The State of Mobile GPS

Now with sites like Gizmodo and Engadget, it is easy to receive a daily stream of new gadget reviews. When I see something interesting, I often note it on my Amazon wish list and watch for new developments and pricing updates. When time is right, I buy.

I've been keeping a close eye on GPS devices that frequently appear on these sites. Consumer GPS and mapping technologies have made substantial progress recently. As far back as the first Gulf War, Marine privates were ordering home for hand held devices that were the technological equals of vastly more expensive vehicle mounted boxes used by the military. By the time I built out the navigation panel on my boat in the late 1990's, GPS navigation units had become inexpensive, laden with features, and it was possible to easily interface them with laptop mapping systems and RADAR.

Now, GPS units are hitting the mass auto market. More importantly though, they are beginning to seamlessly integrate with the internet, and the host of mapping "mashups" built by individuals worldwide.

Yesterday, Yahoo announced that its local search technology would be accessible through Dash Navigation GPS devices. Today, Garmin International's let it be known that its new nuvi 680 will offer integration with MSN's Direct Network. I'm not sure what market leader Tom Tom is doing in this regard, but it is sure to get into this game, if it has not already.

The large scale rollout of auto GPS devices came later to the US market than to Europe, but the wait seems to have been worth it. The new internet integrated systems are vastly more powerful than simple DVD map based solutions commonly offered by auto manufacturers by BMW and Mercedes.

Rather than simply displaying maps and voice directions, these new systems bring networked information into the car. For example, it is now possible to find a review of the restaurant you just passed on the street. Or avoid traffic congestion using networked traffic congestion features. Or determine the lowest priced gas within a ten mile radius of your location.

More and more it is making sense to forgo the "dumb" in dash GPS systems available from the auto companies and opt for these stand alone devices offered by the specialists.

But it may be worth keeping this in mind. Soon our cars themselves may be mobile hot spots, making it possible to do all this with a lap top or simple hand held device.



11:21 AM


It's the same situation with any type of "consumer electronics" built in to a car. As many of you know, I recently joined the ranks of soccer moms and traded in my manly 4WD truck for a minivan. The van had the option of having a factory installed DVD player. This sounds great for entertaining backseat passengers, but it is a thousand-dollar option that will be obsolete in six months, while the car will last a decade or more.

One can buy a $149 dual-screen DVD player at Sam's Club and have the best current backseat entertainment system, and upgrade it in a year at Sam's Club for $89...

JP's opinion: It never makes sense to pay for consumer electronics built in to a car (remember those 1990 Honda's with cell phones built in to the sun visor?). Bad investment...


11:29 AM

Agreed. This is reminds me of a conversation I had last night. Explaining to a potential buyer of my boat that the navigation system I installed in 2000 was "state of the art", I had to backtrack a little and admit that nothing available in 2000 can now be considered as such.

So I fell back on the notion that it was a "pretty" navigation system, installed by the dope smoking Swede.