Could LightSquared end your smartphones GPS abilities?

LightSquared, a communications company is currently building a nationwide 4G-LTE open wireless broadband network designed to integrate satellite and terrestrial technology. Their goal is to create the country’s first wholesale-only wireless broadband network.

To make the system work LightSquared wants to use the U.S. governments’ global positioning systems (GPS) to ensure nationwide coverage. The drawback, the signal would interfere with the global positioning system used by the military, pilots and cellphones. In short all GPS enabled devices would not work as intended or may not work at all.

Artist Interpretation of GPS satellite

Artist Interpretation of GPS satellite

Federal officials warn that wireless data transmissions would interfere with their GPS technology and could lead to airplane crashes and failed military operations. It could also cost the U.S. military billions of dollars to accommodate LightSquared’s proposed technical fixes.

LightSquared says the military’s cost analyst is extravagant and has offered to pay $50 million for federal agencies, including the Department of Defense and Federal Aviation Administration, to retrofit or replace their GPS devices.

The offer by LightSquared however does not include any GPS device owned by civilians such as cellphones, car navigation systems, and handhelds.

Republicans have criticized the process of the FCC to fast-track a private company to become a broadband Internet service provider. LightSquared would use government equipment and technology to compete with AT&T, Verizon Wireless and other broadband providers.

LightSquared Chief Executive Sanjiv Ahuja says the company has not received any special favors from the FCC.

LightSquared is currently testing their system and is expected to start service in 2012.

Related articles

LightSquared makes 4G case to the public (news.cnet.com)
LightSquared to Defend Project in Open Letter in Newspapers (pcworld.com)
Air Force security issues stall broadband project (springfieldnewssun.com)
For LightSquared, a High Bar: High-Speed Wireless Network’s Fate Hinges on Switching Off Interference (online.wsj.com)

Review: “GpsFix” by Android Labs

Google Maps, Foursquare, Gowalla, Geocaching and other GPS enabled apps require a GPS fix on your location to property provide you with the information you need. But sometimes your actual location and the one shown on your smart phone can be completely different.

GpsFix

For one reason or another your location can be skewed. This is usually cased by something interfering with the GPS signal like trees or tall buildings. Also the phones GPS/AGPS receiver is only active for a short period of time. This can cause false locations if your app did not acquire your location before the receiver deactivated.

When this happens your left with refreshing the GPS through the app your using. This option always seems to take time and it does not always work.

GpsFix is designed to sync your phone with all the satellites ahead of time.

Activate the app and click “Start Fixing.” Satellite icons will then appear indicating that the phone is locking onto different satellites in your area. GpsFix will keep the GPS/AGPS receiver on until your phones actual location is fixed.

The app works quickly, and once done back arrow out and activate the app your interested in using.

GpsFix will also give you your latitude and longitude and usually your address. The app is so good that when I tested it indoors it still found my location. Of course I was near some windows but I’ve yet to see other apps pull that off as quickly and accurately.

GpsFix is Free and is available for Android devices.

Geocacher finds keys

It amazes me how many geocaches are hidden in plain sight.

I was in a small park in downtown Charleston geocaching. I just replaced a cache to the very spot I found it and took a steep back to look at it. It was a Walmart standard issue transparent Tupperware container with the blue lid. And it was hiding on something that clashed with the color of the container. How do people miss this when they walk by? I saw it right a way. Of course I was looking, for something.

Geocaching

As I walked back to my truck an object caught my eye. In the middle of a park bench was an orange lanyard. I didn’t see it the first time I walked by because I past the bench from the other side. The lanyard had the “College of Charleston” on it. Attached was a Piggly Wiggly scan card, a car key, car remote and a couple of other keys I am assuming were for a house or apartment.

I looked around. No one was in the park. A lot of cars driving passed at the end of the park and a couple of people walking by. But none of them entering or leaving the park.

Taking the car remote in hand I started pressing the horn button. Nothing. I tried again. None of the cars and trucks parked around the small park made a sound. I might be out of range for some of the vehicles so I walked around. Still no car horn. With no one around to claim them I decided to take the keys to a Piggly Wiggly that was close by.

After finding the manager of the supermarket I asked if he could scan the card, maybe get a phone number and call the owner. The manager told me that he could scan the card but he could not give me the information. But he was willing to call the owner himself.

I was fine with that. He scanned the card and told me that there was no phone number. But there was an address and that he could mail the lanyard and keys to the owner.

Figuring I did all I could I decided this was the best course of action. Other than sitting at the bench and waiting for someone to come looking for the keys. But who knows how long that would be. Besides it was already getting late. Rush hour traffic would be building on the interstate soon and I still had two more caches I wanted to find before going home.

I wonder how many people walked past the lanyard as it was laying on the bench?

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