GPS Spoofing in Shanghai

MIT Technology Review has an interesting article on a new type of GPS spoofing going on in Shanghai which has the experts puzzled.

Nobody knows who is behind this spoofing, or what its ultimate purpose might be. These ships could be unwilling test subjects for a sophisticated electronic warfare system, or collateral damage in a conflict between environmental criminals and the Chinese state that has already claimed dozens of ships and lives. But one thing is for certain: there is an invisible electronic war over the future of navigation in Shanghai, and GPS is losing.

Strava data makes an appearance as a way of figuring out whether only shipping is affected.

Perhaps bugs or malware in the ships’ AIS or GPS systems were causing the effect? To rule that out, they sought data from another form of transportation completely: cycling.

China has about as many bicycles as the rest of the world combined, with nearly 10 million in Shanghai alone. Some of the city’s cyclists use smartphone fitness apps to track their rides. One in particular, Strava, shares a global heat map of anonymized activities from the previous two years.


The Giro d’Italia started on Saturday, and as is usual now, SBS is covering it. However, since the Giro is not as popular as the Tour, they’re not doing live coverage of every stage, instead providing a 15min stage summary in the morning (Sydney time - so a couple of hours after the stage finished in Italy), and a longer, half hour summary in the evening.

However, Tom mentioned in an email last week that he has bought himself a SlingBox and rigged it up to his Sky TV setup box back in Ireland. He provided me with the details to log into it and try it out, whereupon I discovered that he has Eurosport, and, as it turns out, Eurosport cover most of the cycling season.

So now, I can log into Tom’s set-top box in Ireland, get it to record the Giro stages live, and then log in when I get up in the morning and watch the day’s stage! Pretty cool. It works well, and the video quality is pretty good. Isn’t technology wonderful :)

Solar Concentrator

Scientists at MIT have announced the development of organic dyes which, when applied to a pane of glass, can catch solar energy and direct it to the edge of the glass for collection by photo-voltaic cells. The Guardian has the details

Sunlight is concentrated in existing solar power devices using large, mobile mirrors that track the sun as it moves across the sky. But these can be expensive to deploy and maintain. In the MIT device, called an “organic solar concentrator” and described in the latest issue of Science, the researchers painted a mixture of organic dyes onto the surface of a pane of glass. The dyes trap different wavelengths of sunlight and then guide the energy along the glass towards the PV cells at the edges.

“The point of all this is to get away with using far fewer solar cells,” said Marc Baldo, an electrical engineer at MIT. “The concentrator collects light over its whole front surface, but the solar cells need only cover the area of the edges.”

As the edges of a glass panel can often be 100 times smaller in area than the surface itself, he added, solar panels would need 100 times fewer PV cells to collect the same energy. “So we can save money. Since industry can’t produce enough solar cells to satisfy demand, this might also be a good way to stretch production.”