GPS navigation moves to your palm
By Michel Marriott
In recent years, Global Positioning System navigation, commonly known as GPS, has rapidly migrated from oceangoing vessels and adventurers' backpacks to the dashboards of luxury sedans. In yet another leap into the mainstream, GPS technology, cheaper yet more sophisticated than ever, is increasingly finding its way into the palms of everyday users.
In an array of devices, many new and some newly enhanced, the use of orbiting satellites to orient and guide travelers has never been simpler, more accurate or, well, cooler.
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Motorola's i870 multimedia phone is crammed with new hardware that includes GPS navigation with turn-by-turn directions, as well as an MP3 music player and video camera.
The phone, which costs $450 but considerably less with a two-year service contract, has TransFlash expandable memory and can play audio files over an internal speaker or a stereo headset. Its Internet capabilities have also been enhanced, Hendricks said, by using what Motorola calls Wideband Integrated Digital Enhancement Network or WiDEN, a technology enhancing the speed of data transmission.
Similarly, the BlackBerry 7520, a slightly swollen version of the personal organizer and cellphone combo, features turn-by-turn GPS navigation. The BlackBerry makes use of TeleNav, a service that is also helping to bring GPS navigation to some of Sprint Nextel's cellphones, like the Sanyo 8300.
The BlackBerry 7520 automatically fixes where it is, and once a location is entered with its keyboard or by voice recognition, the device goes to work. It graphically maps out directions based on several criteria, including whether the traveler prefers driving highways or city streets, or walking.
Extensive testing of the BlackBerry-TeleNav system in cities including Los Angeles and New York found it extremely responsive, despite use in urban canyons of skyscrapers known for breaking links with GPS satellites.
Hassan Wahla, senior director of business development at TeleNav, said the system calculates where a user is and then - based on speed, as determined by an internal accelerometer - indicates where the user is likely to be whenever satellite signals are interrupted.
"If you lose signal while traveling under a bridge or because of a tall building, you keep navigating," Wahla said. "The entire trip is downloaded in the first minute of a trip and is stored on your phone or BlackBerry as you're driving. If the GPS goes off line, you will continue to be given guidance. It knows your last known location and speed."
STMicroelectronics, based in Switzerland, designs and makes motion-detection chips that provide similar predictive technologies to hand-held GPS...