My Auckland Commute to Work

Do you ever think back to how things used to be? Auckland motorways used to be known as the car park. My commute on the North Shore is so easy these days, thanks to the awesome travel information we have at our fingertips and some awesome transport planning by Auckland Transport and the NZ Transport Agency.

Britomart Station“You have no scheduled appointments today”, the display on my mobile says. “Are you going to work?”

I speak to it: “Yes. Audio on.”

“Travel time via the motorway is 67 minutes. Travel time via Public Transport is 23 minutes if you leave now.”

“Travel time in 30 minutes?”

“Estimated travel time in 30 minutes via motorway is 82 minutes or 27 minutes via Public Transport. Would you like me to book a car park at the Long Bay satellite Park & Ride?”

“Yes, please.”

“Your car park at Long Bay Beach Park & Ride is number 118.”

As I get into my car, it says “Mobile connected, confirm navigate to Park 118 at Long Bay Beach.”

“Yes, confirmed.”

“Turn right in 200 meters car park is on the right……You have arrived. Buses to the Albany train station are available every 5 minutes.”

“The next train is full, another train is arriving in 5 minutes, seat 15A reserved, use your Hop Card for a free coffee while you wait. Confirm flat white no sugar.”

“You have 3 VIP emails. Read?”

“Yes, audio off.”

I smile as the train races past the cars on the motorway, still a little impressed that it is flowing as well as it is given that Auckland’s population has increased by 250,000 in the last 4 years.

Poor GPS Map Data on Aftermarket HUD Car Nav Devices Turns Heads

New aftermarket GPS car nav units have been blamed for a spate of car accidents due to inaccurate map data. The wave of new aftermarket HUD (Heads Up Display) aftermarket car navigation devices over the last few years were ,et with much enthusiasm. Being able to purchase devices like the Garmin HUD (How did they manage to get that as a brand name?) that launched in 2013 for under $200 bundled with a nav unit or $150 on its own, made it the next car enthusiasts must have device (toy). 

With in car options (admittedly including in-car entertainment, climate control, car computer etc) adding an easy $2,000 to the bill for people who could afford a new car, a solution that cost that can go into virtually any car was a great starter for 10%.

Touted as being much safer than in dash systems because you don’t have to take your eyes off the road, it appears to have unwittingly revealed a much more critical situation that has caused stress and confusion and has allegedly resulted in accidents and assertions of liability being placed on the manufacturers of the nav systems.

The reason is that in many cases the map data is either out of date or inaccurate. This means that the driver is seeing both the road in front of them through the windscreen as well as a laser image representation of the road from the HUD. When these do not match and the driver is in a relaxed frame of mind (partly due to confidence in the GPS car nav data) confusion may arise. For example driving late at night or on a foggy morning on a country road with poor visibility and the nav displays a sharp turn (but the road has been realigned) could result in a nasty accident. Urban roads (such as Wellington in New Zealand) where one-way streets were changed to run in the opposite direction are another classic example.

Psychologist John Doe from Lost Highway University said “When drivers used traditional in-dash car nav devices, they relied mostly on auditory instructions, glancing at the nav unit from time to time to confirm the details, but then interpreted the information and commands based on what they were seeing. This meant that if there was a discrepancy in the directions, common sense usually prevailed and they would act on what they actually saw through the windscreen. Since large numbers of people started using HUD systems, they mentally merged the heads up data with what they saw through the windscreen and when they contradicted each other, this caused confusion and stress. It only takes momentary confusion at 50 miles per hour to find themselves in an accident situation,” he explained.

The more sophisticated units such as the Pioneer system released 2013 in the video below, do have some advantages over the cheaper units because they also include character recognition of outside objects such as speed signs. This means that if the car navigation database says the speed is 50 mph but the sign on the road says 30 mph, the navigation instructions will give higher credence to the physical roadside sign.

John Doe went on say that many car nav companies have managed to get their prices very low by purchasing cheap car navigation data and not updating them as often. People accepted that for a low price, they weren’t going to get high detail map updates and because the map wasn’t in their face, they were able to deal with the discrepancies.

Portable HUD car GPS manufacturers are now adding modular components to their systems including WiFi cameras and adding software to their Smartphones and Portable Car GPS devices including character recognition, distance and speed of the car in front and connection to in car entertainment such as streaming audio. Legislators are now looking at enforcement of restrictions, ensuring that drivers can only see car control related information on the HUD, ensuring they can’t be distracted by videos. email messages etc which can also technically be displayed on the screen whilst driving.

Facebook Goggle Phone Is Better Than I Thought

Facebook has joined the fray with not just AR Goggles, but the Goggles are the phone and its quite cool.

When Vodafone  gave me the glasses to review, my first reaction was, to be honest, pretty much, whatever. It reminded me of way back, maybe 2010 when I was presenting at a conference at Auckland University and Telecom announced the Bebo phone. I don’t know how many they actually sold, but I doubt there were more than a hundred. Bebo Phone

Then in Barcelona 2014 Facebook launched a mobile of their own. It wasn’t spectacular and I thought they would give up at that point, realizing that whilst most people used Facebook, that didn’t mean that it was the number one communication tool in their lives or that they wanted FB getting too much private information about them, not that they hadn’t already been doing that with Google for most of their lives.

Through Facebook Goggles

Through Facebook Goggles

Anyway, I took them to a SMCAKL event to try them out. Social Media Club Auckland now provides a live list of who is attending via their Facebook page.

Using the Goggles plugin I identified the people I want to meet up with from the list. I was also able to send them a notification that I was going to be there and was keen to have a chat.

Sure enough, just like the AR in Daniel Suarez‘s prophetic books  Daemon and Freedom, I was able to see the names of the people I wanted to see, above them in the crowd, which was very cool. I was also able to see the names and profiles of virtually every person in the room.

Everyone wanted to try them on and it was a couple of hours after the event closed that Vodafone pushed me and a last few Facebook Goggle fans out of the door.

As to the smartphone functionality, it is pretty well featured. I am now one of those people who are constantly looking up into the corners of my eyes as though I have a nervous twitch and am waving  my hands in the air like a New York Italian singing the praises of the veal at my favorite deli. Of course it won’t be long before you are doing that too.

Police Look Into Fake Google Glasses

Police are struggling to enforce the new law banning wearing Google Glasses whilst driving a motor vehicle according to spokesperson AR Seymour. “From a distance many of today’s Augmented Reality glasses are indistinguishable from normal eye-wear. This has been compounded”, he said “by the many cheap knock-off’s that young people are wearing today that look like AR glasses with a HUD (Heads Up Display, but are in fact just plain plastic imitations.” 

There have been suggestions that a driver mode be enforced, which only allows certain functionality, such as GPS car navigation, however there appears to be no way to police this. Google has suggested adding functionality that allows the glasses to check whether there is a steering wheel in front of the driver or not and if there is, automatically put it into driver mode. Hackers are already saying that if this is done, they will develop jailbreaks for this functionality.

Meanwhile there have been more and more motor accidents occurring due to distraction by drivers, including many involving pedestrians, often the fault is in fact the pedestrian not paying attention as they cross busy roads. This technology is very exciting and unstoppable and authorities are holding meetings with Google and others to explore possible solutions.

Hundreds more bars, Government Departments and workplaces have followed the example of The 5 Point in Seattle in banning Google Glasses, as an invasion of privacy.

Google Glasses Separation Syndrome

Google Glasses and dozens of other brands of Augmented Reality goggles hit the road running for Christmas 2013 and over the next couple of years AR applications went from Wow to business as usual. Today people look at you sideways in many cities if you aren’t wearing glasses. But there has been a downside.  People can’t bear to be without them.

 Not that long ago people had separation anxiety when they didn’t have their mobile with them, then their smartphone. Now its their AR glasses. Hospitals and A&R clinics are reporting many people are presenting with a feeling of vertigo with some patients reporting in an almost psychotic state, saying they feel they have been detached from the real world.

Others are describing the real world without AR glasses as flat, 2 dimensional, when they don’t have access to features they take for granted such as information about locations, deals, games and access to their friends via social media, the ability to take pictures or view them. Many find it difficult to function because they now rely on their glasses to tell them everything from the names of people they ‘know’ through facial recognition (including information on their last point of contact, meeting, email) to public transport timetables or driving directions. They no  longer seem to have the ability to cope without this information beaming onto their eyeballs. The are unable to make decisions and are so used to large volumes of information at their fingertips that they are suffering from sensory deprivation with their eye-wear.

Insurance companies who have benefited from knowing much more about their clients, have been caught by surprise and won’t pay out on claims until the Syndrome has been recognised as an official condition and because they AR glasses are now a way of life, no one really has answers on what to do next.

Are domestic Robots Spying on You?

Back in 2012 an article featured widely in the press, quoting the CIA Director David Petraeus saying “We’ll spy on you through your fridge”.  The article talked about the Internet of Things, which effectively meant that various devices in our homes would be connected to the Internet. The result of this would be that organisations like the CIA could potentially get a wealth of information about what is going on in people’s homes and workplaces, without having to break and enter in order to install cameras and other ‘spy’ technology.

Most people weren’t even aware at the time that they were actively and publicly investing in  hi-tech start-ups and developers through their investment company In-Q-Tel. Great that they are though, because it offers the opportunity for a lot of new technology to be developed for all to benefit from. A huge number of the technologies that we ‘enjoy’ today were the result of World War II and the space race. For example IBM built a computer in 1944 funded by the US military which needed a large scale automatic calculator that could rapidly perform an enormous number of ballistic calculations. You wouldn’t be reading this blog if it weren’t for the transformation of the world brought about through computing and communications technologies.

domestic-robot-lawn-mowerToday we have technology in the home that talks to our mobiles and allows us to automatically replenish our pantries, control the home climate, see who is on our doorstep and if appropriate let them in, even if we aren’t home.

I used to hate lawn mowing, but now it is a breeze.

VacuumThe vacuum cleaning is now done while we are out of the house so I don’t have to listen to that horrible sound and it even empties itself.

Many people in Korea and Japan  have had domestic robots doing their chores for many years and countries like the US are following at a rapid pace.

Most of these devices are manufactured in Asia and there are now concerns that these devices, which use cameras to understand their surroundings in order to be able to function, are transmitting this data to sources other than those required in order to ensure they are functioning correctly and have the latest firmware updates. Stories have started to come out in recent times that not only are our domestic agencies able to see what is going on in our homes, it may be that foreign powers from the countries where they are being manufactured also have that capability.

Have countries like Korea and China created Trojan Horses that we have joyfully invited into our homes? What are the implications of this? I’d welcome your comments? I’ve always been into gadgets and I love my connected home which allows me to focus my time on things that I want to do, rather than have to do and I doubt I am of interest to anyone. But what about the homes of politicians, industry leaders and those who may have something to hide?

Vodafone Phases Out Telephone Numbers

Vodafone has announced that phone numbers will no longer be necessary for mobile subscribers in New Zealand. New and existing subscribers who do not run POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) landlines will from next week have the option of not having a phone number, they will be able to use their own name or a pseudonym username.

7aselectorA spokesperson for Vodafone explained in a brief media Telephony 101 presentation that the concept of phone numbers has evolved from the early days when telephone exchange operators used to manually connect phones. Exchanges automated this process with rotary exchanges with technology such as in this image which is the technology that many New Zealand exchanges such as Wellesley Street in Auckland, where a relay tripped to select each number, then routed the call through to exchanges where typically the first two numbers represented the exchange area. For example Ponsonby numbers all started with 76 and Howick numbers with 83. Over the years this technology became computerised and with number portability the number no longer had to relate to a specific location in the country.

Over the last few years the majority of people communicate with VoIP and numbers have largely become irrelevant. Emergency numbers will remain indefinitely for a number of reasons, but with most people having Unified Communications across their various mobile devices and appliances there just is no reason to maintain an antiquated system. People may continue to use a number if they wish, according to a spokesperson from TUANZ, in support of the baby boomers who are still a large number of people who may no longer have copper wires fed into telephone exchanges, but are more comfortable with the analogue concept of a number.

Crime Stats Are Tracking Way Down with GPS Anklets

Philip K Dick would be shouting warnings from the rooftops if he was still in the matrix, but you can’t argue with the numbers. Since GPS anklets became mandatory for all parolees national crime statistics in almost all sectors have reduced by over 25% and growing. Sure people tried covering the anklets in aluminium foil and other tricks, but as soon as the location signals stopped, the alarms were raised and the penalties for tampering are high.

Prison populations are decreasing and levels of offending from domestic violence to gang related crimes have reduced dramatically. Call centers have been established all over the country and as soon as it appears that people are not adhering to their parole conditions, action is taken.

If someone doesn’t turn up to their job in the morning, they will get a friendly call asking if they are ok. If people come within proximity of someone they have a non consorting order against, or someone are not allowed to be near, an alarm goes off on their anklet as a warning. Initially it is just a vibration, which also sends an alert to the call center and the CRM database monitoring them in case it is an accidental situation. If they do not back off, it becomes an audible alarm and security or emergency services are called in.

In addition to many success stories where parolees have been able to start a new life through the restrictions imposed on them, those that have tried to go back to old habits have inadvertently guided police to gang locations, meth labs, car theft enterprises and other places where crimes were being committed. The criminal landscape is being mapped in such a way that police are able to predict where criminal activity is about to take place and shut it down.

Some activists are saying that the GPS anklets deprive people of their civil rights, but most people are just happy that the streets are safer to walk on. I just wish I had invested in the company that developed the anklets and the knowledge based software behind them. Now if only I could go back in time to around 2014.

Landline Caller ID With Names

Isn’t it funny how things that you take for granted services that you use on a regular basis. Remember when your land-line phone used to tell you the number that was calling you, unless they blocked it. The problem with me was that, having had mobiles for years with Caller ID, derived from my contacts list in my Smartphone, I was (and still am) useless when it came to recognising numbers. Just clicked that I called it a land-line, but of course it isn’t a POTS phone any more, its VOIP now, but it doesn’t make any difference to the store.

My mobile contact list came from the exchange server and was combined with my mobile contact list, and as I preached in my book Unleashing the Road Warrior, way back when, if I met you, your details ended up on my mobile one way or another. That way, as soon as I answered the phone I would be prepared for the conversation, whether it was friends, family or business, my mind was on track, rather than asking, Chris who? Sorry Chris, but like many Anglo Saxon names, I have 9 people called Chris in my contact list.

Recycling the old unused Phone Book

I digress. The service I wanted to mention was the way they finally linked the phone directory to all phones, which was so obvious that I wonder why they didn’t already offer that back in the early 2010’s when the White and Yellow Pages were on such a down-slide.

I would hate to go back to not knowing who was calling me any more. If it’s the accountant, a client or a friend, I know straight away who it is, whether it is for me or someone else, and from a business perspective, I can open up my CRM notes on that client as I answer the call, before they announce themselves.

I hope the new legislation comes through that requires call centres to identify their client when they are calling for fund raising too, so that I can decide whether to answer the call or not. Besides the fact that they always call when I am having dinner, I have selected my annual charities and find it hard to say no to some of them. There are certain ones I will still take and support, but I can’t support everyone.

Now the directory companies get a few dollars a month from most subscribers who opt into this service, they don’t have to print the directory books that we used to use as doorstops any more and provide a great current service. It definitely is one of those how did we ever cope without services, that could have been done years earlier if they had simply taken their mind of BAU (Business As Usual) and taken their minds of the problems of print and distribution. As a footnote, it looks like video calling is now starting to become more popular again as people know who is calling them (if they are not using Skype). The telco’s will probably increase their data revenues as a result of this move.