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GNSS Hotspots

I Love My Job, But..., Mediterranean Rescue, Predicting Tremors and Robot, Beware Human.

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1. I LOVE MY JOB BUT…
Bakersfield, California USA

√ A California sales manager for a wire transfer firm downloaded a required app called “Xora,” to her smart phone. It used GPS to monitor an employee’s location, arrival and departure time and said its software “captures a tremendous amount of powerful data, which can be pulled on demand with detailed reports or automated and emailed to you.” The plaintiff was fine with that — during work hours. As it turned out, the monitoring never stopped. Employees were required to leave their phones on 24/7 in case a client called. In her complaint, the sales manager said her supervisor “bragged that he knew how fast she had been driving at specific moments ever since she had installed the app.” The plaintiff said this was illegal and removed the app. Shortly thereafter, she got fired. She filed suit in the Bakersfield Superior Court for invasion of privacy and labor code violations, among other things. The case is still pending. Xora, now known as Click Software, is a mobile workforce management company with many clients. We hope its powerful capabilities include an automatic kill switch — or at least some lullabies after 10 p.m.

2. TO THE RESCUE
On the Mediterranean

Refugees from civic breakdown in Syria, Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and elsewhere are pouring across the Mediterranean towards asylum in Europe and 2,500 have died this year so far. A Louisiana millionaire couple who lost their house to Hurricane Katrina spent US$ 8 million to save as many refugees as possible from a watery death. Christophe Catrambone is the founder of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), a charitable foundation. He and a 20-member crew use two GPS-equipped Schiebel Camcopter S-100 unmanned aerial vehicles lent by the company, a base ship, and rigid hulled inflatable boats to search for migrants in trouble and assist them. Doctors Without Borders provides medical help. The unmanned air vehicles launch from the ship and send back imagery, 24 hours a day, even in bad weather. The foundation website claims 10,000 lives have been saved since the project began one year ago.

3. TREMORS
Hurricane Sandy’s path, 2012

√ Seismologists know that hurricanes shake the ground, not just the air, creating mini-quakes that are hard to place. In a study using the North American Earthscope project seismic monitoring site where GPS reference receivers provide complementary measurement systems for resolving strain-rate, researchers found they could locate these minor tremors more precisely. The scientists followed Hurricane Sandy for six days during its 2012 assault on the east coast of the United States. They ran through 117,370 different combinations of 485 seismic sensors for each hour of data and found out the signals came from the eye of the hurricane. The scientists said this might become a practical way to predict increases in storm intensity using the seismic network to remotely monitor air pressure changes inside the storm. Their study appeared in Solid Earth, the journal of geophysical research, this August.

4. BEWARE OF HUMAN
Ontario, Canada
HitchBOT, the traveling robot that depended on humans to give it a ride, successfully crossed Canada and explored Belgium and Germany before being vandalized in the USA on August 1. Designed by two researchers from Ryerson and McMasters universities in Ontario, Canada, HitchBOT used GPS to locate itself, sophisticated voice recognition and patterning integrated with social media to communicate, and a playful body made up of odds and ends to inspire affection. Its creators wanted to know how humans might relate to the fast-arriving future when “smart” machines will appear to be sentient. Thousands of humans treated HitchBOT as if it were alive — for good or ill. “Sometimes bad things happen to good robots,” HitchBOT said in its last message. Next time, Hitch, hire bodyguards.

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