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Mobile Access to
Cultural Information
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immediately compatible with those supplied by the institution for engaging with the
collections.
Global Positioning System (GPS)
The Global Positioning System
(GPS) was developed to support mil-
itary technology, military navigation
systems, and tracking. In the early
1980s the GPS infrastructure was
made accessible for public use.
137
Aviation, maritime navigation, mili-
tary operations, surveying, and
recreation are all common applica-
tion areas for GPS. It relies on
twenty-seven solar-powered satel-
lites orbiting the Earth (twenty-
four in day-to-day operation, plus three backups), each of which makes two complete cir-
cuits a day.Their orbits are arranged in such a way that at least four satellites are accessible
at any time from any point on the globe.
When used in conjunction with handheld devices, GPS allows for the transfer of
remote information with simultaneous registration of place and time of the observation.
This information is transferred to a central database, where it is correlated to produce a
dynamic map, and thus the data collected here can be used for a variety of studies and
purposes, such as ecology, animal behaviour, illegal trafficking, and so on.The use of GPS
in conjunction with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
138
technology may also be
worth exploring, as a combination of the high power of satellite-driven GPS and the
accuracy of RFID will allow more sophisticated and accurate applications.
The global position of objects is determined using a method called three-dimensional
trilateration.This is achieved by calculating the distance between a given point and at least
three satellites, and then using trigonometry to pinpoint the location. GPS receivers,
which use high-frequency, low-power radio signals received from the satellites, assist in this
process.The functionality of GPS receivers is not limited to determining the coordinates
of static objects; they can also be used to trace paths, hence GPS can be used in tracing
visitor movements in outdoor attractions, such as archaeological sites, when combined
with tracking databases.
GPS technology can be used for both communication and positioning purposes in cul-
tural heritage exhibitions. As a technology with a currently rapid rate of development, it is
impossible to say which of the numerous capabilities to utilise even now.The differences
between the numerous devices make it difficult to make coherent plans for utilising
specific features small, testbed experimental implementations may prove to be the most
prudent deployment of GPS while the state of play continues to change so quickly.
139
Blast T
heory
Image from Blast Theory's `game' Uncle Roy All Around You
137 http://www.forbes.com/2001/10/02/1002gps.html
138 RFID technology is sometimes also known as `smart labels' or `smart tags' see DigiCULT Technology Watch
Report 1 (pp. 63-93) for a detailed analysis of RFID and its potential use in the cultural heritage sector.
139 For a fuller account of GPS technologies, see the forthcoming DigiCULT Technology Watch Report 3.
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