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TomTom GO 300 Traffic 22nd May 2005

TomTom GO 300  TrafficArticle by Mike Barrett

 

Way back at CeBIT, TomTom not only announced the new GO300, GO500 and GO700, but they also introduced the new TomTom PLUS services.

 

Up until now the TomTom PLUS services have not been of much use as you need to be able to connect to the TomTom server. With the release of the GO300 this changed as it has Bluetooth and can connect to the Internet and the TomTom PLUS server. Now GO users can take advantage of a service that TomTom Navigator users have had for some time: TomTom traffic.

 

TomTom traffic is available in the following countries: UK, Germany, Holland, France, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and Spain.

 

Quick Navigation

Overview

Connecting the Mobile

TomTom Plus account

Traffic in use

Issues and Problems

Conclusion

Resources

 

Review equipment provided by TotalPDA

 

Overview

The traffic information is actually sourced in the UK from a company called iTIS. iTIS collect and amalgamate data from a number of sources and present it in a manner that can be interpreted and overlaid on a map.

 

This is good for us as TomTom have taken the traffic data and then incorporated it into the display and routing calculations of the TomTom Navigator software. This means that you can have the GO set to avoid any reported incidents and delays.

 

So how does it all work? Well it is a three phase task. First you need to connect your mobile phone to the GO 300. Then you need to get a TomTom Plus account, then you can finally start to use your traffic account.

 

TomTom GO 300 Traffic

Connecting to your Mobile

As I mentioned above before you can do anything you have to connect your GO 300 to your phone. This is done using Bluetooth.

 

I can hear a few screams at the back Bluetooth, technology, I can't handle it!!!

 

Don't worry. TomTom have tried to make the connection process really simple. I think that they have actually managed to make it as easy as it can possibly be made.

 

I must confess I am a bit of a techie so this was not a problem to me at all. Neither should it be for any young kid who zaps stuff around using Bluetooth. But what about those in the middle who are a little unsure?

 

TomTom GO 300 Traffic

The first thing to do is to make sure that you have a Bluetooth enabled phone. If you are not sure check your phone manual it should tell you in there.

 

The next thing you will need is a phone account that has GPRS on it and is enabled. Again if you are not sure ask your mobile network provider. You do need to make sure that it has full GPRS. I am starting to hear that screaming at the back again. Don't worry if you are not sure ask your mobile network provider. They understand all the technical jargon and will be able to sort you out.

 

Having met all these prerequisites the next job is to start connecting the phone to the the GO 300 this is called pairing.

TomTom GO 300 Traffic

Before you start to pair the devices you need to make sure that the Bluetooth on your phone is both enabled and is discoverable. This allows the GO 300 to "see" the phone when it is searching.

 

Next on the GO you need to tap the screen and navigate to the third menu page and then tap on the "Connect to your phone" icon. This will then display the sequence of screens running down the right hand side.

 

These are all pretty much explanatory and are simple to follow. The main catch will be selecting which phone to select. Last week we had a moderators meeting in Surrey and you would not believe the number of Bluetooth devices available, including one named "Mine of course" (well done Tim!)

TomTom GO 300 Traffic

Interestingly not only does the GO 300 detect phones, but it also finds PDAs and computers.

 

Anyway there are a lot of screens to skip through so join me again several screens down...

TomTom GO 300 Traffic
  TomTom GO 300 Traffic
  TomTom GO 300 Traffic
  TomTom GO 300 Traffic
  TomTom GO 300 Traffic
  TomTom GO 300 Traffic
  TomTom GO 300 Traffic

OK if you have got this far you have managed to pair your phone correctly. Now is the time to set up your wireless Internet settings for GPRS. Each phone and network provider have different settings so we now need to have a number of selections to determine the exact settings for your phone.

 

First you select the Phone you are using. Mine is the Orange C500. Next you are prompted for your country. This is obviously the country of the phone contract/Pay as you go provider. Finally you select the provider and type of contract you have.

 

At the end of all this the phone and the GO300 are ready to start being used with the TomTom Plus services.

TomTom GO 300 Traffic
  TomTom GO 300 Traffic
  TomTom GO 300 Traffic

TomTom PLUS Account

With your phone and your GO 300 connected it is not of much use unless you have something to connect to. Fortunately TomTom have created TomTom Plus, a range of value added services that you can subscribe to. Traffic is one of those services.

 

To get a TomTom PLUS account you need to go to the TomTom site where you can create a free MyTomTom account. Once you have created an account you will be able to access free trials of TomTom PLUS services, one of which is traffic. This will give you one month trial subscription to the TomTom PLUS services.

 

Before you do this you need to set your device. This is done by clicking on Change my device in the My Account panel and then entering your device details.

TomTom GO 300 Traffic

One of the items you will be asked for is your device code. If you have not had to register your device originally then you will find this in the about screen. A quick way to get to the about screen is to tap the signal indicator at the bottom right of the screen then tap the version number on the next screen. Your device id is 2 sets of 5 digits.

 

All the "Premium" TomTom PLUS services are locked and encrypted to this TomTom PLUS account and device id. It is possible to reset your account and enter a new Device Id. Now most people only have one navigation device so this is not a problem, and TomTom have given you the ability to change your device should you need to such as a service replacement so this should not be a problem. For people like me who have a GO 300 a number of PDAs and a Mobile this is a real pain.

 

TomTom Plus services

You can change your device on the account every 180 days, though this can be unlocked by Customer Services if you have a good reason for changing more often. This I think is a bad limitation, and forces people like me to either pay twice, or only have the TomTom PLUS services on one device. Possibly this is another decision that will come back and haunt TomTom strategists. I have no problems with the service being locked to one device at a time, but to stop people changing devices at will I think is wrong!

 

That aside there will be a section towards the bottom of the My Account panel that says Trials. This should have activate your trial showing with a yellow button. To activate your trial all you need to do is select the TomTom Traffic icon on the GO 300 menu and tap on enable traffic. You will be asked to enter your TomTom PLUS account details. Here you need to enter your email address that you used on the My TomTom account sign up, and "PLUS" as the password.

 

This will then give you access to all the TomTom PLUS services for a month. After the trial an annual subscription is payable as follows:

Traffic UK - 1 year subscription € 59.95
Traffic Germany - 1 year subscription € 39.95
Traffic Austria - 1 year subscription € 29.95
Traffic Italy - 1 year subscription € 29.95
Traffic France - 1 year subscription € 29.95
Traffic Switzerland - 1 year subscription € 29.95
Traffic Belgium - 1 year subscription € 29.95
Traffic Spain - 1 year subscription € 29.95
Traffic Netherlands - 1 year subscription € 29.95

 

Once again it looks like the UK is hit with the most expensive service, but then I suspect that the UK also has the busiest roads.

 

When we talk about subscribing to TomTom PLUS services there are a number of ways that the word subscribe is applied: There is the standard term that implies that you have the use of a product throughout the period of the subscription, you have the use of the product for ever and the updates for the life of the subscription, and finally there is a once off purchase of a product.

 

The PLUS services that fall into these categories are: Traffic and Weather (Life of Subscription); POIs nad possibly maps (Updates for the life of the subscription); and Voices (once off purchase).

 

TomTom Traffic in use

TomTom Traffic has been available on the PDA version of TomTom Navigator for over a year now so it is reasonably mature and the limitations of the services are well known.

 

Obviously this service can only be as good as the input provided by the information amalgamators. In the case of the UK this is iTIS. This service has the potential to create more animated discussion than the currency of the maps. No traffic service is ever going to have all the incidents reported 100% correctly 100% of the time. Of course it is going to be the ones that are not reported that are going to be highlighted rather than the ones that are.

 

All the Traffic functions are accessed from the Traffic sub-menu which is displayed by tapping the TomTom Traffic icon in the main menu. When you first start to use Traffic it needs to be enabled using the enable/disable icon. On this menu you can also set up the preferences for the traffic operation. Options available are:

  • Automatically optimise the route after update. I tend to leave this unticked and make my own mind up about when to re-route.
  • Automatically update while on route. You are also able to set the frequency that the data is updated. I always have this option set. The traffic situations change over time and a roadblock may have been cleared before you get to it.
  • Beep when traffic changes. Again nice to know when the road clears.

For the traffic data to be downloaded automatically you need to have a route planned. You can select to update the traffic manually if you don't have a route planned.

 

The image to the right shows the traffic indicator bar, this occupies the right hand side of the display. At the top of this bar is a small icon indicating the status of the connection. The one to the right indicates that the data is being retrieved from the server.

 

A green circle indicates that the traffic data has been downloaded correctly within the last 10 minutes. A partial green circle 20-40 minutes ago. A grey circle meand the last update was over 40 minutes ago. A grey circle with a red cross shows a connection error. Interestingly an orange/yellow circle indicates that there is more up to date traffic on the server (though how it knows I am not sure).

 

If there any incidents on the route they will be shown as small icons in the traffic indicator bar. The indicator bar represents the remaining part of your route and any traffic "events" will be displayed up the bar representing where they occur on the route.

 

Typically the icons you will see are the one to the left for queuing traffic, one for an accident and one for lane closures.

 

Also visible to the right is a white overlay with red arrowheads. This shows that we are actually in the tailback of the incident. In this case I had no option as there was no alternate route to take that made sense.

 

Each traffic incident has an estimated delay associated with it. This is added to your journey time to increase the traveling time and ETA appropriately.

 

If you tap on the show traffic info icon then you get access to a series of displays starting with an overview of traffic incidents along your route. This is shown to the right. The single delay shown is at the Dartford tunnel. Not an easy thing to circumvent.

 

Pressing one of the arrow buttons shows the individual incidents on the route, along with a description of the cause of the incident.

 

This allows you to flick through the problems and make your mind up what to do about them. You could choose to avoid a single incident or replan the route.

 

If you replan the route the route calculations take into account the delay involved and the additional time it would take to avoid the incident. If the avoidance time is greater than the incident time you will not be diverted.

 

To save costs on the download of data the incident details are only retrieved from the server when you actually request individual incident details.

 

Another way to view traffic problems is to first download the traffic information, by tapping Update traffic info and then selecting browse map. This displays the normal map browser, but has the traffic data overlaid.

 

The image to the right shows this display. As you can see there is also an indication of the connection to the traffic server. On this display you have the full functionality of the map browser.

 

I have not been able to estimate the usage and thus the cost of the GPRS data used. I am still waiting for my mobile bill this month. This is one of my concerns, particularly when used with roaming GPRS, as there is no easy way to determine your data usage. This month I have exclusively used my GPRS account with TomTom Traffic so usage should be easily determined.

 

TomTom GO 300 Traffic TomTom GO 300 traffic TomTom GO 300 Traffic

TomTom GO 300 Traffic

TomTom GO 300 Traffic

TomTom GO 300 Traffic

TomTom GO 300 traffic

Issues and Problems

With the initial release of the version 5 software there were a number of connectivity issues with specific mobile network providers. These have been ironed out and version 5.1 works fine.

 

I also had some coexistence issue with my Parrot 3300, GO 300, XDA2 and SPV500. These resulted in the Bluetooth being turned off on the phone. I believe that the Parrot was at fault when it had more than one phone connecting to it. I disabled all the other phones and now the setup works perfectly. What I am highlighting here is that problems may occur and seem to be due to the GO 300 but are actually caused by another issue.

 

Another problem that may be encountered is that of GPRS network coverage. In some parts of the country it is not available at all, in some parts it is sketchy, and some have full coverage. Even in areas where you have full coverage there may be small pockets where there is no coverage. This means that on some trips the updating of the traffic data could be problematical. In areas where the GPRS coverage is sketchy or has black spots then the service will recover when the signal is restored.

 

Traffic information is subject to inherent lags and incomplete data. This is an unavoidable feature of the service. Although there are sensors on most major roads that feed traffic flow information into the system they do not know about accidents and lane closures. These have to be input in different ways. Obviously it can take a while to recognise that the cause of a delay is due to a breakdown or accident and input that data. Also when the incident is cleared it needs to be reported back to control and removed from the system

 

Conclusions

Traffic Rocks.

 

Despite its limitations I have found the traffic data exceptionally useful whilst driving on long journeys. At least 90% of all the problems that I encountered were accurate. There were a couple of marginal incidents reported that probably would not have warranted an alert. There was also a time when the A13 was completely shut by the Police at 2:00am this was not flagged as an incident, but it was difficult to know what had happened and when it had happened.

 

All in all I have found it to be accurate, though I must confess not to have driven major routes during peak periods. I have had feedback from others who do use traffic on a regular basis during the morning and evening peak rushes, and they say that they don't know what they did without it.

 

Resources

Review equipment provided by: TotalPDA and TomTom

 

Equipment provided by TotalPDA

 

Manufacturers Website www.tomtom.com
Pocket GPS Contributor

Mike Barrett

Pocket GPS Contributor Website

http://www.1st-ventures.com

   
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