Garmin added a new feature to its Garmin Fit App, launched last year, called LiveTrack - which give the user the ability to broadcast their status to friends and followers. Sure you may not be in the Tour de France or in the leader's group on the Boston Marathon, but you can sure act that way with the LiveTrack capability that shows followers your key stats like time elapsed, distance, speed and elevation in real time, as well as any information that you collect via ANT+ sensors.
Those ANT+ sensors can collect data from Heart Rate Monitors, as well as cadence meters and wirelessly collect them via an ANT+ receiver plugged into your phone.
Of course, Garmin plugged the Garmin Connect tracking website into the back end of Garmin Fit, so you can save and analyze your data from your recent workouts.
TomTom has released their new iPhone App, version 1.10. The updated includes new maps, always a good thing, and integration with Facebook, allowing you to find a Facebook event and navigate to it, while also finding Facebook locations (AKA points of Interest) and navigating to them. When you let TomTom access your Facebook feed, it pulls in where your friends have last checked in, then offers you the ability to navigate there.
The other notable update includes the ability to share your destination with Facebook, Twitter or simply to text your destination with friends; not bad. This is a Glympse type idea, where without the realtime updating so they see where you are in the meantime. When sharing TomTom posts a plain message indicating that you are navigating to a certain destination with a planned arrival time. Not bad.
While this is all well and good, the change getting most of the attention is the App icon change. Cruise the iTunes store and you'll see the criticism piling up. There must pretty good brand awareness of TomTom, but the hands wrapping around the earth logo must not be cutting it. Slap a car in there and now people get it?
Below are how your sharing your route will look in Facebook and Twitter:
Above: Posted into Facebook
Above: Destination as seen as the full twitter post.
OpenCaching is the "Other" GPS based treasure hunt game in town, and they have upgraded their capabilities as a result of user feedback. You are now able to upload photos to your cache descriptions. On certain Garmin handheld models you'll even be able to see pictures on the handheld while in the field.
This change can get more cache owners involved as well as users. OpenCaching, has been around for a while, but I know in my area, there has been relatively few caches loaded into their system. Garmin has probably figured this out, and that's the reason for the change.
They are adding a sweetener, and offering a chance to win a Garmin eTrex 30 if you upload your cache with a photo. They will be giving away one eTrex 30 per week in the month of march, and offer entries based on cache imports/uploads. from OpenCaching:
"To get things off on the right foot, we're giving away an eTrex 30 every week in March. You'll get 2 entries into the drawing for every new cache you post with a photo, 1 entry for every photo you add to an existing cache, and 1 entry for every new cache you add without a photo. To enter, import your caches and photos, then e-mail the OX codes of all the qualifying caches you add or alter to email@example.com. Follow @OpenCache on Twitter for more news and updates."
Navigon is adding a street view capability to its iPhone App, letting users get a view of exactly where they are going for many of the medium to larger cities that are covered by Google's Street view capability. While the whole street view feature in the Google ecosphere has created a bit of controversy over its privacy concerns of a truck driving by, catching people doing things they don't want you to see, the feature should prove useful to wayward navigators who need help recognizing where they want to go. The new feature will be available later this Spring.
On the Android side, Navigon users will be able to access Active Lane Assist capabilities, offering an animated view of the upcoming turns. They will also be able to use a Navigon widget that allows them to see turn by turn instructions right from the home screen. The widget allows you to ignore the map and just see the turning instructions, a kind of advanced, and concise level of navigation (see below).
It appears that some heavyweights came to the party and shut it down for Lightsquared. The FCC is seeking comment on revolving Lightsquared's permit to broadcast on spectrum that is adjacent to the GPS spectrum, and interferes with GPS receivers. I've written up some thoughts on the subject, and it seems that while Lightsquared is right; the GPS receivers "listen" to waves outside their spectrum, it seems like the government just can't let a newbie start-up ruin a good thing.
Hummm, sounds pretty Big Brother to me, but it's all optional for now; and it's in the UK. TomTom is working with the Fair Pay insurance company in the UK to get consumers a TomTom GPS, while monitoring their driving habits. The TomTom devices can also help them become better drivers through a series of feedback alerts. The monitoring is similar to the Progressive Snapshot program where for a few months, Progressive gets to monitor your driving habits, times and locations to assess your risky behavior. If you're safe, you get a discount; if not, you're still in the big pool with everyone else.
The TomTom 3100 Pro is the device, and is build on a Fleet Tracking platform, where fleet managers can track a vehicle's whereabouts, its drive and idle time, and assemble those statistics into meaningful reports to increase efficiency or uncover that deadbeat in the workforce. The TomTom 3100 also has some nice features to help you drive more efficiently, like "harsh steering, cornering and braking. Active Driver Feedback raises the awareness and actively helps the driver to save on fuel."
Lightsquared has reportedly spent over $3Billion on a terrestrial and satellite network to beam high speed internet around the country. The issue is that it interferes with the GPS receivers due to the proximity of its frequency to the GPS band. So while your fitness watch may not work perfectly, and that might be terrible for you, it might be outweighed by the fact that people across the country can not get wireless internet…. but the issues magnitude starts to present itself when you consider that the economy is starting to function on location services, just as much as it started to function on the internet a decade ago. The real problem starts to come into focus as you consider that the FAA just got a boost to speed the switch to airplane routing on GPS. Would you really want an airliner to be blacked out so Lightsquared can provide high speed internet access?
The issue lies in the fact that Lightsquared has a strong signal adjacent to the GPS band and that some GPS receivers listen to frequencies outside of the GPS band, and in the satellite band. Lightsquared considers these faulty receivers, and they may have a point. This past week, Lightsquared asked for a standard to be set for GPS receivers, which may be a slow process, and eventually end up in a place where legacy GPS receivers will cease to work properly in the future.
The battle lines are drawn, and on one side you have millions of deployed and commercially important GPS receivers, whose performance affects a majority of the population while on the other side, you have a company who has billions of dollars invested, a pile of legal rights and most likely a short fuse on getting their investment working. Stay tuned.
Waze is giving you a hand on Valentines Day by offering you some free coupons for some inexpensive gifts. So while a Free Tank of Gas or a Free Car Wash might not be the most loving and intimate gift, it might just be the gift that is really needed instead of some crappy box of stale WalMart chocolates. The coupons come in English, Spanish, Italian, French and Hebrew - maybe you can spice things up by using one that's a little more romantic. ("Hebrew?" you ask. You all knew that Waze is based in Israel, right?)
The Coupons are available on their Waze Facebook Page. on top of that, the millions of users will be abel to hit up their Extra Points game icons around the map soon: Red Roses +5 extra Points, Red Heart Balloons +3 Extra Points, and Pink Heart Balloons +2 Extra Points
Of all the GPS units that have come out in the past five years, I have to say that I think the Golf GPS has advanced the most in the last few. Golf GPS units used to be based on older technology, with a thin layer of Golf-only benefits skimmed on the top like frosting on a dieter's cake. Not anymore.
The Garmin Approach G6 is pretty advanced, offering features that really can help your game. With over 25,000 courses preloaded (free), and the ability to have the G6 compute your average distance per club, your ability to see exactly which club you SHOULD play is a good thing. Whether or not you actually play that club is the mental game that is the other side of golf.
Other than the touchscreen, the features I like are the one touch button to access the scorecard, the 15-hour (read all weekend play) battery life, and the Lay-up arcs that show you where on the course certain clubs will drop you. Check out the video to learn more.
Interesting article in the NYTimes today that walks through how people use their own mental maps to find their way, building up their sense of direction as they continue to expand and experiment. The problem with using a GPS is that you can end up shutting off this learning process by blindly following what the GPS tells you.
There are plenty of stories of GPS experiences gone bad, where users do in fact check their brains at the curb and drive off blindly following the GPS, and while some of the stories are the extreme, I have to think that most people do in fact blindly follow the GPS at some point of the journey.
That freedom can give you confidence to explore the world a bit knowing that you can almost always find your way. I like that aspect, but yes, if it is at the sacrifice of learning, that's not always a great trade-off. The trick may be how to have the confidence to explore while also learning your way around.