Monday, August 14

Piecing together a mystery with GPS

huntmap_2The short story. Disoriented runner finds himself running on wrong road, with cuts, scratches and dirt on himself, uses info from his heart rate monitor / GPS unit and a route sharing website to piece together the details of what happened. GPS reveals that he passed out for more than five minutes and after coming to proceeded to run not only on the wrong road but in the wrong direction before returning to his senses

I was coming back from what felt like a typical morning run, although I felt unusually tired, which I attributed to the heat and humidity of Virginia. Having traveled from Connecticut two days before, I was still not properly acclimated, but I thought I could complete my weekly long run by starting early, carrying plenty of water, and stopping frequently for walk breaks. Coming home, I broke my pace and faced three questions that surfaced over a period of several minutes:

Why do I have cuts on my hands and arms?
Why is there a fine layer of dirt in my mouth and in my hair?
Why am I running along Route 50, a major road that I usually only cross?

Overview: MB Provides clues to fainting spell

Quote and comple first person account from: Garmin Blog: YOU Take US There, Week 9

My two cents: I guess why this story interests me is because I'm interested in the future potentials of GPS data... geo-tagging photos, bike & running route sharing, geo-caching, censensus built trail mapping, a potential new kind of racing... where one races against otheres on the same route though months may pass in between... and then there's this. The potential of our technology to safe guard us... location awareness phones for children, the so-called child low-jack systems, and to piece together histories, help us when we're lost. I guess you can say that we've barely just begun to scratch the surface of what GPS can do and as it becomes more pervasive a whole world of possibilities will open up, many of which we have yet to even identify.

One thing is clear though. I think what has made GPS take off so well among enthusiasts is that unlike some other new technologies the individual maintains full control over how they disclose and use such data. Meanwhile technologies like I-Pass, location aware cell phones, RFID, other technologies have serious personal trust and security issues. In many ways the use of personal GPS technology has mirrored social phenom like blogging, wikis/wikipedia, photosharing, podcasting and video blogging. All this goes to say if you empower the individual and give them the choice to put their best foot forward not only will they embrace the tech, but they'll be amazingly forthcoming and liberal in what and how they share. Not only is a much more secure model to give liberty than to automatically aggregate it, but it also has the net affect of creating much more positive, creative, collarborative and rapidly developing environment.

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