Saturday, May 16, 2009

The state of wilderness tracking

I've a personal interest in the state of wilderness tracking and communications. It's much less advanced than many imagine.

The Economist tells us that's going to change soon...
...The first generation of phone satellites are coming to the end of their natural life...
A second generation of satellites, which are about to be launched by Globalstar atop trusty old Soyuz rockets from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, will whisk data around the planet at a far more respectable speed of 250 kilobits a second.
By later next year, when Globalstar has all 24 of its new satellites in orbit, high-quality voice and 3G data transmission will be possible from anywhere on the planet, except for polar latitudes. In making broadband available more or less anywhere anytime, Globalstar reckons it is six years ahead of the competition.
Your correspondent almost cannot wait. Globalstar already sells a tempting little $170 device called SPOT, which can send your GPS location to friends and family, along with a preprogrammed message and a link to Google Maps that lets them track your progress...
This was the vision of the 1994 McCaw-Gates Teledesic (often mis-spelled teledisc) project; that project was to provide worldwide internet coverage and initially involved 840 satellites.

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