[aprssig] APRS System Overiding Fundamentals

William McKeehan mckeehan at mckeehan.homeip.net
Tue Mar 8 12:33:18 CST 2005

In May, one of the local emergency communication groups has plans to provide
communications for a bicycle event. An event similar to this was my first
introduction to local Ham's last year before I got my ticket. Before that
event, I had an interest in APRS. At that event, I saw how much help an APRS
display would be to the net controller. Net control often had to ask where
different assets were; they had no way (other than a log) to keep track of any

I am planning to participate in the event in May by working at net control
with an APRS station. I do not expect anyone on the route to have APRS
trackers (I may get lucky, but I am not counting on it). My plan is to
establish a list of assets that I need to keep track of and key points along
the route. We will have the assets use voice to alert us each time they pass
one of these key points. In addition to putting this information into the
event log, I will move the APRS object along the route. At a minimum, this
will let net control know visually where the  various assets are without
excessive voice traffic.

My plan sounds like what Bob's group did over 10 years ago. If anyone has any
advice on doing this, I would love to hear it. I hope that this goes over well
and is helpful.

On Tue, March 8, 2005 11:59 am, Robert Bruninga said:
> In retrospect, I think some of the differences of opinion in
> some matters can be traced to some basic missunderstandings
> of what APRS actually is and how it is being used...
> In a nutshell, visualize the intent of APRS design as this:
> APRS was designed simply to bring technology to the large
> map display that is usually involved in every emergency
> headquarters or command post.  To place that ONE
> MASTER VIEW in the hands of everyone involved
> in the event or communications and to allow everyone
> to help update it.
> This way, anyone with fresh information can stick it on
> the map just like they used stick-pins and labels.  And this
> new information propogates nearly instantly to everyone
> everywhere.  Again, APRS is a view in virtual space
> that everyone can see, and anyone can update by
> simply moving an object or station on their screens and
> everyone else will see it.
> This was the concept of APRS even before GPS became
> affordable for trackers.  The availabliity of GPS simply made
> it easier to track high priority moving assets that were so
> equipped, but the assumption all along was  that EVERY
> ASSET or "thing" or VIP or "happening" was on the map and
> being updated and moved throughtout the event so that the
> virtual map had an up-to-date view of *everything* involved-in
> or that had an impact on the operations.
> The firedept liason maintained the location of fires and its
> trucks the Police liason kept the locations of traffic probllems
> and accidents updated, the shelters liason kept the map
> updated with the needs and loading of the shelters, etc...
> A weather guy maybe kept the WX picture updated.  The
> power company liason keep the map updated with the
> locations of downed power lines and line crews.  ANd also
> areas without power... etc...  In other words,  EVERY COMMS
> liason person had an APRS display infront of him and focused
> on keeping his assets and objects and bulletins updated
> and that way EVERYONE had access to everything that was
> going on.
> In the same vein, that is why there is the "overlay" file for
> events. The "overlay" for an event is for placing the never-
> will-move assets and labels on everyone's maps at the
> begninning so that these non moving items do not take up
> any air-time.  Such as the locations of checkpoints or milemarks
> or checkpoints.
> I fear too many people these days only view APRS as a
> vehicle tracking system and not much else.  And since they
> usually cannot get together enough trackers to track
> even the most important assets, they dont even think about
> using APRS as their "information management tool" which
> it was designed to be.  Thus HAM radio in most cases
> ignores APRS as a high-tech-more-toys side show instead
> of a real EVENT tool (independent of GPS)...
> Similarly the BULLETIN and ANNOUNCEMENT page was
> also ment to be a "single virtual" bulletin board of fixed
> size that containted the latest and most important items
> of general interest to everyone.  Anyone could post or
> update the bulletin board, and when it got too full or
> when old bulletins were obsolete, they were removed.
> Again, evryone was looking at the same virtual bulletin
> board.   (and responsible for the information there).
> Problem was that some programs did not impltement
> it as this single restricted one-size virtual bulletin board
> which forced discipline on the users to post, and maintain
> their postings and update them.  Some  programs simply
> keep a runnning log of all bulletins and  announcements
> with no beginning and no end and no concept of a
> "common view of currently active" bulletins and
> announcemnets.  Hence they also do not provide for the
> line-by-line editing, updating or replacement of individual
> lines on that single event-wide virtual BULLETINS display.
> So, I hope this helps everyone see the perspective from
> which APRS was developed and what its primary applicaiton
> was intended to be.  This might give some insight into
> where some comments are coming from.
> SUMMARY:  In summary, I am frustrated that APRS these
> days is beoming too much of a GPS toy and is actually being
> used less and less as an information management,
> communications and  display tool for events and operations.
> Case-in-point was this weekends local Marathon. No one
> even thinks of APRS in our club for this application, beacuse
> everyone only sees APRS as a map for tracking GPS.
> Yet, 10 years ago  we used to do this marathon with APRS
> with *no* trackers at all!  And we kept track of the lead
> runner, lead woman, lead pack, the main pack, the guy
> with the red hat, and the tail-bike and anyone else along
> the route of interest.  Operators at every laptop at every
> station could see it all.  The police liason could see it, for
> managing traffic,  the Run officials could see it for managing
> their logistics, etc..
> But now, nothing.  The current perception that APRS is
> just for tracking GPS trackers (which can never have
> enough to fully do any event) is killing the use of this
> powerful tool in many areas... and many HAM radio
> support applications.
> Bob, WB4APR
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William McKeehan
Internet: mckeehan at mckeehan.homeip.net

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