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Technology Untangled: Need parking or eBook? Your phone can help

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technology-bourWith iPhones and Android smartphones, there are plenty of apps to help you navigate to where you want to go – except for that last crucial distance to an open parking spot. One of our topics in this column is a new technology that helps you find a parking spot with your smartphone. I’ll also describe how to download free eBooks.

Last month, the city of Indianapolis announced that it was initiating a new parking service in several areas around town. The free app, Parker, by Streetline.com, can help you find open parking spots on the street. In some cities, it can also help you find and reserve available parking in garages and surface lots. The technology for Streetline’s service is still in the relatively early development stage, but I see this as an application with potential to expand and grow into widespread use. Right now, there are only a handful of cities that are set up for the Parker app – Boston, Washington, and Los Angeles, to name a few. Indianapolis’ recent first step with this system was to add 600 sensors in three areas: near Monument Circle downtown, around Massachusetts Avenue, and in the Broad Ripple area.

The sensors are mounted on the surface of the road at each parking space and they recognize the magnetic signature of a car if one is parked near it. They transmit that information to nearby receivers that ultimately feed that availability information back to your phone in the form of a map overlay. Information also includes the cost of parking and any time restrictions for the spots. The system does not send you to a specific parking spot, but rather breaks down the data to depict the number of available spots on any given nearby stretch of road. The best chance of finding a spot is in areas where the software reports “more than four spots” open. If it reports “less than two spots” then it is unlikely that you will find those spots still open once you come around the block.

The sensors look a bit like surface-mounted street reflectors and are fixed in place with an industrial adhesive. Each sensor contains two AA batteries. I am a bit curious about how well these units will stand up to the weather and how often the batteries will need replaced. If they do work well, guided parking systems like this should become more prevalent. This parking technology is expanding to more cities nationwide, and while it does cost the city money to install, the city benefits by gathering better data about their parking spots. Indianapolis, through its ParkIndy LLC partnership, plans to install many more sensors throughout the city this year.

On a separate subject, I have been intrigued by the continued growth of eReaders and electronic books. I have yet to decide on a specific tablet or eReader for myself, but I have noticed one obvious feature with all of them – they are designed to try to sell you eBooks and make it easy for you to buy them. Free books are a bit harder to come by. The free offerings are usually older classics. To find newer books, I started with my local library.

It turns out that a growing number of books are available in digital formats through many Indiana libraries, thanks to a project called the eIndiana Digital Consortium. Anyone with a library card can log in to their local library’s website and borrow books by downloading them electronically. One nice feature with the library books is that they are available in a format that doesn’t require use of a dedicated eReader; any computer will do. That format is the Adobe Digital Editions EPUB eBook. Adobe’s free reader software must be installed and registered before you can download books.

This format involves some type of digital rights management encoding. This means that you cannot make multiple copies of a book and share it with everyone. However, you can transfer and share your borrowed books simultaneously on several of your own devices and computers by registering those devices under your Adobe Digital Editions software account. The encoding also automatically expires your books at the end of their lending period, so you won’t need to remember to return them. For details on how to browse, check out, and download books from the library, see http://www.overdrive.com/Solutions/Libraries/guidedtour/.

Once your books are downloaded to your computer, it is a fairly simply matter to transfer them to many mobile devices, including your smartphone via USB cable. I did try to read a few chapters using my phone and found it a bit tedious on such a small screen. As much as I like the technical “wow” factor of reading a novel on an electronic device, I still think a standard paperback book is the better choice for wet environments like the beach, pool or bathtub.•

Stephen Bour (bourtech@iquest.net) is an engineer and legal technology consultant in Indianapolis. His company, the Alliance for Litigation Support Inc., includes Bour Technical Services and Alliance Court Reporting. Areas of service include legal videography, tape analysis, document scanning to CD and courtroom presentation support. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

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  1. Indianapolis employers harassment among minorities AFRICAN Americans needs to be discussed the metro Indianapolis area is horrible when it comes to harassing African American employees especially in the local healthcare facilities. Racially profiling in the workplace is an major issue. Please make it better because I'm many civil rights leaders would come here and justify that Indiana is a state the WORKS only applies to Caucasian Americans especially in Hamilton county. Indiana targets African Americans in the workplace so when governor pence is trying to convince people to vote for him this would be awesome publicity for the Presidency Elections.

  2. Wishing Mary Willis only God's best, and superhuman strength, as she attempts to right a ship that too often strays far off course. May she never suffer this personal affect, as some do who attempt to change a broken system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QojajMsd2nE

  3. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  4. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  5. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

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