Tag Archives: GPS

Automotive Tracking Technology: Intrusive or Practical

Photograph of smiling teen boy sitting in a car, flashing a key and a thumbs up. Students are heading back to school. New college students on their own for the first time face a lot of challenges and nervous parents back home face fears of the unknown. If parents are sending their student off with a car, there are technologies that help limit the speed and other functions or even track the whereabouts of the car in real time. While these technologies are not new, they can allay some of the fears of the parents of young drivers. Let’s take a look at some.

Limiting Functionality

The folks at Ford have developed what they call MyKey. One key fob becomes the administrator key and the other inherits limited functionality. The administrator key can limit the speed of the car, cap the volume of the radio and keep it muted until the seatbelt is secure, ensure that all safety features are automatically turned on, and can set nagging seat belt chimes and deliver an earlier low fuel warning. The non-administrator key receives these settings. Although, I can see an enterprising young student in Engineering 101 or Computer Science 101 figuring out a way to reverse the settings in order to enjoy unfettered driving. This system also could keep a spouse with a lead foot out of trouble, but in that case, their partner holds the administrator key.

Tracking

A lot of modern vehicles have satellite navigation and many are also equipped with a GPS tracker for locating the car. This is important when a car is stolen but can also give peace of mind to a worried parent. General Motors has developed Family Link to be used in conjunction with their OnStar system. A family member can access Family Link online through their account and see the current location of the vehicle. They can also set up alerts to show when the car has arrived at its destination or where the car is at a specific time, curfew for example. I assume and hope that the folks at GM have built in a very strong security layer to prevent stalkers from accessing that same information. The technology is similar to that used by outdoor enthusiasts to broadcast their location in case they get into trouble and cannot communicate.

Some may see this technology as intrusive, but tracking a new driver or a family member driving in inclement weather might lessen the anxiety.

Thoughts

These technologies exist today, both as standard equipment or after-market. They can be plugged into the on-board computer and give early warning about failing mechanical or electrical systems or limit functionality. All of these technologies are designed to provide information or to ensure the safety of drivers, particularly first time drivers. Do you think these devices limit freedoms or promote more freedom for young drivers? I guess it partly depends on whether you are the one holding the administrator key or the other key.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Technology in Military and Law Enforcement

Photo of a drone in the foreground with the setting sun in the background.Police officers and military personnel face potential danger every day. This week we’ll look at technology that supports them and makes their jobs easier and safer.

Bomb Detecting Drones

According to a recent article, there are an estimated 100 million live land mines in the world. Many of these are from conflicts long past, but some are placed to sway the outcome of a current battle. Unfortunately there are no maps to show exactly where these land mines are planted. The Mine Kafon Drone can detect and destroy land mines and is currently looking for Kickstarter funding. It works by mapping an area and then using a metal detector to locate the mines within that area. When one is found, it is tagged with a GPS detector to mark its location. The drone then returns to the operator to be fitted with a robotic arm so that it can place small detonators on the mine. The mines are then detonated remotely with both the drone and the operator out of harm’s way. This is a great example of technology being applied to a serious and life threatening problem throughout the world.

Robots in Police Work

Police and rescue personnel use robots to find and retrieve missing people. These robots or drones can search for people in dangerous places; once a person is detected, the rescuers can plan a safe way to extract them. This is important in situations where someone is in a collapsed building or in an area where there are toxic chemicals.

Similar robots are now being used to neutralize a threat such as an active shooter. These robots are fitted with cameras and sensors, even guns or explosives when the mission is to eliminate the threat. These are used only as a last resort when negotiations break down or are not possible. As I think about the future of such devices, I wonder if we could apply this technology to war strategy. Can we ever get to a point where we choose an isolated location and each side sends out their best drones and robots to try to destroy the other side? The operators and other humans could be safe, far away from the conflict. Would it mean as much to blow up each other’s devices as to actually harm people? It would certainly be safer for us.

Thoughts

I am grateful for those who are developing technology to improve the safety of the men and women who protect us. I will be watching the development of the Mine Kafon Drone and other devices that detect and remove threats. Let me know of any similar technologies that you are aware of. I think this is a young but growing field.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Technology In Football Redux

Photo a football game, taken from the stands.Football Technology Redux

Last year I blogged on technology in football and with the upcoming season I want to revisit that topic to highlight anything new and anything we should be watching for this year. There are a lot of developments that enhance player safety and viewer enjoyment.

Do You Want Fries With That?

If you find yourself in the new Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco, host of Super Bowl 50 in February, an app will let you purchase tickets and parking, watch instant replays, and even order and pay for food and have it delivered to your seat. Other stadiums are also equipped to provide the ultimate fan experience through wireless connections and exclusive stadium apps. Be aware that the 49ers are collecting data through the app in order to provide a better fan experience in the future.

Player Safety

There are two new devices that help promote player fitness and peak performance. The Catapult GPS tracker is worn under a uniform and monitors speed, movement, change in direction, and total effort during an on-field workout. The devices are then docked and information downloaded so that the coaches can watch the exertion and load levels to make sure that individual players do not overexert themselves. The Basis is a fitness monitor that tracks resistance in the weight room as well as sleep patterns. The strength coach can then work with the athletes to get peak strength conditioning without risking injury.

Fan Enjoyment

Television is probably the biggest competitor to filling a stadium on game day. With ever higher ticket prices, fans are seeking a game day experience that cannot be rivaled at home. Stadiums are constructing ever larger video boards with the Jacksonville Jaguars currently leading the competition using a monitor that is 362 feet across. Such boards are used not only to track the score and statistics but also to post fan Tweets and close up video shots. That high ticket price might just buy you your 30 seconds of fame.

Duck Football

A January ESPN story highlighted Duck football equipment managers and the challenges they face overseeing 20,000 pieces of equipment. According to the article, each Oregon player receives “…seven different helmets, seven different jerseys, six different pairs of cleats and five different pairs of sneakers.” This is in addition to pants, face masks, balls, and other accessories. The Ducks employ an equipment inventory management system that is paired with Datalogic data capture technology. Bar codes are used to keep track of the inventory and make sure it is ready for each game. This behind the scenes technology enables the Ducks to shine on the field.

Thoughts

There is a lot of technology used on the practice field, the playing field, in the stadium, and behind the scenes. Teams are trying to keep players safe, attract enthusiastic fans, and run their operations as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

High Tech Fire Watch

Photograph of smoke from wildfire in the mountains.We are in the middle of fire season here in the Northwest. This has been a hot, dry summer so the threat of wildfire is great. Several of my friends have worked on fire crews at some point so I wondered about the role technology plays in fighting wildfires. I was delighted to find that someone had blazed that trail before me and technology plays a role not only in fire fighting but also in fire protection. In this blog post I will focus on technology in fire protection. I will dedicate an upcoming post to technology in fire fighting.

Eye In The Sky

I was amazed to find that many of the rustic fire towers perched on mountaintops in California, Oregon, and Washington are decommissioned. In a recent article in Outside magazine the authors report that fewer than 35% of the towers are still manned. Due to budget cuts, fire watchers have largely been replaced by a network of cameras. According to the article, a camera can spot a fire up to 100 miles away and can spot fires at night through near infrared vision.

ForestWatch

Oregon has a network of cameras called ForestWatch by Envirovision Solutions. These cameras are networked to provide coverage over the most fire prone areas of the state. They are all monitored remotely and can detect a change in the terrain from a digital model. Through mathematical algorithms, the cameras send an alarm when it detects anomalies or pattern differences such as fire or smoke. The remote monitoring station can then focus the camera or cameras on the suspicious area and collect GPS coordinates in case they need to send in a ground or air crew. Fires are spotted quicker and their specific location is known much faster, which may reduce the spread and damage of a fire.

Education

This is a great use of technology but what kind of education does it take to install, program, and monitor these cameras? My research shows knowledge in the following areas is required:

GIS—A strong background in geographical information systems (GIS). This includes mapping and data analysis.

Data modeling—A strong background in data modeling and database management. There are many data points involved here, from GPS coordinates to topographical data to wind speed to moisture index, and they all need to be combined and modeled to show the monitor what fire crews will encounter.

Wireless networking—These cameras are networked to the central monitoring station and often to each other. In a suspected fire, multiple cameras from various angles can verify the validity of the alarm. A person would need a strong background in wireless networking to establish and maintain these cameras.

Thoughts

Fire watch cameras are a good use of technology and a reminder that new jobs often require a strong education in math and science as well as specific technical skills. As the technology moves from human fire watchers to sophisticated data collecting cameras, we must continue updating our education to be prepared for these jobs of the 21st century.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Managing a Farm Today—Agriculture Uses IT Too

I occasionally research how technology is being applied to different fields. Lately, I have been thinking about how technology is helping agriculture. Obviously others have been thinking the same thing but with more of a profit motive in mind. In May of this year, there was a conference held in Palo Alto, California, titled “Silicon Valley Agtech.” Their tagline is “Silicon Valley AgTech is where technology meets agriculture, Silicon Valley meets the Silicon Prairie, and innovation comes back to the farm.” Their aim is to bring together agriculture technology startups and venture capitalists to try to accelerate the interest and growth of this industry in Silicon Valley. Here are a few technologies that are aiding farmers and ranchers now.

Telematics

Telematics is the combination of telecommunications and informatics. It has to do with sending information to and from a remote object such as a vehicle. The GPS unit in newer cars is one such example of telematics, but the agriculture industry is using it in unique ways. GPS technology in newer tractors and farm implements can tell the driver precisely where to plow, plant, spray, and harvest. Harvest yield information can be uploaded in real time so that a farmer can tell immediately what to expect from his crop. Of course, all of this information exchange is going to result in a larger amount of data to be processed.

Big Data

Information collected in the field will include a new array of data points and could easily move into the area of big data. Some farm service companies are already getting into the cloud services business, specifically to collect, process, and make sense of data points. You can either upload data from the tractor thumb drive or upload the telematics-collected data directly to the service provider. Either way, the service provider stores, analyzes, and creates visualizations to help you understand where you can improve your farming and your crop yield.

Robotics

Farm equipment is not quite to the point where it can drive itself (think Google tractor) but it is getting close. Sprinkler pivots in large farm fields are often computer controlled with a remote or an app and require little human intervention when set up properly. There are farm service companies, however, that are developing tractors and other equipment to operate without a driver. With the telematics mentioned above and smart cameras, they will be able to operate within the parameters and confines of a field. This will free up the farmer to do higher value work such as analyzing the yield report sent by his cloud service provider.

Thoughts

Technology can be used to aid efficiencies in fields (no pun intended) as diverse as agricultural production. This also represents new opportunities for entrepreneurs and IT workers who have a passion for farm production and want to work to increase yields and decrease waste.

Do you know of other fields that are increasing their use of technology in a unique way? Let me know. I am always interested in learning more. 

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at nigh