Google floor plan of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

GPS-style positioning/tracking is moving indoors

The Global Positioning System was developed 40 years ago this year, and it was put into full operation 20 years ago next year. Since then, many devices have incorporated GPS capabilities -- first it was dedicated electronic devices, but now just about anyone with a mobile device can use it to easily get from Point A to Point B.

But what if you are already at Point B and you want to find your way around once you go inside? “Indoor GPS” is a bit of a misnomer, since it doesn’t use GPS satellites to get a position but uses other methods such as Wi-Fi signals and sensors already present in many buildings.

For the past year, this feature has been almost exclusively used by Google in its Maps for Android.  But Google is limited by the number of building floor plans available – so far, it has managed to accumulate 10,000 floor plans spanning 13 countries. Not a lot.

But the prospects for indoor positioning could be looking up as the field of providers expands.

Apple recently acquired a company called WiFiSLAM in order to provide indoor mapping.  And last August, a group of companies, including Nokia, Samsung, Sony Mobile and 19 others, formed the In-Location alliance to further develop the technology. Earlier last year, Broadcom began shipping a microchip designed to tie together a variety of positioning feeds for indoor tracking, including of vertical positions.

Soon, everyone with a mobile device could be able to navigate any publically accessible building.

High-security government buildings are likely to be the exception, of course. But with secure mobile device management becoming more powerful and easier to implement, perhaps a secure version of indoor GPS will allow authorized personnel to make their meetings on time while still keeping people that don’t belong in the dark.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Apr 01, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments


Farm scene with tornado

NOAA-based tornado app could be a life-saver

The best defense against severe weather is early warning, giving people time take shelter and prepare. And as people increasingly rely on mobile devices for communications, especially in weather emergencies when power goes out, a mobile app can be a critical communication tool.

The Red Cross's Tornado App is the latest tool to keep people apprised of severe weather warnings. It even has an attention-getting audible siren that goes off when a tornado warning is issued to reduce the chance of sleeping through an actual warning.

Based on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the app provides warnings, updates and instructions on how to prepare an emergency kit and what to do even when cellular towers and TVs are down. It can help users contact friends and family (and includes an “I’m Safe” notification), and will also notify users when a warning has passed. It even has a gaming aspect, letting people earn badges for learning how to prepare for a tornado.

In 2012, tornadoes in the United States claimed 70 lives and did an estimated $1.6 billion in damage, according to the National Weather Service.  And as tornado seasons go, 2012 was a relatively quiet year, according to NOAA.

The free app is available from iTunes  or Google Play. Users can also call "**REDCROSS" (**73327677) for a link to the app.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Mar 28, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments


NCI QuitPal stop smoking mobile app

NCI's QuitPal app improves health, one smoker at a time

Despite government mandates and corporate policies, many employees still smoke cigarettes. This epidemic can be looked at to cost both employees and the agencies they work for countless dollars in medical insurance and maintenance costs, not to mention the payout for the actual cigarettes, which quite frankly is getting expensive.

The 2010 Surgeon General’s report said that “low levels of smoke exposure, including exposures to secondhand tobacco smoke, lead to a rapid and sharp increase in dysfunction and inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels, which are implicated in heart attacks and stroke.” So the smokers are not the only ones at risk.

Many smokers want to quit, but they don’t know where to start. The National Cancer Institute wants to help. NCI has released a free smart-phone app called NCI QuitPal that will help someone become smoke-free.

With it you can set a quit date, financial goals and reminders to help you stay on track. It will track money saved on not buying cigarettes, keep track of packs not smoked, supply tips to help deal with cravings and give you milestones pertaining to your estimated state of health based upon how long you’ve been smoke-free. It even has a hotline to NCI’s Cancer Information Service if you have any questions.

NCI QuitPal does pretty much everything for you except the most important thing – actually quitting smoking. Only you can do that. But this app will make it easier to keep track of your progress, which might be all the incentive a smoker looking to quit needs.



Posted by Greg Crowe on Mar 26, 2013 at 9:39 AM0 comments