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Apple, Google Just Killed Portable GPS Devices | Autopia |

Note this is a draft of an article I wrote back in June when Apple announced it was going to favor its own Maps app over Google Maps and take G-Maps out of the Apple Store altogether. This blog went on hiatus just 2 weeks after that. And a whirlwind number of staff changes occurred at Apple as a result of the debacle of iOS Maps product. Top people have been let go not the least of which was the heir apparent in some people’s views of Steve Jobs; Scott Forstall. He was not popular, very much a jerk and when asked by Tim Cook to co-sign the mea culpa Apple put out over their embarrassment about the lack of performance and lack of quality of iOS Maps, Scott wouldn’t sign it. So goodbye Scott, hello Google Maps. Somehow Google and Apple are in a period of detente over Maps and Google Maps is now returned to the Apple Store. Who knew so much could happen in 6 months right?

Garmin told Wired in a statement. “We think that there is a market for smartphone navigation apps, PNDs [Personal Navigation Devices] and in-dash navigation systems as each of these solutions has their own advantages and use case limitations and ultimately it’s up to the consumer to decide what they prefer.

via Apple, Google Just Killed Portable GPS Devices | Autopia |

That’s right mapping and navigation are just one more app in a universe of software you can run on your latest generation iPod Touch or iPhone. I suspect that the Maps will only be available on the iPhone as that was a requirement previously placed on the first gen Maps app on iOS. It would be nice if there were a lower threshold entry point for participation in the Apple Maps app universe.

But I do hear one or two criticisms regarding Apple’s attempt to go its own way. Google’s technology and data set lead (you know all those cars driving around and photographing?) Apple has to buy that data from others, it isn’t going to start from scratch and attempt to re-create Google’s Street View data set. Which means it won’t be something Maps has as a feature probably for quite some time. Android’s own Google Maps app includes turn-by-turn navigation AND Street view built right in. It’s just there. How cool is that? You get the same experience on the mobile device as the one you get working in a web browser on a desktop computer.

In this battle between Google and Apple the pure play personal navigation device (PND) manufacturers are losing share. I glibly suggested in a twee yesterday that Garmin needs to partner up with Apple and help out with its POI and map datasets so that potentially both can benefit. It would be cool if a partnership could be struck that allowed Apple to have feature that didn’t necessarily steal market share from the PNDs, but could somehow raise all boats equally. Maybe a partnership to create a Street View-like add-on for everyone’s mapping datasets would be a good start. That would help level the playing field between Google vs. the rest of the world.

google navigation technology

Augmented Reality intersects with GPS Navigation

smartphones and GPS
It doesn't matter what device you use, it is all about the software

TomTom is releasing a new personal navigation device (PND) called the TomTom Live 1000.  As part of this article from MacNN they mention TomTom is attempting to get into the App Store market by creating its own marketplace for TomTom specific software add-ons (like the Apple App Store). The reason is the cold war going on between device manufacturers gaining the upper hand by wholesale adoption of a closed application software universe. Google is doing it with Android and Apple has done it with the iPhone and iPad. Going all the way back to the iPod, there was interest in running games on those handheld devices, but no obvious way to ‘sell’ them, until the App Store came out. Now TomTom is following suit, by redesigning the whole TomTom universe using Webkit as a key component of it’s new OS on TomTom devices (Webkit is also being used in the Android based Garmin A10 phone too).  Ambivalent about the added value? Other than trying to gain some market share against PND manufacturers, Harold Goddijn, the CEO of TomTom says it’s all about innovation. They mention in passing the possibility of Augmented Reality apps for TomTom devices. But there’s a small matter of getting a video feed into the PND that can then be layered with the AR software. And honestly even the CEO Tom Goodjin is somewhat ambivalent about seizing the opportunity of Augmented Reality in the TomTom application store universe. As reported on “Although Goddjin confirmed that the company was looking at the possibility of adding augmented reality in to the mix, the niche technology isn’t a major objective for them.”

It’s not enough to just overlay information on an Apple iPhone or TomTom PND screen showing related points of interest (POI). Like the iPhone Nearest Tube app from Acrossair, knowing the general compass direction to a subway station is useful. But full step-by-step navigating to it seems to be the next logical step, maps and all. What makes me think of this is the recent announcement of the Garmin A10 smartphone with GPS navigation. If Garmin, TomTom or an independent developer could mashup Augmented Reality with their respective navigation engines, whilst throwing  in a bit of Google Street View one might, just might have the most useful personal assistant for finding places on foot. Garmin has a whole slew of devices for the hiking, and bicycling market. They even offer walking/pedestrian directions on their automobile navigation devices. So the overlay of Augmented Reality/Point-of-Interest and full-on Garmin Navigation to me would be a truly killer app.

navigation technology

AppleInsider | Google to bring free turn-by-turn navigation to Apple iPhone (NOT)

Google now denies they are releasing Google Maps for the iPhone. Take this whole article with a big grain of salt. I’m just glad I didn’t post this immediately after reading the original article on AppleInsider. By the end of the day last Friday April 23rd, Google was denying the rumor already. The moral of the story is look before you leap.

Google this week said it plans to bring Google Maps Navigation, its free turn-by-turn GPS software already available on Android, as an application for Apple’s iPhone.

According to MacUser, Google officials confirmed at a London, England, press conference that its satellite navigation software would be coming to “other” platforms, including the iPhone. No dates for potential availability were given

via AppleInsider | Google to bring free turn-by-turn navigation to Apple iPhone.

April 23rd 2010 Amazing, just when you thought you knew what was going on Google can come along and change things entirely. I ask how does one give away GPS navigation? Four years ago this couldn’t have been conceived or dreamed of given the market for GPS navigation. Now, meh, just give it away. I wish Google great success as this is almost compelling enough for me to get an iPhone now.

Previously you needed an Android based Smartphone usually available only on Verizon. But now there’s a multitude off choices, Garmin’s A50 is coming to AT&T and has my favorite navigation interface along with Google Maps if you want it. Which is what I would prefer. I’m hoping Garmin continues to evolve this to integrate any and all live data it cannot incorporate with its stand alone navigation units which to date don’t have live internet connections (whereas TomTom Live! units do). I’m most interested in any live data that might benefit me in a sudden traffic jam or a new Point of Interest not compiled since the last download/update to the navigation software.

Google’s entry to the iPhone navigation arena would force TomTom, Navigon, and now Garmin all to take heed and compete more vigorously especially since Google would be giving its software away. I’m guessing they could promote themselves as being advertisement free alternatives to the Google Maps Navigation?

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Garmin brings first Android phone to US through T-Mobile | Electronista

As a phone, Garmin’s entry occupies the lower mid-range with a three-megapixel camera, native T-Mobile 3G and Wi-Fi. Built-in storage hasn’t been mentioned but should be enough to carry offline maps in addition to the usual app and media storage.

via Garmin brings first Android phone to US through T-Mobile | Electronista.

After it’s first attempt to create a Garmin branded phone called the G60, Garmin is back once again with the A50. But this time making a much more strategic choice by adopting an open platform: Google’s Android phone OS. I wrote about Garmin’s response to the coming Smartphone onslaught to it’s dominance of the GPS navigation market. This was after I read this article in the NYTimes: Move Over GPS, Here Comes the Smartphone – (July 8, 2009). At that time Navigon which had been in the market for GPS navigation, dropped out and went to software only licensing to device manufacturers. Whispers and rumors indicated TomTom was going to license its software as well. By Fall 2009 TomTom had shipped an iPhone version of its product. It looked like a form of paradigm shift that kills an industry overnight. GPS navigation was evolving to a software only industry. Devices themselves were better handled by the likes of Samsung, Apple, etc. When the Garmin nuviphone finally reached the market, the only review I found was on Consumer Reports. And they were not overly positive in touting what the phone did differently from a a standalone navigation unit. And worse yet, they had spent two years in development of this device only to have it hit the market trumped by the TomTom iPhone App. It was a big mistake and likely to make Garmin more wary of trying another attempt at making a device.

Hope springs eternal it seems at Garmin. They have taken a different tack and are now going the open systems route (to an extent). It seems they don’t have to invent everything themselves. They can still manufacture devices and provide software, but they don’t have to also create an OS that allows things to be modularly integrated (Phone and GPS) and given that they chose Android, things can only get better.  I say this in part because over time it has become obvious to me Google is a real fan of GPS navigation and certainly of Maps.

When I bought my first GPS unit from Garmin, I discovered that you can save out routes direct from Google Maps into a format that a Garmin GPS receiver can use. I know in the past Garmin forced it’s users to first purchase a PC application that allowed you to plan and plot routes then save them back to your receiver. Later it was made less expensive and eventually it was included with the purchase of new units. I’ve seen screen shots of this software and it was clunky, black and white, and more like a cartography mapping program than a route planner. On the other hand, Google Maps was as fast and intuitive as driving your car. You click on a start point, and end point and it would draw the route right on top of the satellite photos of your route. You could zoom in and out and see, actually see points of interest on your route. It seems in one stroke Google Maps stole away route planning from Garmin.

In the intervening time Google also decided to get in the Smartphone business to compete with Apple. Many of Google’s web apps are accessed through iPhones, so why not tap into that user base who might be willing to adopt a device from the same people running the datacenter and applications hosted in them?  It might not be a huge number of users, but Google has money and time and can continuously improve anything it does until it becomes the most competitive player in a market it has chosen to compete in. Tying this all together one can see the logical progression from Google Maps to Google Smartphone. And even Google came up with some prototypes showing what this might look like:

Google Shrinks Another Market With Free Turn-By-Turn Navigation – O’Reilly Radar (December 7, 2009)

Google made a video showing how Google Maps, and Streetview could be integrated on an Android 2.0 device. And it looked good. It was everything someone could have wanted, navigation, text to speech directions, the ability to zoom in and out, go to Streetview to get an accurate photo of the street address. There were some bits of unpolished User Interface that they still needed to work on. But prototypes and demos are always rough.

The video they posted led me to believe I would stick to my Garmin device, as it still had some logical organization that it would take years for Google to finally hit upon. My verdict was to wait and see what happened next. With Garmin’s announcement today though, things are even a little more interesting than I thought they would be. I can’t wait to see the demo of the final device when it ships. I definitely want to see how they integrate the navigation interface with the Web based Google Maps. If they’re separated as different Apps, that’s okay I guess but a Mashup of Garmin navigation and Google Maps with Streetview would be a Killer App. Mix in live network connection for updates on traffic, construction, and Points of Interest and there’s no telling how high they will fly. Look at this video from :

Now all I need is a robot chauffeur to drive my car for me.

google navigation technology wired culture

Google Shrinks Another Market (and I’m not talkin’ DNS)

Brady Forest writes: Google has announced a free turn-by-turn navigation system for Android 2.0 phones such as the Droid.

via Google Shrinks Another Market With Free Turn-By-Turn Navigation – O’Reilly Radar.

And with that we enter a killer app for the cell phone market and the end of the market for single purpose personal navigation devices. Everyone is desperate to get a sample of the Motorola Droid phone to see how well the mix of features work on the phone. Consumer Reports has tried out a number of iPhone navigation apps to see how they measure up to the purpose built navigators. For people who don’t need specific features or generally aren’t connoisseurs of turn-by-turn directions, they are passable. But for anyone who bought early and often from Magellan, Garmin and TomTom the re-purposed iPhone Apps will come up short.

It's big and heavy but it's got an OS that won't quitThe Motorola Droid however is trying to redefine the market by keeping most of the data in the cloud at Google Inc. datacenters and doing the necessary lookups as needed over the cell phone data network. This is the exact opposite of most personal navigation devices where all the mapping and point of interest data are kept on the device and manually updated through very huge, slow downloads of new data purchased online on an annual basis (at least for me). Depending on the results Consumer Reports gets, I’ll reserve judgment. This is not likely to shift the paradigm currently of personal navigation except that the devices are going to be necessarily even more multipurpose than Garmin has made them. And unwillingly made them at that. The Garmin Nuviphone was supposed to be a big deal. But it’s a poor substitute for a much cheaper phone and more feature filled navigation device. I think the inclusion of Google Maps and Google StreetView is the next big thing in navigation as the Lane assistance differentiated TomTom from Garmin about a year and a half ago. So radical incrementalism is the order of the day still in personal GPS devices. But with an open platform for developing navigation services, who knows what the future may hold. I’m hoping the current oligarchy between Garmin and TomTom starts to crumble and someone starts to eat away  at the low end or even the high end of the market. Something has got to give.

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AppleInsider | TomTom for Apple iPhone released in U.S. App Store for $99

Apple Insider reports this morning that the TomTom GPS application has appeared in the U.S. AppStore. And if you decided to get the external antenna you can even use your iPod Touch as a GPS. That is way cool and way more useful than I had previously thought this was going to be. Kudos for TomTom to make the thing more widely available on the iPhone platform.

The product works with the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS, which include an integrated GPS receiver. It will reportedly also be compatible with the first-generation iPhone and the iPod touch once the separate combo hardware kit is made available. TomTom has not yet announced a price for the hardware package.

via AppleInsider | TomTom for Apple iPhone released in U.S. App Store for $99.


Reseller lists TomTom iPhone kit

Not an iPhone, but definitely a lane assist!
Not an iPhone, but definitely a lane assist!

It’s not cheap, but the TomTom accessory kit for the iPhone 3GS is now listed on a re-seller’s website. Hopefully the Navigon and AT&T iPhone Apps haven’t stolen the thunder of the original TomTom announcement. But I guarantee the GPS performance will be a lot faster with an external device. I’m not criticizing the internal GPS on the iPhone. It is a compromise design that allows everything to sit and play well within the same old iPhone footprint. For good GPS reception and quick locks on satellites, that compromise is going to get in the way. Especially for anyone who has used purpose built, standalone model GPS navigators. My fingers are crossed in hopes the TomTom at least matches the low end of the navigator market with its hardware/software combo.

The application is said to take advantage of iPhone OS 3.0’s support for true, turn-by-turn directions. The software will have both nation-specific and international maps from TomTom, will work in either landscape or portrait modes, and give voice directions.

The software will reportedly be available for separate purchase from the App Store, and would rely on the iPhone’s internal GPS receiver. The hardware kit, however, comes with its own, separate GPS. It will be one of the first external accessories to take advantage of iPhone 3.0’s capabilities.

via AppleInsider | Reseller lists TomTom iPhone kit for £99.00 ($168.50).

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Augmented Reality –

The Good Ol Days of Virtual Reality
The Good Ol' Days of Virtual Reality

I can think of a hundred different pre-cursors to the golden Nirvana of Augmented Reality. Howard Rheingold set the bar pretty high in his catalog of the state of the art called “Virtual Reality”. Everyone from the pre-history of VR to the then present day had their say of what the future should look like. Enter now, the future as it is. Cell Phones! That’s what we got, so that’s what we’re going to use right? Sure enough if you know your own coordinates using the GPS chip in a cell phone and you know the orientation of the camera in that cell phone, you can overlay data one what ‘should be’ in the field of view in that camera viewfinder, right? Well sometimes good is not the enemy of perfect and a company in Amsterdam has created a smartphone app that combines these required features to present a ‘good’ version of augmented reality. As this article in the NYTimes below states it’s called Layar.

Previously in the field of Virtual Reality everyone attempted to provide near perfect reality. Using magnetic trackers from Polhemus to be calibrated up to some kind of goggles or head mounted visual display. At MIT’s Media Lab the project called “Put That There” was originally for commanders in the Navy trying to assess and react to battle conditions on the seas.

The next revision came in the early 1990s at Boeing where they tried using headmounted computer displays. The display with fit over one eye leaving the other eye open to focus on work being done within the fuselage of an airliner being built. The worker could see displayed in realtime information about what they were touching and moving wires and cabling through. Access to information like that without having to stop, look at blueprints, read computer documentation or find spec books would save inordinate amounts of time and prevent mistakes in the routing of wires and cables. Fast forward to today and now you have the ubiquitious cell phone, with camera and GPS chip and a little bit of mathematics and algorithms. A programmer can determine the field of view from the GPS coordinates, get the cell phone’s orientation, map out what should be in the field of view and overlay that information on the LCD viewfinder as you point the cell phone in all directions. It may not be smooth or realtime, but it may be ‘good enough’.

Personally I think GPS should also be paired with a laser range finder so that the field of view can be further refined. That way when you point the camera at a building or a river, you can ascertain the GPS coordinates of the thing at which you are pointing. Once the solution is calculated you look it up in your points of interest database, voila, that’s so and so church, that’s so and so river. That quickly. Some have decried this tendency in usage of navigation devices. Once you fully empower the autonomy and self-sufficiency of a stranger in strange land, you rob him of the benefit of ‘local knowledge’. In that sense Augmented Reality will make us all dumber the more technology enables us to find out own way or learn landmarks without interacting with people. I say to those people I respond with this flip remark: “Bring it on!” If it means being stupid, losing local knowledge, alienating myself from my surrounds then by all means I would rather have that autonomy and self sufficiency wherever I travel. That’s the kind of guy I am.

Layar - Augumented Reality smartphone app
Augmented reality courtesy a smartphone

Augmented reality will “reinvent” many industries, including health care and training, Mr. Inbar predicted. Already, researchers at the Technical University of Munich are looking at ways to display X-ray and ultrasound readings directly on a patient’s body. A research project at BMW is exploring how an augmented-reality view under the hood might help auto mechanics with diagnostic and repair work.

via Prototype – Kicking Reality Up a Notch –

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Move Over GPS, Here Comes the Smartphone –

Smartphone & GPS
Maybe these devices will converge into one

I personally enjoyed very much the iPhone 3GS presentation when TomTom Inc. presented their software/hardware add-ons that will allow you to use the iPhone as fully functional Navigation System. The question is how long companies like Garmin can sit monopolizing the market and provide little more than radical incrementalism in it’s new product offerings. About a year ago there were four competitors in the personal navigation market: Garmin, TomTom and Navigon with Magellan kind of in the background. Navigon has ended it’s production of devices but will sell it’s software to anyone willing to license it. Magellan is still creeping around, but has been superceeded by Garmin long ago. So TomTom and Garmin beat each others heads in on a quarterly basis. TomTom really did innovate in the software end of things providing all kinds of aids like telling you which road lane to take on the highway, or help at difficult intersections. As they rolled these out, Garmin would just sit back and eventually respond with a similar feature. Slowly by attrition trying to bleed away the advantage of TomTom. Worse yet, Garmin entered into a project to design a brand new cell phone with all the software and gps components integrated into it. THAT folks is the Garmin strategy. They will own the production of the device and the software or nothing at all. TomTom has taken a rather different approach and is kind of taking a cue from Navigon. They took the Apple iPhone Application development environment and ported the software into it. Now the GPS chip of the iPhone can be fully accessed and used to turn the iPhone into a TomTom Go!

Oh how I wish Garmin had seen this coming. Worse yet, they will not adapt their strategy. It’s full steam ahead on the cell phone and they are sticking to it. Ericsson is helping them design it, and it won’t be out for another year. Which shows the perilous position they are in. With the blistering pace of product introductions in the Navigation market, wouldn’t Garmin have learned that a 2 year design cycle on a cell phone is going to KILL the product once it’s released? And worse yet, as the tastes change, who is going to give up their iPhone just to have the privilege of owning the Garmin branded cell phone. I swear that product is dead on arrival and Garmin needs to pay off it’s contract with Ericsson and bury all the prototypes built so far. End it, end it now.

“It’s more like a desperate move. Now that you have the iPhone and the Pre, it’s just too late,” Mr. Blin said. Smartphones equipped with GPS “are the model moving forward that is going to be successful.”

via Move Over GPS, Here Comes the Smartphone –