Watches have been invented for centuries. What is the next revolution in watches? The basic functionality of a traditional watch is to tell time whenever and wherever you are. The difference between a watch and a clock is the mobility.
The watch has two variables: time and location. Since the limitation of technology, a traditional watch can only tell time but not location. Is location important? Definitely! When an event happens, we always have to tell WHAT, WHEN and WHERE. We use ambiguous descriptions for locations inherited from history such as "there was a car accident on Yonge Street between Shepard and Finch." with an uncertainty of about one kilometer because accurate and efficient location description was not available. With GPS receivers, accurate location is becoming available. It seems the time to integrate GPS capability into watches so that accurate location for any event can be recorded. However, the small screen of a watch is not suitable to display long digits of longitude/latitude or UTM coordinates (more than 15 digits) that are also difficult for people to remember and communicate. This problem has been solved by the Universal Address that makes accurate location information fit in the same screen with time on a watch, and is also easy for people to remember and communicate. Therefore, the next revolution in watches is to display both accurate time and location (Universal Address). This revolution will change all the aspects of our daily life as profound as the introduction of timekeeping watches centuries ago.
Time and location are considered the most important information for the human civilization. Whenever an event happens, we always need to tell WHEN and WHERE the event happens.
Telling time can go all the way back to the beginning of our civilization. The earliest humans used the position of the sun in the sky to approximate the time of a day. Around 3500 B.C., the Egyptians began to construct huge obelisks which served as primitive sundials, and then an hourglass was invented. During the 1300s, mechanical clocks was developed using weights, springs or coiled springs. In 1656, Christiaan Huygens invented the pendulum clock, which significantly improved the accuracy of clocks, off by less than a minute a day, compared to the 15 minutes a day of earlier clocks.
Figure 1. A Timekeeping Watch
In 1714, the British Parliament offered a cash reward to anyone who could invent a clock accurate enough for use in navigation at sea. This is because thousands of sailors were lost or smashed against rocks due to the large errors in clocks that were used to determine their exact locations. For every minute lost by a clock, it meant that there would be a navigational error of 15 miles. In 1761, John Harrison invented a pocket watch accurate enough to use for navigation at sea, which lost only 5 seconds in 6 and weeks. This tiny watch has demonstrated the power of a small watch.
It is the small watch that has changed the way we are living. The clock, not the steam-engine, is the key-machine of the modern industrial age. Now accurate time has become part of our life: we use accurate time to schedule almost all our daily activities: meals, sleeps, schools, works, meetings, travels (taxis, buses, trains, airplanes, etc), entertainment (TV programs, movies, games, etc), and so on.
Positioning technologies are as important as timekeeping technologies. Positioning can be dated back to even earlier years than timekeeping because everything takes a space in the physical world. Even animals have the concept of space, know their paths and have their territories. Positioning technologies were originated mainly for marine navigation. This is because there are always plenty of land marks for land navigation and determining a position on land is not as challenging as on an ocean.
The early seafarers first started plying the water about 3500 BC and they rarely left sight of land. In ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, mariners started using pilot books and observing the positions of the sun and stars, the direction and velocity of seasonal winds, the water depth, and the shape of waves to determine locations. In the 2nd century BC, the Greek astronomer Hipparchus identified and cataloged more than 850 stars and believed that the world was round like a sphere. He introduced a grid of lines dividing the world into 360 degrees. 200 years later, these lines had come to be known as latitude and longitude. Another Greek mathematician (Ptolemy) declared that each degree had 60 minutes, and each minute consisted of 60 seconds. In about 1100 AD, the magnetic compass began to appear in navigation. By the end of 13th century, the first true nautical charts for marine navigation appeared in Italy. In the 20th century electronic instruments supplanted many centuries-old navigation technologies. In 1904 German inventor Christian Hulsmeyer introduced the first navigation device using radar technology. In 1924, radio beacons started as navigational aid to airplane pilots. In 1958, United States military developed the TRANSIT (NAVSAT) satellite navigation system. Twenty years later, the US Air Force introduced the global positioning system (GPS). By the end of 20th century, small, inexpensive GPS receivers were becoming available to all people around the world, which can tell a location anywhere in the world to an error as small as one meter.
A Severe Obstacle for the Wide Use of GPS Receivers
Now nobody in the world can say that accurate time is not necessary. The same important thing the accurate position now can be obtained anywhere and at anytime with the introduction of GPS receivers. They will also become necessary in our daily life. However, the current geographic coordinates such as longitude/latitude are very long digits when they represent locations to the resolution of meters, and nearly useless to consumers. In order to make the locations meaningful, all GPS receivers have to show the locations on maps. That makes a GPS receiver no matter its a cellphone, a GPS watch or a handheld to have a powerful CPU, large screen and big memory to store, manipulate and display maps. Thus, all GPS receivers become large, heavy, expensive and short in battery life. The GPS watch has lost all the advantages as a watch: small, light and inexpensive and with long battery life that everybody can afford and easily use for their daily life. Moreover, the display on a map is very difficult to communicate the accurate location information between people. Therefore, the use of GPS receivers remains in very small groups of professionals. The representation of locations still rely on language dependent, irregular, incomplete, inaccurate, and inefficient street addresses for the daily activities of the public, just like ancient people was using the sundial to tell the time. Now nobody can tolerate the approximation of sundials. Definitely, we will not tolerate this situation either.
A New Era Using Accurate Locations
In order to overcome this problem, the Universal Address System and the Natural Area Coding System have been developed , which generate language independent, systematic, complete, accurate and highly efficient Universal Addresses for all the locations and universal area codes (Natural Area Codes) for all areas in the world. An eight character Universal Address can uniquely specify every building in the world. A ten character Universal Address can specify every square meter on the earth. Since Universal Addresses are generated by a set of grids the Universal Map Grids, they can be directly pinpointed on all maps with these grids.
Figure 2. A Universal Address can be pinpointed on all kinds of maps with Universal Map Grids
The comparison of two Universal Addresses can immediately tell the distance and direction between any two locations. Enhanced with the capability to display Universal Address, a watch will become a necessary tool with which consumers can directly read, digest, remember and communicate accurate location information without the need of maps. These watches including wrist watches, pocket watches, cellphones, handheld devices, etc will be called time-space watches. What can these highly accurate time-space watches do for the daily activities of the public? They can be used to tell, identify or navigate to the accurate locations of stores, restaurants, hotels, gas stations, cars, trucks, boats, trains, airplanes, lighthouses, submerged reefs, wrecks, accidents, crimes, cottages, houses, buildings, bridges, gates, doors, electric transformers, electric wire poles, cable connectors, water pipe leaks, gas meters, forests, ski sites, deserts, fishing spots, dating spots, parking meters, parking spaces, bus stops, street lights, fire hydrants, sewage exits, trees, BBQ tables, caves, statues, flag poles, wells, pollution spots, ponds, rivers, discoveries, military targets, and many others. With Universal Addresses and time-space watches, people will never get troubles to tell accurate locations anywhere in the world no matter there are addresses or not. With the Universal Address of a destination, you can use a time-space watch directly navigate to the destination without any other helps.
Figure 3. A Time-Space Watch Display time (left) Display Universal Address (right)
When you are driving on a rural highway and have problems with your car, you can use your time-space watch to tell your exact location immediately instead of the location estimated from the odometer of your car with a large uncertainty. The roadside service company can directly pinpoint where you are and quickly reach you.
If you are a repairman responsible for all street lights in a city, you may frequently get calls about broken street lights. If people dont have time-space watches and the street lights do not have Universal Addresses, the caller may be able to tell only the rough location of a broken street light. You dont know which the exact broken street light is. You need to go to your office to get a map for the neighboring area with which you can find the rough location. However, it will take you quite a long time to figure out which one is broken if you go there during the daytime that the street lights are off. If you have a time-space watch and each street light has a Universal Address on it, the caller can tell you exact Universal Address of the broken street light. Therefore, you can use your time-space watch to get there and identify the street light immediately. You can also easily record your repair work with Universal Identifier (Universal Address) in your computer database.
If you and your friends plan to have a barbeque in a large conservation park, you always ask everybody to wait at the entrance because it is difficult to describe an individual barbeque table in that park. That will waste lots of your time. If everybody has an accurate time-space watch, the situation will be different. You can ask your friends to directly go to the reserved barbeque table represented by its Universal Address.
Actually, with a time-space watch, you can tell and record your real-time location conveniently no matter you are shopping, walking, biking, swimming, driving, boating, flying, skiing, snowboarding, fishing, exploring, etc. The wide use of time-space watches will represent the beginning of a new era using accurate locations for all human activities. All yellow pages and travel directories will list the Universal Addresses of all businesses and attractions. All business cards and advertisements will include Universal Addresses as part of addresses. All street signs will include their Universal Addresses. All street maps will be printed with Universal Map Grids. All house number plates will have their Universal Addresses. All people will wear time-space watches, and can travel around the world without the need of the knowledge of foreign languages and travel guides. Emergency services will find locations faster and more reliably. All mail and parcels in the world will be sorted automatically based on Universal Addresses. At that time, nobody will say that accurate location information is not necessary.
Figure 4. Universal Addresses will be used everywhere
Accurate clocks and watches have made the modern industry age. Accurate time-space watches will create an integrated, digitized and efficient world.
1. Mumford, Lewis. Technics and Civilization. New York: Harcourt, 1934 (pp. 14-15)
2. Shen, Xinhang. Geographic Coordinates and Universal Addresses, Proceeding of GeoTec Event 2002.
About the Author
Founded in 1995, NAC Geographic Products Inc. is a world’s leading technology company based in Toronto, Canada. The Natural Area Coding System, the Universal Address System, the Global Postal Code System, the Universal Map Grid System and the Universal Property Identifier System of the company are leading the world to a new era for using accurate locations in all human activities. The company also develops and provides software products such as WEBGIS, web services such as NAC Geocoding and Mapping Services, and wireless location based services such as MLBS.NET.
Shen, Xinhang, President
NAC Geographic Products Inc.
1608-45 Huntingdale Blvd., Toronto, ON M1W 2N8, Canada
Entire article (c)2004, Shen, Xinhang, NAC Geographic Products Inc.