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Location? Location! (Wi-Fi Location Services)

Bring Me My Goodies!

Ordering your groceries online, and having them delivered to your home, is becoming a commonplace event, but new innovations being rolled out around the world are still inspiring awe.

In the UK, in a small city about 50 miles north-west of London, one of these new innovations has been in existence for about a year. Small, remotely-controlled mini robotic vehicles are programmed to bring groceries to your door.

Here is an interesting little video to explain the concept: https://bit.ly/2JNbGEP

How does the system work? In three short words: Wi-Fi Location Services. Maps are programmed into the machines, then the system infrastructure manages where the vehicles go from, and to, and controls their return to their point of origin. The system wirelessly monitors their progress to their goal destination and back, using a series of tracking “pings” – requests (“where are you?”) and responses (“I am here”) – so that the system constantly knows exactly where each vehicle is at any time. These “where are you?” exchanges occur in computer language, so are done extremely fast.

If the battery power runs low, or if the vehicle is interfered with in any way, the system alerts the human support team who immediately come to its aid. Humans turn up in a truck and provide new batteries or rescue the robot if necessary. Since they are equipped with anti-theft devices – cameras and alarms – these independent little robots are relatively safe.

There are pluses and minuses to this use of technology: on the positive side, it saves us all so much time to have our groceries delivered straight to our door. In this busy world, where time is one of the most precious commodities we possess, saving the trip to the store might give a person those valuable minutes in which they can get a report completed or prepare for a meeting. But, on the other hand, it also alienates people from human interaction. Some people might like being isolated but, as we grow more and more distant from one another, we may end up becoming very lonely.

Already Being Tracked?

The interesting thing about this technology is that it is already in use in many more places than you might think. Have you ever been walking around a mall when an advertisement for a nearby store pops up on your phone? Coincidence? Probably not. It is more likely to be wireless-enabled “location services” in action. The computer system at the mall builds a general profile on you, based on your route around the mall. It notices where you slow down, where you stop, and what stores you enter. Adding this data up builds a general picture of the kinds of things you might like, then the system sends messages to you about sales and deals that it thinks may be of interest. In this scenario, location services are being used as a marketing tool – a vendor’s subtle but smart way of letting you know they exist.

Lots of companies use this technology in a similar way to the grocery delivery – they track the location of their vehicles. Taxi companies are also capitalizing on the convenience of location services: you can now track the location of the taxi you just called, so that you can see where it is, and estimate how long it will take to get to your location.

Location services is a fascinating, and versatile, area of technology and one we expect to see a lot more of, in the future.

If you want to learn more about the technical aspects of Wireless Location Services, we have classes that include this – call us today!