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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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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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How To Easily Find Electric Car Charging Points Near You

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Electric cars are the future of the automobile industry, with virtually every manufacturer already building electric vehicles (EVs). Many manufacturers have even gone a step further, committing to an all-EV lineup in the near future.

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Despite how quickly the industry is pivoting to EVs, range anxiety is still the biggest issue slowing down faster adoption. For example, one study showed that 1 in 5 California plug-in EV owners end up going back to gasoline-powered vehicles over range anxiety and the difficulty involved in quickly charging an EV.

If you’re a current EV owner or considering becoming one, knowing how to easily find all available EV charging points near you is an important step in easing range anxiety and enjoying your EV. Fortunately, there’s a couple of easy ways to do it.

Use Google Maps In Your Vehicle

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One of the easiest ways to find nearby EV charging stations is by using Google Maps.

Google’s in-vehicle version of Google Maps offers a number of features designed to reduce range anxiety. For longer trips, the software can help plan your route according to available charging stations, and even make recommendations on when and where you should stop for a charge.

“Now when you enter a destination that requires two or more recharge stops, algorithms in Maps will search and filter through tens to thousands of public charging stations to find the most efficient route — all in less than 10 seconds,” writes Alex Donaldson, Product Manager, Google Maps. “You can see how long each charge will take and your updated total trip time, so your final ETA will never again be a mystery.”

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the list of EVs with Google’s software built-in is still relatively short but includes the Polestar 2 and Volvo XC40 Recharge.

Use Google Maps On Your Phone

Google Maps on Android phone

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If you don’t own one of the vehicles that have Google’s mapping software built-in, you can still use Maps on your phone to access many of the same features.

Beginning in 2019, Google started adding EV charging information into Maps, and users can now find charging locations, as well as important information about each location. For example, you can find out what kind of charging ports are supported, what charging speeds are offered, and how many stations are currently available.

“Simply search for ‘ev charging stations’ to see up to date information from networks like Chargemaster, EVgo, SemaConnect and soon, Chargepoint,” writes Donaldson. “You’ll then see how many ports are currently available, along with other helpful details, like the business where the station is located, port types and charging speeds. You’ll also see information about the station from other drivers, including photos, ratings, reviews and questions.”

Use Apple Maps

Apple Maps on an iPhone

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Similarly, Apple Maps provides an easy way to find nearby charging stations. Beginning with iOS 14, Apple added the ability to plan your route according to your vehicle and compatible charging locations.

“Electric vehicle routing adds charging stops along a planned route based on current vehicle charge and charger types,” notes Apple in the iOS 14 press release.

Thanks to Google and Apple, overcoming range anxiety has never been easier. All the information you need to plan your trip or go about your day’s activity is right at your fingertips.

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2022 Ford Ranger Splash Limited Edition returns with nature-themed color variants

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American legacy automaker Ford started rolling out the Splash Package and Splash Limited Edition for its Ford Ranger midsize pickup truck last year. Both offer a “splash” of unique, one-time-only color themes and bespoke equipment, and Ford promises to drop new Splash themes every few months.

Images: Ford Motor Co.
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Apple CarPlay on a Tesla made possible with this hack

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Tesla might be most controversial for its misunderstood and misused self-driving features, but for a certain number of car owners, its biggest is simpler. Tesla still refuses to play ball with Apple and add support for CarPlay or even Apple Music, no matter how loud its customers clamor for it. It doesn’t seem that things will be changing soon, so a developer tried to take matters into his own hands with relative success.

Image: Tesla

Pi Power

Although initially intended to be more of an educational tool, the Raspberry Pi has become the darling of makers, hackers, and developers who need an affordable yet almost complete computer that’s the size of a credit card (but way, way thicker). It can run a variety of operating systems, including even Windows, and with some add-ons, it can do almost everything that a regular PC can and more.

Image Credit: Michał Gapiński/Twitter

That’s what Polish developer Michał Gapiński did when he set out to solve one of the biggest pain points about Tesla: its lack of support for Apple CarPlay or Music.

Image Credit: Michał Gapiński/Twitter

He installed an Android-based ROM on the single-board computer (SBC) and turned it into a Wi-Fi access point. Connecting the Tesla’s browser to the Raspberry Pi gives access to CarPlay and all its features, making it look like Apple’s in-vehicle infotainment system is actually running on Tesla’s dash. It even works with steering wheel controls

Tesla and Apple

For reasons still unknown, Tesla refuses to support even Apple Music on its cars. Both companies want full control of the software running inside vehicles, so it’s not surprising that their ideologies clash. That said, almost all carmakers today support Apple CarPlay or even just streaming from Apple Music, leaving Tesla as the odd one out.

Image Credit: Michał Gapiński/Twitter

Gapiński’s workaround is hardly ideal, but the lack of any official solution leaves people with very few options. The developer is working on refining the system, but it will always be a hack in many other ways. Gapiński promises to make it available to the public once it reaches a more decent state.

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