30 September 2014

How Live Traffic Works?

What is Live Traffic? 
In short - it is real-time distribution of road conditions. This means that drivers gets information about traffic congestion, detours and accidents. Drivers can avoid traffic problems if they know about problems. All modern GPS applications can smartly use live traffic information and reroute driver if it can find better variant.
There are different live traffic providers (for example: Google, TomTom, Here…). In core, their approach are similar, but their technologies have some differences. At least road coverage and update frequency are different. Some systems also use history data to predict when congestion can occurs. Just for example – TomTom updates their traffic information every 2 minutes. As soon as something strange is found on your route, GPS application reroute you to an alternative (faster) route.

Live traffic (Here.com) for Slovenia

But how they get real time traffic information?
Usually they use three types of information:
- Real-time incident data from third party providers (government departments of transportation, private data providers, road companies, police, cameras, counters…).
- Flow data on the movements of vehicles with connected devices and phones.
- Historical data.
The most interesting is second type of information. You all know, that telephone companies always know where your phone is. They use triangulation with cell towers so your position is pretty accurate even if you don’t have GPS enabled. With GPS enabled, your position is very accurate (forget abnormal conditions).
Nowadays almost all people use smartphones and this means that crowd of information are available for analyzing. You probably know that your phone sends anonymous (hm?) bits of data back to Google (or other service). This data can describe how fast you are moving. And if all phones move in the same direction and this direction is the same as road on map ... that can be an important information. Of course live traffic services have to exclude some anomalies which can occurs. And more data comes from users, more accurate live traffic information we gets.
If we have enough information and if our algorithm can extract something meaningful from them, we can show how traffic go on.

Did you think of privacy?
Google explains that people can opt in or opt out of sharing their travel data under Android settings. If we believe them – Google says that they don’t know what data is coming from which user and they cut off first and last minutes. I don’t believe them, because on my Google Location History I can clearly see all my trip.

29 September 2014

GPS road navigation - Here for Android Beta

Some days ago many web pages starts to talk about Here for Android (beta) application. So I had to check what this experienced provider can offer. Here really isn't a newcomer, they were known as Ovi Maps and Nokia Maps before. In last two years they start to prepare a new design - on web and on mobile platforms. I dislike their maps until some months ago, but I must confess that their big effort (new design, using some local map providers, simplify user corrections, introduction of live traffic in small countries (Slovenia for example)...) now shows first results. On mobile platforms, Here provides services to Windows Phone, but low market share has made Nokia to devote to Android and iOS.
Here app for Android is still in beta version, so I won't be very strict. Beside this, I didn't drive a lot with it until this post and I can miss something.
Here for Android

+ Clear and nice user interface.
+ Fast application.
+ Very good and accurate maps.
+ Live Traffic integration (even for Slovenia!).
+ Phone wasn't hot after navigating with this app. This can mean that application isn't a big resources eater.
+ Many POI available.
+ Map and driving mode are separated. This is maybe strange for someone, but it offer really fast and good map looking with some different layers (satellite, traffic...).
- Pretty good route planning - this was usually the biggest problem with Here maps, so I have to be careful with this point.  UPDATE! (some hours later): I have changed evaluation from plus to minus after I have driven some hours on different locations. Simple too much problems, bad decisions and wrong roads. It is interesting that route planning on the web is different from that on phone (with same route settings of course). Maps also aren't as good as maps from Google or TomTom.
- Some maps are abnormal big. For example - Slovenia map uses 288 MB on this app. Latest Slovenia map for IGO from the same provider uses only 10 MB. I can see that they included individual building on map, but if I compare it with similar IGO map, it is still ten times bigger.This can be a beta version problem or maybe satellite view is included in it (I didn't have time to check).
- Strange icon on roundabout (look at screenshot) - it says third exit and is show like the exit is on the right side of roundabout. The reality is just opposite from that - you can see it on map bellow (on screenshot).
- Car position is late sometime. Not always, but when it is late, it is quite a bit.
- Missing second maneuver when driving.
- You can't insert waypoints, just a destination.
- Incomplete cloude solution. User can work with web version, but prepared trip won't be available on the phone.
- Searching for POI sometimes don't work as expected. It is also strange, why it goes to web if I select offline using before.
- I expected more application settings.

To be honest - it looks very promising and I'm waiting to buy a final version. If only Here developers can solve problems with bad route planning.
Nokia’s Here should be landing for Samsung Galaxy devices shortly, with support for other Android devices to follow by the end of this year. The price is still blowing in the wind. Fernback (Senior Vice President at Here division) says: "I want the focus to be on building a great product and build a big user-base, then we can talk about how we might want to monetize." (TheNextWeb). Does this mean that Here app will be free? Their big competitor is (free) Google Maps... so it is possible. We will see this very soon.

23 September 2014

Track Your Android Phone with Google Android Device Manager

If you don't want to ever lost your Android phone, then you should read this. Google offers a very simple solution that can come to help in case you lose your phone or it gets stolen. There are some others solutions available, but Android Device Manager is already installed on all smartphones, so there is no reason at least not to try it. Ups, there are some reasons (privacy, few features...), but we will throw them away for now and describe how Android Device Manager works.
This feature is also interesting, if your phone is stolen or if you want to follow someone.

It is understandably that you should prepare rescue procedure before you lose your phone. There are some requirements you should comply with:
- phone is connected with Google account,
- phone has access to the internet,
- Android Device Manager has been allowed to locate and lock your phone and erase its data.

If this requirements are met, you can track your phone, or making your phone ring or even wiping it. Because Android Device Manager is simple, it doesn't offer more options. If you want to remotely take a picture, you should find another solution.

Turn on Android Device Manager

To turn Android Device Manager on your phone, open Google Settings -> Android Device Manager. You can select two options:
- Remotely locate this device. If you select this, location access must be turned on. This can be done in Google Settings -> Location.
Allow remote lock and factory reset. If you select this, you should activate device administrator confirmation dialog which follows.

Locate, Ring, Lock or Erase your phone remotely

You can locate your phone with Device Manager App or (usually better) with web browser on computer. Latter can be accessed on android.com/devicemanager and will show you the approximate location of your phone and offer you to Ring, Lock or Erase it.
Sample of Android Device Manager

Google Location History

It isn't part of Android Device Manager, but this feature goes with it hand in hand.
If you turn on Google Settings -> Location -> Location Services -> Google Location reporting, your phone will reporting location data to Google. Beside GPS, this use a Wi-Fi Positions System and Cell-ID data, so your location can be pretty accurate even if disable GPS. Check it, if you don't believe.
Sample of Google Location History

Google offers to delete location history - if you believe them. But as I said before - leave this privacy problems beside for this article.

Conclusion: Android Device Manager doesn't just locate your phone, but also lets you ring it, lock it and erase everything from it. Maybe it isn't perfect, but can really come to help.

22 September 2014

GPS road navigation - Navitel Navigator

It is always interesting to try new navigation app. Especially if it has over 20 million of users. Last month it was Navitel Navigator. At first moment it looked promising, but I quickly found some big issues.

+ Good and custamizable user interface (dashboard).
+ Geosocial services.
+ Nice weather presentation.
+ Lane assistance.

- App often displays strange weather informations (from Gismeteo).
- Bad map packages. Slovenia is in Balkan package and you must install the whole package.
- Bad route planning. Beside that, the planned route is sometimes shown with straight line on display (not on roads).
- You can't select fine tuning options for route planning (Fast, Short, Green...).
- Even if you select that map looks towards North, it doesn't work as it should.
- Icons on top of the display are too small to use them between navigation.
- Many errors on map (including spelling errors).

Developers have a lot to do. To be honest - I expected more from this navigation. 

19 September 2014

How to Disable Facebook Video Auto-Play on your Android

Facebook introduced Video Auto-Play back in December. This feature automatically plays (silently) while browsing your News Feed. If you click the video, it will play in full-screen mode with sound.
When Facebook introduced Video Auto-play, they said there won't be any way for disable it. If you weren't interested in viewing a video, they suggested you just scroll past it. But Facebook listen to their users and added a setting to disable auto-playing videos.

Facebook Video Auto-Play is really annoying, especially on mobile devices. It can raise your phone bill, eats your data and slower your Facebook application. Many Facebook users have discovered that this feature may be responsible for unexpected charges on their mobile phone bills. But fortunately you can disable this behavior very easy.

To disable auto-play videos on your Android, you will need to access the Facebook App Settings.

Now search for Video Auto-play and set it to Off.

Voila. You won't have any problems any more :-)