February 18, 2008

Street Number Issues on GPS Maps

The Boston Globe published an article yesterday that highlighted an issue that may be the next one to solve for GPS makers and their map suppliers; Street Number inaccuracies. Typically, the map maker will take a look at a street, see that house numbers go from 1 - 200 and then evenly distribute those numbers along the length. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. If you use a GPS, you've probably already noticed when searching for a specific business address or house number, and the GPS tells you that you've arrived, and you actually have another 200 yards (or more) to go to actually get there, you know what I am talking about.

The Boston Globe picked out a particularly bad situation where a street is bisected by a train track, and ended up in the situation where they were on one side of the tracks with the unit saying "You have arrived", while the actual house is on the other side of the tracks.

I'll admit that GPS units still have a long way to go in order to be perfect in every case, but that generally they get people unfamiliar with the area to the place they need to go within a reasonably short amount of time. The article below does pick on the TomTom a bit to see if the unit knows Boston as well as the locals do. A lot to ask in the city of cowpath-based streets, but they do point out some areas that GPS units and their suppliers need to consider when making the next generation better.

We set out on a mission to stump the TomTom, one of the new generation of Global Positioning Satellite devices that stick to the windshield with a suction cup and promise to eliminate the need to ever open a map or ask for directions.

ReadMore at the Boston Globe

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February 13, 2008

GPS Equipped Motorcycle Helmet Radios for Help


In a great application of GPS technology here's a student from UMass who has equipped a motorcycle helmet with the Wireless Impact Guardian (WIG) that senses an impact; the unit is designed so that it can judge is you are OK after an impact. If not, it will automatically calls 911, then sends your location over the line. The student, Brycen Spencer, has filed a provisional patent on the device, which may just hit stores if someone will pick up the idea and manufacture it.

Via Engadget

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February 7, 2008

GPS Meets Snowplow

It looks like GPS and the snowplows might just be your friend in the near future. Overland Park KS department of public works is considering a system that would not only track snowplows but also in the future be able to post the results to the web. Apparently there is some concern about missing some streets, and there is definitely a concern about properly treating streets during fast moving storms where icing conditions can develop.


“There are just a ton of good things about this,” said Dennis Banka, Lenexa’s operations manager. Lenexa has global positioning devices on 20 of its 30 snowplows. Overland Park has the devices on nine of its 46 plows. Both cities are spending roughly $20,000 each to install the technology, not counting the cost of phone service Overland Park needs to transmit the data.

Among other things, the technology can tell city officials when and where the plow is, how fast it’s moving, how much material it spread and whether the blade is up.

It leaves little room for complaints that a plow hit a car or knocked over a mailbox. The data from a snowstorm can be retrieved, so officials can verify the veracity of a complaint.

And by tracking the location of the truck, dispatchers are able to quickly redeploy the trucks to other parts of the city where plowing has not been completed.

Via Kansas City Star
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February 6, 2008

GPS Tip: Returning the Rental Car with a Full Tank

How many times have you been burned by the surcharge on the rental car for returning the thing without a full tank? Yea, the re-fueling charges can get really expensive; I know that I have been caught with a $50 bill for filling the half full tank on a small rental car. You have a GPS, don't get caught paying these fees.

When navigating back to your rental car lot or airport, you can use your TomTom or Garmin to navigate to a gas station "Near Destination", or "Along the Route". Here are some basic instructions for most models:

  • TomTom - While navigating to your destination (airport or car rental return), "Navigate To", "POI", "Near Destination" then tap on Gas Station, which will bring up a list of gas stations with mileage counts away from the destination.

  • Garmin - While navigating to your destination (airport or car rental return), tap "Where To?," then "POI", then "Change Reference", and tap on near destination, then navigate to the Gas Station POI. It will also give you results that will offer you the distance from the destination.

    So, not only can your GPS save you money driving around on a daily basis, it can also save you a lot when you are looking for that final gas station before returning that rental car.

    Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking
  • January 30, 2008

    When Will GPS Prices Drop?


    A lot of readers write in and ask "When will the Price drop on this GPS?". Well the answer might just lie in looking back at the price trends over the last 12+ months. I've been doing this GPS blog long enough to know that there are a couple of key periods when prices will drop on existing models so that you can grab them at the right time.

    If you can wait a month or so, another buying opportunity might just be around the corner in March. Now, just like any consumer electronics business, there are great sales that blow the following logic out of the water, but I am looking at a general trend.

    Overall, there are three times when significant price drops happen.

    1) New models hit the shelves ahead of the summer driving season - Older models tend to drop in price as a result. This happened last year in March, as the CES 2007 models hit the store shelves as CeBit show units were announced. This is all in preparation for the summer driving season which is a big GPS time of year. In the image above you can see that prices took a dive in March and that prices stay fairly steady through the summer driving season.

    2) Holiday shopping season - Crazy time of year, and there is the other big price drop opportunity. The drops come in staggering jolts and at some outlets, not all, but generally it is a time of amazing discounting.

    3) Just After a New Model's Launch - This isn't shown on this chart above because the Nuvi 350 was well established in the market by the time this data was collected, but usually new models launch at a pretty high price and then within 6 - 12 weeks, drop down to more normal pricing. This is just the way electronics are. For those who remember, the Nuvi 350, just known as the "Nuvi" back in September 2005, was launched and priced close to $1,000. The flat GPS market was born and the rest is history....

    It is interesting to note that the prices through the summer driving season are essentially flat on this established model. It was not the case for newly introduced models as they dropped in price across the summer. Likewise, on models that compete with those new models dropped in price. So last summer, the Nuvi 200 was introduced and its price dropped across the summer; the TomTom ONE also kept pace to make sure it was competitive.

    The data above was grabbed off of my Steals and Deals posts where I highlight the best deals out there on any given week. The prices reflect Amazon pricing, not always the lowest, but always close and from my reader feedback, a place that they trust. The prices are for the Garmin Nuvi 350, a unit that has been in the market for a long time and has defined high quality and high appeal for almost the entire time it's been on the market. It's been the most popular GPS on the US market for months, and at times when these big price drops happen, it's the #1 seller in all of Amazon's Electronics stores, outselling digital cameras and iPods.

    Hope this helps.

    Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

    January 29, 2008

    Geotagging Camera with HD Video - GE E1050


    GE is coming out with with a new GPS equipped camera that will allow you to geotag all of your photos. The new camera, the E1050 will automatically goe-encode your pictures with location information as long as it is able to grab a GPS signal, which will cover most outdoor situations and if my experience with GPS receivers using high sensitivity chips, many indoor situations too (single floor woodframe houses). The camera will also come equipped with a couple of other cool features:

    • Smile and Blink detection - If people blinked, it will automatically warn you after the shot.
    • HD video recording - It will record in 720P at 30 frames per second and will plug into your HDMI equipped TV without any dock.

    It's a 10 MP camera and it's going to be available this spring for about $250 list price.

    Via Yahoo! Tech

    Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

    January 23, 2008

    PowerPlay P2000, P2200, P2800

    EmpowerPND2000.jpgGot word today that there is a new company launching a GPS line into the market; Empower. They will be selling these under the brand name “PowerPlay”

    All three new models feature a large 4.3” widescreen LCD touch panel:

  • P2000 the basic model which features navigation, bluetooth hands-free and traffic advisory data.
  • P2200 the photo unit that includes our basic unit’s features, with a built-in camera to take pictures while on a memorable outing.
  • P2800 the executive unit which includes our basic unit’s features, plus a wireless back up camera and iPod remote connectivity to enhance driving safety.

    The P2800 model is designed for safety-conscious drivers, enabling drivers to see behind their vehicle when backing up. The menu displayed on the P2800’s large LCD display also makes iPod song selection a breeze.

    Empower will also sell the three models under its own “PowerPlay” brand through its consumer sales channels. OEM manufacturers and retailers have already expressed interest in these products.

    The P2000 will be available for delivery in March. The P2200 and P2800 is slated for delivery in second quarter of this year. The suggested retail prices are: P2000 - $299, P2200 - $399 and P2800 - $499.

    More at their website - Empower

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  • Disney Testing GPS Based Nintendo Interactive Maps

    Disney is working again with a GPS based system for use in their parks, this time using a Nintendo DS game console. Recall they were using specially programmed mobile phones for a Kim Possible location based game last year. The idea is that you can use the DS as an interactive map that is location aware; not positive if it actually has GPS capabilities, but it certainly pinpoints your whereabouts. Once you have the map and your location you can also tap into a whole lot of information:

    You can click on the individual lands in the park and see instantly all the wait times. Let's use Liberty Square as an example. When you click on Liberty Square it will bring the land into full view. You can click on the Haunted Mansion and instantly see that it's wait time is twenty minutes. Click on the Liberty Tree Tavern and you can get a summary of their menu. From Around WDW News

    Hummmm, so if they can tell you the menu do they tell you the outrageous prices on the menu too?

    Via Tech Radar

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    January 21, 2008

    Dreevo Connected GPS

    DreevoPND.gif Add this one to the growing number of connected GPS units; the Dreevo PND. This from France, has some decent stats, and a yet to be proven capability. The unit has connected real-time speed camera positioning which is a pretty big feature for Europe, email messaging, and the all important traffic information. Its 4 inch widescreen formatted touch screen is the pathway to controlling this SiRF star III powered GPS. The Dreevo stays connected through a GSM/GPRS modem.

    Thanks Jim for sending this in.

    Dreevo Product Page

    Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

    Via Michelin to Quit GPS Market


    Word out of Europe says that Via Michelin is going to quit the GPS markets there. No word on the status of the small offering here in the US. Via Michelin, known for their tires and to some extent in this country their travel guides, tried to make a go of it i navigation devices by offering their content on GPS navigation systems. It does not appear that they were able to get as far as they wanted with the markets.

    Magellan has taken a different track, by incorporating AAA (American Automobile Association) travel guide information in their navigation systems. So, while the AAA content is a nice ad-on, it's not the basis for its own GPS. Maybe Michelin will follow this strategy in Europe where their travel guides are well known and sell the content to another navigation device company. On the other hand, maybe connected GPS devices, makes this single source supply of travel information obsolete.

    And so, Via Michelin joins a growing number of companies that have tried to either get into the GPS market or have launched and failed, including Philips, JVC, and Cobra.

    Scott Martin at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

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