Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

July 30 2013

GPS jamming : Out of sight | The Economist

GPS jamming: Out of sight | The Economist

GPS jamming Out of sight
Satellite positioning-data are vital—but the signal is surprisingly easy to disrupt
Jul 27th 2013 |From the print edition

EVERY day for up to ten minutes near the London Stock Exchange, someone blocks signals from the global positioning system (GPS) network of satellites. Navigation systems in cars stop working and timestamps on trades made in financial institutions can be affected. The incidents are not a cyber-attack by a foreign power, though. The most likely culprit, according to Charles Curry, whose firm Chronos Technology covertly monitors such events, is a delivery driver dodging his bosses’ attempts to track him.

The signals are weak. Mr Curry likens them to a 20-watt light bulb viewed from 12,000 miles (19,300 km). And the jammers are cheap: a driver can buy a dashboard model for about £50 ($78). They are a growing menace. The bubbles of electromagnetic noise they create interfere with legitimate GPS users. They can disrupt civil aviation and kill mobile-phone signals, too. In America their sale and use is banned. In Britain they are illegal for civilians to use deliberately, but not, yet, to buy: Ofcom, a regulator, is mulling a ban. In recent years Australian officials have destroyed hundreds of jammers.

#geographie #sig #cartographie #gps #technologie

July 26 2013



Proposition de système de positionnement, comparable au #GPS, mais terrestre, en utilisant divers émetteurs d’ondes sismiques répertoriés (turbines, grosses machines, centrales électriques) et en triangulant...

Vu sur GeoTribu


Tags: openps GPS

September 19 2012

Bremsen Datenschutzbedenken Location-based Services für Smartphones?

Unterwegs eine Route planen, schnell ein Restaurant in der Nähe ausfindig machen oder durch ein paar Klicks Schnäppchen-Angebote der umliegenden Geschäfte entdecken: Menge und Vielfalt der »Location-based Services« nehmen rasch zu. Dank der Möglichkeiten der Positionsbestimmung durch mobile Endgeräte wie Smartphones und GPS können potentiellen Kunden zu jeder Zeit am richtigen Ort passende Angebote offeriert werden. Standortbezogenen Diensten werden daher von Experten große Zunkunfschancen progostiziert.

Im Rahmen der 34. W3B-Studie wurden über 2.500 deutsche Internet-Nutzer, Smartphone- und Tablet-Besitzer zum Thema Location-based Services befragt. Die Studie zeigt, dass sich die Nutzung lokaler Dienste unter Smartphone-Besitzern in kurzer Zeit relativ weit verbreitet hat: Gut jeder Fünfte nutzt sie regelmäßig, ca. zwei Fünftel gelegentlich. Dabei macht die Routenplanung den mit Abstand größten Nutzungsanteil aus (84 %). Auf Platz zwei und drei des Nutzungsrankings folgt die Suche nach umliegenden Geschäften, Restaurants o. ä. (61 %). Nach günstigen Angeboten in der Nähe recherchiert immerhin jeder dritte Smartphone-Nutzer (34 %) zumindest gelegentlich. Gerade Preis- und Trendbewusste schätzen diese neue Art der Schnäppchen-Jagd.

Die Bedenken über Datenschutz über die GPS Standortbestimmung sind groß

Dennoch ist der Anteil der Skeptiker unter den potentiellen Location-based Service-Zielgruppen beachtlich: So sagen fast zwei Drittel der Smartphone-Besitzer aus, dass sie aus Datenschutzgründen Bedenken haben, den eigenen Standort bekanntzugeben. Vor allem Frauen und ältere Nutzer zeigen sich hier unsicher.

Noch mehr (rund drei Viertel) haben nach eigenen Angaben stets ein Auge darauf, welche Programme/Dienste ihres Smartphones die aktuelle Position auslesen. Dies trifft insbesondere auf männliche, junge und technisch versierte Smartphone-Besitzer zu. Lediglich jeder Sechste gibt an, dass er sich über die Standort-Einstellungen seines Smartphones keine Gedanken macht.

Smartphone-Besitzer lassen die GPS Standortbestimmung nur selten oder gar nicht zu

Die Folge: Längst nicht alle Smartphone-User haben ihre Geräte ständig »auf Empfang« für standortbezogene Dienste gestellt: Nur knapp 15 % geben an, die Ortung des GPS-Empfängers ihres Smartphones (fast) immer zuzulassen, etwa 19 % tun dies »häufig«. Die meisten Smaprtphone-Besitzer hingegen lassen die Ortung nur selten (23 %) oder sogar gar nicht (38 %) zu.

Insgesamt deuten die W3B-Studienergebnisse darauf hin, dass sich die Nutzung standortbezogener Dienste noch in einem frühen Marktstadium befindet. Eine wichtige Herausforderung für Anbieter standortbezogener Dienste besteht darin, diese nicht nur attraktiv und mit hohem Nutzwert, sondern auch so seriös zu gestalten, dass für potentielle Nutzer und Kunden Datenschutzbedenken möglichst minimiert werden.

Der W3B-Report »Location-based Services« mit umfangreichen aktuellen Studienergebnissen zum Thema der Location-based Services ist im September 2012 erschienen.

January 09 2012

Decisive moment? Smartphones steal focus from compact cameras

Camera sales fell 30% in 2011 as experts predict snapshot device may go way of satnav and landline

Not long ago, life's precious moments were captured by someone who had the foresight to bring their camera. Now, everyone can reach for their phone. And having also dented demand for landlines, the PC and the satnav, smartphones are now officially replacing the compact camera as the most popular device for taking photos.

Sales of point and shoot cameras fell 30% by value in 2011 compared with the year before. Camera manufacturers have been on red alert since last summer, when the iPhone 4 became the most popular device from which snaps were uploaded to the picture sharing website Flickr.

Even some professional photographers admit they turn to their phones for snaps, with the celebrity photographer Annie Liebovitz describing her iPhone as the "snapshot camera of today". "I'm still learning how to use mine," Liebovitz told NBC. "I can't tell you how many times I see people show me their children. It's the wallet with the family pictures in it."

Basic fixed-lens cameras accounted for more than 48% of manufacturers' takings in Britain in 2010, according to research firm GfK. By November 2011, the most recent data shows these cameras represented just 37% of takings.

"2011 was when sales of basic cameras seriously started to decline," said GfK analyst Zhelya Dancheva. "It's about how consumers are using cameras, and on what occasions. The smartphone is popular because it's always in your pocket, and you are connected so you can directly upload to the internet whenever you want."

Manufacturers will attempt to breathe new life into the budget camera market at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, an annual showcase for gadget makers. Samsung, Canon and Sony Electronics have added a range of bells and whistles, including Wi-Fi connections and technology to recognise and zoom in on children's faces, with which they hope to lure back their lost customers.

"All manufacturers need to focus on the value of a camera and what differentiates it versus a smartphone," said Reid Sullivan of Samsung, unveiling the firm's latest model, the DV300F, which can upload images to sharing sites. It will also do away with the need for cables by sending images wirelessly to a computer.

The camera also claims to eliminate blurry backgrounds when capturing fast moving subjects, and has a small screen on the front to let users see self portraits.

Canon's flagship new point and shoot, the PowerShot G1X, can apparently prioritize face detection of children so that even the most fidgety subject's expression will appear in focus.

Sony's newer cameras can take photographs in 3D and will work in extreme conditions, including under water. The budget models will also come with more powerful zoom lenses that capture events at a greater distance and with a higher resolution than phones.

The iPhone 4 is now used by more than 5,000 people to upload more than 73,000 photos each day on Flickr. The second most popular camera, with slightly more than 4,000 daily Flickr users, is the Nikon D90. It costs more than £550 without a lens and has a picture resolution of 12.3 megapixels, compared with the iPhone 4's five megapixels.

Unveiling the latest iPhone last autumn, Apple's chief executive, Tim Cook, spent as much time emphasising its camera features as its processing power. The 4S has a resolution of eight megapixels, almost as high as the minimum of 10 now sported by most basic cameras.

The trend towards cameraphones is just as advanced in the United States, where they were used to take 27% of photos last year, up from 17% in 2010, according to market research firm NPD. The proportion of photos taken with a point and shoot camera fell from 52% to 44%.

Trevor Moore, chief executive of photography retailer Jessops, said customers now believe the quality of photographs taken from their smartphones is high enough to spend money turning them into prints. "We have a huge number of smartphone users coming into our stores to use our printing kiosks," said Moore. "We take the opportunity to talk to them about how they can make better pictures with a high quality camera."

In fact, sales of higher quality camera models are booming, giving hope to manufacturers such as Canon. Having become dissatisfied with the limitations of basic digital cameras, customers are flocking to those which offer better zooms and higher resolution. Sales of fixed lens devices, which offer a zoom of more than 10 times, were up 42% by volume in the year to November, having risen 55% in 2010. Compact system cameras, which have interchangeable lenses, have seen sales by volume rise 51% in the past year, according to GfK.

Expert view

Having spent a few years schlepping around a heavy bag of cameras and lenses and with at least one dodgy shoulder to prove it, I'm always interested in developments that take some of the weight out of shooting decent pictures. And it looks like I'm not the only one who has discovered the joys of using the ultimate lightweight camera as millions of people seem to have proved by ditching them and using a smartphone instead.

Sales of cheap cameras are down; it's not surprising – if you carry one thing these days it's a phone, and if it shoots pictures of similar quality to a camera, why carry a camera too? Having shot those great pictures of junior's first steps, a couple more keystrokes on the phone have them winging their way to a proud granny. If you really want them, Hipstamatic and other apps are available to "improve" your snaps, while Twitter or Flickr will distribute or store them for you.

Photographically, a really interesting and encouraging thing about using a smartphone is the way the focal length of the lens feels "right" for many shots. This is because the lens is slightly wider than the "standard" lens sold with a camera and gives a usefully wider view. In practice these images feel comfortable or real to the viewer, something early users of compact 35mm cameras in the last century discovered.

They were trying to capture reality and a widish lens gave them that result. They were also trying to be inconspicuous, hence the use of small Leica cameras just as these days someone using a phone in the street arouses no interest. Even if you are not a Cartier-Bresson, convenience and a reasonably faithful representation of their world is all that most people want from their photography. A smartphone gives you all that.

Roger Tooth, the Guardian's head of photography © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

November 10 2011

Strata Week: The social graph that isn't

Here are a few of the data stories that caught my attention this week:

Not social. Not a graph.

Graph Paper by Calsidyrose, on FlickrIt's hardly surprising that the founder of a "bookmarking site for introverts" would have something to say about the "social graph." But what Pinboard's Maciej Ceglowski has penned in a blog post titled "The Social Graph Is Neither" is arguably the must-read article of the week.

The social graph is neither a graph, nor is it social, Ceglowski posits. He argues that today's social networks have failed to capture the complexities and intricacies of our social relationships (there's no graph) and have become something that's at best contrived and at worst icky (actually, that's not the "worst," but it's the adjective Ceglowski uses).

From his post:

Imagine the U.S. Census as conducted by direct marketers — that's the social graph. Social networks exist to sell you crap. The icky feeling you get when your friend starts to talk to you about Amway or when you spot someone passing out business cards at a birthday party, is the entire driving force behind a site like Facebook. Because their collection methods are kind of primitive, these sites have to coax you into doing as much of your social interaction as possible while logged in, so they can see it.

But if today's social networks are troublesome, they're also doomed, Ceglowski contends, much as the CompuServes and the Prodigys of an earlier era were undone. It's not so much a question of their being out-innovated, but rather they were out-democratized. As the global network spread, the mass marketing has given way to grassroots efforts.

"My hope," Ceglowski writes, "is that whatever replaces Facebook and Google+ will look equally inevitable and that our kids will think we were complete rubes for ever having thrown a sheep or clicked a +1 button. It's just a matter of waiting things out and leaving ourselves enough freedom to find some interesting, organic, and human ways to bring our social lives online."

Strata 2012 — The 2012 Strata Conference, being held Feb. 28-March 1 in Santa Clara, Calif., will offer three full days of hands-on data training and information-rich sessions. Strata brings together the people, tools, and technologies you need to make data work.

Save 20% on registration with the code RADAR20

Cloudera raises $40 million

ClouderaThe Hadoop-based startup Cloudera announced this week that it has raised another $40 million in funding, led by Ignition Partners, Greylock, Accel, Meritech Capital Partners, and In-Q-Tel. This brings the total investment in the company to some $76 million, a solid endorsement of not just Cloudera but of the Hadoop big data solution.

Hadoop is a trend that we've covered almost weekly here as part of the Strata Week news roundup. And GigaOm's Derrick Harris has run some estimates on the numbers of the Hadoop ecosystem at large, finding that: "Hadoop-based startups have raised $104.5 million since May. The same set of companies has raised $159.7 million since 2009 when Cloudera closed its first round."

While it's easy to label Hadoop as one of the buzzwords of 2011, the amount of investor interest, as well as the amount of adoption, is an indication that many people see this as a cornerstone of a big data strategy as well as a good source of revenue for the coming years.

Kaggle raises $11 million to crowdsource big data

KaggleIt's a much smaller round of investment than Cloudera's, to be sure, but Kaggle's $11 million Series A round announced this week is still noteworthy. Kaggle provides a platform for running big data competitions. "We're making data science a sport," so its tagline reads.

But it's more than that. There remains a gulf between data scientists and those who have data problems to solve. Kaggle helps bridge this gap by letting companies outsource their big data problems to third-party data scientists and software developers, with prizes going to the best solutions. Kaggle claims it has a community of more than 17,000 PhD-level data scientists, ready to take on and resolve companies' data problems.

Kaggle has thus far enabled several important breakthroughs, including a competition that helped identify new ways to map dark matter in the universe. That's a project that had been worked on for several decades by traditional methods, but those in the Kaggle community tackled it in a couple of weeks.

The Supreme Court looks at GPS data tracking

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in United States v. Jones, a case that could have major implications on mobile data, GPS and privacy. At issue is whether police need a warrant in order to attach a tracking device to a car to monitor a suspect's movements.

Surveillance via technology is clearly much easier and more efficient than traditional surveillance methods. Why follow a suspect around all day, for example, when you can attach a device to his or her car and just watch the data transmission? But it's clear that the data you get from a GPS device is much more enhanced than human surveillance, so it raises all sorts of questions about what constitutes a reasonable search. And while you needn't get a warrant to shadow someone's car, attaching that GPS tracking device might just violate the Fourth Amendment and the protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

But what's at stake is much larger than just sticking a tracking device to the underbelly of a criminal suspect's vehicle. After all, every cell phone owner gives off an incredible amount of mobile location data, something that the government could conceivably tap into and monitor.

During oral arguments, Supreme Court justices seemed skeptical about the government's power to use technology in this way.

Got data news?

Feel free to email me.

Photo: Graph Paper by Calsidyrose, on Flickr


October 11 2011

Why indoor navigation is so hard

Map of the Air and Space museum in Washington, D.C. Remember the days before you could pull your smartphone out of your pocket and get instant directions from your current location to anywhere in the world? It's kind of foggy for me, too.

In fact, I'm so used to relying on my smartphone that I feel increasingly flustered when wandering the aisles of Costco, locating the elephant house at the zoo, or searching for decent food at the airport. Shouldn't my magical pocket computer help me with this, too?

The answer is "yes," of course. But there are challenges to implementing indoor navigation today.

User interface

The maps app on your smartphone has one primary concern: getting you from 106 Main Street to 301 Sunny Lane, or from work to home, or from home to Taco Bell. Why are you going to Taco Bell and what percentage of your taco beef will be meat filler? The app doesn't need to know. Thus, the typical interface for a smartphone maps app is a big map and a search box.

You might assume that an indoor navigation app for, say, the American Museum of Natural History has the same primary concern: getting you from the main entrance to the T-Rex. But why go to the T-Rex? How do I know there's a T-Rex here anyway? And what if my kids have 20 things they want to see and we only have two hours to see everything? And what's going on this week — are there special exhibits?

It turns out that creating a useful indoor navigation app requires more than navigation. So, an effective mobile UI should be more "smart guide" and less "paper maps" on your smartphone.

It's a design challenge, like any other mobile app. Help visitors decide where they need to go first, then direct them there.


Getting directions to the plumbing section of a store is certainly useful. But let's say you're looking for a particular Delta kitchen faucet. Wouldn't it be more useful to search in a retail app for "Delta faucet," check that it's in stock, then get directions right to that product? Who cares if it's in the plumbing section or the kitchen section?

To be truly useful, an app needs to integrate with dynamic data.

Similarly, a university campus app could offer to guide a student to "Kennedy Hall Room 203," but wouldn't it be better to search for "Econ 101" instead? Who cares where Econ 101 takes place today? Even better, just have students enter their name once, fetch their schedule, and automatically take them to whatever their next class is. Why make users do more work than they have to?

Current location

OK, so you decide you want directions to that Delta faucet I mentioned earlier. Ideally, the app will automatically start from your current location.

Now comes the great sadness: GPS, as you may know, does not work indoors. The satellite signals are just too weak to penetrate anything much thicker than the metal roof of your car.

However, all modern smartphones have Wi-Fi built in, and wireless networks are common enough in indoor spaces that an app could easily scan for known access points and calculate your position using trilateration.

Here's the catch, however: Unlike the wide open world of Android, developers on the iPhone side aren't allowed to perform these Wi-Fi "signal scans."

Fortunately, there are alternatives. One approach is to make the building do the work instead of the device. Some Wi-Fi installations, such as the Cisco MSE, can determine the location of any wireless device in the building. The access points themselves listen for the Wi-Fi signals created by your phone, then estimate its position via trilateration. This solution has been deployed successfully at a few locations, including at the American Museum of Natural History.

Designing for inaccuracy

One consequence of most indoor positioning systems is a lower degree of accuracy compared to GPS. For instance, indoor systems can usually guess which room you're in, and that's about it. Precision depends on signal fluctuations, which depend on factors like how many people are in the room, how you're holding your phone, and other vagaries.

An effective mobile app must design for this reality from the very beginning. One technique that will help users greatly is to point out quickly recognizable features of the environment.

The Meridian app, for example, uses a short text label to describe each direction step. (Disclosure: I'm the CTO and co-founder of Meridian.) Below, "Rose Room" is clearly marked in the "real world" space and easy to spot, as are the stairs headed down.

Meridian app
The Meridian app uses step-by-step text labels.

The best way to combat inaccuracy, however, is by making it as easy as possible for users to self-correct. In the Meridian app, the map can easily be dragged, rotated, zoomed in and out, and the turn-by-turn steps can be flipped through with ease. If the starting location isn't perfect, the user will instinctively drag around and figure it out.

Putting it all together

Building amazing indoor app experiences is not only possible, it's already happening. This year alone, many places — from stadiums and retailers to museums and corporate campuses — have launched apps that are used by hundreds of people every day for navigation and to access location-based content.

Indoor Wi-Fi positioning technology isn't a research project anymore; it's out there and works with the devices we all now carry. With the right user interfaces, it can be just as effective as GPS is outdoors.

It's time to spread the incredible experience of wandering around a place as enormously complex as the History Museum without ever feeling lost.


September 08 2011

Strata Week: MapReduce gets its arms around a million songs

Here are some of the data stories that caught my attention this week.

A millions songs and MapReduce

Million Song DatasetEarlier this year, Echo Nest and LabROSA at Columbia University released the Million Song Dataset, a freely available collection of audio and metadata for a million contemporary popular music tracks. The purpose of the dataset, among other things, was to help encourage research on music algorithms. But as Paul Lamere, director of Echo Nest's Developer Platform, makes clear, getting started with the dataset can be daunting.

In a post on his Music Machinery blog, Lamere explains how to use Amazon's Elastic MapReduce to process the data. In fact, Echo Nest has loaded the entire Million Song Dataset onto a single S3 bucket, available at The bucket contains approximately 300 files, each with data on about 3,000 tracks. Lamere also points to a small subset of the data — just 20 tracks — available in a file on GitHub, and he also created to parse track data and return a dictionary containing all of it.

Strata Conference New York 2011, being held Sept. 22-23, covers the latest and best tools and technologies for data science — from gathering, cleaning, analyzing, and storing data to communicating data intelligence effectively.

Save 30% on registration with the code ORM30

GPS steps in where memory fails

Garmin 305 GPS deviceAfter decades of cycling without incident, The New York Times science writer John Markoff experienced what every cyclist dreads: a major crash, one that resulted in a broken nose, a deep gash on his knee, and road rash aplenty. He was knocked unconscious by the crash, unable to remember what had happened to cause it. In a recent piece in the NYT, he chronicled the steps he took to reconstruct the accident.

He did so by turning to the GPS data tracked by the Garmin 305 on his bicycle. Typically, devices like this are utilized to track the distance and location of rides as well as a cyclist's pedaling and heart rates. But as Markoff investigated his own crash, he found that the data stored in these types of devices can be use to ascertain what happens in cycling accidents.

In investigating his own memory-less crash, Markoff was able to piece together data about his trip:

My Garmin was unharmed, and when I uploaded the data I could see that in the roughly eight seconds before I crashed, my speed went from 30 to 10 miles per hour — and then 0 — while my heart rate stayed a constant 126. By entering the GPS data into Google Maps, I could see just where I crashed. I realized I did have several disconnected memories. One was of my hands being thrown off the handlebars violently, but I had no sense of where I was when it happened. With a friend, Bill Duvall, who many years ago also raced for the local bike club Pedali Alpini, I went back to the spot. La Honda Road cuts a steep and curving path through the redwoods. Just above where the GPS data said I crashed, we could see a long, thin, deep pothole. (It was even visible in Google's street view.) If my tire hit that, it could easily have taken me down. I also had a fleeting recollection of my mangled dark glasses, and on the side of the road, I stooped and picked up one of the lenses, which was deeply scratched. From the swift deceleration, I deduced that when my hands were thrown from the handlebars, I must have managed to reach my brakes again in time to slow down before I fell. My right hand was pinned under the brake lever when I hit the ground, causing the nasty road rash.

It's one thing for a rider to reconstruct his own accident, but Markoff says insurance companies are also starting to pay attention to this sort of data. As one lawyer notes in the Times article, "Frankly, it's probably going to be a booming new industry for experts."

Crowdsourcing and crisis mapping from WWI

The explosion of mobile, mapping, and web technologies has facilitated the rise of crowdsourcing during crisis situations, giving citizens and NGOs — among others — the ability to contribute to and coordinate emergency responses. But as Patrick Meier, director of crisis mapping and partnerships at Ushahidi has found, there are examples of crisis mapping that pre-date our Internet age.

Meier highlights maps he discovered from World War I at the National Air and Space Museum, pointing to the government's request for citizens to help with the mapping process:

In the event of a hostile aircraft being seen in country districts, the nearest Naval, Military or Police Authorities should, if possible, be advised immediately by Telephone of the time of appearance, the direction of flight, and whether the aircraft is an Airship or an Aeroplane.

And he asks a number of very interesting questions: How often were these maps updated? What sources were used? And "would public opinion at the time have differed had live crowdsourced crisis maps existed?"

Got data news?

Feel free to email me.


March 14 2011

Are we too reliant on GPS?

GPSThe availability and ease-of-use of GPS has made it the primary choice for many location-based services, but a recent report from the Royal Academy of Engineering in London raises serious concerns about our reliance on GPS and its fragility.

While most of us associate GPS-based navigation systems with our cars, the report's author, Dr. Martyn Thomas, writes those are the least of our worries:

...the use of GPS signals is now commonplace in data networks, financial systems, shipping and air transport systems, agriculture, railways and emergency services. Safety of life applications are becoming more common. One consequence is that a surprising number of different systems already have GPS as a shared dependency, so a failure of the GPS signal could cause the simultaneous failure of many services that are probably expected to be independent of each other.

The core issue is that GPS technology has been built into many crucial infrastructure applications, from transportation systems to power grids, and in many cases there is no fallback option should the GPS signals suddenly become unavailable. GPS has many advantages, but it is not particularly secure or robust in terms of interference, due to its relatively weak signal strength. GPS hasn't failed in any major way yet, but concerns are growing with recent reports of strong solar storms that have the potential to disrupt GPS satellites, and a troubling, growing black market of GPS-jamming devices.

GPS jamming technology is illegal in the U.S. and many other countries, but the devices are becoming cheap and mass-produced and have the potential to wreak havoc. You can buy a $30 GPS-jamming device online today that plugs into a cigarette lighter socket and blocks GPS signals over tens of square miles. Long-haul truckers looking to mask their locations are one group that's using these devices, but the potential for more nefarious uses is obvious.

Where 2.0: 2011, being held April 19-21 in Santa Clara, Calif., will explore the intersection of location technologies and trends in software development, business strategies, and marketing.

Save 25% on registration with the code WHR11RAD

Also worrisome is GPS-spoofing technology, which has been demonstrated by Todd Humphreys at the University of Texas. These systems can send inaccurate and untraceable readings to GPS devices. Considering that some banks and brokerages now use GPS timestamps to validate transactions, using a spoofing device to game financial systems is not out of the question.

It's not just the Royal Academy that's concerned. An in-depth New Scientist article on the issue points out that last November a NASA-appointed executive committee warned that GPS jamming devices could be disastrous if activated in cities. The NASA report doesn't mince words:

The United States is now critically dependent on GPS. For example, cell phone towers, power grid synchronization, new aircraft landing systems, and the future FAA Air Traffic Control System (NEXGEN) cannot function without it. Yet we find increasing incidents of deliberate or inadvertent interference that render GPS inoperable for critical infrastructure operations.

The New Scientist article outlines some fascinating incidents that have already occurred, like a trucker that was disrupting operations at a New Jersey airport twice a day for a month and naval signal-jamming tests in San Diego that disrupted GPS and took out local cell-phone use, air-traffic control, emergency pagers, harbor traffic managent, and even ATMs for two hours.

When you consider the scope of systems that rely on GPS today, there does seem to be reason for concern, but not everyone shares the sense of urgency. Ben Rooney at The Wall St. Journal called the terrorist angle "fanciful" and describes Thomas' report as "apocalyptic visions of a cyber-hell."

One possible solution, or backup technology, is eLORAN (Enhanced Long Range Navigation), a land-based radio navigation system that is an enhancement of the original LORAN system used by the U.S. military in the 1950s. eLORAN uses powerful signals that are not as susceptible to jamming as GPS. A group of scientists last week called on the UK government to confirm future funding for eLORAN, and researchers from the GAARDIAN project announced encouraging results for the first ever trial of joint GPS/eLORAN receivers.


January 25 2011

Healthier living through mobile location data

RunKeeper is a location-aware app that helps runners monitor and manage their exercise regimens. The overarching goal is to aggregate the world's fitness data and use it to power a platform that drives healthier behavior.

The app, which launched on the iPhone and has since expanded to Android and other platforms, takes advantage of the GPS sensors built into mobile devices to track runs, walks, rides, paddles and just about any outdoor activity.

I recently spoke to Jason Jacobs (@jjacobs22), co-founder and CEO of RunKeeper and a speaker at the upcoming Where 2.0 conference, about the current and near-term outlook for mobile location technology.

[Disclosure: O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures is an investor in RunKeeper.]

How did RunKeeper come about?

Jason JacobsJason Jacobs: I used the Nike+ system during an 18-week marathon training program in 2007. That system was one of the first to track fitness activity through sensors and then feed data back to a web platform where it could be analyzed. I thought the concept was incredibly powerful.

I looked around and couldn't believe these guys were the only ones doing this, or that it was only focused on one sensor, one pair of shoes, and one sport, by a company whose core business is something totally different. There was a huge opportunity for someone to carve out a similar system that worked across different devices and sports, and build it in an input-agnostic way.

That's when I landed on the idea for an "independent fitness technology company." I couldn't stop thinking about it, and in May 2008, I quit my job so I could build a team to make this vision a reality.

Where 2.0: 2011, being held April 19-21 in Santa Clara, Calif., will explore the intersection of location technologies and trends in software development, business strategies, and marketing.

Save 25% on registration with the code WHR11RAD

What technical developments have enabled you to build RunKeeper?

Jason Jacobs: Two-and-a-half years ago, there were a few convergences that were starting to happen. One, GPS technology was being built into smartphones. Two, app stores completely changed the way mobile applications are distributed. There used to be long cycles of selling into mobile carriers and getting approval to be on the carrier deck. Three, social tools like Twitter and Facebook were helping word-of-mouth stretch further than ever before. This let us go from concept to revenue-generating in 35 countries in six weeks, and to build up a community of millions of users with zero marketing spend.

Screens from the RunKeeper Pro iPhone app.

Why is location technology important for this kind of application?

Jason Jacobs: Location technology gives you accurate data around things like distance, pace and elevation. This data then lets you move back into things like calories burned and total exertion.

Location data also provides context for the area you're in: the other people running nearby, the routes you're on, and how your performance on a certain route compares to other times you've run that route.

There are interesting potential applications as well. For example, if the application knows that running shoes should be changed every 500 miles, and it sees a user has logged 450 miles, a coupon could be offered for their next pair of shoes. And wouldn't it be great if that coupon is from a retailer that's three blocks from their house?

How do you see location-aware technologies developing over the next five to 10 years?

Jason Jacobs: The pace of innovation in sensors parallels the pace of innovation in smartphones. But what if there was a way to take location functionality and streaming data capabilities beyond a phone; to shrink them down and lower the cost? The potential applications increase and adoption would increase. A larger community and richer set of aggregate data also creates opportunities to do some really interesting things.

As location technology becomes more powerful, and as the transmission of location data becomes frictionless and fully integrated into applications that weren't location-aware in the past, the ramifications are massive. Companies can be so much more thoughtful about the way they deliver services and person-specific functionality. That could apply to fitness, travel, logistics, shipping — there's so many different applications for this technology.

This interview was edited and condensed.


Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.
Get rid of the ads (sfw)

Don't be the product, buy the product!