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Last Updated: Friday, 24 February 2006, 17:18 GMT
GPS goes mainstream
Ian Hardy
By Ian Hardy
Click's North America technology correspondent

Sat-nav unit in car
Many motorists are already familiar with GPS
GPS or Global Positioning System uses satellite signals to pinpoint your exact position on earth.

For some people, especially those with high end cars, GPS is already a way of life.

In the consumer world navigation has usually consisted of a stand-alone product. Not anymore.

"Convergence certainly is becoming more and more important", says Velle Kolde, product manager from Microsoft Automotive Group.

"Customers are looking for more convenience and more usefulness out of their devices.

"By integrating navigation with music and information services just makes it more convenient, more powerful, richer solutions for consumers."

So why would GPS be more attractive to the average person now?

The answer is that newer models of cell phones, PDAs and MP3 players have the necessary processing power for navigation along with wireless capabilities.

Andrew Gage, vice-president of product management for Destinator Technologies, says: "Our first product offering in North America comes with personal navigation on a smart phone.

"But it also brings with it location-based services, like traffic, where you can get real-time updates through the connectivity of the phone.

"We understand your routes, and we can detect if there's an accident out there that's going to cause you a delay and we can notify you of that and allow you to navigate around that. It's very powerful."

Money-spinner?

Location-based services is one reason why big and small companies are suddenly very interested in real-time mapping.

Increased competition means information supplied to devices has become more accurate and timely.

These companies know there is money to be made, if you can find your nearest bank branch in a hurry or visit all the tourist sites in an unfamiliar city without wasting time.

Philip Magney, principal analyst at Telematics Research Group, says: "One thing we're seeing is more advanced what we call POI - Points Of Interest - databases.

"Not only will the navigation system allow you to find your way, it will also allow you to obtain a great deal of information on potential places of interest that you may want to visit - restaurants, shopping, what have you."

New possibilities

So you don't hike and you don't drive? It doesn't matter - 2006 might be the first time you use GPS without even realising it.

Take star gazing for example. That just got a lot easier for amateurs thanks to a new device called a Skyscout, a suped-up telescope.

Galileo satellite
The Galileo satellite in Europe opens up even more possibilities
"It's a GPS device that does what no other GPS device has done before", says Jennifer Adams, marketing manager at Skyscout.

"It locates and identifies stars, planets, constellations, nebular galaxies - over 6,000 objects."

And GPS is being combined with two-way speech and video monitoring. The Cyber Tracker, produced by Homeland Integrated Security Systems, can be used in any vehicle, personal or business.

The company's Adam Clough says: "Say you have a delivery company, and you have someone who is delivering something and you look at them on the GPS map and you notice that they have gone astray, you can then contact the person with the Cyber Tracker and let them know that they have gone off-route and communicate to them and give them directions to get back on track."

Since 1978 The Global Positioning System has been the only satellite network offering navigation services to the world.

But at the end of 2005 a European equivalent, The Galileo Project, was launched.

So consumers can expect more innovation and more gadgets that take advantage of both systems.



SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Europe's Galileo project
28 Dec 05 |  Science/Nature
Sat-nav looks to smart ideas
26 Apr 05 |  Science/Nature
Show me the way
24 Jun 05 |  Magazine


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