Calgary school buses to implement GPS tracking – Calgary Herald

Calgary parents whose children will be taking the bus to school this coming year will have a new way of knowing when their children get on or off as well as whether the bus is on time.

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My first reaction was so what, all buses should have GPS. But how many parents are there that drive their kids t school because they are anxious about where their kids are and if they are safe.

Knowing where your kids are and that they are safe is a priority for parents and one of the reasons so many drive their kids to and from school. Even knowing that they did or didn’t get on the school bus.

Much of this technology is already available, i.e, the bus company knows where the bus is, although a lot of it is not real time and more about managing bus inventory.

Could the evolution of this technology, (particularly the security risks of this information being only available to the ;parents or caregivers of each individual child, go a long way towards reducing school time traffic congestion?

Do you drive your kids to school? If yes, why?

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Hackers Can Disable a Sniper Rifle — Or Change Its Target

If a hacker attacks your TrackingPoint smart gun over its Wi-Fi connection, you may find the weapon is aiming at a different target than you think.

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Hacking has a number of different meanings. My involvement with hacking has been around events designed to share open data and allow developers and communities to mix and match data, writing code to help people develop mobile apps of value to communities. In my case, mostly using location based data.  For example the winner of the Location Innovation Awards came up with a concept to help students find the right bus, get directions to the bus stop and be shown how much time they had to get there in case they wanted a Coke and a pie on the way, or perhaps a newspaper. The runner up was an agency with a Facebook based carpooling app that much like Uber, but years earlier allowed you to see the location of the car and the car could see where you were waiting to be picked up. It also used Facebook to allow you to get a gauge on how safe you felt hopping into a car with a stranger. Secure information that they agreed to share for the one and only specific purpose of ride-sharing.

Hacking also has a malicious context about accessing data for nefarious or illegal purposes, such as the video doing the rounds on Facebook about scammers who only need to brush up against a woman’s handbag in order to steal her chip credit card details.

Another example I used in a previous blog recently, was where crooks would sniff out the remote access keys of expensive cars by being in the vicinity when the owner remotely unlocked them.

Whilst there are all sorts of security encryption protocols and tools, systems that are designed to communicate will frequently have weaknesses either because of their function (i.e. they need to be able to talk to other systems, such as autonomous cars) or because of inattention to detail in design, (poorly written code) or inattention to detail in passwords ( a study a few years ago of Scada systems, software used to run utility networks like electricity companies, were still set on ‘password’ or ‘admin’ or ‘super’. These are the original passwords that come with the software, just like the security padlock that starts with the number 0000 that you were going to get around to deciding on a code for before your trip.

This brings us into areas that are more scary. In this example a sniper rifle could be remotely controlled to shoot the person next to the target. Imagine if all cars in a grid, of a particular make and model, could have their brakes jammed on, or disabled at the same time.

We are now getting into the Internet of Things and I love the idea that I can turn on my heat pump 5 minutes before I get home, or be able to see the face of an invited guest on my smartphone who got home before I did, and using my smartphone open up the deadlock and invite them to make themselves comfortable until I got there.

I will be able to do that in future. I’m starting with my lights this year. What’s the risk? I would suggest they are proportional to the value of whatever some criminal wants to take. If it’s a Ferrari or I had a valuable work of art in my home, it’s pretty high. Don’t for a minute think criminals are all unsophisticated.

I’m not scaremongering here. I’m suggesting you make sure that you have your basics right and if you are purchasing any device with remote control or remote access that it has guaranteed very high levels of security to prevent someone ruining your day. Like this $15,000 rifle, don’t assume because it costs a lot of money, it is secure. This one probably will be a lot more secure after this story, but that’s just one thing.

The IoT (Internet of Things) is about billions of devices being able to talk to each other, and in many cases autonomously. When it comes to things like weapons and cars, both are devices with computers that can keep you safe or kill you.

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GPS Stickers Track Your Belongings : Discovery News – Discovery News

Unlike other GPS tags on the market, the TrackerPad stickers are lightweight, flexible, waterproof and stick to any object.

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When it looks to good to be true it usually is. I have to take this story at face value because while I haven’t seen the technology, it rings true. It appears to answer the questions I had, such as is this really an RFID Chip dressed up as GPS?

But reading the story, it sounds as though it is for real. The backers sure agree. A device the size of a small coin that contains a miniature GPS, a SIM card and a battery that  lasts up to 7 days is amazing.

The irony will be that by that the telemetry account annual fee from your favorite mobile operator could be 3 or 4 times the cost of the device.No wonder telcos are excited about the IoT!

The good thing is that it sounds like it will be down to a price that you will consider good value. The catch is that you will have to remember to remove each sticker once a week to charge it. If you forget, you will need to remember where you left it. If you are using it for your valuables, don’t forget that you would never want your app to be accessible by strangers, or they will be able to find your valuables too.

I come back to one of those concerns about where and when you should use these. For example if you are on a plane to Paris and you are worried your luggage might be going to Miami, that’s not a good time to be pinging your luggage to see if your luggage is on board the plane, you might find you are dropping in to see Mum and Dad s they head off home after seeing you off because your communications interfered with the fly by wire on the plane. Imagine if 100 passengers decided to do the same thing!

This is a great example of the emerging state of the Internet of Things (IoT). The price is ridiculously cheap. Invest 45 pounds in this Kickstarter solution which looks like it will easily be fully subscribed and you will get a system with 5 tracker pads! Technology I have seen in the past wouldn’t buy you one pad for that price!

If the rain don’t fall and the creek don’t rise, this is going to be a very exciting couple of years as the Internet of Things moves into the slope of enlightenment.

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Autonomous Cars: More on the Pros, Cons, and Competition

The Automated Vehicle Symposium tracks the state of the driverless vehicle, examining the pros and cons of autonomous cars.

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It’s really interesting how people can pounce on an idea and love it 100% and then defend it to the hilt. This is often the case with technology investments, cars and the value they generate. Talk to anyone who has just bought a new car, a new camera, mobile or piece of software.

I caught some snippets of news this morning on my NPR app. One of them was that the White House is getting together with large corporates who are committing to reducing climate change. I love it.

Meanwhile back in the jungle they are flat out trying to sell more cars by adding cool features. The autonomous car is a great way to get more people into cars, because you don’t even need to know how to drive, the car will do it for you and you can use it as your mobile office.

I’m surprised Bose or some other audio giant hasn’t already come up with the perfect audio environment that allows you to appreciate your favorite music in ways that you never imagined possible, in your little cocoon that puts you in the appropriate state of mind to your destination, whether that be on the way to work, sport, hoe to see the kids, or simply to have a nap. In fact even if you have nowhere to go, hop in your car and go for a drive just to listen to the latest track from your favorite artist. It’s like radio with pictures. Want some urban music, drive through the hood, want some Vivaldi, go for a country drive, you’ll love it as the only sound is those perfect strings as you drive through a park covered in fall colored leaves.

A great thought of the day at the Symposium which I’m sure will be popular, related to a reduction of the parking problem. The problem being both finding and having to pay for a park. In some areas car park pricing is being increased to stop you using them and to force you to consider other modes of transport, such as cycling or catching a bus.

Your autonomous car could drop you off at work and simply drive home, coming back to pick you up at the end of the day. Fantastic, no more parking problem!

As Philipp von Hagen from Porsche pointed out, that will double the number of trips. Imagine if a large percentage of cars take their, frequently single occupants to work, then turn around and clutter the highway, going home again to park, causing an equal amount of traffic congestion in both directions.

Interesting that they are suggesting that at the same time as the US Government is saying let’s act on climate change. These cars run on energy. Energy could be petrol or diesel, or it could be electricity. How is that electricity generated? Coal, nuclear power, is any of it it green?

So the car park problem is solved, but our cities are not designed to have a massive number of cars waiting in line to pick up their occupants.

Think about what it’s like at the end of the day when thousands of parents arrive at schools to pick up their children. They clog up roads, car parks and pretty much shut down areas such as the business park where I work, waiting for their kids to wander over from their last minute gatherings.

Now how about we have even more cars coming to pick us up from the office or workplace, all jockeying for position (no road rage of course because they are driverless). They can notify us via our smartphones when they arrive, but what if we aren’t ready? What happens to the 200 cars behind mine when I get to the bottom of the stairs (I need my exercise) and realise I have left my laptop behind and have to go back to my desk? Sorry 220 cars that are now waiting and the 220 people waiting for them, jostling to see their car, like international passengers at an airport waiting for their bag, which is identical to the one that 10 other people also own, I’ll be back in a sec.

We are in a situation with urban population growth soaring and the latest contribution in driverless cars, could be to double the number of daily trips those cars make on roads that are already congested. That’s great foresight.

Of course the car could be equipped with a microwave and the whole family could come along for the ride. Turn the front and back seats to face each other with a table in the middle and we can save time by eating our evening meal in the car while listening to our Bose sound system, playing table music. We got our family time back!

Of course there are hurdles to overcome, for example, taking four trips a day (maybe 8 if the driverless car drops off and picks up the children from school each day as well) puts extra reliance on range and if the car is electric, it might not be able to recharge in time between trips, but there is always the potential for induction charging from the motorway barriers. It could be cost effective because they won’t be going very fast. Of course someone has to pay for those, I guess that’s us, the taxpayer, because we want better transport systems.

I’m getting tired of all this. I’m going to catch a bus today. I will thank the driver for taking responsibility for my safety and catch up on a few emails. Maybe some more stories about driverless cars.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti. I love the idea of a driverless taxi (sorry cabbies), or driverless Uber. I love the idea of a driverless bus shuttle taking me to the main line. I love the driverless trains at Narita Airport. I even love the sushi in Tulsa (sorry wrong song). I just wonder sometimes if people think the whole story through.

Today there are thousands of people around the world saying “They’ve solved the parking problem. I read it in the paper, it must be true! What a relief.”

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Chrysler Recalls 1.4 Million Cars After Jeep Vulnerability Exposed

After researchers hack a Jeep Cherokee as it’s on public roads, highlighting vulnerabilities in the car, Chrysler pulls 1.4 million in to update them and protect drivers.

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Is this a case of being hoisted by their own petard? Are car manufacturers in such a hurry to meet our demands for computerization and connected cars, that they haven’t figured out all of the risks, especially when they have dozens of OEM component suppliers?

When my ‘Check Engine’ light came on in my car on Thursday, I thought “that’s strange I’ve never run low on oil before.” I drove to the nearest gas station and I still hadn’t.

I rang Torbay Service Station who look after my car and they were closed until 8AM the following morning. so I was on their doorstep on the dot next day.

Whist they were very busy, booked solid in fact and had no loan cars left, Mike the owner kindly agreed to hook his diagnostics computer into my ODB2 port (interface to the car computers) but he found nothing and said most of the 8 pages of diagnostics for my car model require that the car is driving and he didn’t have time to do a road test. He released the emergency light from the alert status and said if it came on again,I should call him or bring it straight back.

Many years ago, a company I worked for became the distributor for a new Canadian car security system and my company car was the guinea pig. The features included remote start, which makes sense for Canadian winters. That meant, from my office window, looking out over the management car-park, if someone was leaning on my car, I could start it up and give them a fright. It was lot’s of fun.

It had security algorithms in the communications system because it was not uncommon in the USA for designer car thieves to wait for people to unlock their Ferrari’s and Lamborghini’s, recording the signal from their remote controls so that they could copy them wirelessly and then steal the car after replicating the signal. This is not much different to scams where people in restaurants copy all the  information off your credit card magnetic stripe, while you aren’t looking, so as to create an exact copy they can resell to access your bank account.

So now we go to a world where there are ready buyers for your car’s location information. All benevolent of course. They might be DoT’s for traffic demand management, gas companies looking at where to build new petrol stations, insurance companies managing risk, in-car entertainment companies, satellite broadcast media, emergency services, car navigation, Google and many more.

Most of these companies want your data for ‘benevolent purposes’. To understand how you drive for insurance risk, to find you if your car breaks down or runs out of gas, to remotely unlock your door if you left your keys in the car, to monitor the status of your battery or when your brakes need service, or to point out to you that you are heading in a direction where the next gas station is 90 miles away and you only have a quarter of a tank left, or that you have been driving for 2 hours and there is a Starbucks up ahead, with  free muffin with your name on it.

The weak link is that so many different networks want access to your data, plus you want remote access, key-less ignition, remote start, real time traffic information (which is crowd sourced, meaning they get your data as well as you getting information from them).

You want a connected autonomous car in the future, which is going to rely on communication with other cars, with your breakdown service and the DoT, for traffic signals and highway information.

To achieve all that (and it is all achievable now and more) means that not one but several computers in your car are going to be communicating with other computers and devices all the time. Viruses, Trojans, keyboard loggers and other security breaches on personal computers happen thousands of times a day around the world, whether you are just a law abiding citizen at home, or a high level executive in a corporate, or in a Government department. Why would you think that connected cars would be any different and what a great was to cause chaos, whether for mischievous reasons, terrorism or crime?

The more features you demand from car manufacturers, the greater the risk.Hacking into car security systems is old school and because they are systems designed for one purpose only, to prevent access and disable the vehicle, security is relatively easy.

When it comes to the warehouse of computers racked in a modern car, the problem becomes compound and complex.

This recall is a great thing, if inconvenient. Imagine if hackers were able to disable the brakes in thousands of vehicles in one city. If you’ve ever driven a vehicle where the brakes failed, like I did in a motor-home full of people after a ski-trip where the brake-hose froze and broke, that T intersection comes up mighty fast. Now multiply that by hundreds or thousands of vehicles.

Kudos from me to Fiat Chrysler for taking this step.

I would be asking the question if buying a new car, as to how secure it is from hackers and looking for an intelligent answer fro the sales person. When they tell you there is absolutely no risk, try asking for a written guarantee of that. They won’t be able to give it to you.

We all want the cool new features, but you have antivirus on your computer because there is risk. The thing is that you don’t sit inside your computer and race up the freeway. Well actually if you  have a late model car, you already do. What if your car is autonomous and you aren’t sitting behind a steering wheel or brake pedal.

Has your computer ever crashed?

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Google Tests Autonomous Cars for ‘Weird Situations’ on Surface Streets – Government Technology

The director of Google’s self-driving cars says the cars have confronted a variety of scenes on surface streets around the company’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.

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It’s great that Google are doing this testing with autonomous cars It highlights exactly some of the things I have been blogging about lately The Google car comes across a woman in a wheelchair chasing a duck. Yes, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. The driverless car stops and waits, where a human driving a car would probably honk their horn, scare them both out of the way and carry on instead of waiting and increasing congestion.

Ducks are a classic. We had a major problem in New Zealand earlier this year when all over the country mother ducks took their ducklings across highways and motorways and just like in this video clip from Minnesota DoT cars swerved or even stopped on busy motorways.  I was caught twice myself having to stop suddenly from around 50mph because cars in front of me suddenly stopped.

Another Google example was where 3 lanes of vehicles were proceeding after lights at an intersection turned green. The Google car stopped for a cyclist who decided to run a red light (not uncommon and sometimes deadly). The autonomous car stopped, the others didn’t and the cyclist had to swerve to avoid being hit by the vehicles who were in the right.

So here’s a thought. Google said that they haven’t caused any of the accidents they have been in. Is that because the law says if you rear end a car that suddenly stops, it’s your fault? Therefore they didn’t cause the crash.

Who do you think is the dangerous driver? The vehicle that swerves in front of you, or slams on the anchors (check the video on the link above) to avoid the cute ducklings on the freeway, or the person who is driving normally, can’t see the ducklings and has no reason to expect vehicles in front and has to suddenly perform evasive manoeuvrings?

When I researched this story I found many examples of drivers complaining when they were ticketed for swerving. The charges were dangerous or reckless driving. I’m with the police. As they say in New Zealand, “It’s you or the possum”

I love possums, my brother had a pet possum called Peter which used to hold a sandwich between it’s paws lick the jam off neatly, before eating the bread. They are just as cute as ducklings. Its interesting isn’t it, that you will see plenty of possum roadkill, but I have only once seen a dead duck on the road, and it was in the air when it was killed. That’s another story entirely.

So where do you sit? Stop for the small animal or swerve and risk involving others in a crash that could have far greater consequences (for humans at least)?

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EXCLUSIVE: Uber says De Blasio misleading on NYC congestion

Mr. Mayor, don’t blame Uber for your claims of congestion on the streets of Manhattan, the app-based taxi service said Tuesday.

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It appears that there is dissension in the Big Apple, where I experienced my one and only scary gypsy cab ride. I wonder how many of them are in NYC, while they complain about Uber. Anyway, Yellow Cabs have been an institution since Johnny was a baby, well maybe not quite, but the cars weren’t that far behind the railroad.

The Yellow Cabs, have been an institution, but the thing Uber brings is the service and the knowledge they are there because of the app.

I once started walking from Battery Park back to my hotel in Manhattan via Chinatown on a real hot day. After about 3 miles having headed off the main roads, do you think I could find a yellow cab anywhere?

Actually I saw a couple of them but they had passengers and ignored my frantic semaphore waving, they wouldn’t even stop to let me ask them to call another ca for me. It was a really interesting walk and I probably did about 7 miles by the time I got there. did I mention it was a scorching hot day?

If I had Uber, I would have jumped at the chance to have a nice drive, perhaps talk to someone who was actually from NYC and ease my weary legs.

So here’s my argument. Uber is redefining a transport mode. It’s providing levels of service that are perceived as better than many taxi companies offer. The app lets you see where your car is and lets them see where you are, also useful in a strange town, especially if like me, you enjoy random exploration of a city.

When a business is mature, it tends to focus on business as usual or BAU. That’s how we roll.

I predicted the demise of Borders in New Zealand long before they disappeared. If they had been more nimble they could still be here, successfully competing with Amazon in my humble opinion.

If taxi’s really don’t want Uber around, perhaps they should emulate them. Offer similar services such as an app where they can see the location of the cab, negotiate the fare in advance, take payment via the app, rate the driver and the customer. Offer loyalty programs, with taxi miles.

They could even copy the airlines and have their own budget car network as a sub brand using a similar system.

Let’s face it, Yellow Cabs must have an amazing historical database and know exactly what traffic is likely to be like on any given day. Not moving (sorry little joke). They could easily beat Uber at their own game. I offer this advice to all cab companies. If you don’t keep up with the times you will end up on one of those Facebook pages, or whatever it’s equivalent is in 10 years and people will be saying remember when you knew you were in NYC, with all those yellow cabs? Here’s a picture of one, remember them?

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