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. – Live Ships Map 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.

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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.

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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

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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

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.

Garmin Maze Adverts

Garmin LogoGarmin have been running a series of poster and print adverts in Europe suggesting that we’re all too busy going from A to B that we miss the interesting things along the way.  The campaign was created by the advertising group Advico Young and Rubicam. It’s very cleverly done – if you can’t see what’s going on, move back from the screen.

Garmin Eiffel Tower

Garmin Colosseum

Garmin Tower Bridge

All pictures copyright Garmin and Advico Young & Rubicam.