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.

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On Ray Kurzweil and Thinking


I was reading a current article by Ray Kurzweil in this month’s edition of The Futurist and it got me to thinking a little. Here are a few random synapse connections from me.

He talked about how the digital neocortex will be be much faster than my wet-ware and that the roughly 300 million pattern recognisers in our biological neocortex will allow us to think in the cloud, using billions or trillions of pattern recognisers.  The IQ part of my brain thinks this could be amazing, although I would worry about dendrite overload or glutamic acid over stimulation, which is associated with conditions such as Alzheimer’s. It’s one thing to connect my brain or nervous system to additional memory, but to extend the processing in and out, is something that I think may require a lot of very careful study.

Earlier this week I wrote a blog about a potential future condition, Google Glasses Separation Syndrome. I recently introduced my daughter to the brilliant book, Flowers for Algernon which follows a similar thread. What happens when you expand a person’s capability to the point that it changes their existence and then potentially remove it again.

I noted that Ray perhaps doesn’t like driving very much because he talked about self driving cars alleviating the requirement of humans to perform the ‘chore of driving’. Sorry Ray, I love driving and so do a large percentage of the people I know. I appreciate that you now work for Google and they are pioneering driver-less cars, but I don’t want to live in a city where eventually the law requires hat the ‘network’ takes over my car. Yes there are benefits in road safety etc.  but with systems such as Fleet Management, MobilEye, and the incentives of PAYD Insurance the roads will become safer without requiring us to take our hands off the wheel.

So IBM‘s Watson won Jeopardy, cool. It is an amazing AI and I love that it is now being used to look for cure’s for cancer amongst other things. But if you start thinking about Watson, a digital neocortex and singularity, what about EQ? It’s one thing to be able to identify things, to be able to locate information, to be able to combine apparently disparate bits of data, but how about feelings, intuition, id and ego? These are the things that make us human.

I like where this is going, but I also want to keep that which is me. Watson might be able to write a hit song by understanding the formulas and this has been tried before. But the song I wrote about a boy whose father lost his job at the plant and asks Santa to find his dad a job, while his mother sits and cries in the bedroom, or the one I wrote about a guy who returns from a tour of duty in Iraq to find his best friend is now sleeping with his girlfriend, that brought tears to Desert Storm vets isn’t going to come from an AI. An AI may understand the chemical reactions of the brain and intellectually that these experiences can cause people to be sad.

The ultimate AI could use impeccable logic to say that humans are bad for the planet, they are frequently illogical, their emotions cause them to make bad decisions and basically shouldn’t be here. Perhaps when Watson really ‘thinks’ about cancer, it might determine that humans are in factor a cancer on this planet and should be booted down. Then we will be left with the singularity which will contain all information, ask why and then boot itself down because having access to all the information in the world, does not impart any meaning.

 

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 https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)

GPS Tracking of Elderly People Update and Orcon Update


First of all I’d like to give you a quick update on the personal tracking unit I’ve been testing. It’s going really well. Please note I do not work for the company who is developing it, although if they go to market they will be using our mapping data, which I have been testing it with.

So I have tried it out in various parts of the country and it can track me wherever I go. If you had the logon and password to my account you could see where I have been on a map. You can play back my travels around Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. When I was in my car you could see emergancy button

how fast I was driving and my exact route.

If I hit the red emergency button a text message gets sent to a phone (in this case mine). I had it sent to my wife when I first set it up because then she cpould see what I was up to and I thought that would be interesting. Stupid really because I couldn’t see if it was working and she was geting really worried because on some days she would get lots of messages saying that I had an emergency.

Basically the message gives my name and says I had an emergency. If I was inside at the time I sent the emergancy it gives the last known street address, which is usually the correct address because it has a movement sensor and will take a fix every time the device moves which obviously was set off last time I got out of the car. It uses the GeoSmart Reverse GeoCoder to retrieve the nearest street address to the co-ordinates where it was taken. The reason it gives the last address, is because with current satellite technology it can’t get a fix inside the house unless I am in an optimal position. This will of course improve when the Gallileo

It operates as a phone so a call centre can call me if they think there is a problem. It also can function as a phone with a number of preset buttons, which is great for elderly people who only have a few people they need to ring and find mobiles confusing.

A footnote on Orcon, I got a call today saying that they are onto it this time. They said the engineers that have been visiting don’t have sophisticated enough test gear to test a phone line for interference that wouldn’t affect phones and event ordinary ADSL. So hopefully I will see an engineer, at least this time they phoned me:)

Are you serious about being carbon friendly?


Are you serious about your business being carbon friendly? Are you really making a difference or are you paying lip service to the concept. Do you have company vehicles? What can you do to reduce their carbon footprint? What are you doing about it? Here are some thoughts from a New Zealand perspective (where I have shown URL’s you will have similar services in your own country):

1.       In order to measure improvement, you need a baseline. Let’s start by measuring how many km you travel per month. Measure this over a year because there are always fluctuations. In addition to measuring km travelled, measure fuel consumption, i.e. km per litre of fuel. If you use fuel cards, you probably already have this information in your monthly reports. If you don’t maybe you should, fuel cards usually also offer discounts.

  1.  Get your vehicles regularly serviced and tuned up. It’s easy to see the ones that aren’t, by the smoke and soot they trail behind them and especially trucks and buses that have huge black patches covering someone’s expensive advertising material.
  2. Car pool. How often do you and your colleagues go to the same event in separate cars when you could have shared?
  3. Drive by the most efficient route. There are many way to do this. If you have a car navigation system, you can usually select the fastest or the shortest route.  Note that the fastest route will usually have fewer stops such as intersection controls. You use far more fuel stopping and starting your car than you do when cruising. If you don’t have a car navigation system such as Navman or TomTom, the most reliable is to use a quality web site that offers driving directions such as www.aamaps.co.nz or www.wises.co.nz.
  4. If you have multiple locations to visit, try to plan the most efficient route to visit all of them. One option for this is to use a site such as www.aamaps.co.nz that not only lets you create via points for your trip, it also allows you to re-order them to create a more efficient sequence.
  5. When you are travelling to visit a client, see if there are other clients or prospects you can visit in their vicinity to save future trips. In the freight industry everyone knows that you should always try to find another load for the return trip.
  6. If you have a vehicle doing multiple deliveries, using Route Optimisation you can establish the most efficient order to do them in. A furniture delivery truck using Route2Go from GeoSmart, could not only reduce travel distance, but also load the truck in the correct order to minimise the drivers workload. If you have multiple trucks, you can set a range of rules that decide which trucks do which jobs in which order and eliminate guesswork.
  7. Using a Fleet Management system, fleet operators can view the location of their vehicles and ensure that the closest vehicle gets the job. Fleet Management solutions also monitor driver behaviour such as ‘clutch riding’ and excessive acceleration to assist in driver training.
  8.  Trip planning on websites such as Wises and AA Maps can also assist with things like petrol and lunch stops, making sure they fit into the route rather than having to drive out of your way when the time comes. The same applies to finding a convenient car park rather than driving around in circles around your destination.

Simple proactive measures can have a huge impact on your carbon footprint and consequently on your profitability.  Vehicle service costs will be reduced along with the inconvenience of not having the vehicles on the road with reduced maintenance costs. Fuel costs will reduce and you will be able to fit more business into the same amount of time thereby increasing productivity. You will also earn the right to announce to the business world that you are genuinely playing your part in reducing your company’s carbon footprint.

Carbon Emission savings and Mapping Technologies


This is from my blog at GeoSmart Maps Ltd in Auckland where I am gainfully employed in Business Development.

We’re helping you reduce your carbon footprint The movement towards reducing carbon emissions is growing daily and New Zealand’s commitment to the Kyoto Protocol in practical terms means that it is going to be high on the roadmap for New Zealand businesses and government. The data we are collecting and providing in our products and services is helping people in simple and practical ways to reduce their vehicle kilometers driven on NZ roads.

With the high cost of petrol and the expectation that it will continue to increase, there are already incentives to reduce the distances we drive in our cars. With more and more evidence of global warming and our commitment to doing what we can to reduce carbon emmissions, especially from our motor vehicles, GeoSmart is doing its part to help.

Many of our products and solutions involve data which can help people travel from A to B more efficiently. For example:

  • Car Navigation is an obvious one. I frequently hear stories of people without navigation in their cars getting lost and driving much further than they should be. Add this to the well warn stories of ‘men don’t ask directions’ and ‘women can’t read maps’ which is proven to be true over and over again and the fact that quality portable navigation devices are now available for under NZ$500 at retail, their is no excuse for this anymore. Add up how many extra km you drive due to error or being lost and especially for business people, these devices will pay for themselves in no time flat. What about all the thousands of Mums and Dads taking their kids to away games on the weekends?
  • Fleet Management. Vehicle tracking solutions combined with our Route Optimisation web services can have a rapid impact on reduced travel with the bonus of increased productivity, reduced maintenance costs, fuel costs, and as a good corporate citizen, reduced fuel emissions.
  • Directions for web mapping. One of the API’s that GeoSmart offers with SmartFIND Web Mapping is the ability to generate printable driving directions from A to B based on the fastest route. There are now hundreds of web sites in NZ using this service. The most well known is of course http://www.wises.co.nz. Going a step further, sites like http://www.aamaps.co.nz allow you to create and print an entire itinerary with turn by turn instructions to take with you in the car. These are no also used i n a number of call centres around the country to provide directions to people on the road.
  • Vodafone Live does the same on your mobile phone so you never have an excuse that you didn’t have access to the Internet. Need your nearest ATM or petrol station, just tell your phone where you are and you will receive turn by turn directions and a route map on your phone.
  • For those who don’t have a problem reading maps, GeoSmart generates map books for Wises as well as the NZ Automobile Association which gives away a HUGE number of maps to members. Of course you do have to use them, but again, why not save your money as well as care for your environment.
  • Doesn’t apply to you? That’s wonderful, but be honest, I’m sure you will recall a time recently where you drove further than you could have.

There have been discussions in the media recently that a Carbon Tax might be applied as a petrol surcharge. Do you need any more incentive for an investment in time by getting directions from one of our client services or buying yourself a car navigation device? Then how about doing it to do your bit to protect our planet? Many people think “I’m just one person, what can I do?” If we all do the same, it will make a difference. It’s nice to be part of a company that is helping to make that difference.