by July 5, 2008 0 comments

By far the most happening field these days is Navigation. For ages we have
been hearing about how easy it will be to find routes to your destination and as
a popular TV commercial states ‘Never get lost again.’ Finally it’s starting to
become a reality, largely because GPS is now easily available to masses.
Availability of stand-alone GPS navigation devices and built-in GPS inside
smartphones are two common reasons for the growing popularity of navigation
tchnologies. Not to forget the fact that maps are now easily available and in
many choices as almost every vendor is looking to encash upon in the opportunity
with its own maps. With maps it’s not just that you can easily find routes or
plan your travel effectively through desktop maps. Many other interesting
applications of map have come up.

In this story we will first tell you all you must know about GPS. Then we
will take a look at how war of maps online as well on mobile platform is shaping
up and tell you about the latest navigation solutions.

What is GPS?
GPS is short for Global Positioning System. It is a technology for anyone who
wants to know where they are, where they have been or to find out how to get
somewhere. To start using it, all you need is a GPS receiver. There are no
charges apart from the initial cost of hardware. If you decide to go for
navigation with detailed maps, then there is usually a one-time charge for that
as well.

The Basic Premise
Imagine the earth to be covered with horizontal and vertical lines; the
horizontal ones called latitudes (or parallels, since they are all parallel to
each other) and the vertical ones called longitudes (or meridians; they converge at the
north and south poles). These lines are further divided into minutes and
seconds. Knowing the latitude and longitude of a place, you can get there using

There is a network of 24 NAVSTAR (Navigation Satellite Timing and Ranging)
satellites orbiting the earth, powered by the sun, and put in place by the U.S.
Dept of Defense. They’ve been in orbit since 1978, pre-dating even the personal
computer! Their orbits are so arranged so that at any given point in time and at
any place on the surface of the earth, at least four satellites will be
‘visible’ to a GPS device. A GPS device can then pinpoint its location on the
earth’s surface (its latitude and longitude) by measuring its distance from
these satellites. The process by which it does this is called triangulation.

How it works
For a GPS device to calculate a location (its latitude and longitude), it needs
to know where the satellites are and how far away they are. Supposing it gets a
fix on one satellite first and it calculates the distance to the satellite as
12,000 kms. By that logic, it could be anywhere on the surface of an imaginary
sphere with a radius of 12,000 kms and with the satellite at the center. Once
four satellites get locked on, all these imaginary spheres will intersect at
only one common point: the current location. There are variations too: A-GPS, or
Assisted GPS uses GSM cell locations to augment tracking; WAAS or Wide Area
Augmentation System uses satellites and ground stations that provide GPS signal
corrections, increasing accuracy. There can be an unlimited number of
simultaneous GPS users. This is because a GPS device only receives signals
transmitted from the satellites to coordinate a location. They do not
communicate with the satellites.

GPS works everywhere on earth, except inside buildings, basements, in caves and
underwater. GPS reception is also affected by weather and cloud  conditions. Interruptions in signal may also occur when you’re driving
through a tunnel or standing stationary between very tall buildings.

Microsoft Virtual Earth offers 3D Bird’s Eye view of selected locations,
to give users ‘almost there’ feeling while exploring maps

Recreational GPS devices are built to offer good performance at a low price.
Hence accuracy is not the prime concern. These consumer use devices (and the
navigation devices that you see today) which have an accuracy of about 20—40
meters. GPS units used by surveyors usually have an accuracy of one meter. More
accurate GPS systems used by the world’s militaries can have accuracy down to
one centimeter. This is accomplished by using GPS in conjunction with accurate
altimeters and differential GPS (with the GPS unit interacting with base
stations in addition to satellites). Some other uses: it’s not just location
though, GPS can be used for a variety of purposes. UK based RaceLogic uses it in
their VBox equipment for accurate vehicle performance measurement (speed,
acceleration, and deceleration). This equipment is used by automobile testers,
manufacturers and racing teams worldwide.

GPS can also be used for location tracking of moving vehicles; which can in
turn be used for recovery of stolen cars, to help a customer accurately track
courier deliveries, to help a taxi company keep track of its cabs or to help a
shipping company monitor its shipments. Recovery of stolen vehicles is the
newest trend to catch on in India. With a small, hidden GPS receiver in your
car, you will accurately be able to pinpoint its exact location if stolen, and
recover it with ease.

Different facets of navigation

CommunicAsia saw companies taking navigation quite
seriously-from mapping companies launching their own devices to companies
driving UFO-like vans to capture 3D images

CommunicAsia ’08 also saw one of the biggest and
best-renowned companies providing GPS devices to handset manufacturers,
reveal its own independent phone offering. The Cayman Islands based Garmin
Corporation announced the launch of the Nuvifone, positioned as the world’s
first mobile device that ‘fully’ integrates GPS and mobile phone
functionality. Its all touch screen display plane comes integrated with 3.5
G capabilities and data connectivity, in-built internet browser, and its
unique ‘personal navigation’ application. The home screen of the Garmin
Nuvifone has Call, Search, and View Map options, a first of its kind
offering where the emphasis is clearly on navigation and GPS. The
interesting USP of the device is the fact that it comes by default with a
car docking unit and the moment the device is placed on the dock, the GPS
application is automatically turned on , displaying the relevant map
depending on your location co-ordinates. As long as the device is stationed
in its car dock, all calls are automatically handsfree. The ‘Where am I’
button accessible at all times displays the exact geographical co-ordinates
and helps the user with information on the closest hospital, ATM, shopping
arcade etc. The in-built camera of the Nuvifone automatically records the
time and geographical co-ordinates and tags it to the image file, besides
allowing moving visuals to be recorded at the ‘autoset’ mode.

The survey van fitted with 4
cameras that record routes, co-ordinates and landscapes real-time

On one hand, GPS service companies like
Garmin are migrating to selling their own devices independently, but
companies like Tele Atlas, that essentially provide satellite maps for
Location Based Services (LBS), who incorporate the maps on their devices or
websites, are strengthening their foothold by creating machines that capture
3D maps, aimed at giving the end user, a closer to life mapping application.
Tele Atlas for instance has created a survey vehicle captures street-level
details using its UFO-like camera units mounted atop the bright orange van.
Of the four cameras, two are focussed to the front aimed at capturing images
within 45 degrees range, to resemble the driver’s eye view. One on either
side record the moving landscapes in the vicinity. The data is collated
real-time and incorporated as 3D images in to the map of the city. Tele
Atlas is currently running the van around South East Asia, enroute to India
in the coming months.

For a more cost effective solution, smaller
navigation companies are going the Software-as-a-service (SaaS) way using
the already existing mobile networks to gather data related to location and
places, putting them together for low end mobile devices. For instance,
Singapore based Surround Networks has created a solution for businessmen on
the move, who need information about prospective clients in the vicinity of
their presence. This information can be personalized to everything from
restaurants, companies of a specific genre, stores, hospitals, and even
information on promotional offers at departmental stores for sales
executives who handle the accounts in FMCG companies. The data of course is
limited to what the mobile service provider has, and the location
co-ordinates have limited accuracy.

In last couple of years GPS has become highly popular among consumers. Creating
Maps is a long process. Google has been constantly developing its maps features ever since they came out. The latest addition to Google maps
is driving directions in its street view, but it’s currently available for US
locations. In case you are wondering how Google Street view works, for this
Google has tied up with various image providers such as immersive media which
provide Google a database of GeoImmersive imagery. To create this, database
company has captured a 360 degree georeferenced spherical video (yes, what you
see on street view is actually a video) using its Telemmersion System. This
recording system uses a Telemersion camera which has eleven lenses who
simultaneously capture eleven streams. This is usually mounted on top of a car
which goes around the streets capturing data what you see on street view. See
the different facets of navigation box above for details of one more such car.

Microsoft Virtual Earth offers 3D Bird’s Eye view of selected locations,
to give users ‘almost there’ feeling while exploring maps

Google Maps are also available for mobile which also provides direction as
well as transit feature. However these features are not yet available for India.
Talking about Mobile maps, Nokia has been creating a buzz with Nokia Maps 2.0.

With many of the Nokia phones coming with built-in GPS and pre-loaded maps ,
it can provide turn-by-turn visual and voice guidance. Of course you will have
to pay extra to use this service. Nokia maps is available for eight cities in
India, for more details see Nokia GPS roadmap box. Microsoft isn’t far behind
either, its Live maps and Virtual Earth provides some interesting features. It
provides 3D views and Bird’s Eye view. Its 3D Bird’s view again is not yet
available for Indian locations but directions work decently with Indian

Yahoo with its yahoo maps is more bullish on providing local maps. Even on
its US sites it provides simple maps in Hybrid, Satellite formats. Yahoo India
Maps currently in its beta also offers maps in Hindi. It lets you search Driving
Direction and send the directions to your mobile through an SMS free ofcCost and
also lets you print the directions from the website itself.

In India another good option is to use MapmyIndia. Its web portal provides
all India maps and driving directions for free. They also offer two navigation
devices (with choices of state maps and all India maps), software for Windows
PDAs with built-in GPS and a mapping application for smartphones.

Buying a GPSdevice
If you’re looking to buy a consumer use GPS device, first
decide what you need it for. If you want to use GPS for a sport like Geocaching
(www.geocaching. com), you’ll need a simple device that can track routes and
save waypoints-like something from the Garmin eTrex series.

Nokia’s GPS roadmap

At Singapore’s CommunicAsia this
year, Nokia previewed two business phones that incorporate Nokia Maps, its
own GPS-powered application, which give to its users the option of 3D,
lateral, and hybrid maps for driving directions, walking and even for
identifying places of interest. The E71, set for global release by end of
this month (July ’08), comes armed with a QWERTY keyboard, built-in A-GPS
and preloaded Nokia Maps, a 3.2 megapixel camera, and built-in mobile VPN
for intranet access, along with HSDPA of upto 3.6 MBPS.

The second offering, E66 is a slightly toned
down version of the E71 and one has to make do with the standard mobile
phone keypad, and the design is the standard Nokia slide format. One
interesting feature is the ‘turn-to-full-view’ which allows you to switch
from portrait to landscape mode for display as the in-built maps, just by
rotating the handset. Both the E71 and the E66 allow online sharing using
Share on Ovi, Nokia’s own photo, video and map sharing site, with Web 2.0
capabilities and online social interaction. Both these models will be built
on Nokia’s S60 user interface platform, which slows high-end mapping and
navigation capabilities across various development platforms.

Currently in India, maps are available for
eight cities which include Delhi & NCR, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Pune, Mumbai,
Chennai, Bangalore & Hyderabad. These maps will be continually updated every
6 months and Nokia has also announced lower prices for its mapping-enabled
models like the 6110 Navigator, N95, N95 8GB, N82, E90 and the N78. Nokia
believes that location based experiences, such as mapping and navigation
will be a fundamental platform in mobile devices going forward and expects
to ship close to 35 million GPS-enabled devices globally this year-exceeding
the total GPS device market.

These devices have locations and details of
75,000+ km of roads, restaurants and hotels, schools/colleges, ATMs, Places
of worship, hospitals, and more. In addition, Nokia also offers a search
facility as part of its location-based services, maps and navigation will
become a standard feature in a wide range of Nokia mobile phones, all Nokia
Nseries multimedia computers and all Nokia Eseries.

Pictures taken with any of these devices can
be automatically location tagged, adding location information to the photo.
The metadata consists of latitude and longitude and, once enabled in the
settings of the device, the GPS coordinates are automatically included when
storing photo information.

Nokia is currently building Nokia Maps as a
navigation platform for the S60 platform and is also making available for
Windows Mobile OS.

If you need turn-by-turn directions for use in a car or while walking around,
you need to go with a PND (personal navigation device) with maps. If you don’t
want to carry multiple devices, it’s better to buy a phone/PDA with built-in
GPS. You can still get turn-by-turn directions on PDAs/smartphones with the
right software and maps loaded. If you want to add GPS to your existing
smartphone/PDA or laptop, you can simply buy a Bluetooth GPS receiver like the
Adapt AD-750 (available from for Rs 5000). Once connected, you
can use the free Google Maps service on all these devices to accurately pinpoint
your location. Google Maps however, cannot give you turn-by-turn directions to
somewhere you want to go.

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