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Sat 12 Jun 2010 04:00 AM

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Spy in the sky coming to a dashboard near you?

I've been hearing a lot about telemetry recently, and you can see why.

Spy in the sky coming to a dashboard near you?

I've been hearing a lot about telemetry recently, and you can see why. From the operator of any kind of motorised fleet - be it trucks, bulldozers, crop dusters or go-karts - the advantages are obvious. Straight away, the plant manager can see exactly where his machines are, overlaid on a grid telling him where they are supposed to be, and even more importantly in a world where bumps and scrapes seem to magically appear, he can see which driver is thrashing it.

Funnily enough, it isn't the plant managers who are driving this change. Oddly, in a region of minimal government interference, it is the powers that be who are encouraging such equipment to be retro-fitted. The chief reason, as mentioned elsewhere in the issue, is to combat illegal sewage dumping, though other mandatory electronics include the putting speed limiters in mini buses.

The problem, as I see it, is where will it stop? Like any new technology, the use of kit which is designed - albeit for all the right reasons - to take autonomy away from a human kicks up all kind of legal, moral and ethical issues, collectively known as the ‘law of unintended consequences'. For example, you might have seen those idiots tearing down Sheikh Zayed Road on YouTube recently (For those that haven't, there is a video of several young motorists, driving on two wheels and performing other crazy stunts in heavy traffic. It recived much attention from the authorities.) Now, it might be logical for the a law demanding similar telemetry fitted in private cars, but what sort of data about where we are going, what we're doing and who we're seeing.

I'm not saying telemetry is a bad idea, but we need to be aware of what the future might hold for all of us if we embrace it. Either that or buy a bicycle.

Greg Whitaker is the editor of Plant Machinery Vehicles Middle East.

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