May 2, 2012
A few weeks ago I attended the Telenav Waypoint event. Telenav is the company that produces the navigation service that powers AT&T’s and Sprint’s navigation services and is also the company behind the iPhone navigation app Scout.
An interesting location-based issue, however, surfaced before I even arrived at the event. At the airport, I was supposed to rendezvous with another attendee, but I didn’t know his flight was due in at about the same time as mine, but only a third party had both of our contact info and that party was unreachable.
A little combination of sleuthing and help from the Information Desk revealed that the other guy was in another terminal. I dragged my bags over there and found the person I was to meet whom I knew by appearance. Could the incident have gone smoother through better planning? Sure. Or perhaps it was just a failure of the social graph and not location-based technologies per se. But there was no real facility for my counterpart to signal where he was, to reveal his location. I couldn’t find him even though he was in the same set of buildings I was in.
Image credit: Garmin.com
Tags: GPS, indoor location, IPS, LBS, locaiton, mapping
March 26, 2010
A product debuting at CES that I got to catch up with at Showstoppers at CTIA was Finder Technologies’ Auto-Finder, a sub-$100 device that is ridiculously easy to install by oneself– a relative rarity in the mobile (in-vehicle) electronics market. After affixing the transmitter to some surface in one’s vehicle with adhesive, consumers can use the key fob to find their way to said transportation.
One thing that makes the Auto-Finder noteworthy is its great range. The company claims that the system will feature from half a mile away even in dense areas. Auto-Finder can also indicate vertical directions, for those times when you’re in a multi-level parking garage. The transmitter uses AA batteries and the receiver AAAs, and the company estimates six months of battery life given what I would consider extraordinary usage.As you see, it comes in what seems to be a protective carrying case, which seems odd for a product that will be installed and perhaps never relocated.
I was surprised to learn that the heart of the system is two amplified Bluetooth radios as that is not a technology typically associated with long range, but company representatives said they had to actually dial down the power of the device to ensure that they did not run afoul of FCC regulations, To some extent the product competes with various smartphone apps that allow you to mark your location or the Bushnell Backtrack, but you don’t have to mark your location before leaving the car with Audo-Finder). Besides, GPS-based devices can be ineffective in, say, underground lots
About the only thing I didn’t like about the product was the annoying and conspicuous beeping that it makes in guiding you toward your vehicle. I suppose that provides an effective and low-cost solution, but I think the product would draw much less attention to itself with a backlit LCD or even an LED array. Still, this looks like a nice gift idea for the easily bewildered who already have a PND.
Tags: Auto-Finder, Bluetooth, car finders, Finder Technologies, GPS, key fobs, radios
October 14, 2009
How niche can you get? The iPhone, which will surely attract more than 100,000 applications by the end of next year, can assume the functionality of a slew of devices – MP3 players, portable navigation devices, digital cameras and camcorders, language translators, electronic dictionaries, remote controls, stopwatches, voice recorders, flashlights and more.
Nonetheless, two products came to light this week that specialize in snippets of functionality – information appliances of sorts to use the mid-’90s terminology. The $199 pictured Red Light Camera Detector, available exclusively from New York specialty retailer Hammacher ("We were here before The Sharper Image was a blurry idea.") Schlemmer uses a database of red light cameras and GPS to alert drivers when they are approaching such a monitored intersection.
While I can’t remember the last Hammacher product to attract so much attention online, much of it has been negative, surrounding its duplication of functionality and requirement of manual updating. Indeed, this seems more like a $99 or less product, particularly given the plummeting prices of portable navigation devices that cold easily replicate its functionality. Still, many ignore or don’t realize, though, that Hammacher and Brookstone customers are driven more by novelty and design and usually aren’t concerned about purchase optimization.
The second and decidedly plainer looking device is the WikiReader, a gadget from open source wireless developers OpenMoko. Yet, the WikiReader is not wireless. It too relies on regular updates that are delivered via microSD card. Sure, it’s functionality is also replicated by a number of iPhone applications or even any handset with a decent Web browser. Still, the notion of a reasonable $99 encyclopedia that can be toted nearly everywhere has a certain downmarket appeal. While it is no substitute for a real Internet connection, it would be nice to see it patch a few open spaces in the digital divide.
Market potential aside, both of these products would be greatly added by some level of free wireless Internet access; neither would consume much bandwidth. The infrequency with which they’d need to be updated might even be an opportunity to revisit the old paging networks. (Don’t laugh. Remember the BlackBerry started there.) But I see their ilk as more likely candidates for that elusive white-space network. One thing’s for sure. We’ve not seen the last of service-specific devices.
Tags: GPS, information appliances, OpenMoko, PNDs, red light camera detector, Wikipanion, WikiReader
March 7, 2008
I’ve started to see more stories like this one about the rise in portable navigation device theft. It happened to a co-worker of mine. Unfortunately, we tend to see this happen in a number of high-growth, high-ticket portable and mobile products such as iPods and in-dash stereos that led to the development of removable faceplates.
One local TV segment noted that Long Island police have seen a fivefold increase in theft of the devices, which would be consistent with the overall unit growth we’ve seen in the U.S. This problem will get worse before it gets better although the rapidly declining prices of PNDs may remove some incentive..
Some TV segments advise not only removing the windshield mount when you leave your car, but taking care to wipe away any smudges that the suction cup might leave behind! Fortunately, PNDs are getting thin and small enough so that stuffing them into a handbag or even a jacket pocket is becoming more of an option.
Last December, Sanyo introduced a PND with a fingerprint reader. Given the trend toward voice recognition in these devices, voiceprints may become another verification tool that, if broadly implemented, might discourage thieves,
Tags: biometrics, GPS, PND, Sabyo, satnav, theft
January 31, 2008
If you were wondering why Steve Jobs sneaked in some enhancements to the iPhone’s location capabilities in advance of the February SDK unveiling, tonight may have provided a clue. In advance of its official release at GSMA Mobile World Congress (and the first shipments of the Dash Express), Garmin unveiled its Nuviphone, which combines communication, navigation and some basic MP3 playback features — Industrial design inspiration courtesy you-know-who. Wilson Rothman has captured my pointing out the name’s similarity to a certain popular interactive voice response system.
Garmin isn’t releasing specifications or a features list given that the device won’t ship until the third quarter. On the data front, though, the Nuviphone will support at least POP and IMAP email and Web browsing. It also takes digital stills an video and — here’s the slick part — geotags them so you can send a photo to another Nuviphone, after which that recipient can be directed to where the photo was taken. The Nuviphone has a 3.5″ screen but a wider aspect ratio than the iPhone.
As for other comparisons, it’s not a smartphone in that it does not have an open OS. Garmin says that developing an SDK is technically possible but not something the company is pursuing. (I think it should.) And I also don’t expect the Internet or media features to set a new bar.
Tags: Garmin, GPS, iPhone, killer, Nuviphone