Category Archives: GPS

Suzuki & Garmin Team Up For In-Dash Infotainment in 2013



Image Courtesy Garmin. A look at the new Garmin 6.1 inch     hi-res touchscreen to be featured in most American Suzuki 2013 vehicle models

Swiss satellite navigation device maker Garmin has teamed up with Japanese auto maker Suzuki to outfit most 2013 American model vehicles with a fairly robust infotainment system featuring a 6.1 inch hi-res touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, Pandora radio and, of course, GPS navigation (among other things).

“By leveraging our long-standing experience in developing navigation software, user interfaces and hardware design,” said Matt Munn, Garmin’s managing director automotive OEM, “we created an integrated system that is easy to use and makes driving more enjoyable.”

Garmin’s Suzuki system includes the following functionalities:

  • Media and music integration: Integrated AM/FM radio and CD player with interfaces allowing users to play from external devices such as a mobile phone or iPod, including a USB and AUX jack, Bluetooth and a SD card slot. Pandora supported, as well (via iOS smartphone).
  • Navigation: Premium road guidance with spoken turn-by-turn directions and street names; PhotoReal Junction View with lane guidance; speed limit and current speed displays, millions of points of interest, and more.
  • Full voice control: Users can control the system with voice commands, which helps reduce driver distraction.
  • Connected services: Real-time information, such astraffic, dynamic parking, weather and fuel prices, will be available through Garmin Smartphone Link (added to the system with an update after the initial launch).
  • Backup camera support: Backup camera displayed on the screen, giving drivers better view of what’s behind vehicle.
  • Hands-free Bluetooth: Integrated Bluetooth calling function

This partnership is being seen as a move that could boost both Suzuki and Garmin in different ways. Suzuki, like many auto makers, has seen a rough few years with sales figures tumbling with the auto market. For Garmin, this ain’t their first dance with auto makers, but it is the most versatile device they’ve put out so far – packing several features into one unit.

Either way, the in-car/in-dash infotainment industry is widely viewed as running full-steam ahead as the technology is gathering popularity with more consumers expecting it in higher-end vehicles.


Magellan GPS units made for Geocaching




Andy (Head Hard Hat) Smith from Geocaching World talks to Eric Waters of Magellan GPS about their new line of hand-held GPS units made with the Geocaching Hobbyist in mind.

The Magellan eXplorist line of GPS units. Instead of having to type in a waypoint, the explorist units have a number of geocaches in the unit already. The Explorist 610 even has Turn by turn directions up to the nearest road and then walking point-to-point directions for the hike to the cache. Some models even have a camera so you can take a picture of the waypoint instead of typing it in manually.

More information can be found at magellangps.com

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iOnRoad Warns Drivers of Danger



As well as being a really bad pun, iOnRoad is an augmented reality app that helps car drivers become safer drivers. Courtney gets into the fast lane to find out more about this app which was awarded a CES Innovation Honoree prize.

Available for Android smartphones now and the iPhone soon, the app uses the smartphone’s camera, GPS and accelerometer to provide warnings and guidance to car drivers as they drive. By looking at the white lines, the car in front and correlating data from the GPS and accelerometer, the app can warn about lane departures, tailgating and speeding. The iOnRoad includes a couple of other features, including reading text messages and a car locator.

Obviously the phone has to be mounted on the dash with a view to the front of the car, but you can test the app using the video here. The app is currently free with a charge of $9.99 to be introduced in the future.

Interview by Courtney Wallin of SDR News.

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Magellan Roadmate RV



magellan logoMagellan recently showed of the Roadmate RV, a specialty GPS unit made for recreational vehicles.  This isn’t the typical GPS device you would place in your car, but a very specialized unit made specifically for the RV.  For instance, automodile drivers don’t generally have to worry if their car will fit on a particular road.

At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Andy Smith of TPN got a look at the new Roadmate RV.  This GPS unit will let the driver know about specific road conditions based on the size of their vehicle, such as if the road is too narrow or if there are low bridges.  It can also direct the user to RV friendly campgrounds.

The Roadmate RV has a large 7 inch screen.  Users can also uncheck their vehicle profile and switch the unit to their car for standard navigation.  You can find more about the fautures and pricing by watching the video below and also by visiting the Magellan web site.

Interview by Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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DeLorme inReach Two-Way Satellite Communicator



DeLorme LogoAndy talks to Jim from DeLorme about the new inReach two-way satellite communicator, perfect for those really out of the way places.

The DeLorme inReach is a tracking and communication device that uses a satellite radio link to transmit text and GPS location data, rather than the mobile phone network. Owners can communicate via text message from anywhere on the planet, not just those areas with mobile phone coverage, and it’s ideal for hikers and extreme sports enthusiasts who might have an emergency far from a phone signal (or simply want to reassure family that they’re ok.)

The inReach has two modes of operation, one where you use the control unit directly, the other where an Android smartphone app talks to the control unit via Bluetooth. The app is needed for two-way text messaging, mainly as the control unit doesn’t have a keyboard, but there is a dedicated SOS button on the control unit for emergencies. Other smartphones may be supported later.

The inReach costs $250 and a monthly subscription is required for service priced at $9.95 per month. The units are available now.

The inReach is impact-resistant, waterproof, floats and weighs 8oz. Battery life is 60 hours on a pair of lithium AAs. Overall, it’s an ideal emergency backup device but please note, gadgets like this are not a substitute for proper planning, preparation and equipment. Always tell someone your plan and expected return time.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

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Take Control of Your Car with Mavia



Mavia DeviceTodd chats to Madison of Mavizon about their new Mavia automotive product which keeps tabs on your vehicle in more ways than one.

Mavia is a small box (see picture left) that plugs into your vehicle’s ODB-II port – that’s the connector used by technician’s to check on the car when there’s a problem. The Mavia combines readouts from this port with its own internal GPS receiver to provide location and technical information that is sent back to an online hub at www.mymavia.comAndroid and iPhone client apps can be downloaded too.

The MyMavia hub will show data on the vehicle such as gas mileage and distance to next service, plus any diagnostic error codes. MyMavia can interpret some of the diagnostic codes and it enables the owner to consult other resources, online or otherwise, to find out more on what’s wrong with the car. MyMavia incorporates location services too, showing where the vehicle is on Google Maps and there are connections to social sites like Foursquare.

The Mavia is in a beta testing phase so pricing is not confirmed but is expected to be around $200. The device will be available from retail outlets later in the year and requires no special fitting; it’s a self-install.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Magellan Back-up Camera Wins CES Innovations 2012 Award



The run up to CES always picks up speed in the second half of December when early award winners begin to be announced.  Today Magellan, one of the leaders in the GPS market, announced that they have been named the winner of the CES Innovations 2012 Design and Engineering Award for their Magellan Wireless Back-up Camera.

Many cars today are beginning to come with this technology built-in, but if yours doesn’t Magellan makes it an easy retro-fit.  The tiny wireless camera mounts to the car’s license plate and when the vehicle is put into reverse compatible Magellan GPS devices switch from navigation mode to camera view.

“Magellan is proud to announce it has been named an International CES Innovations 2012 Design and Engineering Award Honoree for its Wireless Back-up Camera. Sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the prestigious Innovations Design and Engineering Awards have been recognizing achievements in product design and engineering since 1976. Products in 32 categories are judged by a preeminent panel of independent industrial designers, engineers and members of the media.”

The Magellan Wireless Back-up Camera is available from the Magellan Store for $149.99.  You can find out more about the CES Innovations Awards by visiting this page on the CES website.


Tweaking Google Latitude With Latify



Tweaking Google Latitude With Latify

Google Latitude is a nifty, fun add-on utility for Google Maps that can be very useful for tracking friends and family. With Latitude, it’s possible to share real-time location information from devices such as supported Android and iOS phones and tablets. Location sharing is by permission only – any mutual Latitude friends must specifically grant permission for location information to be shared.

I’ve been making use of Latitude for a few years. I’ve got a number of friends and relatives that follow my location as I travel around the country as an over-the-road truck driver. Even after all this time, I’m still surprised that some people are curious enough about my location that some of them will check on me multiple times a day.

One of the things I’ve long wished for in Latitude is much greater control over the sharing. Most of the time I want my shared location information to be as accurate and real-time as possible. Thus, it becomes possible for Latitude friends and family to track me as I drive down the road in real-time.

Recently I purchased a $2.89 program available in the Android Marketplace called Latify. The Latify program works in conjunction with Latitude to provide a lot of extra control over Latitude and its sharing capabilities.

With Latify set to push out the most accurate, real-time location information possible it does use more battery power, as it is making more intensive use of the phone’s GPS chip. This isn’t a problem for me, since most of the time I keep the phone plugged in when I’m in my truck. In those instances when the phone is going to be running on battery power for hours on end, I turn off automatic data synching. There are also a number of power-saving options available within Latify itself.

If you want a way to share the most accurate, real-time GPS location of your phone with Latitude friends, at $2.89 Latify is worth the money.


Garmin DEZL 560LT Trucker’s GPS



GPS units have been around for several years and have made quite a heavy penetration into the automotive marketplace. It would be logical to assume a degree of maturity when it comes to GPS maps and operating system software on the units themselves. However, there is still quite a bit of room left for improvement.

GPS market saturation, combined with the sales of millions of Android and other smartphones that contain sophisticated GPS functionality have conspired to bite into the growth of stand-alone GPS unit sales, forcing a reduction in price along with a search for ways of adding value in order to justify and/or maintain higher price points. Thus, GPS manufacturers have created a market segment of specialty GPS units aimed specifically at truck drivers and the recreational vehicle market segments.

After trying and returning two faulty TomTom GO 2535M Live units, as well as trying and returning a Cobra 7750 Platinum trucker GPS unit, I’ve settled on a Garmin DEZL 560LT trucker GPS. The Garmin 560LT has a 5” pressure sensitive widescreen LCD display along with a number of features that attempt to tailor it toward commercial drivers.

From an operating system/software standpoint, the Garmin is solid. Also, the Garmin hardware build quality is quite good. The unit seems very solid and the pressure sensitive touchscreen works extremely well. The 5” widescreen LCD display is bright and colorful, remaining quite visible in bright daylight. It includes Bluetooth speaker/microphone functionality, along with the ability to display photos as well as function as a video display for a composite backup video camera.

Most of the trucker-specific features revolve around map and point-of-interest databases. As always, these databases continue to have holes in them. Although you can program in large/heavy vehicle types and sizes, the Garmin mapping software does not necessarily follow only truck routes when calculating routes. Garmin’s “out” on this point seems to be the fact that it makes a chime sound and pops up a specific on-screen icon when on a route that “truck accessibility information” is not known. When on secondary roads, this icon pops up a surprising amount of the time. It even pops up when driving on a fair number of freeway access ramps. This lack of “truck accessibility information” is quite perplexing, since the vast majority of these roads have been around for many, many years and therefore HAVE to be clearly well-known. The surprising thing is that these same roads that “truck accessibility information” isn’t available for have extensive speed limit information available. The Garmin unit is highly accurate in displaying the vast majority of speed limits on federal, state, and even on many county roads.

The other problem has to do with truck-specific point-of-interest databases that are included in the unit. These include truck stops, truck washes, truck repair shops, etc. Some of these facilities show up in the database, and some don’t. It can be quite maddening. Also another problem that has long plagued point-of-interest databases is inconsistent naming conventions. “T/A Truck Stop” may sometimes be entered into the database that way, or it might be “TA Truck Stop” or “TA Truckstop” or “TA Travel Plaza” or “Travel Centers of America”, etc., etc., etc. – you get the picture. When one tries to do a text search for the name of any business this inconsistency will almost immediately rear its ugly head.

Although the GPS certainly makes many things easier to find, it is not anywhere near a 100% foolproof solution. I frequently find myself having to search Google on my Android phone, which carries with it its own set of problems. Search Google for “truck wash” along with the name of a city and state and you are almost certainly going to come up with a bunch of listings for local car washes that have nothing whatsoever to do with offering washing services (specifically, refrigerated trailer wash-out services) for large commercial vehicles.

I like the Garmin DEZL 560LT and plan on keeping it. It’s a good hardware/software platform, and hopefully Garmin will continue to develop the updatable databases so that future updates contain more complete information.

My idea of the ideal trucker GPS would include the full-time data connection and “HD Traffic” of the TomTom GO Live, the solid, easy-to-use design of the Garmin, much more accurate truck-specific information concerning secondary roads, along with much better, more consistent point-of-interest information.


Cobra 7750 Platinum Trucker’s GPS



After my recent unacceptable experience with the TomTom GO 2535M Live with two separate units spontaneously falling into an endless reboot loop, I decided it was time to try another brand of GPS.

After getting a refund in full from Best Buy, I decided to try a GPS that’s specifically aimed at truck drivers. Trucker-specific GPS units tend to carry significantly higher price tags. My question was, do they deliver extra value?

So, I made my way to a Pilot truck stop and purchased a Cobra 7750 Platinum 7” widescreen trucker GPS. Pretty much every Pilot truck stop has a GPS display set up with various brands of trucker-specific GPS units. On the Cobra unit they have a very slick, highly produced sales video playing on the unit itself that really puts the model 7750 in a very good light. I was impressed, so I purchased one. In Pilot the Cobra 7750 sells for $399 plus tax. It can be purchased from Amazon.Com for about $340 if one has time to wait for shipping.

The Cobra brand has long been associated with CB radios sold at truck stops marketed specifically to truck drivers, so a trucker-specific GPS would seem to be a natural product extension.

The best part of the 7750 was the large, bright 7” widescreen display. Unfortunately, the 7750’s pressure-sensitive touch screen left a bit to be desired, producing a higher-than-average number of errors compared to similar pressure-sensitive touch screens. Pressure-sensitive touch screen technology has been around for years, so this may reflect build-quality issues.

The 7750 seems to be using some variation of TomTom software, since it displays an event horizon near the top of the screen with blue sky and clouds in the daytime mode and a black sky with moving stars in the night display mode just like TomTom units do.

The menu screens gave me the impression they were perhaps scaled for smaller screens. It could have been that they were trying to make the menu icons large and easy to select in a bouncing truck, but they gave me the impression of lack of refinement.

To be perfectly honest, I found the 7750 to be hugely disappointing. Entering addresses proved to be a clunky, somewhat confusing, time-consuming experience. Pilot Truck Stops have a 7 day money back return policy on GPS items, with a 14 day exchange policy. I was within the 7 days and I realized I would never be happy with the 7750, so I took it back and exchanged it for a Garmin DEZL 560LT.