Nasa Seven Seconds of Terror


I’m exhausted today, it’s been a really long intense week. So while I relax I’m thinking in a different direction: GPS.

I’ve been reading an awesome book called Pinpoint by Greg Milner and it has had me thinking in so many directions. It’s hook says its about How GPS is changing Technology, Culture and our minds. I suspect most reviewers touch on it pretty lightly because some of it is pretty geeky, although it is very readable. What is really scary is how much we rely on GPS for everything we do, which explains why there are so many projects to come up with land-based solutions for PNT.

Because it is Saturday and I am trying very hard to not think about work, I have gone off on a different tangent, which is space exploration. On Earth we now have the capability of measuring the centre of our potato shaped planet to about a centimeter, which makes navigation pretty accurate in 3 dimensions, although this doesn’t mean driverless cars can navigate to that degree, because whilst the car knows exactly where it is, it still requires phenomenal datum to know where the road is, but I’m getting back into work mode.

So when they get into space exploration, as Tomas Martin-Mur, a NASA engineer said, “The symbol I like to use is that we navigate the spacecraft by looking in the rear view mirror.”

I thought to myself that it is therefore obvious having disastrously lost spacecraft going to Mars, that the logical solution would be to invest in putting satellites around Mars and then as they travel further into our solar system, doing the same with other planets. First they can then avoid the seven seconds of terror

and then they can navigate usng the timing signals of Earth and Mars based satellites and then when the have a third planet set up, they will really start to be in a position to navigate accurately.

Why? For a start it means they can land accurately because they know where they are or will be despite the limitations of time and space. Secondly there are potentially all sorts of materials for harvest, potential for scientific research into how we came to be here and lots of commercial benefits.

I think Elon Musk is playing the big game and not just about getting to Mars, but given reduced budgets in the Space Race, he s potentially putting himself in the drivers seat, both for Mars exploration and establishing bases or even hotels there, but also as a forerunner to space exploration.

Isn’t it ironic that the man behind Tesla (the driverless car I’m not talking about because it’s a bit too close to work) is able to fund research that ‘The Greatest Country on Earth’ can’t? Of course as soon as they are successful, the revenue potential for his company SpaceX is astronomical if you will pardon the pun.

Of course on the other side of the world Richard Branson has figured out the same thing. Whilst Virgin Galactic is promoting paid space flight trips and I have friends eagerly awaiting their turn on flights they have already paid for, Branson is also talking Satellites. After all its not good for business to lose a commercial spacecraft full of some of the wealthiest and most influential people on the planet.

As Branson says “This is rocket science.” The video also says that the 700 people signed up is more than have been in space more than have been in space in the history of space travel. It also points out the profound impact that each traveler on the ‘return trip’ will bring back to their communities around the world.

So, its been a fun distraction. It is amazing to me that a few individuals with very BHAGS (Big Hairy Aggressive Goals) are changing the world where Governments appear not to want to look that far into the future, whilst they know they need and want the outcomes. I guess that is the difference between people who are in it until the next election vs people who are committed to the outcome no matter what. When Branson was asked if he came near to giving up after the crash of his first spaceship, he said he never came near to giving up.

I am inspired by people who keep their eye on the prize. It gives me hope that sticking with my minuscule in comparison goals, such as encouraging citizens to use real time travel information to make smarter decisions on their journey plans to minimize the impact on their own journeys and in doing so, ensure that growing cities can prosper even though they are land poor and can’t keep up with the travel needs of their citizens.

We each have a place in society, whether it is the taxi driver, the person clearing tables in a food hall, or an entrepreneur who sticks with his guns despite everyone who says “You can’t do that.” I just wish I could live a hundred years and see where humanity goes. Will we be egocentric or ecocentric?

Are you still with me? What do you think?

 

The GPS Made Me Do It!


A driver in Nashville crashed his car on Tuesday, blamed his GPS unit for the crash, claiming that it told him to do a U-Turn, so he did. #TheGPSMadeMeDoIt

I hear stories like this all the time and whilst I know from experience that it i easy to get too relaxed when using car navigation, a quality car navigation application is likely to have an instruction along the lines of “When safe, make a U-Turn. Clearly it was not safe.

GPS Warning

GPS Car Nav Warning Screen

Car navigation devices also typically have a warning, like this one from my car. If you don’t click on OK and accept the warning, it won’t even let you enter the address you want to go to.

As parents often ask their kids, “If someone told you to go jump in the lake, would you do it?” If the answer is yes, it may provide recognition that you are not old enough or mature enough to hold a car license.

When people blame their tools rather than take responsibility for their actions, perhaps it is time to ‘Go directly to jail, do not pass Go and do not collect $200.’

Go to jail

Go Directly to Jail

GPS Tracking and Navigation for Elderly People


The other day I read about a new invention, which is a GPS enabled walker for elderly patients. Apparently this is a student research product and being tested in Nursing Centres. It uses Wi-Fi communication and helps guide people around a complex such as a hospital or retirement centre. My first reaction was that this was a joke, but the more I think about this navigation for zimmer frames, the more it makes me think about solutions we will see soon.

Firstly, people do get lost in hospitals and large complexes, and the people most likely to lose their way will be elderly patients, perhaps with dementia or simply struggling with stress, pain or under influence of medication that makes them a little dopey and disoriented. If they are in a wheelchair or using some other aid, a mapping or navigation device could well be useful. Hospitals will in future have WiFi networks for their and this could be a device that is supported by it.

I often hear stories about elderly people with dementia getting lost when they go for walks and understand this is quite common. If they remember that they do live in a village or rest home and have a navigation device, it could guide them safely back home.

The other side is far more likely in the near future and that is tracking of people. I had a discussion today with someone from a New Zealand hospital about tracking of staff who visit mental health patients in their homes and the value of being able to locate them if they haven’t checked in within a pre-aranged time. Small pocket GPS tracking devices with GPRS connectivity already exist commercially and some of them also have ‘panic buttons’ that send an urgent alert together with the current GPS co-ordinates. These are typically still quite expensive, i.e. over $500 but with volume the prices will come down.

St Johns and other organisations have solutions such as LifeLink which is a great solution for in and around the home, but what happens when people go further from home. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a solution that would allow you to locate your elderly or ill relative if they don’t return from shopping or a quiet walk. What if they just want to walk a few houses down the road to visit a friend? I would have gladly paid a rental for a service like that for my late grandmother who had a fall one evening and wasn’t found until the following day with a broken hip.

Although it’s not aimed at  elderly people, you will soon find walking directions on portable navigation devices (PND’s). You will be able to download a map that tells you where to park your car and then how to find your way around shopping malls, hospitals and unversity campuses, through parks and arcades. Maps of this nature will be commerically available within the next 12 months. They will also be available on map web sites in the very near future.

Most countries will also very soon have sophisticated navigation software and maps available to run on mobile phones, which will be as impressive as the portable Navigation Devices that are so popular today. Many phones have GPS built in and Bluetooth GPS Receivers abound for much less than $50.

It’s not a big stretch to see software being added that allow your location to be sent to other people on demand (with your permission of course). This isn’t Sci-Fi I’m talking about, it’s 2008 technology.

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:)