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Tec Trek Podcast: What is the Future of GPS Tracking?

Tune into our latest episode of Tec Trek! This week, Yatri and TJ are joined by longtime GPS consultant Ludovic Privat to discuss the past, present, and future of geolocation technologies.

Listen on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.


Episode Transcription

TJ: Hello, ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Episode 4 of Tec Trek. I am TJ, and with me as always is...

Yatri: Yatri. How are you guys doing?

TJ: Yeah, hey, everybody? Welcome, welcome, welcome. Now today's big question is a little more pointed than some of our other ones. I think it's a little more specific, but it's also very nebulous in a way because we are talking about the future of GPS technology. What is the future of GPS technology? It's at least pointed in one category, but it's something that I think can go in like maybe a million different branches. So again, another pretty broad question which is one of our favorite things that we like to do here. Now before we dive into that, I mean, naturally, I just want to give a quick sort of overview I guess of the history of GPS. It was first launched in the '60s by the U.S. government to monitor submarines carrying ballistic missiles. Satellites were able to pinpoint location of the submarines in a matter of minutes, whereas previously they were relying on like, you know, we've got a surface, and send a radio message, and then we were at that place, but we've already moved since then.

Yatri: It was very revolutionary. Yeah.

TJ: Yeah, exactly, completely changed. And it was very defense-oriented. It was military. In 1978, the Department of Defense launched a network of 24 satellites to support a more advanced navigation system. And for 20 years, GPS was military-only. It was military hardware, it wasn't something that was available to anyone else. Now, there was a program called Selective Availability. And Selective Availability meant that the U.S. was able to selectively deny access to GPS through national security, which is interesting. And like for me, at least, I don't know about you, Yatri, it makes me think like, what does the military have that we don't right now, today, that they're playing...

Yatri: Of course.

TJ: ...that they're going to show us in 2040? And we're going to be like, Oh my God, that's amazing.

Yatri: You know, in a lot of ways it's not so dissimilar to private companies not opening up certain aspects of their research because they want to see the return on what they get, right?

TJ: Oh, yeah, 100%, 100%. And that happens all the way down to like hardware level of like PCs. I mean, think about like both Intel and AMD, both have...they'll release a processor, but they'll shut down nodes on it, or they'll shut down compute complexes on it because if it's that much better, nobody buys the one that's worse. And so you've got to make sure of the market availabilities there. Now I know that's a little different because this is not for profit necessarily, it's for just getting access.

Yatri: No, of course, there are very much valid security concerns around GPS, or at least there were at the time.

TJ: Yeah, exactly.

Yatri: And so it's really interesting here because Clinton in May of 2000, President Clinton decided along with the U.S. government to discontinue the use of Selective Availability and make GPS available for civil and commercial users pretty much worldwide, giving a lot of people, not just in our country, but in other countries access to our network there. Which is, it's pretty interesting. And I know we've previously had a conversation with other guests who know a little bit about this, but it's really interesting because part of that decision from what we understand is that they knew that it would be a matter of time until every company's figured it out anyway. So why not open it up or decide to open it up, and that was pretty, pretty huge.

TJ: Oh, yeah. Well, and it was also, I think we talked about this in a previous episode, it was also the problem of like, okay, so a lot of different countries, other nationalities have their own sort of GPS version.

Yatri: Absolutely.

TJ: You've got China, Russia, Europe, India, Japan, they all have their own positioning systems. And so I think a lot of the idea, at least for Clinton was like, "If we don't open ours up, private companies are going to go with somebody. Like they're going to use it. So we need need to..."

Yatri: Exactly.

TJ: Yeah, if we don't open it up, we're going to kind of get left in the cold and it's going to forever be like this archaic Defense Department thing instead of opening it up, because I mean, right around 2000 that was also the explosion, smartphone evolution is a little beyond my scope of knowledge.

Yatri: It came much later.

TJ: Much later, but around that time is when we had...

Yatri: But there was a market point in time where you saw a huge sharp increase in the accuracy.

TJ: Yes, we had dedicated navigation devices, things like your TomToms and your Garmins back in the day when it was its own dedicated device, sort of around that time period. And then that all got, you know, sort of blended and amalgamated into the modern smartphone.

Yatri: Yeah, as Selective Availability started to become... It was a rollout process, and by the end of that process, you saw a sharp increase in the accuracy of GPS. And if you take any smartphone today, you can get accuracy within a meter, 2 meters maybe at worst.

TJ: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, and like we expect that.

Yatri: Yeah, exactly.

TJ: The expectations.

Yatri: I mean, jeez, in 2007 I had a smartphone that was just... I mean, I would be lucky to be within, you know, 40 feet of something.

TJ: Yeah, you're lucky to be on the same block when you're walking around, yeah, exactly, when trying to navigate. And so it's just interesting that like, you know, removing Selective Availability not only has it improved the technology, it's made it more accurate. It's also sort of given rise to the pre-industry of GPS, you know, mapping, and satellite, like directional location, that kind of stuff. I remember using MapQuest to print directions all the way up until probably like 2005 I was still doing that. I didn't have a smartphone, I didn't have GPS. I literally went online, typed in where I was going, and printed the direction, and then drove around with like printed out paper.

Yatri: Oh, yeah. Yeah, you were lucky if you had a nice color printer and you could actually get the maps printed. I remember navigating with actual maps.

TJ: Yeah. I was going to say, when I moved, I went to graduate school in Kansas City, and when I moved there, I got an atlas of the city. Like that was the first thing I bought, and it was one of the tiny ones where it was like it showed like a half a mile and then it was like go to page, if you went to the bottom, it was like go to page J58, to the right it was a different page. Oh, it was hilarious. And that was not that long... Like I'm not that old. That wasn't that long ago.

Yatri: No, no, no, no.

TJ: All right, well, very good. So today, our expert is going to come in and help us with this question and sort of guide us on the right path is Ludovic Privat who has worked in GPS mapping for over 20 years. And we're going to talk to him about how far we've come, where we're going to go potentially, and some of the interesting things on the horizon. So after consulting and working for TomTom and Navman in a public relations role in the early 2000s, you've co-founded and managed GPS business news and online B2B publications with 20,000 business readers in 100 different countries. He also founded and developed a dozen international business companies, and last but not least, he is the founder of CROWDLOC, a location-tracking startup. He's currently a business consultant for companies in the geolocation and connected car industry with his firm positioning. Welcome, Ludovic. Pleasure to have you. Thank you for making up the time difference with us today.

Ludovic: Thank you for having me.

TJ: You know, we're spread all over the map today. We've almost got the entire globe covered in today's podcast. How are you doing today?

Ludovic: I'm doing well, very well. So it's a bit later than your time in France where I'm based. But it's great to be on board.

TJ: Pleasure. It's great to have you, great to have you.

Yatri: Glad to have you, yeah.

TJ: Yeah, so we've just got some questions we're going to go through, and again, feel free to talk about them. It's an open conversation. You don't have to give us quick easy answers.

Ludovic: Makes sense.

TJ: The first one that we want to ask is what are some of the most recent developments that have been exciting to you in GPS technology?

Ludovic: Yeah, that's a good question. I think that they have been in the last few years a few incremental improvements in... And I will say GPS and at large, what we call GNSS, which includes GPS, but also all the Galileo, GLONASS, BeiDou. But GNSS, GPS, that's pretty much the same thing. So few things incremental. Obviously, if we look at GNSS as a whole, there have been more and more satellites. So today, we are around I think 100 satellites in the sky across all the constellation. And the more you have, obviously, the better is the reception of all the signals and the better the positioning on the ground whether you are in the middle of nowhere or in the middle of a large city with skyscrapers. That's definitely one thing, the more satellites. On BeiDou, the Chinese constellation, Chinese have been launching a lot of satellites in the last year. So it's definitely growing. Same things for Galileo in Europe. So that's one thing definitely. The second thing in this kind of incremental improvement is dual-band GNSS. So for those who are not very technical, those satellites can communicate with two different bands for their signal. And the fact that you have no receivers that can get the signals from those two bands really improves the positioning on the ground. That's the second thing, and this is rolling out because you need the new receiver that has been on the market in terms of semiconductors some years ago really, but then you have the implementation of those semiconductors in smartphones and so on, in all devices and it takes a bit of time, obviously. That's the two things which I would say are kind of incremental.

TJ: Yeah. And the accuracy, like getting accurate... It's so interesting to me, the different avenues that can be taken to improve accuracy. I'm not incredibly technical. So, for me, it's so interesting to be watching people work out, okay, how do we improve accuracy. As a layman, it's interesting to hear somebody talk about it, because we're going to be able to take two different bandwidths and we're going to be able to utilize new semiconductors to improve accuracy on the ground. That's such a fascinating thing to me.

Ludovic: Yeah, yeah, and I think there are also two other things which probably here are as a bit more, not incremental but game-changing. One thing is accuracy. So now you have companies who have been on that data. It's been available for already many years, but the important thing in term of accuracy, it's not, it's coming really more to the mainstream market. So as you probably know there have been in agriculture GPS use in the fields on those high-precision GPS in agriculture have been around for like a decade for...

Yatri: Yeah, absolutely.

Ludovic: ...apart from John Deere....

Yatri: There is deep integration in those industries.

TJ: Oh, yeah.

Ludovic: So this has been available, but these are very costly products. The good thing is that this level of accuracy, which is sub-1 meter, so it's about... Okay, I'm talking with meters, maybe...

Yatri: No, no, that's okay.

TJ: No, no, no. Yeah, yeah, yeah. We're with you. We're with you. Sub-1 meter is like...

Yatri: It's crazy.

TJ: Like I hope for our listeners, like let's see. What's the best way to sort of...?

Yatri: It's the difference between me holding something in my left hand versus holding it in my right hand, really.

TJ: Yes, yes, exactly. Whereas right now a lot of times we'll think in terms of like, "Oh, the GPS is pretty accurate. The address it's taking me to is only two doors away." We're talking about accuracy down to what hand is the tracker in. Like incredibly accurate.

Ludovic: This is really one interesting point. And if you look at the application of that, obviously, you're thinking immediately about autonomous cars clearly, but there are many other in term of robotics, in term of surveying, so on and so forth. So this accuracy is very interesting because if you bring that to mainstream applications then obviously you can do many, many new things with that. You think about, for example, smartphone, location-based games on smartphones, that could be one application, but there are many others.

Yatri: I still play Pokémon GO, so yes.

TJ: Yeah, exactly.

Ludovic: There you go.

TJ: There you go.

Yatri: I'm glad you mentioned surveying because one of our previous guests was a land surveyor, second-generation. And he was describing a lot of the ways that it comes in handy because you still need people... We tend to forget, but you still need people in the ground, in areas to be able to survey what's actually there. And providing them this level of accuracy just makes that process so much faster, both before and after land parcels was divided and buildings are erected, you know.

TJ: Oh, yeah. With that kind of an accuracy we can get a lot more granular, I think, with the data that we can get. And industries like supply-chain logistics, things like that. Instead of tracking the truck, you can track the pallets that are on the truck. We can get down into such a granular level that the data that we're able to pull from that. Obviously, we're still going to track the truck because the truck's important. But, we can track the boxes that are on the pallets that are on the truck and see exactly where those go, and get incredibly detailed into how your own business operates or whoever is doing the investigating. That's incredibly interesting. I think you said that was one of the ideas that you were calling a game-changer. That is a game-changer. It's a whole different animal. Like right now, with a lot of the current stuff that we see and that we use, if you were to put 2 trackers into 1, say, 18-foot trailer, it's going to be one position report. You know, it's not going to be granular enough that I can see until they fully separate. But the ability... this sort of blends into the next question, so when it comes into things like supply chain and logistics, where people are tracking smaller assets in small spaces...

Yatri: Often indoor these days.

TJ: ...yeah, yeah, yeah, and often indoors, what kind of hardware and software developments have to be made to make that highly accurate indoor tracking a real thing?

Ludovic: Yeah, I think if you think about pallets on indoor, I mean, there are two things. One thing is the outdoor, which you still need it if you want to track those pallets across continents and so on. I think at that level, the other game-changing technologies that are coming is what we call low-power GNSS. And it's a combination of different technologies but the endpoint is that basically with its own battery pack, the device will be powered and will provide location for a couple of years on very often 5-plus years and some will go to 10 years. So obviously you're not going to get a location point every 10 or 30 seconds or even sometimes not every hour. But for many applications, if you get couple of location points per day, that's just enough.

TJ: Right, yeah, right.

Yatri: It's big for asset tracking, right, where you generally know where things are, you just want to keep tabs on them. That's super useful because then you don't have to send someone out there for years.

TJ: Exactly. Yeah, yeah, exactly. This is very much personal preference, but I think in a lot of instances, given the trade-offs and things like battery life and power consumption, more infrequent updates are often more valuable than a lot of people like would think.

Yatri: Oh, yeah.

TJ: And that's one of the challenging things with the marketing of GPS, right, for business and consumer clients is if you tell somebody, you can give them an update in five seconds, they're going to pick that, even though in a lot of uses, that's not the best way.

Yatri: Because if you don't know how long it's traveling for, you want less frequent updates so that you can track it to its destination.

TJ: Yeah, I just want to know that it's on track. I don't need to see the mile markers. I would've gone with it if I did.

Ludovic: Yeah, and I think that's the big difference between industrial application, where basically you just get what you want to get. Smartphone in the other side where you charge your smartphone every day, so that's very different use cases. And I think that's what is quite new in the GPS industry is that these days, there's a lot of differences happening between solutions that are dedicated to B2C use case, like smartphones and some other, to B2B, like logistics and some others where the need is quite different. And obviously, if you are running logistics you have tens of thousands of pallets or hundreds of thousands of pallets, you don't want to charge those pallets. 

TJ: Oh, yeah, exactly. I want to throw the device away. I don't want to charge it ever, yeah.

Yatri: It's one of those things that we don't often think about, but if you need to charge those devices, that means you need to have infrastructure, you need to have people at gateway points to find them, and charge them, and manage them. And it's actually, it's more work than people think. It gets very expensive very quickly.

TJ: Oh, the loss of money to the company. I mean, think about it, that's a full-time job. Somebody just charging trackers. That's crazy. Well, and also, that's actually, I think, one of the interesting limitations that we're going to face as we get into these smaller, more granular bits of information is we're going to butt up to the battery limit at some point. Like I mean, even with the improvements that we've made, eventually it always comes back to how long can I power this thing, especially inside because we're taking away solar solution, we're getting rid of that. So in a factory floor, I mean, it's interesting because that's like the bridge of hardware to software. With software, we can tell it update once every like three days, just leave it alone. I want this to last for 5 years, 10 years, and then I'll get a new tracker. Because at the rate that we're improving the hardware, it will be a completely different animal in five years. So how do you think GPS technology, in particular, will affect IoT development in the near future?

Ludovic: Yeah, I think this low-power thing is really an important part of this development so that basically you can bring location technology to whatever you want. If you look in the past, in those last 20 years since the end of Selective Availability, the first things that were tracked were mostly vehicles for tourism because one, they were very costly. So there was a return on investment on tracking those things. And the second one is that they were powered. There was a battery in those things. And the really interesting thing now with low-power is that you can add that to whatever you want. And if you combine in one hand, those new type of GPS location technologies, and we could dive a bit more on what is non-GPS and maybe we can talk about indoor location, but if you add that part, the location part plus the communication part, with new IoT networks like NB-IoT for cellular, but also things like SigFox or LoRa for noncellular technology and even satellite communication for IoT with number of new players that are joining the IoT market with direct communication from the ground to the satellite and vice versa. So those things really are changing the market. You are able to locate, to track smaller things with lesser value. And you are also able to track those assets in places where it was impossible earlier. So if you think about tracking containers at sea, that's something you cannot do with cellular technology. It was available for many years with satellite communication, but the cost of that communication was really high. 

Yatri: Yeah, yeah. It's prohibitively expensive.

TJ: Yeah.

Ludovic: So you can do it for large container with significant value, but not for smaller things you want to track. So I think those two things together, the cost of the IoT communication, the fact that you have a device that will transmit location for years really opens up a complete new market and you have companies, like I'm thinking, for example, of a buyer, the pharmaceutical company. They're currently working on a prototype for tracking parcels. This solution doesn't integrate a GPS, it's actually just NB-IoT, so it's a cellular modem. Part of the solution is printed on the parcel. So there's a bit of silicon. And there are some printed material especially for the battery, I believe. And they expect to have limit value of around 5 euros which is 6 U.S. dollars, more or less, for each. And that's going to be just one-way tracking device. So they send it to the destination and then the parcel is recycled. And that's it.

TJ: That to me is fascinating because I think that... So like in the modern age, I'm thinking more and more about how many, you know, small, one-off, little businesses are doing e-commerce and things like that. And the ability for me, as a single user to be able to, in theory, provide a tracking solution to my buyers, with the envelope. I mean, that's game-changing. Because then I'm not worried about hardware costs, I'm not worried about recharging. I'm not worried about maintenance. And my expenses, at 6 dollars, I mean, that's about what you pay for a bubblewrap envelope anyway, you know? It's not that much. And I mean, you're talking about zero functionality to full functionality.

Yatri: Exactly. It's a big difference between the small difference in cost that you're already paying, especially again, on the smaller side. On the industrial scales, it's a little different because you can make up a lot of the costs with the purchase size, right, with how many of these envelopes you're buying.

TJ: Exactly, yeah.

Yatri: But for people like you and me, selling on eBay or just, you know, making sure we're getting our prescriptions on time, things like that.

TJ: That whole line of conversation that we just had is really interesting to me because you're talking about I think the first time potentially being able to fully provide logistics from point of creation of materials, full through the shippings process, over the ocean, wherever it's going, then it's going into a parcel going to the end-user. So in theory, we're going to be able to get exact tracking, exact sort of pathing, and rooting, and optimization for all of that from the point of product creation all the way to final sale, which is something that I don't think has happened yet. I mean, we've tracked bits of that, but never strung together one sort of path that we can then optimize which is super cool.

Yatri: If I was a company like that, I would use some AI and I would actually separate the supply-chain side of it to see how I can improve my supply-chain and then also change how I would route to the customer, right?

TJ: Yeah, yeah.

Yatri: Assume you want both sides of it, one for your costs, and you already have a tracker present, and then one for your customer for the value add, right?

Ludovic: Yeah, and what is very interesting is that actually, the COVID-19 situation where we are all in right now is going to make this whole thing accelerating, because in the next six months, what we will see is that most of the big pharmas will have a vaccine, that's pretty much clear today if we look at the different announcements. And obviously, this is going to be vital to basically ship those vaccine to the destination. All the big pharmas are currently working on this specific supply-chain because there are some questions about temperature and so on.

TJ: I was reading an article saying it had to be stored at like -100 Fahrenheit for the Pfizer one or something like that.

Yatri: Yeah. Yeah, it's very temperature-sensitive. I mean, you're talking about tracking not just location, but metadata like temperature, ambient temperature, and things like that.

TJ: Yeah, you've got to know the temperature, yeah.

Ludovic: You want to know also if the parcel has been...gets some shocks, so you need a small acceleration sensor in that, temperature sensor on location, and obviously something that you... So everybody's working on those kind of solutions right now. And potentially, this whole vaccine will make things accelerate a bit at that level, yeah, sure.

Yatri: So I want to talk about hardware for a second here because just while we're on the subject of this, what can you see as a limiting factor currently for hardware development? Because we're talking about a lot of directions that this can go, and we even touched on, you know, having something we would consider disposable, which I think we definitely will get back to. But what do you think is like a big limiting factor overall for hardware development?

Ludovic: I think what the big change we see happening right now on the hardware side is actually kind of the hardware obstruction, I would call it that way. Is that basically, if you look at the last 15 years, the way GNSS was designed, was designed on a specific hardware, specific chipset. The latest implementation of technologies, basically, there is what is called software-defined radio, basically you can change the usage of the radio on a software to transmit or to receive information on specific bands of communication and to receive specific signals. So which means basically, with one semiconductor you can do many things. You can do communication, but you can also use it for GPS, for GNSS. And that's a trend we see that basically the GPS part is completely integrated on the communication chipset. And that the chipset is managing everything. So instead of having two different silicones on your tracking product, you only have one and based on the time, based on whatever you want. Actually, this piece of silicon is either receiving a signal from a GPS satellite or communicating with a cellular network, with another type of networks. I think that's, on the hardware side, the big change we see but I guess that there's more coming. I mean, this whole GNSS market just continued to make some improvements over the year. So I don't have a crystal ball at that level.

Yatri: Of course.

Ludovic: But still it's... I mean, I've been in that industry for 20 years. Clearly, some years are less news.

Yatri: I think it's a really good topic you touched on too because you see similar development cycles with other things. So like, for example, with IoT you see the same boards available for hobbyists and the same boards end up getting dedicated, you know, silicon for things like encryption because the generic silicon that's on there, it's either too taxing or too much of a battery drain. And so it's interesting because sometimes you see that generic and then sometimes you see it come back to specialization, you know, physically on the board, but at a significantly lower cost because of all the things that we've learned, all the tweaks that we can put on top of it. So...

TJ: Oh, yeah. If you're a PC guy, think back to motherboards, right? You used to have, you had the CPU, you had the northbridge, you had the southbridge. So you had at least two chipsets on everything. Then we went down to one, then we went to none. Now we're back to one and some boards have a dedicated chipset for audio because you want HD audio. It's just constantly evolving.

Yatri: You see this with power control too.

TJ: Yeah, oh, yeah.

Yatri: With 12-volt-only power supplies starting to come out and all of the conversion to 5-volt and 3.3 being on the motherboard itself is interesting.

TJ: Being on the board which is so much safer than on a giant power supply that will... If you're a PC builder at home and you haven't built it yet, never save money on a power supply. It will always be a part that fails. If you have a limited budget, spend it all on the power supply.

Yatri: Okay, so Ludovic, you mentioned you've been in the industry for 20 years or so, like that's a long time to be in one industry, especially these days. So I'm really interested, I think we're both really interested to see what your opinions on... I mean, some of the things we're thinking about are like how has GPS hardware improved over the course of your career, and what kind of improvements do you see are coming? Like where we're going to see the greatest gains. I mean, we're talking, you know, a couple of decades out. So obviously, speculative, but where do you think based on the two decades you have under your belt?

TJ: You don't have a crystal ball, but let's pretend you do.

Yatri: Yeah, let's pretend you do. Let's see, let's see.

Ludovic: Small story, when I started basically in that industry, we're still at the time were...having a GPS within your car was a bit difficult. So that was the time where Sirf, which was the big semiconductor company in GPS at the time, they moved from Sirf Star 2 to Sirf Star 3. And the big difference that we've... Number 2, basically you took your GPS out of the car by the window to get the signal then you get it back to your car. And after that, you were...that the GPS was working inside your car. You didn't have to get the device outside and get it in. But that was the story from, yeah, early 2002, 2003. But if we look at the next 10 or 20 years, I think what is very interesting is that there are new players coming which want to integrate location from satellites into new type of satellites which are low-orbit satellites. And there are some private organization that are working on launching their own constellation for location. And I think that's very interesting. So right now, the constellations that are available were built with military funding, GPS a good example of that, but GLONASS as well, the Chinese BeiDou as well. The European Galileo, it's nonmilitary, but it still public money. But interestingly, there are companies working on providing that, on making money out of that. We'll see if there is a market. Definitely, those companies are targeting very high-end use cases, very ultra precision, these kind of things. But that's clearly one trend we see happening.

Earlier on you were also mentioning battery questions. And I think there are new technologies that are basically harvesting powers from radiofrequency, from movement, from many different things. Obviously, solar is the most common, the most well-known, but there are many others. And if we get to the point where the power consumption of those positioning chipset is low enough, then potentially those devices could use harvesting technologies. We already see it for things like Bluetooth beacons, which are used for indoor. So some of those are starting to use power harvesting technologies, so basically they have just a very small battery on that. If they are in the right condition, they're running indefinitely. So that's clearly something we might see happening in the coming years for very low power systems, that's one thing.

TJ: The battery changes are fascinating too. Because what's interesting about sort of the forthcoming technology for batteries or power I guess is we've kind of reached the limit at least with the current crop of chemical batteries. You know, I'm talking lithium-ion, lithium polymer. Those are really good, but they're not going to get that much better. There's a limitation. So it's really great because all the new technology that you're seeing is in a completely different path. I mean, and this is years ago that I saw this sort of demo of it, but I think it was MIT was using graphene for power, and it was literally in a spray paint. And so they're able to spray a surface, attach a wire to it, and it's running power. Now, obviously, incredibly expensive, and the applications are very different, but at the same time, I also love the fact that... I don't know if you guys remember this, do you remember back in the day they used to, and I think they still sell them, they used to sell flashlights for your car.

Yatri: Oh, yeah, where you wind them.

TJ: And it had a crank...

Ludovic: Yeah.

Yatri: Yeah.

TJ: wind it up. I mean, basically, we're going to a more efficient version of that in a lot of these cases. Where it's like, yeah, it's going to harvest more through less movement. It's just fascinating to me because it's technology growth that is in no way incremental because it has to move on to something different than the current sort of top-end I guess, which is always fascinating.

Yatri: And you see it in stages, I think, which is interesting.

TJ: Oh, yeah, 100%. Oh my gosh, I remember when rechargeable AAs first came out. I was probably 10, and I remember saying, I'm like, "Oh my God, you can recharge these?" And these are like nickel-cadmium, you know what I mean? They last for like two days and then you have to recharge them. But still at the time, it was like, "Oh my gosh, this is amazing. I don't have to buy batteries anymore."

Yatri: And it's interesting seeing, I think, the iterations, and I think it's interesting see similar chipsets that drop in voltage requirements. So every voltage savings you get, is huge on battery life for powering these circuits, so.

TJ: And power savings, I think that is hardware in general. I keep going on a slight PC tangent, but we just had a recent release of new CPUs from one of the major companies, and they're getting like 60%, or it's like 29% performance increase with 3% power reduction on...

Yatri: Yeah, it's crazy.

TJ: ...the chips, which is insane. And if that stuff sort of translates across the board as far as like silicon goes... Now, I'm not too versed on the kind of silicon that goes into tracking devices, but if we're seeing the same kind of gains as the processors shrink and as the nodes shrink, then hopefully, that power consumption will come down to the point where we can use something like a stupid flashlight crank and get like three weeks off of the tracker which would be fantastic. All right, well, very good, very good.

TJ: Now we're going to hop onto a section that we call the lightning round. This is questions that do not have to do with GPS, answer with whatever you want, especially the first one that we're going to ask. And they're quick answers. We'll all answer them too. So first question, technology development or innovation that you find most interesting. Doesn't have to have to do with GPS.

Ludovic: Yeah, I think artificial intelligence, that's really something that is fascinating.

TJ: I was going to say the exact same thing. I was going to say the fact that we now use graphics processors, GPUs for artificial intelligence, that's insane to me. Because I remember, again, the days of the Voodoo, I was like, "Oh my God, I can see videogames in 3D." Yatri, what's yours?

Yatri: Yeah, I think for me it's seeing infrastructure changes. Because I remember back when you had dial-up and you could not count on internet access no matter where you were. Now it's such a backbone of our society. I mean, you can't have cloud-based things without having infrastructure present.

TJ: We couldn't have this meeting without the infrastructure. I mean, think about it, we've got somebody in Los Angeles, somebody in New York, somebody in France...

Yatri: Yes, seeing what's available and what's there is just amazing.

TJ: ...all talking, having a conversation in real-time. Like we're sitting around a dining room table right now. Like it's crazy. And you're exactly right. Like I mean, it wasn't that long ago that to load a webpage, you went to the site, and then left the room for 30 minutes, and then came back...

Yatri: And then came back.

TJ: ...and like, "Oh, I can read the page." Like that wasn't that long ago. All right, Yatri, take number 2.

Yatri: All right. Ludovic, what's your favorite map?

Ludovic: Yeah, I have one in my living room which was offered by my wife, which is a map of Africa, the lower part of Africa which dates from 18th century, I think. So I think very interesting. I love very much all maps.

TJ: Oh, yeah.

Yatri: Oh, yeah, definitely. Something right out of the age of exploration right there, huh?

TJ: Yeah.

Ludovic: Yeah.

Yatri: That's cool.

TJ: With the Herbie monsters, exactly.

Ludovic: Yeah. On the map, there is the Zambezi River. And the Zambezi River is not exactly where it's on the map now, but...

TJ: I've got one in my office that's an old map of the city of Los Angeles from... It's 1906. And that one's the same thing. It's really interesting because the coastline like...not really. It used to, I guess, be that. I guess that's the difference with my map and the map of Los Angeles that I have is that it was accurate then. And you can kind of see where things are now, but not really.

Yatri: I think for me, there's a beautiful map, you can search for it online because it's something that was in...publicly highlighted a couple of years ago, but it's an Ottoman Empire era map, early Ottoman Empire that highlights a lot of the Silk Road trade routes. Which we didn't have accurate maps of on the European side, but on the Asian side, and the Chinese side, we had very detailed maps of. So this was very much a hybrid map, and was really interesting seeing different like South Asian and Chinese terms along with like translated European terms on the same map. It's pretty cool.

TJ: That is incredibly interesting. All right, now the last lightning round question. What is the best song about space?

Ludovic: Well, I'm very bad with music. So I couldn't tell. If I might find something, which would be difficult for me, I would have the name in French. So...

TJ: Perfect.

Yatri: I'm okay. French music is fantastic. So...

TJ: For me, we've got to go David Bowie with "Space Oddity."

Yatri: Oh, yeah. I changed my mind from last time because it's not really a space song, but I'll go with "Space Cowboy," by Steve Miller Band.

TJ: Okay, oh, yeah. No, no, that's great. Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's not about space, but all right.

Yatri: It's about a space.

TJ: Thank you, guys, so very much for listening to the "Tec Trek." Thank you again to our guest, Ludovic Privat. It's been a pleasure having you. It is a great pleasure hearing about sort of your thoughts on hardware. And you say you don't have a crystal ball, but judging from the knowledge that you gave us, I would not bet against you. Thanks so much for joining us.

Yatri: Absolutely. Two decades of experience there is just fantastic to see.

Ludovic: Thanks, I appreciate it.

TJ: Yeah, yeah. It was a great time. It was a great time. Again, if you want to hear more of our episodes, subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Yatri: And to find out more, visit up us at

TJ: Thanks so much, guys.

Yatri: Thanks.