TomTom GO 2535M Live 5” Widescreen GPS

I recently ended up purchasing a TomTom GO 2535M Live portable 5” widescreen GPS unit at a Best Buy store. With tax, the total price ended up being just under $300 dollars.

For the past 6 years or so, I’ve had a Garmin C550 with a 3.5” touch screen that is hard drive based. Since I drive a truck over-the-road, the Garmin has been running almost 24/7 for those six years, taking very high amounts of what can often be severe jolts and vibration along with occasional extreme heat and cold. I’ve paid to update the maps in the C550 about three times, but I’m reluctant to pay to update the maps again since I really don’t know how much useful life the hardware, particularly the unit’s hard drive, has left in it. For the time being, the aging Garmin is still working so I’m using it side-by-side with the new TomTom unit.

In my experience the perfect GPS unit has yet to be sold. Each brand has it’s strength and weaknesses. I’m including in this software-based solutions such as Google Navigation, Telenav, etc. that frequently comes bundled with Android or other smartphones. Maps used in GPS devices have improved dramatically, but they are accurate only about 90% of the time, and this includes Google itself. As a truck driver I’m looking for new addresses on average about two to three times a day, sometimes more and sometimes less. About 10% of the time I run into errors, sometimes with the potential to cause catastrophe – think narrow streets, weight-restricted bridges, etc.

Right after I bought the TomTom I had to go to a cold storage in Chicago, Illinois that the TomTom could not find, but the Garmin could. It turns out the street had been given two names with dual street signs, one below the other. The TomTom could find what was probably the original numbered street name, but not the other, which was a woman’s name the city was obviously trying to honor. At that point I was unhappy with the TomTom’s performance, but decided to continue to give it a longer chance before rushing into a knee-jerk judgment of the device or its software. The TomTom redeemed itself later that day by warning me around a 15-mile-long traffic backup in northern Indiana on I-65 which ended up saving me hours of sitting waiting for a major accident to be cleared and the road opened back up.

The TomTom is different than the Garmin. TomTom has a different way of doing things. The GO 2535M Live is a fairly sophisticated device. It even has a full-time GSM data connection to the TomTom server with the ability to do real-time Google searches, either locally or in other locations, get live traffic and weather updates, and do real-time rerouting to avoid traffic problems. Though the unit has free lifetime map updates from TomTom and a year’s worth of live “HD” traffic and weather updates, the live “HD” traffic and weather update service is just under $60 per year. Once you create an account at TomTom.Com you can sign in to your account with the unit itself. Incidentally, I’m willing to pay $60 dollars per year for accurate, up-to-the-minute traffic and weather information. That type of information can end up saving a lot of time and trouble as long as it’s presented as soon as it becomes available. The unit can even accurately display areas of traffic backups and slowdowns.

After I’d had the unit for about a week and a half, it was sitting on my dash and suddenly started going into a rebooting loop. Regardless of what I did, the unit would just keep rebooting. After a quick call to TomTom’s support number (I got right through to a live support person), they advised me to return the unit to Best Buy for an exchange since I was well within the 30-day exchange window. I’m pretty sure it must have been some sort of software/operating system error, since a few minutes before I had entered a new favorite location.

The replacement unit is working great. The TomTom rep gave me a reference number to call back with when I had the replacement unit so they could make the necessary changes to associate it with my existing account in their system, which I did.

There are much more expensive GPS units on the market (sold at truck stops) aimed specifically at truck drivers which look enticing, some of them priced up to 200% more than the units sold at a place like Best Buy or other big-box retailer. I talked to a driver that bought one of these very expensive trucker-specific GPS units. He said it was nice, but he didn’t feel the extra trucker-specific features were worth the substantially higher price he had to pay for the specialized unit.

It turns out feature I like the most so far is the ability to do Google searches in order to input destinations rather than go through the standard process. Other features I like are that that unit has enough room on its bright, high-resolution 5” widescreen to display my current speed, the current time with the time zone automatically updated, and speed limits with audible alerts if I’m going over the speed limit. It also has a lane assist feature which primarily warns if an upcoming exit is on the left or the right. Another useful, though not always consistent feature is that it can be set to announce upcoming points of interest such as rest areas and truck stops, along with virtually any other type of other business one can think of, including user-defined points of interest.

I am enjoying the TomTom GO 2535M Live. It’s not yet perfect, but with continued updates from the folks at TomTom I’m certain it can continue to improve.

Ford Introduces Live Operator for SYNC Users

Ford yesterday announced a new SYNC Services feature, “Operator Assist”, which lets drivers speak to a real person in order to help with enquiries such as business searches or address entry. It’s currently in beta and is being offered free to registered users of SYNC Services.

Operator Assist is voice activated and the new feature provides customers with the ability to safely connect with a live person who can quickly access information databases to help drivers get where they want to go. No additional hardware or software is needed and the driver (or passenger) simply says, “Operator” if he or she needs assistance with the automated system. After confirming the request, the individual is connected to a live operator for help in finding a business or entering an address. Directions can be sent directly to the vehicle’s navigation system or the business address and phone number can be texted to a mobile phone.

Taking the concept a step further, in the instance when a driver says an address or business that the automated system can’t identify, the driver will be offered the option to connect to a live operator for further assistance. If the user confirms he or she would like to speak with an operator, the system automatically connects the user to the live operator. This avoids the frustration that I think we’ve all encountered when we know where we want to go but the GPS doesn’t recognise the address.

Seventy percent of all SYNC Services calls are for business search and directions“, said David Gersabeck, product manager, SYNC Services. “Our customers asked for additional assistance in situations where their voice request was not understood…Being able to connect with a live person at any time contributes to that [assistance].

MotionX GPS Drive

MotionX-Drive I had purchased the MotionX GPS Drive awhile back but hadn’t had a chance to use it until this past weekend. I was traveling to Northern Kentucky near Cincinnati, OH and area that I am not familiar with. I was looking at GPS products and I remembered I had MotionX- Drive and decided to give it a try. Before I left home I set it up to take me from my home to the Holiday Inn I was staying at. It worked great and brought me straight to the hotel. In fact, the one case when I thought it was taking me in the wrong direction, I double checked it using Google Map and sure enough it was right. The one time when I was not paying attention and went pass the entrance I was supposed to use MotionX GPS quickly recalculated my route and got me on to the highway.

It is really good at finding local restaurants, coffee shops, gas stations and grocery stores. You can also enter addresses from your contacts or Facebook with without ever leaving the application. iTunes is integrated into it so when the directions are no longer needed MotionX gets out-of-the-way and iTunes starts playing. You can also share your location and eta through email with your friends. The voice guidance is free for 30 days and can be renewed for a monthly or yearly basis with an in-app purchase. The monthly rate is $3.00. The yearly rate is $19.99. The monthly purchase doesn’t renew automatically, so you can pay for it as you need it. The newest update added free traffic update, more custom voices and the ability to share on Facebook.  The only negatives thing I can say about MotionX GPS Drive is it does use a lot of battery life, so make sure you have a car charger if you plan to be traveling a long way. I am really glad I purchased this app, it was well worth the 99 cents I paid for it. if you are looking for a GPS application I would highly recommend giving MotionX GPS Drive a try.

MarineTraffic.com – Live Ships Map

MarineTraffic.com is a live map showing the location of shipping of 299 GT (gross tonnage) or over. Sounds boring but in fact it’s a totally awesome mashup of data. You can zoom into your local coast and see what’s pottering about or you can follow a ship in the news and see what’s happening to it.

Here’s what’s going on in the English Channel:

Here are the ships waiting to go through the Panama Canal.

You can also follow ships that are in the news. Here’s the MSC Opera which lost power in the Baltic and the tug Svitzer Trym in attendance. If you click on a ship you can get further details, including the speed and pictures of the vessel.

Finally, here’s one of the UK’s latest warships undergoing trials. HMS Dragon is a Type 45 destroyer.

There are additional clients for iPhone and Android users. And if you want to get notifications of what your favourite boats are doing, you can sign up for alerts and notifications.

Great resource if you want to see what’s going on, especially if you have a sea view and you want to know what’s floating past.

Magellan Partners with AAA, Upgrading GPS to Travel Guide

Looking back, the conversion of GPS from a military weapon to a ubiquitous consumer gadget is one of the defining technologies of the last twenty years and Magellan has been at the forefront of GPS technology since 1986, so it knows a thing or two about getting from A to B. Andy McCaskey gets some pointers on the direction of the GPS market from William Strand, Senior Product Manager for Magellan.

William demos the new Magellan RoadMate 9055, which is a tablet-style GPS with a 7″ screen, real-time traffic info and Bluetooth, a new generation of larger GPS units which go beyond just navigation and become travel guides. Magellan have exclusively partnered with AAA to include their TourBook guides in the RoadMate, giving ratings for places to visit, eat and stay. Available now for a penny shy of $300.

To finish, Andy and William discuss the relative merits of dedicated GPS devices versus GPS-enabled smartphones. Watch the video to find out what they think.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News.

Please Support our CES 2011 Sponsors.

Save 25% on 4GH Hosting 1yr Subscriptions Save 25% Promo Code CES2.

Casio Hybrid GPS Camera

One thing that everybody wants when they take a picture today is to have the camera save the GPS information of where it was taken. Most new cameras have GPS tracking installed, which works great when you are outside. However once you go inside there is no way to keep track of your location by GPS. This is the problem that the Casio Hybrid-GPS Camera attempts to solve. The Casio Hybrid-GPS Camera figures out your last GPS point and then tracks how far you are from it and the direction you are going. Using this equation it can keep track of where you are even inside. It is set up to enable precise positioning with out the lag of other cameras with GPS installed. It also has a world atlas preloaded which can show you pictures of landmarks near by and how far away are they.

The Casio Hybrid GPS Camera has a 10x optical zoom with a 3.0 inch monitor. The auto mode can quickly determine whether its night or day, whether the background is a blue sky or a forest of trees. It also is aware if there are faces in the frame. It optimizes every setting need to take a great picture simultaneously. There is also a setting which allows you to capture panoramic images simply by keeping the shutter button pressed. The camera runs around $349.99 and was a CES Innovation Award Winner

Interview by Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

Please Support our CES 2011 Sponsors.

Save 25% on 4GH Hosting 1yr Subscriptions Save 25% Promo Code CES2.

Recon’s GPS Goggles

World's First GPS Goggles

If you are an avid alpine skier and want to have real-time stats available to you while you are skiing then you may want to take a look at the Recon Transcend Goggles. These Goggles come in two models the 1st is the SPPX which has a polarized and photochromic lens at $499.00 and the SPX which has a polarized lens at $399.00.

Both goggles have the same heads up display. The heads up display is a micro LCD display, which is in the lower left hand corner of the goggle.  The display appears to be about 6 feet in front of the user. It is small and does not impede the vision of the user. The display can show the following information

  • speed
  • altitude
  • length of run
  • top speed
  • longitude/latitude
  • run counter
  • temperature and time
  • chrono/stop watch mode

The above information is collected, along with GPS data.  You can charge the display and transfer the data using the included USB cable and transfer software. If you are serious about your skiing and you need to keep track of your data, these goggles are worth trying.

Interview by Esby Larsen of MrNetcast.com

Please Support our CES 2011 Sponsors

Save 25% on 4GH Hosting 1yr Subscriptions Save 25% Promo Code CES2.

Where Are You & What’s Around You?

One of the most useful features/services of today’s smartphones is the ability to take advantage of the integrated GPS chip in combination with an always-on data connection, facilitating location-aware apps.

Priced at $1.99, “Allstays Truck & Travel” is an app that is available for Apple iOS and Google Android. It’s part of a larger suite of different types of location-aware mapping apps available at http://www.allstays.com/apps/.

The “Allstays Truck & Travel” app concentrates on showing locations for truck stops, truck scales, truck dealerships, truck washes, low clearance overpasses, Walmart locations, public rest areas and other places with truck parking.

The list of data points of interest seems reasonably complete, and the producer of the app seems to encourage as much user feedback as possible.

One potentially useful feature of the app is the ability to set up automatic alarms to give notification when one is within so many miles of an upcoming exit with specific types of favorited business.

Android Goggles from Recon Instruments

The future truly is here.  At CES, Recon Instruments announced the next generation of their goggles with built-in micro LCD display powered by Android.

The current Transcend model gives real‐time feedback to the wearer via a micro LCD display including speed, latitude/longitude, altitude, vertical distance travelled, total distance travelled, chrono/stopwatch mode, a run‐counter, temperature and time. It is also the only pair of goggles that boast GPS capabilities, USB charging and data transfer to the post‐processing software at Recon HQ. The Transcend ski goggles were launched in October 2010 in collaboration with high‐end optics partner Zeal Optics.

If that’s not enough for you skiers, the next generation will be modular and snap-fit into goggles from major brands such as Uvex, Alpina and Briko. It will have a wireless remote control that the wearer can use to navigate the interactive widescreen micro LCD.  It will have integrated maps, navigation and buddy tracking so you can see where you are on the mountain and where your friends are.

It will have Bluetooth smartphone and video integration: you’ll be able to listen to music transmitted from the phone, take calls, see text messages.  You can connect wirelessly to a helmet-mounted camera and see what the camera’s seeing via the screen in your goggle.

 

Dan Eisenhardt, CEO of Recon Instruments said, “We are proud to follow the successful launch of our first innovation, Transcend, with our next generation technology platform for the Recon‐Ready program. The market was crying out for navigational maps, buddy‐tracking, smartphone capabilities, and wireless video camera capabilities for hands‐free, safe, and fun use in alpine environments. Our answer is to revolutionize the way we use goggles and head‐mounted displays, and we are delighted to bring all these features, and more, to fruition.”

Utterly astounding.

(It would seem that Recon’s server has crashed under the load, so the picture above was borrowed from Engadget.)

Lost in Las Vegas?

If you are overwhelmed by CES and feeling a bit lost in Las Vegas then break out your trusty iPhone and download the free Audi Las Vegas Navigator from Navigon

Courtesy of Navigon and Audi, the Las Vegas Navigator provides precise turn-by-turn directions, lane guidance and helps find hotels, restaurants, airports and famous Vegas landmarks. It also connects with real-time information services such as Google Local Search, Weather Live and has in-app connections to Facebook and Twitter. Whether you are flying in, driving or on foot, the Navigator will give you the directions you need.

“CES visitors have tight schedules and need to get around the event quickly. Audi and Navigon have come together to guide them around Las Vegas stress-free and in style with a premium navigation app,” said Gerhard Mayr, vice-president worldwide mobile phones & new markets.

Using Navteq maps for Las Vegas and Nevada, the Audi Las Vegas Navigator converts your iPhone into a superb personal navigation device for simple route planning and then easy-to-follow guidance when you are on the road.  Other features include Reality View Pro which shows photo-realistic 3D views of the actual road, signs and exits; and Navigon MyRoutes which analyses driving habits, patterns and the current environment to provide up to three possible routes with ETA, distance and driving times for each of them.

So if you are at CES and need a bit of help getting around, the Audi Las Vegas Navigator by Navigon is available free from the App Store for a limited time.