Out in Front: Blinded by the Light

May 1, 2011  - By

To illustrate the fix we’re in, Logan Scott offered this analogy for out-of-band interference during the April webinar, “LightSquared and GPS: Our Story So Far.” We’re driving at night and come upon a bicylist with one of those little flashing lights. That’s the GPS signal. So far, so safe. We know the bicyclist’s position.

Then around the bend comes a truck with its headlights on high-beam, in the adjacent lane, but brights set at our eye level. That’s the LightSquared signal.

Where’s the bicyclist? Uh oh.

That is not the only light off which we are fending. Some of it we generated ourselves — with help from neighbors and children and friends and employers and, well, just about anyone with a 
mobile online connection.

Every time you:

  • download a map and driving directions to your cell phone or wireless-connected PND;
  • stream a movie to your cell phone (all right, so only youngersomethings of your acquaintance actually do this. They still have the eyesight for it);
  • while on the road, tap wirelessly into your company’s complex database of whatever kind that has been moved to “the cloud” in a cost-saving and efficiency-ramping measure;
  • download a Zen meditatation app to your mobile, one with scientifically designed binaural rhythms using embedded beats to induce a trance-like state through brainwave entrainment for ultimate relaxation, stress reduction, pain management, improved sleep quality, super learning, enhanced creativity, out-of-body experience, and lucid dreaming (I kid you not); or
  • get sports updates and video highlights direct to your phone —

Every time you do any one of these or myriad other activities on your handy pocket communications device, you, sir or madam, are contibuting to the problem that the GNSS community now struggles with.

Society has developed a ravenous appetite for huge volumes of virtual data, and we are not at all content to wait until getting home or to the office for a wired connection to access it. We want it now! On the road or sidewalk, in the coffeeshop, in the mall, in the stadium, along the running path, yea, even unto in the wilderness.

This appetite will only grow. LightSquared — mark my words, it will have plenty of company following — wants wider bandwidth to help you access online data faster. Sooner than you can say “traffic congestion,” even more data will be on offer, with even greater demand for wider bandwidth.

As one webinar attendee e-mailed (he wrote in all caps to emphasize his feelings, but they are downsized here),
“Do y’all think this has anything to do with the fact that mobile phone companies can make significantly more money streaming TV to cell phones than with GPS applications?”

Technology is never a single-edged sword.

This article is tagged with , , and posted in From the Magazine, Opinions

About the Author:

Alan Cameron is editor-in-chief and publisher of GPS World magazine, where he has worked since 2000. He also writes the monthly GNSS Design & Test e-Newsletter and the Wide Awake blog.

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