Tuesday, November 10, 2009

GPS Technology and Sky-cars - A Post Inspired by Horizon Report 2009

I wanted to contribute another Ted talk video related to GPS technology. I thought this one would hit home with everyone as well. The ramifications are astounding.

As Henry Ford in 1940, Hollywood was particularly ahead of people’s imagination, except for Paul Moller who began dreaming about a personal hover-craft at age 5, during the year that followed Ford's statement. The famous hover-cars found in the movie
The Fifth Element are just a decade away according to Moller. And this is thanks to many already found technologies, which he qualifies as “simple” in contrast to what was needed to reach the moon in the sixties.

This would be one very unique and, especially impacting application of Geo-Everything. It appears to be the navigational way of the future which Moller’s sky-car would be using. Another stunning feat for the sky-car is the multiple redundancies included in the design. Outside of the space program, I know very few applications requiring such thoroughness for the sake of life preservation. Soon, this very unique device, able to determine and record its own precise location, will allow us to travel further faster, and will forever change the demographics of modern society. This is the self-directing car suggested by some.

What is interesting to note is that the GPS technology capabilities that enable geo-everything today has a lot to do with a dramatic change in government rules that occurred in the year 2000. In January 2008, I became part of a world-wide community known as Geocachers. This geeky-outdoorsy hobby has afforded me a broad range of knowledge and entertainment that compares to no other that I am aware of. The sky is the limit - pun intended. It also introduced me to some very interesting, techno-history.

In May 2000, GPS users got an instant upgrade, not that anyone was aware of that notion at that moment. At approximately midnight on May 2nd EST, "the great blue switch" controlling selective availability was pressed. The details about selective availability can be found here: Selective Availability.

This is arguably the most significant and high impacting hardware upgrade of all times.

Twenty-four satellites around the globe processed their new orders. In an instant GPS technology accuracy improved tenfold. Tens of thousands of GPS receivers around the world had an instant upgrade, not that too many GPS owners knew about it. The very next day, GPS enthusiast and computer consultant, Dave Ulmer, wanted to test the newly acquired accuracy by hiding a navigational target in the woods. He called the idea the "Great American GPS Stash Hunt" and posted it in an Internet GPS users' group. His idea was simple and not really new: Hide a container out in the woods and note the coordinates.” The rest, as we say, is history.

Of course, another geeky-outdoorsy fellow found it. That someone happened to be a web developing enthusiast who was instrumental in founding
Geocaching.com as it is known today. If you care to visit, you will find some very interesting trivia. You’ll discover what it can do for you, your family, the community, the environment and much more.

Here are some interesting
Geocaching statistics. At the time I wrote this, there were 933,169 active caches worldwide. In the previous 7 days, there were 677,531 new logs written by 86,720 account holders across the globe. Amazing no?

I’ll be waiting in line for my first-generation sky-car.

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