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GPS inventors win prize for greatest engineering innovation

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The four inventors responsible for creating the first truly global positioning system (GPS), have been awarded the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, viewed as the world’s most prestigious prize for engineering excellence.

Previous winners have included Robert Kahn, Vint Cerf, Louis Pouzin, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andreessen, who revolutionised the way we communicate.

Professor Spilker: “Finding and celebrating technology that can truly benefit humanity in addressing global concerns is amazing.”


Photo: QEPrize

This year’s winners — Dr Bradford Parkinson, Professor James Spilker, Jr, Hugo Fruehauf, and Richard Schwartz — were announced at a ceremony in London.

In awarding the prize, the judges pointed to the way that the GPS system has revolutionised international communications and, for the first time, enabled free, immediate access to accurate position and timing information around the world.

Today, an estimated four billion people around the world use GPS, and its applications range from navigation and disaster relief through to climate-monitoring systems, banking systems, and the foundation of tomorrow’s transport, agriculture, and industry.

SEE: IT pro’s guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

GPS uses at least 24 orbiting satellites, ground stations, and receiving devices, with each satellite broadcasting a radio signal containing its location and the time from an extremely accurate onboard atomic clock. GPS receivers need signals from at least four satellites to determine their position; they measure the time delay in each signal to calculate the distance to each satellite, then use that information to pinpoint the receiver’s location on earth.

The uses of GPS now go far beyond just navigation; at just $2 per receiver, it can be integrated with applications from tracking disease outbreaks to self-driving tractors, and the economic value has been estimated to be $80 billion a year for the US alone.

Parkinson is often called the ‘father of GPS’ after building upon several separate systems to create the GPS design. Parkinson recruited Spilker to design the signal that the satellites broadcast, critical for success of GPS for civilian use with a signal resistant to jamming, precise, and which allows multiple satellites to broadcast on the same frequency without interfering with each other. Spilker’s team also developed and built the first receiver to process the GPS satellite signals.

Freuhauf, then chief engineer at Rockwell Industries, led the development of a miniaturised, radiation-hardened atomic clock needed to create accurate timing information to be broadcast from the satellites, while Schwartz, the program manager at Rockwell, was tasked with ensuring the satellites had a three-year life span. 

When asked what receiving the award had meant for him, Spilker told ZDNet, “I am truly humbled and honoured to receive it.

“Our planet is facing a multitude of complex problems — from climate change to the dawn of autonomous cars — and finding and celebrating technology that can truly benefit humanity in addressing global concerns is amazing.”

He added: “We are all very closely-knit and it was truly a team effort creating GPS, which wouldn’t have been achieved alone. I was working on the technical families of signals to the satellites and even though we all had our separate roles, we all came together and decided unanimously that the civil applications and benefits of GPS, not just military ones, were world-changing and should be explored.”

Asked what he would do with the proceeds he said, “I was legally blind as a child. My mom had limited financial means. I was gifted to receive scholarships and fellowship to complete my Bachelor, Master’s and PhD in engineering in five years of education at Stanford University. Without that, I never would have been in this position of success. With that in mind, I plan on donating my winnings to Stanford University, to further the education of future generations.”

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Why 5G will lead to more flex positions and greater employee engagement (TechRepublic)

5G is especially exciting for companies that need better connectivity. Eric Hanson of Fuze explains how businesses can prepare to take advantage of 5G and the possible benefits to expect.

Garmin brings lineup of SmartDrive portable GPS navigators to CES 2019 (CNET)

Still prefer a dedicated navigation device? Garmin continues to refine its line of automotive GPS with a trio of new Garmin Drive models at CES 2019.

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These Are 3 Of The Worst EVs Of All Time

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If you walk into any Chevrolet dealership today, you are more than likely to see a few Chevy Sparks on the lot. The current model is equipped with a 1.4L four-cylinder engine that puts out a grand total of 98 horsepower. It’s Chevy’s cheapest car at just under $14,000 and offers features like CarPlay standard. Until recently, some new Sparks could be configured with manual crank windows — truly innovative.

Back in 2013, General Motors made an all-electric version of the Spark to comply with California’s (new at the time) emissions regulations (via Green Car Reports). The result was a less than valiant effort. Its motors were assembled just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and shipped all the way to GM’s operations in South Korea for production.

For specs, the Spark wasn’t weak at 140 horsepower and over 300 foot-pounds of torque, but it only had a realistic range of about 80 miles, and it took more than seven hours to charge without a fast charger. An Edmunds review of the 2016 model noted that charging from a 110-volt outlet took over 20 hours for a full battery. To make matters worse, Spark EVs in the United States were only offered in Oregon, California and Maryland, according to Edmunds. 

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Which Is The Better Electric Car?

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If you prioritize acceleration, battery range, and self-driving technology, the Tesla Model 3 is the clear winner. However, the Polestar 2 comes on top if you consider comfort and interior quality. Besides that, the Polestar 2 is a hatchback with hints of a premium Volvo and the Tesla Model 3 is a sedan similar to the Model S — but smaller.

As for the price, the 2023 Polestar 2 starts at $48,800. If you’re buying the 2022 model, it will cost you about $2,500 less than the 2023 model. But if you want the 2023 Long Range Dual Motor trim, it will cost you about $51,900. The biggest improvement of the 2023 Polestar 2 over the 2022 model year is the 11 miles of extra range on the Long Range Dual Motor variant.

The Tesla Model 3 Rear-Wheel Drive starts at $46,990, while the Long-Range trim is sold at $54,490. The Tesla Model 3 Performance is the most expensive trim at $61,990. But with the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, the Tesla Model 3 will become eligible for the $7,500 tax credit starting January 1, 2023 — although only the trims that are sold for less than $55,000 will be considered.

Unless Volvo builds the Polestar 2 in the U.S., it won’t qualify for the new tax incentive under the Inflation Reduction Act. However, we know Volvo is building an electric SUV in the U.S., and it will be known as the Polestar 3. 

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Google Stadia Shutdown Took Employees, Game Devs By Surprise

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Video game designer and founding member of multiple game studios, Rebecca Heineman shared on Twitter that her company was lined up for a Stadia game release on the first day of November, but instead got heartbreak. Indie developer Simon Roth mentioned that neither did he receive any warning in advance from Google, nor did the Stadia division reach out to him via email or phone well after the news broke out.

But it was not just indie developers that Google kept in the dark. Even heavyweights like Bungie, which brought users “Halo” and “Destiny” games, were apparently unaware of the Stadia bombshell dropping out of nowhere. Plaion, which owns multiple publishing units and ten game studios, also pointed out that it wasn’t informed in advance. Publishers Goldfire Studios and No More Robots told Kotaku that they each had a game coming out on Stadia next year.

Pixel Games shared that it finalized the deal to bring no less than three games over to Google’s cloud gaming service just a day earlier. Google, on the other hand, is reportedly working with the affected studios with schemes like reimbursing the costs of development and porting existing games to its platform. According to an Axios report, Stadia reps are reaching out to publishing and development partners with reimbursement deals.

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