Going the Other Way with Happy Maps and more


I have had a crusade going with Map My Run and other map makers for several years, trying to encourage someone to develop new tools to add a little gamification to routing, in my case in the name of exercise.

What I’m wanting seems really simple to me. I want to do lots of walking on roads I haven’t walked on before and as part of that exercise, I want to be able to plan and track the routes I can take on a mapping tool that links with my smartphone. More on this along with some other ideas like the man who used a GPS tracker to spell out a marriage proposal here.

Sounds simple to me, but it seems as though no one else wants it because no one is doing it. At the latest CES there was an interesting app for car routing. Rather than giving you turn by turn directions, it shows uncongested options in green and congested options in red.

Daniele Quercia recently gave a TED presentation (below) on Happy Maps, a concept where rather than choosing the shortest route, you can choose a route based on your mood. A happy route, a quiet route or maybe a route that goes past nice nice buildings or green spaces. It’s not a long video and I think given that you have visited my blog, that you would enjoy it.

He started with the observation that every day he took the same route, which was very busy, then one day he turned off that route and found a nice road that had no traffic on it. At that point I was thinking, “we are on the same page”.

So here’s his presentation. If you check out my other link and you agree with me that it would be a cool feature for Map My Run, or one of their competitors, how about dropping them an email and letting them know I’m not the only one who would like that feature, or leave a comment of support here that I share with them. Maybe someone will get a cool idea and we can all have some fun, getting some exercise and see parts of our cities and the world that we wouldn’t otherwise get to enjoy.

So the last word goes to Daniele.

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10 Things I haven’t been quiet about


I’ve had a few comments suggesting I haven’t been blogging much lately. When it comes to this blog and The Future Diaries I haven’t been prolific lately, but I’ve been pretty active on my SoLoMo Consulting blog.

So, if you’ve missed me, here are 10 things I’ve been writing about lately:

  1. Climate Change Refugees. This one on The Future Diaries where I was looking back from the future when all the expat Kiwis and anyone else that wanted a clean green, safe environment was hightailing it back to New Zealand. Interesting to see recent stats back up that notion with migration hitting a 9 year high with one of the biggest groups this year entering New Zealand was Kiwis who had been away for a long time. When fresh non-recycled water becomes a rare commodity, watch them all run to the bottom of the planet.

    Fresh drinking water that hasn't been recycled

    Fresh drinking water that hasn’t been recycled

  2. Usage Based Insurance. I’ve mostly called it PAYD or Pay As You Drive. This story today is about insurance companies using Fleet Management data to determine risk and charge premiums based on how safe commercial drivers, particularly freight companies drive. Makes sense doesn’t it. Fleet Management would also give insurance companies advanced and near real time geographic risk profiles.
  3. Planning your Thanksgiving travel. The weekend is upon us and it seems ironic that we get together to be thankful, but the process makes it one of the most stressful weekends on the American calendar.
  4. I’ve blogged a lot about your mobile knowing where you are and what you’re up to. Now your mobile is starting to know what building you’re in and which floor you are on and retailers want to know.
  5. 19 car manufacturers have got together to ensure that you don’t stop buying their cars because they have embraced location based services. You want the features but you don’t want to give up your privacy. This is becoming a very hot topic.
  6. Take away all the traffic lights and intersection controls and you end up with safer streets. Really? Well it seems to be working in some places.
  7. Hacking Traffic Systems. I copped some flack from a traffic engineer over this, who said it is an old story and DOT’s are way to smart to risk being hacked. Phew, I am very relieved. No illegal green-waves here!
  8. A smart car ITS corridor in Europe. It makes sense to try it somewhere. Driver-less cars should be tested in a safe environment first IMHO.
  9. How big do you think Virgin Atlantic’s new Google Glass check-in service will be at your local airport? It may be a breeze, but I think there will be a lot of breeze between people who will use it.
  10. There is always a story about someone who crashes their vehicle and says the GPS nav made me do it. Here’s one about a truck driver who drove into a public park in Milwaukee and blamed his nav.

So as you can see, my fingers haven’t been idle. Hopefully there’s at least one story here to attract your interest and maybe a comment.

My 3 Essentials for the US Road Trip


My Thrifty Rental

I’m going to go into more detail continuing from my previous US road trip blogs, but I want to start with the 3 items that were critical to the trip. Actually it should be 4 because the first thing is you can’t do a road trip without a vehicle. I booked an SUV with Thrifty Car Rentals, online. I have to admit some trepidation with this because they were less than half of the price I had been quoted by a number of New Zealand travel agents. I needn’t have worried. These guys were super professional from start to finish and I highly recommend you use them. Even with a queue we were done with the paperwork in about 15 minutes. We were then told to take our pick from a variety of Fords and Jeeps. We chose the Ford Explorer in the picture because it had tinted windows to hide prying eyes from the fact that we had all our luggage on board much of the time.

So back to my list:

  1. Car Navigation. I downloaded USA maps on to my TomTom GO LIVE 820 before we left. For a long trip the cost of renting car nav is probably more than buying one. I didn’t realise I could have also downloaded live services, which would have been awesome and solved some of the problems I had along the way, but nevertheless, our trip would not have been possible without TomTom. One lesson I learned in setting it up was that the file was way too big to go on the device, but when I put a SD Card in the slot it installed so easily I was worried that I had done something wrong. I hadn’t, it just worked. Grateful thanks to TomTom. It guided me to all the places I needed to go (I changed the voice to American, Kiwi and Australian didn’t really cut it with names like Lake Ponchtrain)
  2. My iPhone. I will go into detail in upcoming blogs about all the apps I used on my iPhone and why, largely because there were no single apps that could tell me what I needed to know about attractions, accomodation, food etc. This is great for the development community, but if I was’t a geek, we would have missed out on so much and probably have been dissapointed with our ability to meet our bucket list expectations. Not only the apps, but also the ability to stay in contact with family at home, using a combination of voice and data apps including Facetime, Skype and Voxer.
  3. A USA SIM Card. We spent about 2 hours in New Orleans getting a local SIM Card. Thanks are required to the team at Keep N Touch on Canal Street who were awesome. Our first trek into town was to Riverwalk Mall, thinking it should be easy to get a SIM card but the two mobile shops there could help us, but they only sold mobiles and accessories. Someone in the mall told us to go up Canal and there would a store there which could help us and they were right. The whole team from the store at Keep N Touch rallied around us for a $50 prepay card from H2O for my iPhone. First they had to take a micro SIM out of one of their phones to see if my phone was locked, then set up an account for me, then help me get it working. $50 got me unlimited calls throughout the USA, unlimited text messaging throughout the USA and 2GB of data! It worked pretty much flawlessly everywhere we went, while my wife’s Vodafone mobile had coverage less than half of the time.

I’m going to write a lot more about mobile and location based apps in upcoming blogs, but basically these were the essential elements without which we would not have enjoyed our trip half as much and you would do well to do the same as we did. The other item I will mention is that we have a service on our Orcon telephone and Internet account (I haven’t had a good run with them, but this one feature was great) giving us free calls to the USA for up to an hour at a time including US mobiles. Once we had the SIM set up, our children were able to call us on mobile, within the constraints of the time zones and we used it a lot.

New Zealand gets TomTom Car Navigation on iPhone first!


OK, we were only ahead of Australia by a couple of hours, but we need everything we can get. Maybe we should give some iPhones to the All Blacks to help them find the try line in the TriNations and Bledisloe on Saturday, but that’s another story. As another aside, when I wrote TriNations, my spell checker suggested ‘urinations’. We’ll let that one be too.

So this morning I got a phone call letting me know that TomTom Car Navigation is now available with GeoSmart maps, for New Zealand in the iTunes Apps Store. This is awesome news. We’ve had some routing applications available in New Zealand, but nothing with any real accuracy. Also the other apps required that you download data frequently, which means additional cost to your Telco, whereas the iPhone application has all of the maps and Points of Interest you need on the device.

The application requires OS3.0 but as I understand it, as long as you have the OS version, you can run the application on any iPhone as well as iPod Touch if you purchase the TomTom Car Kit. Neither helps me as I only have an iPod Classic and a Blackberry, but I hope to remedy that situation soon.

The car kit itself seems very cool and I hope to get the chance to try one. The car kit includes the new TomTom mount, which I really like. It also incorporates a speaker and a microphone as well as an external GPS antenna which means that you don’t have to buy the very latest iPhone with GPS and Compass (although that would be my pick right now) if you already have an iPhone or iPod Touch. The car kit also charges the iPhone when it is in the cradle.

Now the debate has begun in earnest. Why buy the iPhone App and Car Kit, when for the same price you can buy a dedicated PND (Portable Navigation Device) for the same price or maybe even less? This is a similar question to the one I get frequently, which is, what navigation unit or brand is the best? My answer is that ‘best’ is subjective. Different brands and different models currently have different features and the feature set is part of the argument that defines what is best for you.

TomTom and Navman both have new product ranges and different features relating to the user interface, functionality etc. Both brands in New Zealand have GeoSmart Maps (and if you don’t know by now, I work for GeoSmart) which are the most accurate for New Zealand. Why is not relevant for today’s blog. For example Navman now has AA Traffic and TomTom has IQ Routes (which are not the same concept, just an example).

Perhaps part of the answer is how often you travel. As I’ve said in previous blogs. your mobile is your ubiquitous device. You always have it with you. I always have car navigation in my car, but if I’m out of town (without my car) I don’t always take it with me.

The TomTom iPhone Car Kit solves another problem because you can use it as a hands free kit for your mobile. From 1 November, driving and talking on a handheld mobile will become illegal. You will either have to use a hands free kit of some sort or not use your phone at all in the car. I have stopped accepting or making any calls in the car, although I might accept important calls if I had a hands free kit. There is always a tension and anxiety around not answering calls on your mobile. People expect to be able to reach you, which causes an unpleasant feeling for both parties. So here’s a nice solution for your car.

So back to the application, this is essentially the same application as the one residing on the normal PND devices carried by your favourite consumer electronics stores. One cute thing is that on iPhone you can orient your phone to landscape or portrait and it will automatically adapt itself.

The nature of car navigation is changing and like most new technologies it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict what will happen in the near future. LBS on mobile is a given and if you search through my blogs, you will find several about mobile applications, car navigation on mobile will become common place and of course there are many situations where you would like guidance while walking, exercising, travelling in a taxi or on public transport. These are often scenarios where you want to travel light, but wouldn’t go without your mobile.

If you had asked me last year, where car navigation is going, I would have told you about ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems), for which R&D has been funded by the European Governments. This was to develop systems that would reduce accidents in a number of ways, including monitoring vehicles positions in relation to the lane markings on roads, legal driving speeds, speed and distance of vehicles in front and behind you and much more. Many of the innovations for this are being developed and in some cases launched by brands as far apart as BMW and Nissan.

This system was originally going to be made mandatory in all new cars sold in Europe from 2012 and if this was still the case, it could have meant significantly reduced demand for PND’s. When I was in The Netherlands earlier this year, I was advised that the date had been dropped and the European Union were having a rethink on the subject, and particularly their ongoing commitment to funding it. They determined that it would take more than 10 years before the majority of vehicles in Europe would have this system in place and therefore the deadline wouldn’t have any immediate impact. A cynic would say that this would mean that current politicians would not get any credit within their career to justify spending time on it.

So now we have (I reiterate I haven’t tried it yet) a new system which will provide an all but identical experience to a PND on your iPhone. Of course TomTom isn’t the only mobile product available, but it is the first one being commercially sold in New Zealand. The new Android phones also have GPS and Compass and of course there are some very good Windows Mobile applications as well such as iGO8. Will there be a move away from PND’s? I doubt it, at least in the near future. Navman will certainly be hoping not.

There will be a camp that says a PND is the best device at being a PND. They said the same about PDA’s, but SmartPhones are now viable devices, even though I still have to reboot my new Blackberry Bold at least a couple of times a week. The future is going to be interesting. There are phone companies such as Nokia who showed their intention by purchasing Navteq and are planning converged devices that combine a mobile with car navigation. There are PND manufacturers who are going to be putting SIM Card slots into their car navigation devices.

The market will decide what the best is and the answer to all questions will be yes:)

I’ll leave the last word for today to TomTom.

eLearning, So What’s New?


This morning when I read the Herald, there was a story in a supplement on Education about eLearning. The supplement is obviously focussed on students heading for Uni for the first time and Abcd – e – learning was well written and researched, and it was a supplement, but I was also thinking, that it was ironic that it was presented as if it is something new. It was interesting that while I couldn’t find a link on the Herald’s website, I guess because it was a commercial supplement, I did find a story about using podcasting (which was key to this morning’s story) written in July last year called Pupils book place in world with podcasting, by Martha McKenzie-Minifie.

The story was largely about universities including MIT, Berkeley UC and Yale posting lectures as podcasts on iTunes U. It was about the benefits of students being able to listen to podcasts and make sure they don’t miss anything.

This was interesting timing because I have been having discussions with Massey University about eLearning for sometime and last month launched the Location Innovation Awards, which runs until February 16th 2009. I was considering adding eLearning to one of the categories, but given that the Awards are in fact a learning experience and the categories of Location Based Games, Social Networking, Proximity Based Marketing and widgets for AA Maps all provide scope not only for learning, but offer the opportunity for supporting education that is location based. For example a location based game music elearning could involve a treasure hunt in a community based around learning about the history of the area, which could be cultural, historical, ecological, environmental and so on.

In a recent blog I wrote about Music eLearning on the net and made reference to Gordon Dryden’s new book, Unlimited – The New Learning Revolution (which is totally about eLearning) which he told me will be on the retail shelves within a week or so. I feel I relate well to Gordon because I was also frustrated and bored with school as a teenager.

The problem for me was that I wanted to be a songwriter and musician and my parents sent me to a school where the major subject was rugby and music was a 40 minute session 3 times a month or so. By the time I got to 5th form I was bored to tears with subjects that I felt (and still feel) were irrelevant (although I guess there were a couple of exceptions, being French and Latin which have both served me well.

I didn’t pay much attention in class, was bored, found other ways to amuse myself. At the end of the year come exam time, I used a form of eLearning. I got all my school notes, typed them up on a typewriter, read them out loud into a tape recorder and played them back to myself while listening to Led Zeppelin in the background. Now I was aware already that Baroch music is far more conducent to learning, because it has a tempo that your brain matches into a state which is good for absorbing information. However, it wasn’t cool and this still worked and I did pass my exams, except for Geography which is ironic given that I speak a number of languages and have travelled aorund the world several times, it was just hard to record maps:)

I have been using audio tapes for many years to enhance my learning. I recorded radio shows and learned about cosmic string theory, and also bought and used Psychology tapes to learn about NLP, negotiation and other skills.

This morning in the shower I was learning about SPIME, which is very pertinent to my current focus of Location Based Services. I learned about it from a podcast interview with David Orban on the podcast of The Future and You by Stephen Euin Cobb. “A Spime is a location-aware, environment-aware, self-logging, self-documenting, uniquely identified object that flings off data about itself and its environment in great quantities.”

This technology is very relevant to my work in car navigation and future driving safety. Imagine if every car had SPIME technology and independant of any internet or cellular telecommunication technology, cars could communicate with each other, ensuring safe driving in terms of car proximity to each other, safe following speed and distance and the ability to react to an emergancy. For example, if the car in front of you engages its ABS and brakes suddenly. A SPIME technology could potentially tell your car which is following it, about the situation and have it react potentially seconds before your brain and foot can engage with your brake pedal. This could be a marvellous development of ADAS.

Anyway, I am heading off on a tangent, but the thing is that eLearning continues to keep me abreast of the latest developments in the fields I am interested in and you do not have to be a university student to access the information.

I often listen to University Lectures at iTunes U and so can you. If you are interested in a topic and want to follow the lectures whether you are studyig at a university or not, they are as close as your iPod.

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 https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)