As the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 riveted our attention, many sprang into action. More than two million volunteers scoured online satellite images for signs of the plane via Tomnod, a crowdsourcing project of DigitalGlobe.
Volunteers like Robert Wilkinson are asked to view satellite photos and tag any signs of wreckage, rafts, oil spills and other objects that may be of interest. “It took me the first hour to understand that I was looking at waves or tidal pools rather than debris or anything useful to the search,” said Wilkinson. “After that, I might have seen one or two things that I couldn’t explain, but I tagged them appropriately.”
All images that are tagged are reviewed by special algorithms before being viewed by experts. Tomnod reported that more than 650,000 objects had been tagged, and the maps had been viewed more than 98 million times.
Calls on Flight 370. This month, the Internet was full of questions about mobile communications and the missing Malaysia airplane. People didn’t understand why passengers on board the flight hadn’t made mobile emergency calls. On September 11, 2001, it was widely recalled, some passengers were able to make phone calls from the hijacked planes. Flight 370 was likely too high or going too fast to enable phones to register with cell towers. Experts say that planes flying above 5-10,000 feet would have difficulty making connections. Radar analysis estimated that the plane may have been flying as low as 12,000 feet or as high as 45,000 feet. On 9/11, passengers made calls when the plane was low or used satellite air phones available in business class.
GPS and Football. Security at places where large crowds congregate is always a concern. At last month’s Super Bowl, GPS devices tracked and monitored the team vehicles. To protect the GPS, a product from Exelis was used to detect and locate GPS interference sources to protect critical GPS signal-dependent infrastructure. Eight sensors were positioned in an array pattern to detect and locate any jamming sources.
Lost in Space. Google’s Project Tango is showcasing a prototype phone brimming with software and sensors that creates a 3D map of the environment. A select group of developers has been given the device and are expected to create innovative applications, including navigation by sight. We do know that one of these devices will be heading to the International Space Station and will be part of a project to enable robots to explore the inside and outside of the craft. The terrestrial uses of the device will include being able to map the interior of a house (the sofa goes where?), navigate through complicated buildings, provide accessibility for those with impaired vision, and emergency response. Project Tango may find interesting uses with 3D printing, which is riding a wave of interest.
GPS and LED Lights. Philips has been demonstrating an indoor location-based shopping service based on location positioning from LED lighting infrastructure. The system works by using lighting fixtures that form a dense network that not only provides light, but also acts as a positioning grid. Each fixture is identifiable and able to communicate its position to an app on a shopper’s smart device. ByteLight is another company with LED indoor location technology. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) beacons are more established for indoor positioning.
Truck Market on the Move. Market demand remains strong for mobile resource management (MRM) devices, particularly among local fleets, reports C.J. Driscoll & Associates. “Manufacturers of light and heavy commercial vehicles are becoming increasing involved with telematics,” says Clem Driscoll. “Heavy truck manufacturers are primarily focused on enabling remote vehicle diagnostics.” Many of the large MRM companies are establishing added offices around the world.
Awkward Timing. INRIX is launching Russia’s first comprehensive traffic information and driver services platform. Russia has many challenges including difficult traffic conditions. The service, available on Audi cars, was developed through an exclusive partnership with Russia’s navigation services provider cdcom. INRIX XD Traffic in Russia provides real-time traffic and incident information covering more than 236,000 kilometers of roadways across 55 cities.