another area which is becoming very popular and which I have written about a number of times before is tracking elderly people. With the Baby Boomers living longer and being more mobile, there is a growing population of elderly people, some of whom are sprightly of mind, but less of body and at risk of breaking hips or other body parts, while others are sound in body but suffering onset of Alzheimers Disease or other forms of dementia and likely to wander off and not remember where they live. Whether it is the Retirement Village or Rest Home, or their children, this common problem becomes much easier to manage if you can send a text message to the device they are carrying and receive one back with the nearest street address to their current location.

I think tracking is a great thing for unions to use to help them shore up membership and totally endorse them helping people out when it comes to unethical practice on behalf of the company they work for. However, in most cases FM (Fleet Management) is about providing better service to a company’s clients, being able to stay competitive in a time of heavy traffic, high cost of petrol and consumers who expect cheaper prices.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course http://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)