NAVSOP: A GPS Alternative in the Making

BAE Systems, a major worldwide Defense and Security Firm is working on a GPS alternative NAVSOP, which will use a totally different methodology for getting a position fix. The new system uses the ether of transmission waves from Wi Fi, mobile phones, televisions, radio and alike, to get position details just about anybody. This is a considerable improvement over current positioning systems like GPS and GLONASS, which use satellites to get data on latitude and longitude. The new positioning system is dubbed NAVSOP, which stands for Navigation via Signals of Opportunity.

navsop-gps-alternative

Check out the infographic in its full glory here.

The most promising thing about NAVSOP is that it does not require a multi-billion dollar satellite cluster hovering over the sky. All the infrastructure required to run NAVSOP is already present in the form of various household and hand-held equipment that emit identifiable waves. We have already seen Android phones using A-GPS to retrieve approximate location, with help from a data network. Not only does NAVSOP use all this existing infrastructure, the model of operation makes it possible for NAVSOP work in areas with poor reception of GPS (think indoors or the subway).

Another advantage of NAVSOP is put up on their official blog, saying,

NAVSOP is resistant to hostile interference such as jamming (a particular weakness of GPS) and spoofing, where a bogus signal tricks a device into misidentifying its location. The new system can learn from signals that are initially unidentified to build an ever more accurate and reliable fix on its location.

From the way I see it, this technology relies heavily on other people who will be used as a constant source of location information. This might alert privacy watchdogs and wreak havoc about wireless footprints of device and their traceability.

Transformer Prime Owners To Get A Free GPS Dongle From Asus

The Asus Transformer Prime, launched late last year, is un-arguably the best Android tablet in the market right now. Not only does the device run on the latest version of Android – Ice Cream Sandwich – it also packs in a powerful quad-core Tegra 3 processor from Nvidia. The build quality, battery life and the camera of the device, and most importantly, its pricing were also top-notch. However, the Transformer Prime was plagued with poor GPS performance and Wi-Fi issues soon after its launch.

Later on, Asus identified the poor GPS performance of the tablet a design flaw, and removed GPS as a feature from the official spec sheet of the handset. The company tried its best to improve the GPS reception of the tablet by rolling out numerous software updates, but that only improved matters to a certain extent.

Now, Asus has gone a step further and will be providing all Transformer Prime owners with a free GPS dongle. The GPS dongle is already being tested by some testers, and they are happy with how well the dongle goes with the Prime. All Prime owners need to register over at Asus website’s to be eligible for the free dongle though.

The folks over at Android Police have also confirmed that the newer builds of the Transformer Prime have received tweaks, which improve the Wi-Fi performance of the device and bring it on par to its predecessor’s (original Transformer).

FBI Disables 3000 GPS Devices after Supreme Court Ruling

Last month, the United States Supreme Court had ordered FBI to turn off all GPS devices that were placed without a warrant.

fbi

In accordance with that ruling, FBI has disabled around 3000 GPS devices across United States, reports Wall Street Journal. Quoting Andrew Weissmann, General Counsel of FBI, WSJ states that the order has set a ‘sea change’ inside the Justice Department.

The agency is also considering the implications of the concurring justices – whose arguments were largely based on the idea that a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the totality of their movements, even if those movements are in public.

“From a law enforcement perspective, even though it’s not technically holding, we have to anticipate how it’s going to go down the road,” Mr. Weissmann said.

But the issue is not just turning off these devices. FBI is also facing problems in retrieving the GPS devices back after they disabled it. FBI has requested the court to allow them to temporarily turn on the device in order to retrieve it, states Weissmann.

The court order banning the use of warrantless GPS tracking was issued in the case United States vs. Antoine Jones, a case in which, federal agents attached a GPS tracking device to the suspect’s Jeep without a warrant.

All nine Justices of the Supreme Court came to the unanimous conclusion that the Government had violated the fourth amendment.

“The Government’s attachment of the GPS device to the vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment. The government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information”, the order said.

You can read the entire ruling here (pdf).

Sony Adds GLONASS Support To Its Xperia Handsets

Sony, formerly Sony Ericsson, has announced via its Developer blog that the Japanese company is adding GLONASS support to its Xperia line-up of Android smartphones.

GLONASS_Maps

For people unfamiliar with GLONASS, it is Russia’s implementation of GPS (Global Positioning System). GLONASS  will work in conjunction with GPS and will allow Xperia handsets to connect to 24 additional satellites for better location accuracy and precision.

Sony’s Positioning Specialist, Magnus Persson, states that GLONASS when combined with GPS can improve the location accuracy by nearly 50% in areas with tall buildings like San Francisco. Persson also states that GLONASS will automatically activate itself when the GPS is struggling to get a proper location. Otherwise, it will remain unused and preserve battery life. Xperia handset owners can find detailed information about GLONASS and how it improves the location accuracy on your handset here.

Apart from the upcoming Xperia Ion and Xperia S, quite a few of the current gen Xperia handsets also support GLONASS. This includes the Xperia Arc, Arc S, Ray, Neo, Play, Live With Walkman, and the Active.

All other major Android handset manufacturers have also started adding GLONASS support in their latest high-end smartphones, including the Motorola Droid RAZR and the Apple iPhone 4S. In fact, Samsung has started including a Barometer in its handsets (Galaxy Note) for ultra-quick GPS lock times as well.

Via – The Verge

Galileo Satellites: Europe To Launch Answer to US’s GPS Facility on Friday Via Soyuz Launch Vehicle

Europe is all set to launch the Galileo satellites its answer to the US GPS and Russian GLONASS on Friday, 21st October. The launch was supposed to have taken place early today (i.e. on 20th October), but unforeseen situations forced the launch to be shifted the next day. The satellites, a joint venture between European Space Agency and Roscosmos, will be launched using the Russian Soyuz rockets, marking the first use of Soyuz to launch a non-Russian payload.

Galileo placed on dispenser (Courtesy: ESA)

Self-Reliance is the Keyword

The Galileo system will free up the European nations from their reliance on American technology for a reliable tracking system. The US GPS is available to all, but it can be discontinued or restricted in times of war. If not completely barred, the precision of the service might also be curtailed by the US. The US GPS is ultimately controlled mainly by the US military, which holds very high priority in the policy making corridors of America. Galileo will free Europe of all such constraints.

Galileo will provide both high precision and low precision services. The low precision facilities will be open to all. The high-precision facilities will be used primarily by the military.

Galileo on the Soyuz Composite (Courtesy: ESA)

Features of Galileo

Navigational and Search-And-Rescue facilities

The Galileo system has some really great features, as compared to the US GPS and the Russian GLONASS. It will be an array of 30 satellites (27 active ones and 3 spares) all in an orbit about 23,000 km above the Earth’s surface. The navigational precision of Galileo is rumored to be better than the US GPS, though the exact numbers are not yet known. Galileo will also be able to do Search-And-Rescue (SAR) operations. Users can send distress calls along with their positions via the Galileo system to emergency agencies. Galileo has the additional facility of user feedback it will tell the user whether the rescue team has been deployed or not and what their location might be.

Time measurement facility

Galileo will fly up with four high precision atomic clocks of two types. The first type is a hydrogen based maser clock, which is accurate to 0.45 ns in 12 hours (i.e. it slows down by 0.45 nanoseconds in 12 hours!!). the clock uses the super-stable 1.4 GHz hydrogen atom transition line to measure time. The second type of clocks – Rubidium clocks – serves as back-up. The Rubidium clock is accurate to within 1.8 ns over 12 hours. Ultra-precise time measurement is one of the fundamental necessities of a proper positional and navigational system.

Galileo on Soyuz Composite - another angle (Courtesy: ESA)

Friction with Big Brother: Did the US plan to shoot Galileo down?

The US apparently planned to even shoot the Galileo satellites using missiles, since it feared that the facility might be used for military purposes against it. Tempers have cooled down and, with ESA declaring that the satellites won’t be used for spying, the US has no problem with the launch of the Galileo systems.

Named after the first real scientist, Galileo Galilee, the satellites aim to do what the great man always wanted to teach self-reliance in the matter of knowledge and thought.

All images courtesy the ESA image gallery:  http://www.esa.int/esa-mmg/mmg.pl?type=I&mission=Galileo

Nissan LEAF In-Car Computer Leaks Location Information

The Nissan LEAF (Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable, Family) car is currently being put through the paces in the hands of Casey Halverson, a network engineer at InfoSpace. At the heart of the LEAF is CARWINGS, a “telematics system” used for plotting and displaying various internal functions such as energy consumption, charge status as well as the ability to display content pulled from the internet.  Nissan has taken the technology of the car and is attempting to empower users with it by providing information about the car instantly through iPhone apps and an always-connected web app. Unfortunate for many LEAF owners, it would seem that Nissan may have overlooked customer privacy when developing the system.

In addition to requesting data through an RSS feed, CARWINGS takes it upon itself to pass along your current location in the form of  GPS co-ordinates, speed, direction and more. What’s worse, is that any configured feed is given the information and it can be harvested by third parties.

While there are many legitimate uses for providing these details, such as location-aware feeds for weather, driving directions or even traffic details – it would seem that at no time is this told to users and no option is available for opting out.

A video documentation shows off CARWINGS in use, set up with a simple feed that takes the information the LEAF has stored and provides it back to the user. Whether or not LEAF owners will consider this a gross invasion of privacy due to how such information can be leverage or if they find it a nice luxury that they don’t have to enter in their current location to see it’s raining will largely depend on how Nissan explains to the general customer why they share this information.


Via SeattleWireless

Android And iOS To Get Foursquare 3.0 Tonight

Foursquare, the location-based social network, is set to be bumped up to version 3 soon. Foursquare was first conceived and built under the project Dodgeballwhich was purchased by Google and replaced with their Latitude service. This week marks the 2 year anniversary since the launch of Foursquare at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas.

The new updates to Foursquare allow for a much richer experience with the use of a recommendation engine. It allows users to search for a place and be provided back with aggregated results combining previously checked-in places, places friends have checked into as well as popular and similar places. The leaderboard feature has been updated, providing users with more information on points, badges and statuses. Badges were one of the major cornerstones to the progression and wide spread adoption of Foursquare. It created real-life rivalry and competition to gain badges and attain mayorstatus of a location. Often times retailers would provide discounts to mayors of stores.

Another unique addition to the service is the for retailers to reward and attract consumers with specials. Check-in specials, swarm specials (large amounts of check-ins), friend specials (for groups of friends), loyalty check-ins (for regular users), newbie specials (new check-ins), mayor and flash specials. These can be used to entice potential customers as well as reward existing customer loyalty.

A new Foursquare client is set to be rolled out to iOS and Android devices later this evening. BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Phone 7 updates are to come at a later unspecified date. See below for more screenshots of the features.

Download RunKeeper For Android and iOS For Free Throughout January

RunKeeper is a very popular sports tracking application available for the iOS as well as the Android platform. The app has a free as well as a paid version ($9.99). Now, the company behind RunKeeper FitnessKeeper has decided to make RunKeeper Pro available as a free download throughout the month of January.

RunKeeper_Android_Pro

The application uses the GPS chip of your iOS or Android powered smartphone to track your sports tracking application including the total distance, average speed and calories burnt etcetera. The paid version of the app includes additional features like audio cues, integration with RunKeeper’s FitnessClasses and obviously no ads.

Android and iOS owners can download RunKeeper Pro from free from the Android Market and the App Store, respectively.

Hopefully, this might help all unhealthy people who have taken a resolution to become fit in this new year.

(Source)

Samsung Vibrant GPS Fix Released

Remember the GPS fix for the Samsung Vibrant which was pulled back from KIES for unknown reasons? As promised earlier by T-Mobile, they have released the firmware update via OTA (Over-The-Air). The new firmware update (JI6) improves the lag issues along with the GPS performance and also brings the Media Hub’ application to the Vibrant. Samsung_Vibrant

Here is the official change-log from T-Mobile-:

*GPS, SGPA, SUPL
*Exchange inbox
*Contacts Sync
*The Sims 3 10th Anniversary Edition
*Battery indicator
*Calendar alert chime
*New Services: Samsung Media Hub
*40+ bug fixes, UI changes and update

People over at XDA-Developer forums have been reporting that this firmware update has made the phone snappier as well.

The OTA will be rolled out in phases by T-Mobile to all the Vibrant handsets out there until the end of October.

Samsung Vibrant GPS Fix From KIES Reverted

The AT&T Captivate got its promised GPS fix from Samsung last week. However, many people reported that the update only marginally improved the GPS performance of the device. Now, T-Mobile is all set to roll out the GPS fix for its Galaxy S variant the Vibrant. In fact, T-Mobile had already released the GPS fix as a firmware update over KIES but later pulled it back for unknown reasons. Nevertheless, T-Mobile’s Twitter account did tweet that an OTA will be announced soon.T-Mobile Samsung Vibrant

People over at XDA-Developer forum who managed to update their Vibrant with the new firmware (JI5) were happy with the GPS performance. Nearly everyone saw a very huge boost in the GPS performance of the device. Along with the improvement in the GPS department, this new firmware update also fixes some other bugs which bugged Vibrant owners.

Vibrant owners should keep in mind that this update will not bring Android 2.2 to your device. I wonder what happened to Samsung’s promise of delivering Froyo for the Galaxy S handsets by late September? There were rumors that the update has been pushed back to late October and I guess they are true.