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1:40pm on Saturday, 14th January, 2006:

Easily Alarmed


I went to London yesterday. On the train home, I read too much of The Ambiguity of Play and fell asleep. I was awoken when a fellow passenger told me we'd stopped.

Well yes, I knew we'd stopped — stopped at Chelmsford. Colchester was another half an hour away.

I went back to sleep and awoke with minutes to spare.

Now actually is is conceivable that I could have slept right through Colchester and not woken up until I got to Clacton. I knew I was in no danger of this, though, because I'd set my mobile phone on a timed alarm. The thing is, though, train travel in the UK being somewhat unreliable, stated journey times are at best only guidelines. What I want is not for my mobile phone to wake me up after an hour, but to wake me up when I get to Colchester.

This is indeed possible. Colchester has the STD code 01206. It's possible for a program running on a mobile phone to scan the STD code of the cell it's currently in, then ring-a-ding-ding when it reaches the one in which the target station is located. I know it's possible because I asked the good people at mobile phone game developer Iomo (now Infospace) a couple of years ago and they said it was, although it might have to be in the firmware rather than as a stand-alone application.

OK, so that might be a bit of a pain, given that different phones have different firmware, but I thought of another way to do it: through the network. You text the STD code you want (or the city name) to a server, and it monitors the cell you're in from the network end (because they need to know where it is anyway). When you reach a cell with the correct STD code, it phones you. The nice thing about this is that it's a value-added service that a network can provide to help its customers.

I wrote to Vodaphone suggesting the idea, and they didn't reply.

Oh well.

Are there any GPS devices that will raise an alarm when you get within a couple of miles of a place?

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).