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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New technology all at sea

Personally, I am a big fan of new technology, especially if they enhance security. One of my main criteria in assessing a new car, after the environmental considerations of course, is how many gadgets it has in it.

I was bemused therefore by this story in today's Daily Post in which a tracking device to locate stolen cars sent a lifeboat crew on a three-hour sea search in the wake of an Irish Sea ferry:

The Moelfre all-weather lifeboat on Anglesey was launched at 9.20pm on Sunday after the emergency signal was detected four miles off Point Lynas, near Amlwch.

They conducted an exhaustive search of the area fearing a boat, which can also be fitted with the GPS devices, had sent the signal before sinking.

But after an investigation by coastguards it is now suspected the signal had come from a tracking device on a BMW or Volvo vehicle travelling on a Dublin to Liverpool ferry, and police are also investigating.

Holyhead coastguard said it was the first time they had launched a rescue because of such a device but warned it could become more common as more vehicles are fitted with tracking systems.

Mark Craddock, watch manager at Holyhead, said: “We were called by police at 8.46pm on Sunday as they had been informed that a tracking device signal had been detected, and that its location was four miles into the sea off Anglesey. It was an Emergency Telematics signal from a GPS system that is fitted as standard into new BMW and Volvo vehicles.

“Similar systems can also be used on vessels so we had to treat this seriously. We were concerned that there had been a signal and then it had gone, so it was feared a boat could have sunk or the device switched off for another reason.

“We had to treat this as a worst case scenario and Moelfre lifeboat was launched to search the area.

The call was logged as a false alarm with good intention.
"One of my main criteria in assessing a new car, after the environmental considerations of course, is how many gadgets it has in it."

Actually, the more gadgets the car has the more battery power is used up which means the battery has to be recharged by the engine. My car is a no-frills compact that lacks electric windows, doesn't have the wireless gizmo to lock/unlock and/or start the engine, such gizmos mean the battery is being run down even when the car is parked with the engine off, heated seats - nope (and believe me it can be cold in some parts of the USA, such as Chicago in winter) etc. The only thing I do have that might be considered 'an extra' in the UK, but is absolutely required in hot summer zones in the USA is air-conditioning. I once had a 2nd hand car that did not have working a/c and it was dangerous to drive in on very hot days. Also, if I have a passenger on a 90F day it would be very impolite not to put the a/c on. We had a 99F day a few days ago (37.2 C if I did that conversion right). There will likely be some 100F plus days next month. All the buses have a/c - in fact it’s often free to travel on the buses on such hot days as the ozone level is coincidently elevated.
Chris Wood (from Cardiff, Wales)
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