Your indicator is not an extension of your steering wheel!


I had two near misses on the way home from work last night. The first one was on the freeway. A guy two lanes across from me turned into the lane I was turning into after I started my man-oeuvre  into an empty space. He didn’t indicate until he was halfway into my lane. He jumped back when he saw me coming as did I. The difference was I was well ahead of him and indicated a couple of seconds before I started turning my wheel.

Where You GoDon’t people think about their turns any more, or that there might be other people on the road. Sometimes you might have a car or a motorcycle in your blind spot, but not when they are in front of you.

Or beside you which was the case in the second incident last night. It was a 2 lane 60km per hour road and the car in the lane exactly next to me, not in front or behind, just shifts straight into my lane, indicating as his hand reached the arc that allowed it to connect with the indicator in mid term.

I slammed on the brakes, and fortunately the car directly behind me must have seen it coming because he also managed to avoid crashing into my rear end.

So I got home safe and sound, but continue to wonder at the number of people who either don’t indicate at all, or are half way through their turn or lane change when they finally get around to it. It’s a wonder there aren’t a hell of a lot more accidents.

We focus a lot on learner drivers, but I think we should also retest experienced drivers, perhaps once every 10 years. Would you pass a randomly required driving test tomorrow?

Can the NSA track you on your prepay mobile?


The recent news about PRISM and NSA surveillance on people based on their Internet usage and mobile usage is fascinating. The concept of being able to monitor people’s activity based on their mobile is nothing new, although of course we all thought that it would only happen under a warrant, or in emergency circumstances such as when someone makes a 911 call or perhaps in a SAR emergency.

USA 162Commercial vehicles are being tracked as a normal process, in some cases to ensure staff are working, but more commonly for more practical purposes, such as driver behaviour and safety, making sure that refrigerated trailers maintain correct temperatures and in countries like New Zealand to allow diesel truck operators to claim Road User Charge rebates when they are not driving on public roads, which can save businesses a truck load of money if you will pardon the pun.

As a fan of TV programs like Person of Interest and 24, which I hear is making a comeback, I often wonder why it seems so hard to track criminals, but if you follow my blogs and tweets you will see that more and more criminals are being caught, especially after stealing iPhones or other devices containing GPS and communications. I love those stories.

So, to the question of this blog. What we know is that government agencies (and businesses with their clients’ approval, such as finance and insurance companies) are tracking people and monitoring their behaviour. By monitoring Big Data about the location of people’s mobiles, algorithms can identify information such as where people live, work and play. They can identify associations with other people through this same data. For example if you monitor a person and establish their home (where their mobile is most nights of the year) and identify other mobile devices that are also at that location during most nights of the year, then you can identify that they also probably reside at that location.

If those people were criminal suspects of any kind, you could thereby potential make some assumptions that those people might also be criminals. This would be very useful, not only with terrorists, which we thought were the prime reason for being able to spy on people, but also gangs, drug dealers and manufacturers and more. I guess part of the issue there is whether this evidence is admissible in a court of law. But again I digress.

If you are able to monitor mobile phone radio connections using GPS or less accurate technologies and identify unknown devices such as prepaid mobiles that frequently appear at the same locations as known devices, that would suggest that you could infer the identity or characteristics of a user. If, for example, a person had a mobile for normal use and an anonymous prepaid mobile for more nefarious purposes and they were carried around together, you could infer that the user was the same person.

This could mean that effectively the use of a prepaid mobile, being used for the purposes of criminal activity, on the basis of its implied anonymity, could be fatally flawed. Not a bad thing in my opinion. The problem is more in the assumption that a governmental agency has the right to spy on its citizens without recourse and without obtaining a warrant from a court first, a bit like apologising after the event.

I am all for keeping law abiding citizens safe, but there should be transparency on how that is done, especially in countries that we consider to be enlightened democracies. Anyway, the answer to the question in my opinion is that using a prepaid mobile will not by default prevent you from being tracked or identified if an agency has the power to track radio devices. the technology is certainly easy to access.

What Do You Hate About Car Parks?


I recently asked you what you liked about car parks. I guess based on 25 votes and 3 comments, most of you don’t really think about this subject, which is fine. I appreciate your feedback.

So lets look at the negative side of car parking. What do you dislike about car parks? I can think of lots of things and maybe I can start you off with a few things to think about and I will also add another poll.

I went down to the new Wynyard Quarter a couple of weeks ago on a sunny Saturday for lunch. We thought we’d have a look at this new development, have lunch and enjoy the new showcase area in Auckland. We drove the 30km from our home, drove through all the car parks, couldn’t find a single park (this was around noon) and after 20 minutes of crawling in circles went to Takapuna for lunch. I hate going somewhere and not being able to get a park.

I hate not being able to find a suitable car park close to my destination when its raining. We’ve had more than our fair share of that this winter in New Zealand.

I hate car parks with small parking spaces and large pillars, which going by the black and other colour scrapings on them, do more than their fair share of damage.

Car parks with small spaces means that often motorists overlap into the park next to them, so that that the vacant park is rendered useless to anything other than a Beetle or a motorcycle.

I hate car parks where the machines only take cash and I very rarely carry cash any more.

I hated having my car broken into in a public car park and finding that the only video security available was there to stop people leaving the car park without paying! I haven’t used that particular car park since. I either walk further or go to a more expensive one in that area.

I hate car parks where the machine doesn’t work and all the staff seem to have gone on a break.

I hate parks that cost more than the activity I want to consume.

So how about leaving a comment and participating in the poll, you can even create a new question in it yourself. I am going to be presenting to the Parking Association later this year at their annual conference and want to give them an idea, positive and negative about their business. This includes curb side parking by the way. Any car parking dislikes at all.

I haven’t forgotten special needs car parks, but I want you to tell me about your experiences:)

As a footnote, this is not a bitch session. We are a motoring people and we need car parks. I am looking for feedback with a view to coming up with ideas as to how to make car parking more user friendly and attractive. I believe that there are many improvements possible and many opportunities for car parks to engage with their users and their community.

Car Parking – What Do You Like About Them


Later this year I will be presenting at the NZ Parking Association annual conference. They are looking for ideas out of left field and I have plenty of ideas. I was going to visit a pile of car parks and talk to the owners, usually when I speak to an industry group, I go and talk to their members. I do some by appointment and explain why I am there and I do some more discretely to get a feel for their business as a customer.

Of course like most of you, I visit car parks of all sorts all the time anyway. I have a strategy as to how I plan to come up with novel ideas for them, as well as research what is happening around the world. But for now, I would like to have a bit of feedback from you. Just to be a bit radical, how about sharing with me on this blog what you like about the places you park your cars. I’ll come back later and ask about what you don’t like, but I’d like to start with a bit of positivity.

So what do you like about the places you park your car or other motor vehicle? Please share those with me as a comment here.

If you don’t wish to leave a comment, how about helping with a poll?

Grandmothers Miracle Survival


So it happened again. A 62 year old woman driving home from Christchurch crashed her car down a 5 metre bank on her way home to Greymouth, was the story in this morning’s NZ Herald.  If she had a GPS capable mobile with the type of tracking application I have been blogging about here and here, she may not have had to spend2 days lying on broken grass out in the cold and could have been rescued far sooner.

The GPS in her phone could have told family or rescuers exactly where she was and with tools like GeoSmart’s Directions API, her rescuers could have had turn by turn directions right to the site of her misfortune.

This is not an uncommon story. Given the bush, the narrow, dark and windy roads around New Zealand’s beautiful countryside, combined with sometimes treacherous conditions of rain, black ice, snow, flooding and slips, there are frequently stories of people losing their car and slipping into a ravine, or worse. I hate to think of what the cost is in resources for search and rescue. Over a year it must mount up to far more than the cost of developing a mobile application that could work on all phones.

In urban areas, often cell triangulation would work, but in the many rural areas, the cell towers are often too far apart to provide an accurate fix. It’s interesting that the topic of Tracking Elderly People is one of the most popular searches that find my blogs. Of course it isn’t just about elderly people. There are many segments of our population that could benefit from a mobile tracking application. People like diabetics, blind or disabled, people with other illnesses such as asthma, allergies such as bee and wasp stings, epilepsy and Alzheimers or other forms of dementia are just a few examples.

Hopefully sometime soon, someone will use GeoSmart’s tools or come up with some funding to develop a tracking system to solve this problem.

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:)

Northern Motorway Truck Crash


Was I lucky or what! I drove through the Northern Motorway into Auckland City on my way to the airport around 6:30 AM. The first I heard about the crash was reading a NZStuff story on Twitter after I finished my presentation to the Intergraph Forum in Christchurch.

It’s interesting in this day and age how few people know about some of the information resources available to them. I probably knew about it before a lot of Aucklanders did, at least the ones that weren’t already stuck in the chaos. NZStuff has a great info page on Twitter. They do repeat their ‘Tweets’ a bit too often for my liking, but I guess that’s how people find out about their service and so far they only have 75 people following their free service. Crazy. It’s a great way of catching the headlines. I catch the Tweets on my Blackberry and can click on the links for the rest of the story.

People aren’t yet used to going on the web to check out traffic information. The last time I was in the Netherlands, we used to check the traffic site on the net to see if there were any problems we need to detour around. The site is pretty old fashioned in it’s mapping technology, nothing like the web mapping on the AA Maps website.

You might well find it worth checking that site in future before heading into the traffic. If you had done that this morning if you left after 9 AM you would have known not to go into the city via the Northern Motorway and if you check it now you will see that after 8PM tonight they are going to close it again to finish the job that the truck driver did crashing into the overbridge this morning. I’m glad I managed to get on an earlier flight!

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:)