1. Science

    Better Lives for Asthma Sufferers With GPS Inhalers

    David Van Sickle, an epidemiologist and medical anthropologist by training, is looking to change how asthma is treated by creating high-tech inhalers that plot the time and GPS location of their use. One of the most common chronic diseases, better treatment for asthma could help over 300 million people worldwide and possibly prevent the over 50,000 annual hospitalizations in the U.S. alone. Van Sickle's company, Asthmapolis, is aiming to introduce a device that give patients valuable information about their disease. When a patient has an attack, he or she uses an inhaler to deliver medicine to stop the attack. Van Sickle's device attaches to the patient's existing inhaler, and logs the time and location of the use. In the advanced test models, it uploads that information to a central database via a wireless internet connection. The data would then be compiled and analyzed by Asthmapolis. By tracking the exact date, time, and frequency of attacks, doctors can provide better, targeted care to their patients Though the device is still being tested, Van Sickle has already done some limited trials that have yielded good results for patients. In these trials, patients and their doctors received periodic reports about their attacks derived from the inhaler's GPS data. With such precise information, patients could be given drugs that better fit the patient's needs. Moreover, they can potentially pinpoint the environmental cause of their attacks and change their habits accordingly. The most exciting possibility from this project isn't on the individual level, but on a much larger scale.

    Read on...
  2. Tech

    Avoiding Traffic Snarls With Google Maps Navigation

    If you're already using the Google Maps Navigation app on your Android device, you'll have a sweet surprise coming to you: The app can now avoid bad traffic. Interestingly, this will not rely solely on up-to-the-minute data. From the Google Mobile blog:
    Starting today, our routing algorithms will also apply our knowledge of current and historical traffic to select the fastest route from those alternates. That means that Navigation will automatically guide you along the best route given the current traffic conditions.
    The feature is, however, limited to areas in Europe and North America where real-time traffic conditions are available. Traffic avoidance is being introduced as an automatic feature -- meaning that the app will be taking traffic data into account as soon as you fire it up. This might be jarring for some users, especially those who only use navigation for a portion of their trip (I am completely guilty of ignoring my GPS as it re-calculates while I drive to the edge of my geographical knowledge). Google does point out, though, that using the app may make driving better for everyone by keeping users out of sprawling traffic jams. This kind of traffic avoidance technology has been available on dedicated GPS devices for some time, though almost always as a paid feature. Bringing this capability to the masses will certainly make companies like Garmin nervous, and hopefully get people to their destinations faster. (Google via Engadget)

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  3. Tech

    FBI Retrieves Tracking Device from Student They Bugged After Internet Exposes Them

    Earlier this week, a Redditor named Khaled posted a picture of a device that he and his friend found under his friend's car when they took it to the mechanic for an oil change. Khaled's friend, Yasir Afifi, is a student at Mission College in Santa Clara, California: He's also the son of a religious Islamic-American leader, Aladdin Afifi, who died last year in Egypt. Khaled asked the Reddit community if the device was a bug or tracking device of some kind, since the FBI had previously tried to contact Afifi, but disappeared when he got a lawyer involved. As it turns out, it was a bug: Reddit IDed it as "a Guardian ST820. It's a GPS tracking unit made by the company Cobham." The story quickly spread through the blogosphere, and within 48 hours, the FBI came to Afifi to pick up their tracking device:

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  4. Tech

    A Reminder: Technology Doesn’t Make You Any Smarter

    This is the unfortunate experience of the American National Park Service, who say that advances in GPS and emergency technologies are great for experienced campers and hikers, but that they also give inexperienced, impulsive, or outright idiotic park visitors new and exciting ways to make nuisances of themselves. From the New York Times:
    "Because of having that electronic device, people have an expectation that they can do something stupid and be rescued,” said Jackie Skaggs, spokeswoman for Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. “Every once in a while we get a call from someone who has gone to the top of a peak, the weather has turned and they are confused about how to get down and they want someone to personally escort them,” Ms. Skaggs said. “The answer is that you are up there for the night.”

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  5. Weird

    Don’t Listen to a GPS That Tells You to Ignore Danger Signs and Move Boulders

    GPSes are wonderful things -- In New York City, they're essential for navigating the labyrinthine hell known only as "West 4th Street," but their convenience is diminished by their unfortunate tendency to attempt to lead us to our dooms.

    A group of tourists in Australia needed to be rescued by police after they too-literally followed a GPS' directions, even when it told them to bypass danger signs, move rocks obstructing the road, and drive into a nearly inaccessible gully in the woods.

    South Korean tourists travelling from Brisbane to Rockhampton had to be rescued from a remote track in a forestry reserve in southeast Queensland after they tried to follow the directions given by their car's GPS system.

    The three followed gravel roads, then dirt roads, then went through a couple of gates, and ended up bogged in a gully in Cordalba State Forest, near Childers.

    The men, who did not speak English, ignored danger signs and moved rocks blocking a road, to get to an isolated point that was practically inaccessible, the Bundaberg NewsMail reports.

    Read on...
  6. Weird

    New Boy Scout Badge: Geocaching

    The Boy Scouts of America are celebrating their 100th birthday this year with events, an official US postage stamp, a commemorative coin, and of course, the brand new Geocaching Badge. In case you don't know what geocaching is (and if you don't, you should really read this webcomic XKCD), its basically GPS enhanced treasure hunting. Sites like maintain a database of caches hidden by the geocaching community. Pop in your zip code, and the site will deliver unto you a list of the closest caches, identified only by latitude and longitude. Feed the lat and long into your gps device, and start your search. The activity combines the best of new technology and the old scouting standby: navigating the outdoors.

    Read on...
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