Today’s Women’s Day, and this title seemed fit to me as a recognition to the other half of the sky, as we say in Italy. It also fits quite well with a connection I made yesterday as I was traveling to the South of France under a clear blue sky, signed by a few airplanes vapour trails here and there.
I often asked myself where that tiny dot up in the sky was heading to. A question impossible to answer till few months ago but no longer so. Now I can just pick up my phone, activate the FlightRadar24 app and by taking a picture at the plane and its trail I am immediately told its tail number (aircraft identification) where and when it took off, its current heading altitude and speed and the expected destination with time of arrival. Now, isn’t this sort of magic?
There’s more. I tried to take the photo of the plane covering the cell phone lens with my finger and still I got the information as before. On the other hand if I covered the lens and pointed the phone in a different direction I wouldn’t get the information.
It is definitely magic!
Now if you are one of those enjoying the feeling of magic stop reading, if you are curious on how FlightRadar24 pulls out the trick keep reading.
When you take a picture a number of additional information end up in a file associated to the photo, the so called EXIF file. This information includes the time of the day, the GPS coordinates and the compass heading of the lens. This is the information used by FlightRadar24 to look on its real time flight database based on where we are, the direction we are looking, to spot the planes in the area.
You can see the world flow of flights in real time by connecting to FlightRadar24 from your PC, an entertaining sight indeed. What they did was to find an easy way to pick up one of these flights and provide the information.
This is yet another example of the blending of atoms and bits made possible by technologies. And an example of how the blending is achieved based on information generated by the terminal and not by the network!
Yes, technology is magic, but there is a trick and we can discover it. On the other hand women are magic but if there is a trick we don’t know how to find it. Happy Women’s Day!