Post-Bellagio Catharsis #1 – GPS as Morse Code?

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A week at the Villa Serebelloni in Bellagio, Italy does lead to excellent ideas. One that I wanted to put out on the internet as soon as possible is to use GPS as a signalling system.

Most smartphones now come equipped with GPS, to support applications like Google Maps and Open Street Map.
It would be interesting to see if GPS can be used as a signalling system, with GPS on=1 and GPS off=0.

This would be particularly useful for disaster situations or for personal emergencies. Since GPS is usually always available irrespective of WiFi or GSM or other provider network, it seems like the most reliable place to look.

Maybe Google Latitude can include an “Emergency Ping” over GPS, where if they receive a particular pattern of bits from the GPS on/off method, they send an email alert to all the persons friends on Latitude. Now THAT is a Google service I would probably be willing to see ads in order to have.

This needs to be technically validated though, so will add detail to this post and if anyone else wants to validate or implement and talk about it…here’s a good place to start!

1 comment for “Post-Bellagio Catharsis #1 – GPS as Morse Code?

  1. aditya vashishtha
    October 16, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Here is a preliminary analysis:

    Challenges in this approach:
    – Majority of people don’t have GPS devices. This is particularly true in case of developing world
    – In order for GPS to work, clear sky is needed. It implies that it cannot be used in case of disasters like tornado, flood etc.
    – GPS cannot be used near tall buildings. hence, the utility of a GPS based technology is further restricted.
    – It is not cheap (at least 100 USD). Of course it’s not expensive either.
    – Because it’s just 1 bit (0 or 1) very limited information can be conveyed. 1 => I am safe. 0 => I need help.

    But this is a show stopper for me: Even if GPS (on a mobile device or GPS on cars) is ON, there is no way by which you can monitor which device is ON or OFF. This is because most of the GPS devices are just receivers. They do not have transmitting capabilities.

    It’s a different story if you use a GPS transmitter. But very few people have GPS tx so it can’t be used in case of a disaster recovery scenario.

    This is based on a very quick search and I may be wrong. Thanks!

    Aditya Vashishtha

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