The old election fraud joke ‘vote early, vote often’ probably prompted a US team to come up with a new satnav app for authenticating and securing votes registered by mobile phone. It’s one small step for technology but a giant leap for democracy.
Finally someone has come up with a smart phone app that should take the world by storm without a dive-bombing angry bird in sight! This altogether more serious application leverages the ubiquity of mobile phones to create secure location-based voting solutions.
So that means you can cast your vote in an upcoming election no matter where you are in the world and your choice is validated. No more trips to the embassy and no more lost or delayed overseas vote cards. Instant tallies, greater transparency, stronger political participation… the list of benefits goes on.
You only have to roll back the clock a few years for a major example of how lost or late votes threatened the legitimacy of a US Presidential election.
The UK’s Guardian noted on the 2004 US election: “Today, less than two weeks before the tightest presidential race in memory, untold thousands of overseas voters still have not received their ballots – and clearly won’t be able to get them back in time.
E-government in the palm of your hand
The new secure voting mobile service proposed by eVOTZ hugely simplifies the remote voting process by combining GNSS solutions, which use accurate satellite navigation, geolocation and social media models to confirm the person’s exact position at the time the vote is submitted by mobile phone.
The start-up company, headquartered in New York City, has won several awards for its voter registration platform, including top place in a European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) regional prize, the ‘USA Challenge’ (cover story on Inside GNSS www.insidegnss.com). “eVOTZ will transform how people and organisations get involved with and impact their businesses, communities and governments using what has become their main source of connectivity: mobile devices,” noted Elliot Klein, a New York native who developed the patent-pending technology with Ian Gertler and Benoit Richard, after winning the US regional prize.
The yearly ESNC rewards and promotes next-generation satnav innovators. With a total prize pool of around €140 000 in cash and €1 million in start-up support available under various regional and special prize categories, the competition attracts some wacky and some brilliant ideas from around the world.
The recognition and support that comes with winning prizes like ESNC pays off for innovators like eVOTZ who are developing real-world technologies on the back of complex space and geo-navigation science and research.
Yes to satellite navigation
The challenge for Europe’s satnav community, meanwhile, is to raise awareness among potential users and developers about the strengths of Galileo1 and Europe’s satellite-based augmentation system EGNOS, which boosts the accuracy and reliability of global positioning system (GPS) signals across Europe, especially in the security domain, and to support accreditation and further market analysis of the system. “It’s important that we get closer to the users to explain EGNOS’ full capabilities as well,” says Donna Reay, head of communications at the European GNSS Agency (GSA).
The ESNC supports next-generation satnav innovators and inventors like eVOTZ. “You could be a garage scientist or part of a team in a lab, start-up or university, what matters to us is your ideas – innovative ways you would apply the latest satellite navigation technology,” says Ulrike Daniels of Germany’s Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO), which organises the competition. Previous winning ideas range from water channel monitoring, ride-sharing in real-time, CO2 emission profiles, defibrillator localising, wind measurement and positioning for search-and-rescue dogs through to augmented reality car racing games.
“The competition is a launch pad, getting ideas off the drawing board and into a lab. The European Satellite Navigation Competition is a chance for creative people to finally have someone take their ideas seriously,” says Daniels.
For now, the scientific community is saying ‘yes’ to eVOTZ and the business community will be next. That represents a big ‘yes’ for satellite navigation and its growing status and uses in society and the economy.
Giant step for Galileo
Galileo is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) space projects ever initiated in Europe. With initial operations set to begin in 2014-2015, it will be a global network of satellites providing precise timing and location information to users on the ground and in the air. With Galileo, entrepreneurs can confidently build business applications and services – for the home, workplace and mobile phones – all underpinned by accurate and reliable satellite navigation data. A precursor to Galileo, EGNOS, is already validated and being applied in many areas, and it is ready for use to improve air-traffic control.
• eVOTZ: figure showing the signal flow from smart phone to satellite and down to ground-based relay station (© eVOTZ)
• eVOTZ: logos and graphical designs of smart phones with eVOTZ interface (© eVOTZ)