Location-Based Services – Trajectory Magazine http://trajectorymagazine.com We are the official publication of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) – the nonprofit, educational organization supporting the geospatial intelligence tradecraft Fri, 19 Jan 2018 19:39:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.4 https://i2.wp.com/trajectorymagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/cropped-TRJ-website-tab-icon-1.png?fit=32%2C32 Location-Based Services – Trajectory Magazine http://trajectorymagazine.com 32 32 127732085 What are Your 3 Words? http://trajectorymagazine.com/what-are-your-3-words/ Fri, 17 Nov 2017 18:47:46 +0000 http://trajectorymagazine.com/?p=35457 What3words assigns three-word identifiers to every location on Earth

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The global address system is imperfect. Road names are often repeated or similar within municipalities, leading to botched deliveries, confusing navigation, and wasted time. Street addresses only cover developed areas with established infrastructure. Geographic coordinates are precise but too complicated for everyday use.

To fix these problems, London-based what3words is simplifying global addresses. The company has divided the entire surface of the world into a geocoding grid of 57 trillion 3-meter-by-3-meter squares, assigning each a unique three-word identifier. This allows more accurate location sharing and product delivery and provides addresses for the billions of people living in developing neighborhoods without defined street names.

To encourage the use of their system around the world, what3words has translated the map grid into 14 languages such as French, Arabic, and Swahili, with more to come including Hindi and Zulu.

The system’s benefits are numerous. To date, the national post services of Nigeria, Djibouti, Côte D’Ivoire, and Mongolia have adopted the what3words system and begun delivering goods and mail to many residential locations for the first time. South African cities like Durban are using it to properly direct emergency responders. The United Nations is using it to geotag imagery as a common operating picture for disaster recovery efforts in remote locations. The system could even break into personal navigation. Mercedes announced it will incorporate what3words addresses into the voice-activated satellite GPS for next generation vehicles.

For areas without thorough building numbering or street addresses, embracing what3words could improve city planning, enable efficient business, and help people define their homes.

Photo Credit: what3words

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Mapbox: Empathy and Fire http://trajectorymagazine.com/mapbox-empathy-fire/ Wed, 01 Nov 2017 14:48:40 +0000 http://trajectorymagazine.com/?p=35036 Q&A with Robert Ames, director of government business and technology strategy

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Q: When did you begin working at Mapbox?

I joined Mapbox in March. Prior to that, I spent six years at In-Q-Tel—a technology innovation channel funded by the government. Before that, I spent 11 years at IBM, where I was deputy CTO for IBM Federal.

Q: Even though Mapbox employees don’t have official titles (and you made up one for the purposes of this interview), is yours a new position within the company?

It is a new position, recognizing that government is a big part of Mapbox’s business. I bring experience in inserting technology and innovation into government missions, and I bring a deep understanding of technology and mission problems that can be addressed by the emergence of mobility and the richness of location data.

Q: How has mapping fundamentally changed in the last decade, and what role has Mapbox played?

In the past five to 10 years, maps have gone from being this very fixed, stagnant, paper concept—a hard-to-consume medium, like pulling an encyclopedia off the rack—to being highly dynamic, responsive, and customizable. Today’s maps fuse contextual information such as what restaurants and friends are nearby.

Q: How is Mapbox preparing for the future of GEOINT?

In three important ways. First, we’re developing the mapping platform for the future. That platform is going to be critical in the mobile world. When you think about people deployed with limited connectivity, making these maps accessible at a low bandwidth is an area we’re taking forward for GEOINT.

Second is this notion of context—how do I understand what’s going on around me, in the past and currently, and how do I optimize my experience or outcomes?

Third, we see a future in which users can interact with maps in the space around them through augmented reality. Imagine being able to interact with a three-dimensional representation of the Earth that moves with you. This isn’t happening in the distant future, but soon.

Q: What do you consider most compelling among Mapbox’s projects?

Definitely the virtual reality space and its implications for mapping and GEOINT. Another exciting area: We want to bring machine learning and artificial intelligence to augment everyone’s understanding of their surroundings and continue to enrich people’s context around a map. We see our competitors moving in this direction, and we are actively investing in this area. Look at Snapchat’s SnapMap, which Mapbox helps power. It maps geo-tagged snaps that users have decided to share. If I’m interested in what’s going on in Dupont Circle or Trafalgar Square in London, or anywhere people are actively creating content, I can open SnapMap and see that content as a hotspot. It’s completely customizable, and the interface is intuitive and fun with this cartoony, emoji feel. But it is a very powerful and rich example of the future of context.

Q: What is surprising about Mapbox?

People are often surprised about our breadth and depth. We are the people that often enable the mapping you use, but you don’t necessarily know it’s Mapbox. Our maps are installed in approximately 4,000 applications worldwide.

Q: Your hiring strategy is somewhat nontraditional. According to your company website, “empathy” and “fire” are two traits Mapbox looks for in its employees. Can you explain this?

The company was founded by Eric Gundersen. He was inspired to create Mapbox when he was struggling with inferior maps while trying to monitor elections in Afghanistan. His intention was clear—to help make the world a better place. That’s led to the ethos of finding people who are passionate, no matter what their professional history. I’m an example of that. Before I got into IT, I was a professional opera singer.

Q: What results from cultivating a workforce with myriad backgrounds?

Mapbox has a diverse set of employees who come from rich and varied backgrounds. I believe this leads to an understanding that people interact with maps and information in very different ways. We believe it’s important to customize maps, the experience to the user, and the environment with dynamic styling. Cartogram, for example, allows you to upload a picture, and the application will style your map to match that picture. I took a picture of my cat, so I have my cat map. We just released a mapping style a week ago that looks like comic books. Things like that are the results of having folks from all backgrounds.

Q: What’s most exciting to you about the modern GEOINT space?

What’s interesting is that GEOINT is everywhere, because we all want to know what’s going on around us. Because of that, innovation is pouring in. I’m taking my daughters to Rome in a couple weeks. My entire search on activities and sites in Rome is a GEOINT-type application. I use such tools as Foursquare, which is powered by Mapbox, to identify interesting places. So if I want to take a tour, I find out where it is, what’s around it, and I read reviews—but it all starts with a geo-query. Then you go to social media and say, ‘I’m visiting this area, what should I do, what shouldn’t I do?’ and you get recommendations about places. We’re all thinking GEOINT without knowing it.

Featured image: Robert Ames (standing) speaks with colleagues at Mapbox’s D.C. office. (Credit: Marissa Fullord/Mapbox)

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Quantifying GEOINT http://trajectorymagazine.com/quantifying-geoint/ Fri, 20 Oct 2017 16:42:49 +0000 http://trajectorymagazine.com/?p=34951 Measuring the societal and economic effects of geospatial services

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Geospatial professionals regularly see the effects of their work on a global scale, such as when up-to-date maps and location data help save lives during disaster response or when elements of biodiversity in the world’s oceans and forests are preserved. But non-GEOINT-based consumers may not realize the extent to which geospatial information and services affect their day-to-day activities.

Some of the world’s largest corporations—Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and more—have invested heavily in the future of geospatial technology and information sharing. The developed world has come to rely on such services, including Google Maps and Earth, Yelp, Uber, and Zillow to procure information.

A new study commissioned by Google and conducted by AlphaBeta set out to quantify the ways in which digital mapping saves time and money for both businesses and consumers alike. The 92-page document outlines consumer, business, and societal and environmental benefits. 

According to that report: digital maps supported more than $1 trillion in annual sales for businesses in 2016; directly created 4 million jobs (and 8 million indirectly); cut travel times by 12 percent at a value of $264 billion; and can reduce vehicular carbon dioxide emissions by 1,686 million metric tons. Additionally, geo-services have decreased emergency response times by 20 percent and saved global consumers 21 billion hours per year as a result of faster, better informed shopping decisions.

As the mapping industry continues to grow and more detailed information sharing capabilities—such as retail inventory mapping, indoor wayfinding, and real-time mapping for autonomous vehicles) are explored—those numbers will surely increase.

Photo Credit: The Next Web

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Vacuum Sensing http://trajectorymagazine.com/vacuum-sensing/ Fri, 28 Jul 2017 15:34:41 +0000 http://trajectorymagazine.com/?p=34394 Roomba vacuum records users' home layouts

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Certain Roomba robotic vacuums have been picking up more than dust; they’ve also been quietly collecting location data of users’ home floor plans.

The Roomba 980 model, for instance, is equipped with cameras and optical and acoustic sensors that allow the machine to learn home layouts and avoid furniture, walls, and stairs all while cleaning.

Now, parent company iRobot is considering selling this data to tech titans Google, Apple, or Amazon. iRobot CEO Colin Angle told Reuters the resulting data maps could play a major role in the future of smart homes, specifically helping automatic lights or thermostats properly acclimate to their environments.

Roomba was made compatible with Amazon’s Echo and Alexa voice assistant in March and, according to Angle, could sell its maps to a “Big Three” tech company by the end of 2017.

This plan has been questioned by privacy advocates uncomfortable with the sale of what many feel is private information.

Though current data protection law does not forbid the practice, iRobot has asserted that it won’t provide access to a customer’s home information without their permission. However, terms of service for iRobot’s mobile app already provide the company the right to share personal information with business partners, subsidiaries, and even the government.

Roomba is the anomaly in a market of low-priced competitors not concerned with smart mapping—the low cost and private nature of these cleaning products will prove more attractive to many freaked out customers. As big data collection continues to erupt, consumers will have to make a choice between privacy and personalized technology.

Photo Credit: iRobot

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“Snap Mapping” http://trajectorymagazine.com/snap-mapping/ Fri, 07 Jul 2017 19:08:46 +0000 http://trajectorymagazine.com/?p=34275 Snapchat’s new geo-location service raises privacy concerns

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Snapchat is the latest social media network to add a live location-sharing option to its platform. Called “Snap Map,” the new geo-location feature allows users to broadcast their whereabouts on a world map visible to the user’s friend list in the form of a cartoon avatar. The location sharing is highly precise, allowing spectators to zoom close enough on an avatar to estimate someone’s position along a specific city block assuming the smartphone is on their person.

Similar to Snapchat’s “Discover” feature, major current events and breaking news appear on the map as well—the Wimbledon Championship, for example. People at a certain event can post directly on Snapchat’s public “Our Story” and, depending on content and appropriateness, may have their footage featured on the map in the form of a crowdsourced video feed.

Public snaps aren’t limited to high-profile locations. Tap anywhere on the map to view stories from people in the area, friends or not. A heat map overlay is included to indicate places with high concentrations of stories a user may want to check out, like the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Snap Map is not without controversy. Users not operating in “Ghost Mode” may not realize Snapchat updates a user’s exact location on the map every time he or she opens the app—not just when they post stories. Snapchat is marketing the feature as a fun, interesting way to keep up with friends, but many users are freaked out by the perceived intrusion on their privacy.

Schools in particular have reacted with apprehension, warning parents that their children, many of whom use Snapchat regularly throughout the day, may be unknowingly broadcasting their location to people they don’t necessarily know. The map is detailed enough to allow a user with malicious intent to infer home addresses or regular routes of travel.

Snap Map’s development was made possible by Snapchat’s recent (and quiet) acquisition of French social mapping application Zenly for more than $250 million. The map itself is powered by three geospatial imagery providers: DigitalGlobe, Mapbox, and OpenStreetMap

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Smart Stuff http://trajectorymagazine.com/smart-stuff/ http://trajectorymagazine.com/smart-stuff/#respond Fri, 10 Feb 2017 01:23:22 +0000 /?p=27894 The Internet of Things offers convenience, efficiency, and intelligence value, but also brings new risks to networks and data security

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Having co-designed the communication protocol on which the virtual world was built, computer scientist Vint Cerf is best known as one of the “fathers of the internet.” To his friends, however, he’s better known as an oenophile.

Cerf’s passions for wine and technology are not mutually exclusive. Along with more than 1,000 bottles of vintage vino, the wine cellar in his home near Washington, D.C., stores a sophisticated technology suite that tracks in real time the condition of his fine wine collection. It starts with a network of sensors that monitor the light, temperature, and humidity in every room of his house; if the temperature in the wine cellar rises above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, Cerf receives a text message on his smartphone. The system tracks when the lights are turned on, notifying him if someone enters the cellar without his permission. And because every bottle he owns is outfitted with an RFID chip, Cerf can take a quick inventory with his handheld RFID detector.

Cerf’s high-tech wine cellar isn’t just a technophile’s quirky hobby. It’s also a bellwether for the Internet of Things (IoT), which will be the nervous system of the hyper-connected world currently under construction all around us.

“Anything that is programmable that can communicate through the internet is potentially a ‘thing’ in the Internet of Things,” explained Cerf, a former Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)scientist who is now vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google.

Beyond sophisticated wine cellars, the IoT includes picture frames that can automatically download photos from the cloud, thermostats that can be controlled from one’s smartphone, and light bulbs that can be dimmed wirelessly. And that’s just for starters.

“By 2020, we’re going to have 50 billion ‘things’ that are connected to the IoT and performing various tasks in a massively interconnected way, from phones to blenders to printers to cameras,” said University of Montana Research Fellow Dr. Alex Philp, founder and vice president of special programs at Adelos, which specializes in fiber optic sensors. “The breadth of devices associated with the IoT will create a lot of complexity, but also overwhelming possibilities.”

Because each and every IoT device will have a physical and temporal location alongside its virtual footprint, GEOINT will be a key enabler to manage the challenges and harness the opportunities.

Behind the Buzz

British technologist Kevin Ashton coined the term “Internet of Things” in 1999 to describe the network connecting objects in the physical world to digital infrastructure in the virtual one. The buzzword, however, is actually the convergence of four much older concepts, according to Dr. Thomas Yen, technical director of the Internet of Things Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The first, according to Yen, is embedded sensing, whereby microprocessors make everyday objects “smart.” The second is pervasive connectivity, which allows one to be connected to the internet at all times. The third is ubiquitous computing, which makes computing possible across devices. Finally, there’s virtual interfaces, which describes the ability to engage devices without physically touching them.

“These four technologies coming together is what best defines the Internet of Things,” explained Yen.

Photo courtesy of Hexagon US Federal

The Internet of Things, based in part on technology from Hexagon AB, enables integrated managing of critical assets in “Smart Cities,” which improves efficiency, citizen safety, and overall quality of life.

According to Barry Barlow, chief technology officer at Vencore, “The Internet of Things is about objects that have embedded sensors that are connected so they can either transmit information or receive information, and in some cases act on that information.”

For example, take a connected refrigerator that photographs its contents and uploads the pictures to the cloud, where they can be accessed alongside recipes in a smartphone app so the consumer knows what to buy at the grocery store. “There are Samsung refrigerators on the market right now that provide that service to the owner,” Philp said.

Aggregate, real-time data captured from refrigerator-generated recipes and shopping lists could tell food manufacturers and marketers what consumers are buying, where, and in what quantities, allowing entire industries to turn on a dime.

Along with smart homes, another IoT growth sector will be health care. Devices like connected insulin pumps and pacemakers already help doctors and patients identify and target risk factors for conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

“Eventually, I think you’ll see nanoscale devices that are put into our bodies intravenously or orally to help us understand our heart rates and rhythms; measure and sample the microbiomes of our mouth, esophagus, and intestines; monitor cholesterol and blood pressure; and look for certain diseases,” said Philp, who added such devices will collect and transmit biological information via miniaturized versions of the RFID chips Cerf uses in his wine cellar.

In manufacturing, connected machinery could yield similar benefits by helping diagnose problems with equipment, materials, and processes.

“Sensors in machinery generate a great deal of data that can help manufacturers detect a bad product almost instantaneously and correct it as the problem is happening,” noted Yen, who said IoT-enabled diagnostics can help manufacturers eliminate not only wasted product, but also wasted time. “If a factory has 2,000 pieces of identical machinery, and 300 pieces failed after being used in a particular manner for a particular length of time, the company should be able to use that data to predict when the remaining machines will fail and pre-emptively fix them, thereby reducing unscheduled downtime.”

Connected Governments

Although most IoT innovation lies in the commercial sector, some of the most promising IoT use cases belong to government.

One such use case is public safety. “Imagine your house is on fire and the fire department is on its way,” Cerf said. “If you have webcams in the house and temperature sensors, you might want the fire department to be able to access those to determine: Where is the hottest part of the fire? Where did the fire start? Is someone unconscious? If so, in which room of the house?”

Or, imagine a connected camera at a busy intersection, suggests Pete Beckman, co-director of the Northwestern-Argonne Institute of Science and Engineering (NAISE), a collaboration between Argonne National Laboratory and Northwestern University through which he’s developing secure wireless sensors that leverage “edge computing” to quickly process and exploit data locally. With local rather than cloud architecture, Beckman said, sensors in streetlights could automatically deploy salt trucks after detecting cars sliding on ice, or emergency responders after detecting an automobile accident.

“Suppose a camera is looking down on an intersection when it sees a car strike another car. Based on the mass of the vehicles and their deceleration, a sensor connected to that camera could determine whether an airbag deployed and automatically alert 911. It could then immediately start routing traffic around the intersection in different ways by changing the traffic lights,” said Beckman, whose project is named Waggle after the dance bees do to communicate the location of nectar, pollen, and water to others in their hive. “You can imagine a whole set of autonomous reactions in our infrastructure based on collecting good data and being able to process it locally instead of sending it to a central server.”

Waggle is the foundational platform for the Array of Things, a Chicago-based project that will outfit the city with 500 modular sensor boxes, called “nodes,” by the end of 2017. Inside each node, a bundle of sensors will collect a cornucopia of urban intelligence—including 24/7 data on traffic, air quality, weather, and noise—that could help the city optimize resources and enhance services.

“The Array of Things is a science project to understand how we might instrument a city, what we could learn about a city, and how we could use that information to improve a city,” Beckman said.

Like local governments, the federal government can leverage the IoT to fulfill its mission—including that of national security. Where it’s open and accessible, for example, IoT data such as thermostat readings could be used by the military to determine building occupancy when responding to a natural disaster or performing reconnaissance on enemy targets.

“I think the Internet of Things can be an extremely powerful tool for intelligence gathering,” Cerf said.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) agrees. As part of its GEOINT Services platform, the agency is researching ways to stand up its own “Array of Things” to serve warfighters on the battlefield, according to NGA Deputy Director for IT Mark Munsell. “If you happen to be in an area with a geofence around it, all the devices in that area—drones, artillery, handheld weapons, and various other sensors—will be interconnected and working together to provide a multitude of services, be they intelligence-, combat-, or logistics-related,” he said. “Instead of your refrigerator, television, and thermostat, your weapons will be hooked up to the internet.”

Consider, for example, a sniper with a connected rifle. “[The rifle] will know its location from GPS, just like your phone would. It will know its orientation from a magnetometer, just like your phone would. And it will know its pitch and yaw from an accelerometer, just like your phone would,” Munsell said. “Now imagine it knows the terrain around you based on a service [NGA is] providing. With that, you can do a viewshed analysis and automatically determine whether your target is in range. If it’s not, when you look through the scope it will guide you to the location on the ground where you can see the target you’re aiming for. That’s what the concept of the Internet of Things will look like when it’s applied to combat operations.”

Powered by GEOINT

Photo courtesy of Waggle

The Array of Things (AoT) is a research project to deploy hundreds of interactive, modular sensor boxes around Chicago to collect real-time data on the city’s environment, infrastructure, and activity for research and public use. The AoT combines Waggle technology developed at Argonne National Laboratory with architecture and design execution from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. One of the early design prototypes from SAIC is shown here outfitted with Waggle.

In both public and private sectors, the IoT’s promise is manifold, according to Barlow, who cites three benefits in particular.

The first is relevance. “Take an app like Waze,” Barlow said, referring to the smartphone app that uses real-time traffic reporting to crowdsource navigation. “Instead of getting traffic updates every 10 minutes on the radio, you’re getting traffic information that’s current and affecting you right away.”

The IoT’s second benefit is accuracy. “The information you’re getting [from sensors] is raw and untouched. It hasn’t been manipulated,” Barlow continued. “In an emergency room setting, for instance, doctors can act quickly when a patient is connected because they know they’re in a certain room and that they’re having a certain problem.”

Finally, there’s the IoT’s scale. “We’re able to collect information from sensors not just on a local level, but also at regional and even global levels,” Barlow explained. “Because we have connected readers at cash registers all over the world, for example, credit card companies can detect massive fraud as it’s happening and take action to mitigate its impact.”

To Cerf, the benefits are quite practical—the IoT can save lives, time, and money. “For many of these devices, convenience, safety, and efficiency are the drivers,” he said, citing an example from Google, which recently conducted an experiment wherein it used an artificially intelligent neural network instead of human operators to control the cooling system at one of its large data centers. “We used machine learning to determine what was the optimal setting for various parameters, and we discovered that it worked better than people did. It was faster, it recognized patterns, and it saved us about 40 percent on our cooling costs.”

Because GEOINT adds spatial and temporal context to IoT services and analytics, it is the linchpin that makes such returns possible, according to Rob Mott, vice president of geospatial sales and marketing at Intergraph Government Solutions (now Hexagon US Federal). “The GEOINT Community is very important to the Internet of Things because it provides a visual understanding of trends and patterns,” he said, suggesting GEOINT’s major contribution to the IoT would be providing geospatial processing and web services to companies and consumers in the same way NGA seeks to provide them for warfighters. “Working with open standard data that’s readable by GEOINT processes, you can develop web services that provide answers to very tough questions but do not necessarily require looking at a map or interfacing with an app.”

Consider, for example, the Amazon Echo. Using its built-in voice service, Alexa, consumers can ask simple questions about weather, sports, movie times, and more. Thanks to predictive analytics, future Echo-like devices will be able to help commercial, industrial, and government users answer more complex questions in a similar fashion; by accessing web services that leverage geospatial data aggregated from sensors across the IoT, they’ll be able to predict everything from floods to traffic accidents.

“By looking at past trends and other parameters, a geospatial service could give you an answer without you ever having to interact with a map,” Mott said. “It will be a very elegant and powerful GEOINT process that will give you a very reliable, ‘X-marks-the-spot’ kind of answer.”

Next Stop: Interoperability

Photo courtesy of Botts Innovative Research

A multisensor field deployment uses Botts Innovative Research’s OpenSensorHub (OSH) service node and OSH Web Client Toolkit. The OpenSensorHub project supports development of software to automatically fuse data from disparate sensors and actuators.

Indeed, the connected future looks bright. Turning the IoT from a series of cool gadgets to an integrated network providing actionable information, however, will require industry and government to collaborate on policies, procedures, and protocols to mature IoT technology.

Among the areas most in need of attention, experts agree, is interoperability. “The real benefits of the IoT will come from integrating sensors and using multiple data sources to process information and make decisions,” said Dr. Mike Botts, president and chief technology officer of Botts Innovative Research, which designs open standards for sensor systems and geospatial-temporal data. In 2000, Botts developed the OGC Sensor Web Enablement (SWE) standards, a set of IoT standards established to achieve “plug-and-play” functionality of IoT sensors and actuators via web services. “‘Without [standards], you’re left with a big conglomerate of proprietary systems that force you to take a different approach every time you want to engage a different sensor. Standards give us a common language to query the world of sensors and extract observations from them.”

In 2014, Botts co-founded the OpenSensorHub project to support the development of software that automatically fuses data from disparate sensors and actuators. Based on SWE standards, the project’s goal is to accomplish for IoT web services what the USB standard accomplished for computer peripherals.

But SWE is just one potential standard in a single domain. In addition to web services, standards are needed for IoT architecture, communication, connectivity, and more.

“It will take some time to get to a common standard for the kind of data that’s collected, the way in which it’s described, the format it takes, the commands you can give to a device, and the response you can expect in return,” explained Cerf, who expects IoT innovators to spend another five years locking horns over competing standards before a universal one is adopted. At that point, he predicts, it will take another five years to solve the next big challenge: consolidation.

“I don’t want to have a separate app on my smartphone for every device I have in my house or my office; it would take me six minutes to flip through all my apps every time I wanted to flush the toilet or turn off the lights,” Cerf said. “What we need is a much broader kind of control environment—a multi-brand hub we can use to manage and configure all of our devices locally from one place.”

Along with a physical hub for devices, the IoT needs a regulatory hub for policymaking, according to Barlow, who cites security risks as an impetus for government rulemaking. Because the IoT will be so ingrained in citizens’ lives, he argues, the federal government should publish minimum security standards for IoT devices the way it does safety standards for medical devices.

“Medical devices such as catheters and pacemakers must go through certain tests to ensure they’re not going to do more harm than good,” Barlow said. “IoT devices need similar scrutiny, particularly in highly regulated industries like transportation, health care, energy, and the environment.”

IoT challenges and questions abound. But so do the opportunities—especially for GEOINT.

“The IoT adds a whole new dimension to geospatial intelligence by giving us a new way to detect and understand the world at a particular time and in a particular place,” Botts concluded. “It’s no longer just grabbing an image and storing it somewhere to make a map. It’s dynamic, and that’s going to give us a lot of new capabilities.”

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Zero-Code for Location-based Apps http://trajectorymagazine.com/zero-code-for-location-based-apps/ http://trajectorymagazine.com/zero-code-for-location-based-apps/#respond Thu, 12 Jan 2017 03:29:00 +0000 /?p=27871 New app development tools help keep pace with Geospatial Revolution

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Scott Lee is director of federal sales for Terrago Technologies. Guest posts are meant to foster discussion among the community and do not represent an official position of USGIF or trajectory magazine. 

The rise of the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the emergence of smartphones have spawned a revolution in mobile location-based capabilities that often seems to outpace the budgets and capacity of traditional software development for many government and commercial organizations.

In the second decade of GPS operations, location features that were available only in GPS and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) platforms continue to proliferate in consumer apps at an accelerating pace. This creates entirely new opportunities with a workforce now trained to use mobile devices as part of their daily lives. Research indicates 90 percent of time spent on smartphones and tablet computers is app-aided, with more than half of that time involving location-based apps.

Answering the demand for custom mobile apps that take advantage of GPS/GIS capability is becoming an IT nightmare, but new development tools are emerging to help bring relief to IT. “Zero-code” app development offers a framework that allows users with no software skills to develop full-featured mobile apps tailored to their requirements. With zero-code, delivery cycles between project start and finish could fall from months and years to hours and days. This method can allow anyone to “write code” using a computer-based menu or template, turning end users into citizen developers with minimal training. With zero-code, simply selecting the features required for a specific application and customizing the look and feel, including branding, can build an app.  Because apps can be updated through a “click not code” app studio, they can be built to meet IT standards without being built by IT resources.

Zero-code is based on an open-architecture Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) environment, facilitating ways to deliver cloud-based mobile solutions that keep costs in line by integrating apps with legacy platforms versus rebuilding the entire platform from scratch.

For years, IT departments have worked furiously to develop enterprise apps to keep pace with demands of end users who find new and imaginative ways to leverage location capability for inspections, asset management, field service and all types of remote operations. Gartner predicts market demand for enterprise mobile app development will grow at least five times faster than internal IT departments’ capacity to deliver them, and that mobile phone sales will reach 2.1 billion by 2019. Those predictions fuel another telling forecast: 60 percent of all fast-mode application delivery projects will be performed outside IT teams by 2020.

Zero-code is a shorter cut on another shortcut, the low-code capability that was spread by Business Performance Management (BPM), Rapid Application Development (RAD), and other tools that helped IT departments deliver apps faster and at a lower cost with less hand coding. But BPM, RAD, et al, require specialized knowledge and can generate platform-dependent products that are difficult to alter and maintain over time. The lifetime cost of ownership for an enterprise app, which includes operations, maintenance, and infrastructure, can be difficult to forecast, and updating the app to accommodate emerging technology remains cumbersome, time consuming, and expensive.

While proven to be powerful tools, low-code platforms have not proven to enable end users to develop their own apps. But what makes zero-code different from low-code and other attempts at streamlining application development?

First, app builders allow users to describe the app they want to publish and allow them to build it from a library of already developed and coded features, fashioned together in menus or templates from which they choose their new app’s capabilities. For example, an end user supplies app descriptions and keywords that will populate the iTunes and Google Play app stores, then uploads logos and branding elements, including graphics and colors for the user interface.  Then it’s time to choose the features and user interface options, menus, and labels.  App studios even give the end user a preview of the app as it’s being built.

Users simply choose which mobile platforms to build and the app stores where they want their app to be available. Data collection, forms to be completed, mapping to be accomplished, workflow and task management to be followed are all among building blocks assembled by the end user. After selecting features, the end user publishes the product to the web or their desired app stores for immediate access by employees, partners, and customers.

For all of its attributes, zero-code—like BPM and low-code before it—exists on an axiom: No development tool can deliver all features for all applications with zero code. Traditional hand coding enables developers to build anything.  Low-code tools enable developers to build most things faster. But zero-code allows any user to build apps in minutes by re-using already-built components. The holy grail of no code democratizes application development for the first time, by design, and creates armies of citizen developers. But it doesn’t replace all traditional development. Rather, it turns unsatisfied stakeholders into a new pool of development resources that can solve their own problems for more solutions as the inventory of components grows.

After all, does a mobile app need to reinvent the wheel and create entirely new features and business processes for all possible user requirements, or can users leverage field-tested features while customizing the workflow for the mission? More likely, the mobile tool can do what it needs to by leveraging existing, operationally tested mobile forms and map features, supported by geo-indexing photos and videos and even personnel in the field. When designed for flexibility to accommodate different workflows, end users no longer need to rigidly encode the business process into the platform, but can design task management parameters in the already-built application.

While zero-code is not a direct replacement for all custom development or low-code solutions, it is a game-changer for both large and small organizations. Some larger organizations will find it useful to augment low-code and traditional applications generated by in-house development staff, enabling them to focus resources and budget on core business logic and systems integration. Small- and mid-sized organizations, many of which have been sidelined during the mobile revolution, will have the first opportunity to deploy custom enterprise apps. These organizations have long sought the advantages enjoyed by their larger competitors, and zero-code can help them access the mobile solution space.

With zero-code, IT departments can have a new and powerful tool for keeping up with demands of GIS/GPS users without breaking the budget. IT can find relief through an approach that allows a faster, less expensive way of app development while still delivering a custom application. Providing end users the ability to truly build apps, without code, frees up substantial IT time and budget—and no organization has too much of either.

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Power In Numbers http://trajectorymagazine.com/power-in-numbers/ http://trajectorymagazine.com/power-in-numbers/#respond Tue, 01 Nov 2016 22:05:20 +0000 /?p=27836 Crowdsourcing apps help fight human trafficking

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Location-based apps are also emerging as a way to leverage technology against human trafficking—in particular apps that harness the power of the crowd. TraffickCam, introduced in 2015 by the Exchange Initiative, enables the public to help fight sex trafficking by uploading photos of hotel rooms while traveling.

Sex traffickers regularly post photos of their victims in hotel rooms, therefore these photos could be potential evidence used to locate and prosecute perpetrators. However, the location element is essential. The goal of TraffickCam is to create a database of hotel room images investigators can efficiently search to find other images taken in the same location.

Another app, See | Say, allows the public to anonymously report labor or sexual exploitation of adults or minors in their communities. Data collected through the app is then reported to law enforcement agencies to assist with investigations. See | Say was developed by Diginido Labs as a result of input from DeliverFund, a nonprofit that applies intelligence to human trafficking investigations. Diginido and DeliverFund connected in April at a human trafficking-focused hacakthon hosted by ATHack! with Microsoft Reactor.

However, some law enforcement officials are concerned about the veracity of crowdsourced information—asking what’s to, for example, stop traffickers from taking pictures in Atlanta hotel rooms and uploading them to the TraffickCam app claiming Chicago as the location.

“Law enforcement certainly has questions and concerns,” said 2nd Lt. James Bacon, who oversees the Child Exploitation Squad for the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia. “Who is vetting that information?”

A spokesperson for The Exchange Initiative clarified that the TraffickCam app uses GPS verification to confirm the authenticity of the user’s location and prevent attempts to manipulate the data.

Ehb Teng, co-founder of ATHAck! and Diginido Labs, said the crowd should drown out any efforts by traffickers to skew data. “If [traffickers] generate any false positives—even if coordinated in incredibly small clusters compared to larger clusters at the public level—you can intelligently disseminate between those false positives and the actual cases that need investigated over the longer term,” Teng said.

Return to feature story: Modern Slavery

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‘Recalculating’ GPS http://trajectorymagazine.com/recalculating-gps/ http://trajectorymagazine.com/recalculating-gps/#respond Sat, 07 May 2016 01:51:13 +0000 Although GPS is the gold standard of positioning, navigation, and timing, it’s not without weaknesses. GEOINT offers alternative solutions.

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Anyone who reads the Sunday comics has probably chuckled at the antics of red-bearded, big-bellied Hägar the Horrible. Part Viking, part “everyman,” he spends his days pillaging and plundering, and his nights embroiled in quagmires that satirize both medieval and modern living. One time, for example, Hägar’s wife, Helga, chastises him for “eating like a barbarian,” then remembers that’s exactly what he is.

Thanks to caricatures like Hägar, it’s easy to stereotype Vikings as vulgar, brutish, and dim. However, Vikings were extremely astute—especially when it came to navigation. In a world without even compasses to guide them, Vikings traversed the Baltic Sea and Atlantic Ocean using nature as their only guide. By tracking the sun, moon, and stars, Vikings could determine whether they were traveling in the desired direction. And when the sky was overcast, they memorized landmarks and used migrating whales and birds as guides.

Although civilization’s most trusted navigational aide remains the sky, humanity now trusts in satellites rather than the sun. In particular, the 30 satellites that constitute the United States Global Positioning System, otherwise known as GPS.

“GPS is a worldwide enabler that is depended on by billions of users,” explained Col. Steve Whitney, director of the GPS Directorate within the Space and Missile Systems Center at U.S. Air Force Space Command, which manages and maintains the nation’s GPS capabilities. “The constellation provides a minimum of four satellites in view from any given place on the surface of the Earth to deliver sub-meter positioning accuracy to military and civil users worldwide.”

GPS provides more than positioning— it is essential for positioning, navigation, and timing, or PNT. Communities across the globe rely on PNT, according to Capt. Dana Goward (Ret.), the U.S. Coast Guard’s former director of marine transportation systems. This speaks to PNT’s remarkable influence, he said—but also to its increasing vulnerability, which stems from a reliance on GPS as the “be all, end all” of PNT systems.

“An extended GPS outage could quickly pose a near-existential threat for America,” predicted Goward, who is also executive director and president of the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation and a member of the National Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Advisory Board. “PNT is really, really important, and we should have as many sources of it as we need and can use.”

Thanks to the GEOINT Revolution, which is making location awareness as pervasive as it is powerful, worldwide efforts are underway to provide exactly that: more and better sources of PNT that will work in tandem with GPS to preserve the capabilities on which humanity has come to rely.

Overnight Change, Decades in the Making

Like many other technologies that emerged from the Space Race, the world can thank the Cold War for GPS. When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, American scientists discovered the radio signals transmitted by the world’s first satellite grew stronger as it approached their receivers and weaker as it passed. The scientists theorized that one could determine the location of a receiver by measuring its distance from satellites overhead, which could be calculated based on the speed at which the signals arrived.

So was born the premise for GPS. Receivers such as the ones found in smartphones and vehicle navigation systems “listen” for signals from the nearest GPS satellites, each of which includes a timestamp generated by an atomic clock on board the satellite and a celestial location uploaded by monitor stations tracking its position from the ground. Upon receiving the signals—signals from four different satellites are needed to deliver accurate positioning—receivers note the satellites’ locations then calculate their relative distance from each by comparing the time at which the signals were sent and received. By plugging the distances into a basic geometric formula, receivers approximate their location on a map.

“Each GPS satellite is transmitting a time signal, and that’s all it really is—a very precise, well synchronized time signal,” Goward explained.

Although the concept of GPS seems simple, it took the U.S. military more than 30 years to develop it, starting in 1959, when the U.S. Navy built the first satellite navigation system to locate submarines, and culminating in 1995, when the first GPS constellation was declared fully operational.

“It’s important to remember that GPS is a U.S. military program that was developed to provide positioning to units in theater,” said Dr. John Janis, a senior systems engineer at Harris Corp., which supplies the navigation payload for all GPS satellites. “When [GPS] was first envisioned and developed, there was never any conception that it would become as integrated into every facet of our lives as it is today.”

Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton ensured that it did. When an errant airliner was shot down in Russian airspace in 1983, Reagan recognized the potential safety benefits for commercial aviation and issued an executive order allowing civilian use of GPS signals in advance of the system’s completion. The military degraded those signals for national security purposes until 2000, when Clinton ordered the Department of Defense (DoD) to end the practice known as “Selective Availability.”

“In plain English, we are unscrambling the GPS signal,” said Dr. Neal Lane, Clinton’s science advisor, during the 2000 press conference. “It’s rare that someone can press a button and make something you own instantly more valuable, but that’s exactly what’s going to happen today. All the people who bought a GPS receiver for a boat or a car … are going to find that they’re suddenly 10 times more accurate as of midnight tonight.”

Unrealized Ubiquity

When the U.S. turned off Selective Availability, the commercial sector began exploiting the new, more accurate GPS signals to develop everything from in-car navigation systems to “assisted GPS” technology integrating GPS into cellphones.

“Now, GPS is everywhere. It’s a ubiquitous concept,” said Dr. Mark Petovello, a professor of geomatics engineering at the University of Calgary, where he studies PNT as a member of the university’s Position, Location, and Navigation (PLAN) research group. “It ’s become a critical component of our society—especially with mobile phones, which in many respects are walking positioning engines.”

Petovello said his students illustrate the ubiquity of GPS. They use their cars’ navigation systems to find the fastest route to school and work, and to find the nearest Starbucks on their way to class. They use wearable devices to calculate the distance of their morning run. They use their laptops to track textbooks ordered from Amazon. And they use their smartphones to request rides home from parties or find eligible dates in the dormitory next door.

All of that leverages GPS for positioning and navigation. What neither college students nor the general public realize, however, is they also rely on GPS for exquisite timing.

“Timing happens largely without us knowing it, but it’s equally ubiquitous,” Petovello said.

A GPS-guided Joint Precision Air Drop System (JPADS) 2K parachute flies to its ground target. The U.S. Army is testing visually-aided navigation systems for JPADS use in GPS-denied environments such as canyons and cities. Photo Courtesy of NSRDEC

Timing begins with the nation’s power grid, which leverages GPS timestamps on diagnostic data to prevent and resolve power outages using root cause analysis.

“GPS signals are used to synchronize power substations across the country to make sure the grid is functioning properly,” Janis explained. “Each of these power stations has specialized receivers that require accuracy on the order of milliseconds, which they get from … GPS.”

Cellphone networks also depend on GPS to operate cell towers, which are synchronized using precision time signals so phones can find available frequencies on which to conduct their calls without interference or overlap. The same principle applies to computer networks, including the internet, which uses synchronized timestamps to regulate the flow of information from one computer to another. Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses GPS to synchronize hazardous weather reporting, seismic researchers use it to monitor earthquake threats, and Hollywood studios employ it for the movie slates that help filmmakers synchronize on-screen audio and video.

Even the global financial system is powered by GPS.

“There are 250 million trades a second on the New York Stock Exchange,” Goward said. “How are they sure they’re buying and selling in the sequence in which orders are received? Well, all of that is time stamped using GPS.”

Imminent Interference

It’s easy to imagine the consequences of a large-scale GPS failure. Unfortunately, the risk isn’t merely imagined.

“The potential threats to the GPS constellation are vast and very real, ranging from physical attack [to] cyber-attack and signal interference or jamming,” Whitney said.

Mother Nature is one of the most innocuous threats, but also one of the most probable. “In the last 10 years solar flares have caused several outages of GPS for 10 to 14 minutes,” said Goward, noting the most recent outage occurred in 2014 and caused some ships to lose their way. “That’s because during a solar flare the ionosphere is disturbed and GPS’s very faint signals were unable to get through… If there was a solar flare large enough, it could fry our satellites and most of our ground electronics.”

Collisions with manmade space debris or enemy attacks could also disable GPS satellites.

“The Chinese, North Koreans, and Russians all have the capability to launch weapons and interfere with satellites in space,” Goward continued. “Of course, they depend on GPS almost as much as we do, so they’d be cutting off their noses to spite their faces. But the Department of Defense thinks it’s a serious enough threat that it [plans to spend] $5 billion over the next five years to protect our national security space assets.”

An attack on GPS satellites may never occur, but attacks on GPS signals aren’t uncommon. In 2011, for instance, Iran spoofed—or faked—GPS signals to redirect and capture an American surveillance UAV from Afghanistan. A year later, North Korea successfully jammed GPS in South Korea, an attack strategy Russia is currently replicating in Ukraine.

“When a satellite is 12,000 miles away from a receiver and has limited power generation capabilities, as GPS does, it’s very easy to disrupt that signal, ” Janis said.

Low signal strength makes GPS vulnerable for yet another reason—even when satellites and signals go unharmed, the system often cannot function in indoor, urban, or other environments that lack “line of sight ” access to multiple satellites.

“The amount of power you get from a GPS satellite is roughly equivalent to the amount of light one of your eyes gets from a 100-watt light bulb about 1,500 kilometers away,” Petovello said. “That amount of power is very small, yet you’re trying to do quite a lot with it. As soon as you go into an urban canyon, underneath a tree, or inside a building, that power drops by another factor of 10, 100, 1,000, or more.”

PNT Pinch Hitters

These gaps and vulnerabilities leave little doubt that the world needs more than one PNT system.

“It’s important to have GPS backups,” attested Petovello, who said efforts to augment GPS generally fall into one of two camps. “The first camp is looking at complete backups to the system in case GPS were to completely fail … The other camp is looking at systems that complement GPS in places where it doesn’t work very reliably.”

President George W. Bush led the first camp’s charge in 2004 when he established the National Space-Based PNT Executive Committee (EXCOM) to oversee creation of a GPS backup. Led by the U.S. Departments of Transportation (DoT) and Homeland Security (DHS), the interagency committee in 2008 recommended the U.S. designate as its official “Plan B” a long-range marine navigation system known as eLoran.

The U.S. has been leveraging Loran technology—which uses land-based beacons to emit low-frequency radio signals to receivers for the purpose of positioning—since 1945, when the Navy deployed a Loran system to assist with marine navigation. The system ’s first iteration, Loran-A, included 72 Loran stations and as many as 75,000 receivers. Engineers continued to improve the technology to make it more effective, accurate, and affordable. The most successful version, Loran-C, was operational in the U.S. from 1957 until 2009, when the Obama Administration declared Loran technology obsolete and instructed the Coast Guard to dismantle the country’s network of 24 Loran-C stations, which it did in 2011.

“Loran provides similar services to, but is very different in its physical characteristics from GPS,” explained Goward, who noted that nine other nations still operate Loran systems, including Russia and China. “While GPS is in space, Loran is tower-based on Earth. While GPS has a very weak signal, Loran has a very powerful signal. While GPS transmits at a very high frequency, Loran transmits at a very low frequency.”

Most GPS satellites on orbit have surpassed operational design life, and users are demanding more advanced capabilities. To sustain and modernize the constellation, the U.S. Air Force is developing the next generation satellite system, GPS III. Image Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Although Loran is still considered inferior to GPS for most applications, the eLoran system proposed by EXCOM—the “e” stands for “enhanced—represents an improvement over Loran-C in several respects, according to Goward. For one, eLoran offers improved accuracy, availability, and stability for positioning. Secondly, it provides the same synchronized precision-timing capabilities as GPS; the system proposed by EXCOM would deliver GPS-like timing signals to receivers from 19 towers across the country, each with a range of approximately 1,000 miles and the ability to penetrate indoors, underground, and even underwater.

Although DoT and DHS said as recently as December 2015 that EXCOM remains committed to building an eLoran system, Nunzio Gambale doesn’t believe that’s the answer. Even the “enhanced” version is too expensive, too cumbersome, and not accurate enough, he said. Instead, his company, Australia-based Locata, has created a radio location system that mimics GPS on the ground. Rather than a space-based network of satellites, the system employs a terrestrial network of VHS-sized transceivers known as “LocataLites,” which emit signals with centimeter-level location accuracy.

“GPS is a synchronous network of transmitters … our devices mesh to become a synchronous network of transmitters,” explained Gambale, Locata’s co-founder. “Functionally, they provide the same capability.”

To maintain synchronous timing, GPS satellites rely on atomic clocks that synch with a master clock on the ground as they orbit overhead. Such clocks aren’t just sophisticated—they’re expensive. To mimic GPS timing capability, LocataLites are outfitted with timing chips that synchronize with each other rather than an external time source. The result is a continuous feedback loop wherein each transceiver adjusts its outgoing signals to reflect the timing of its incoming signals. Although they’re not as precise as GPS, the signals are equally synchronous and infinitely more affordable, which makes them ideal for backing up or complementing GPS at a local or regional level.

“Locata gives you everything about GPS except the ‘G,’” explained Gambale, who likens GPS to Swiss cheese—Locata, he said, fills the holes. At Australia’s Boddington Gold Mine, for example, LocataLites provide positioning in deep pits and against high walls where GPS signals are blocked. “Locata is to GPS what Wi-Fi is to the cellphone system. It’s what you would invent if you wanted to have GPS for a business instead of GPS with a global military imperative.”

Eventually, Gambale envisions a nationwide infrastructure of LocataLites.

“There are 1.8 million cellphone towers in America alone,” he mused.

“If you put a LocataLite on every one of those cellphone towers … you’d have a backup to GPS.”

Another GPS backup concept uses localized sensors such as video. Draper Laboratory is betting on vision-aided navigation software called Lost Robot. Building on prior work in image-based absolute localization (IBAL), Lost Robot is being tested by the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) for potential inclusion in the Army’s Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS).

“IBAL uses a camera to correlate objects seen by the camera against pre-loaded images. By correlating what the camera sees with what was expected to be seen, and taking advantage of some ancillary sensors, an absolute navigation reference is produced,” explained Chris Bessette, Draper’s JPADS program manager. “Using very coarse initial navigation knowledge, along with observed and stored imagery, Lost Robot can determine its absolute position.”

Lost Robot won’t work on featureless terrain, like water or snow, but elsewhere the camera can register landmarks such as trees, rocks, and pavement, then surmise its positioning and navigation by comparing live visuals to pre-loaded maps and imagery.

It’s a needed capability for a program such as JPADS, which uses GPS and steerable parachutes to airdrop equipment and supplies to soldiers in remote, adverse terrain where GPS is often jammed or inoperative.

“GPS is our primary navigation system, but we need redundancy to be able to handle certain environments that GPS may not be particularly well-suited for,” said Gary Thibault, cargo air delivery team leader for product manager force sustainment systems at NSRDEC. “Vision-aided navigation is intriguing because it’s something we as humans use every day.”

Satellites’ Staying Power

Along with vision-aided navigation, scientists are exploring inertial navigation systems that use motion sensors to determine positioning and orientation relative to a known starting point, as well as quantum compasses that could one day determine location by comparing the effects of gravity on cooled atoms with a gravitational map of the Earth. However, experts agree the most reliable PNT system remains a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) such as GPS.

“I don’t see GNSS going away anytime soon,” Petovello said. “There are other technologies out there—vision, inertial, and so on—that are quite good and maturing all the time, but … they provide relative instead of absolute position. For that reason, a GNSS component is still going to be very important.”

Therefore, as policymakers and scientists debate the merits of eLoran, LocataLites, and vision-aided navigation, the U.S. Air Force is doubling down on GPS with a new constellation of GPS satellites known as GPS III, the first three of which are scheduled for launch in 2018.

“GPS is the world’s global utility and our systems are the ‘gold standard’ for positioning, navigation, and timing services reaching over 4 billion users worldwide,” Whitney said. “The Air Force is actively engaged in a modernization effort to provide better, more secure capability.”

GPS III satellites will be more powerful, more secure, and have a longer life than previous iterations. According to Lockheed Martin, which is building the first eight GPS III satellites, the systems will transmit signals three times more accurate than current capabilities, provide military users up to eight times more effective anti-jamming capabilities, and have a 25 percent longer lifespan.

GPS III satellites will also host a new civil signal that will make them interoperable with international GNSS, which are poised to play a growing role in the PNT ecosystem.

“In the next decade, you’ll see a proliferation of many different constellations, whereas until now it’s really only been GPS that’s been available,” Janis said.

International constellations include Russia’s Global Orbiting Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS), which was fully restored in 2011 following years of neglect; India’s Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), which completed its seven-satellite constellation in March; Europe’s Galileo, which will begin offering initial services this year; China’s BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, which is partially operational now and along with Galileo will be fully operational in 2020; and Japan’s Quasi Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), which will be fully operational in 2018.

“GPS is a military system; governments in different countries want their own systems because they don’t want the United States to have the power to shut off their navigation signals,” Janis continued. “But there are advantages for the user, too.”

Those advantages are apparent in commitments by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the Air Force, and others to support development of a universal GNSS receiver.

“There is an international effort to become interoperable with [other] systems,” explained NGA Senior Scientist for Geodesy and Geophysics Stephen Malys. “It is another way to mitigate some of the concerns about vulnerability. Because if you have a GNSS receiver—as opposed to just a GPS receiver—that is receiving signals from all those systems, you ’re somewhat protected … If one system goes down, you still may have usable signals from the other systems.”

Redundancy isn’t the only benefit of international systems.

“As you add more satellites, you increase the availability of signals when you start going into places like urban canyons,” Petovello said. “More importantly, your ability to compute a solution more accurately also improves.”

A PNT-Powered Future

Near-term efforts to update GPS with new satellites and augment it with alternative constellations will go a long way toward preserving capabilities and addressing vulnerabilities. To fully secure a PNT-powered future, however, long-term challenges must be addressed.

The first step is naming a federal executive agent in charge of PNT, according to Gowan, pointing to a bill introduced by Congress last year—the National Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Resilience and Security Act of 2015—nominating DoD as that agent.

“Everybody agrees we need a complementary and backup system to GPS as part of the nation’s PNT architecture, but it’s nobody ’s job to get it done,” Gowan said. “The senior leadership needs to recognize the problem and put one department in charge to lead the effort with other agencies and departments helping.”

More fundamentally, the nation needs a new PNT workforce, according to Malys.

“In our community at large, GPS is taken for granted,” Malys said. “People assume it’s always going to be there. We do not have thousands of people here at NGA who work directly with GPS. We have a small cadre of people who are working with it closely, and not enough in my opinion.”

Malys added, NGA is trying to raise PNT awareness with efforts such as “Time and Navigation,” a PNT exhibit the agency introduced in 2013 at the Smithsonian Institution ’s National Air and Space Museum. “We’re trying to motivate young people to develop an interest in PNT.”

Malys remains confident the nation will solve its PNT problems, but traditional navigation artforms must not be forgotten: In 2015, the U.S. Naval Academy announced it was going the way of the Vikings by reinstating celestial navigation classes after axing them from its curriculum more than 15 years ago.

“It is a core competency of a mariner,” U.S. Naval Academy Director of Professional Development Cmdr. Adan Cruz said in the Navy ’s announcement. “If we can navigate using celestial navigation, then we can always safely get from point A to point B.”

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Inside Game http://trajectorymagazine.com/inside-game/ http://trajectorymagazine.com/inside-game/#respond Mon, 02 Nov 2015 16:02:19 +0000 Indoor wayfinding brings location awareness in from the elements

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GEOINT may seem ubiquitous, but there’s at least one place its long arms have yet to fully reach: indoors.

Whether you’re driving through the desert in an MRAP or across town in a Prius, you can use the GPS in your vehicle to access turn-by-turn navigation. When you’re out and about, you can use your smartphone’s location-based apps and services to find the nearest gas station, grocery store, or coffee shop. You can even use location technology to find the nearest eligible single for a date. When you step indoors, however—inside a hotel, hospital, shopping mall, museum, or convention center, for example—your signal fades. Or sometimes disappears altogether.

That’s because GPS is a line-of-sight technology. To work most effectively, it needs a clear path from your device on the ground to a satellite in the sky. Pesky things like walls, floors, and roofs make it a challenge to find an unobstructed patch of sky. And because humans spend approximately 89 percent of their time indoors, there’s a huge potential market for those seeking to solve this challenge. Indoor wayfinding technology eschews the skies for ground-based technology that delivers the same location awareness indoors as GPS delivers outdoors. So finding your way from one booth to another inside a convention center or navigating to a certain store within a large shopping mall is now as simple as getting driving directions to those buildings.

First Try: Wireless

Indoor wayfinding dates back more than a decade. Recognizing the indoor limitations of GPS, early Wi-Fi vendors hypothesized that wireless internet could be leveraged for indoor positioning. When consumers connected their device to a wireless network, the thinking went, the network could use the strength of their wireless signal relative to various access points to determine the user’s location inside a building and report it back to them for indoor navigation. There was just one problem: Early adopters discovered Wi-Fi location technology is imprecise, slow, and unreliable. It can tell consumers roughly where they are, but not precisely, resulting in plenty of “way” but very little “finding.” Lacking a high-quality user experience, the much-hyped technology stalled.

A Beacon of Hope

Indoor wayfinding reached an inflection point in 2013 when Apple introduced its iBeacon standard, begetting a new class of indoor location hardware called “beacons.” Made by companies such as Aruba Networks, among others, beacons determine location by leveraging the connection between consumers’ mobile devices and on-premises access points. Rather than Wi-Fi signals, however, battery-powered beacons emit Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals—radio waves that require very little smartphone power—to transmit a location signal with sub-meter accuracy. When mobile apps and operating systems in the proximity receive a BLE signal, devices can register a location or trigger a location-based activity, such as a social media check-in or push notification. As the number of beacons inside a facility increases, so does the accuracy and breadth of location services. Combining beacons with other technologies can therefore further enhance their performance. Boston-based ByteLight, for example, combines beacons with visible light communication (VLC) inside LED lighting systems. Coupled with Bluetooth signals, VLC emits a unique lighting pattern that can be registered through smartphone cameras. Using both signals in tandem, consumers’ devices send their location and direction of movement to the ByteLight platform, and in turn receive location-based services through a mobile app.

Room to Improve

Beacons represent a huge improvement over Wi-Fi-enabled indoor wayfinding. They’re not perfect, however, leaving room for advances in accuracy and speed. Battery life is another concern, with many beacon batteries lasting less than a year. Finally, facilities must consider security—both the beacons themselves and the data they collect are vulnerable to theft—and cost: The time and money needed to configure, deploy, and maintain beacons can add up quickly.

Way More Than Wayfinding

App developers such as Meridian are leveraging beacons to help department store customers find the women’s shoe department, stadium-goers find the bathroom, family members find their loved one’s hospital room, and air travelers find their gate. Indoor wayfinding’s “killer app,” however, will likely be far more evolved than indoor navigation alone. Already, for example, beacons are used by retailers to send coupons when customers pass or linger at a certain product, by hotels to automatically check in guests upon arrival, and at tourist attractions to send visitors on self-guided explorations. A Google project known as Project Tango, which endeavors to “give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion,” offers a glimpse of what’s next. By combining indoor wayfinding with augmented reality, motion tracking, and environmental sensors, the project aims to provide real-time, 3D contextual information—without GPS, Wi-Fi, or even beacons. One day, for instance, Tango-equipped smartphones may be able to help the visually impaired navigate by “seeing” obstacles in front of them. Homeowners could use the technology to instantly capture dimensions of a room before shopping for furniture as well as to model how the room would look with the furniture in it. Miniature unmanned aerial vehicles outfitted with Tango could even help emergency responders determine the layout and contents of a burning building, then locate and rescue occupants trapped inside. The possibilities have no boundaries—even though the buildings do.

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