November 8, 2007

How Many Points of Interest (POI) is Good Enough on a GPS?

I get this question a lot, and too much is never enough in most cases, but the issue comes down to cost of the GPS and the ability to navigate through all of those POI with ease.

Cost - When GPS companies get the map data from their suppliers, they get much more information that they want to use and cram onto the GPS that they sell you; millions of POI, and a lot of information on roadways that may not be helpful to the average driver. Their job is to encode the data so that their systems can use it, and cut that dataset down so it fits on the hardware. Storage costs money, and while memory is dropping fast these days, the list price of a GPS is dropping faster. Then there are some benchmarks for storage space as it relates to the amount of data; so for instance, it’s easy to source a 1GB storage chip for a GPS, but the roadways in the US come pretty close to 1GB, and that only leaves yo u a little bit of room for POI; thus you need to chop the number you can fit.

more after the jump...

Ease of navigation - This is key and all but the very cheapest GPS models have decent search capabilities, where you can type on the name or partial name of a POI and it will pull up a list of locations, usually sorted by distance away from you. Mio in particular has a nice little ability to find brands of outlets in sub-categories. So if you are looking for a restaurant, you can drill down to Restaurant -> Fast Food -> McDonalds to get a listing of only those outlets.


  • “1.3 Million POI” – this is generally the bare minimum of POI that you see in the marketplace. This is (hopefully) limited to entry level models on Continental US maps. This will give you gas stations, police stations, airports, and a lot of other key places that you might want to navigate to. My experience is that you DO NOT get individual stores with this level of POI for the US. So, while you may get “Apple Valley Shopping Plaza”, you won’t know what stores are actually in the plaza. Not helpful. Sometimes the sacrifice is worth making for the low price of the GPS unit.

  • “3+ Million POI” – This is a more standard level of POI in non-entry level devices. This is not luxurious, but very passable in my mind. At this level of POI, you will start to add many stores, and businesses that you sorely missed at the “1.3 Million” level. Many mid-tier units carry this level of POI. Most units with 2GB of memory and the US maps should have this.

  • “5 Million POI and up” – Excellent and luxurious numbers of POI; you can find just about anything you need; including many parks and recreation areas. The question here is if you really need it all.

    Key requirements of POI lists are in my mind, the phone numbers. Pretty much everyone has a mobile phone and if you are on the road, looking for a hotel, store or place to eat, it is very helpful to call ahead to get information and the GPS should be able to provide this for you.

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    Posted by Scott Martin at November 8, 2007 6:45 AM
  • Recent Comments

    UGH! Every time I think I could use my POI system on mine, it lets me down. I'll stick with Google, or 800-free-411 to get the address and punch in the address on the GPS.

    But Cliff does have a good idea though.

    Posted by: Sven at November 8, 2007 6:41 PM

    I know this is a bit of a dream, but also very within the scope of what any of the major GPS companies could do.

    A POI database of tens of millions of points, every school, park, hospital, restaurant, doctor's office, department store, UPS Store, .... everything. BUT, since there's no way there would be enough room for them all on my GPS, I want to tell software on my computer exactly which areas I want moved to my GPS.

    So, my home area would be very well taken care of, and anywhere I am planning on travelling to would be complete after my next sync.

    Planning a huge road trip? Well we can't give you 100% for the whole trip, but tell us what categories of points are most important to you and we'll make sure those get put on.

    Yes, go ahead and install 2 million points for the entire continent on the units for retail, but give everyone the option to have this comprehensive record when they get home. Heck, you could probably charge for the deluxe service.

    There is no such thing as too much information, we just need smarter ways to handle it all. I thought that's what technology was all about now anyway. :)

    Posted by: Cliff at November 8, 2007 3:20 PM
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