Article by Dave Burrows
Looking back at 2003, it really has been an exciting year in not only GPS but in the Pocket PC. Great strides have been made in all corners of the globe, and in technology. It only seems like yesterday when I was writing the 2003 and beyond article, and now we are staring 2004 straight in the eyes. Can a year really have gone that quickly ? So what did happen in 2003 ? And more importantly, what will we see in 2004 ?
What happened in 2003 ?
What have we accomplished in the past year ? Well.....When I look back at 2003, it has just been a total blur. We had a lot of server issues in the first two quarters of last year, migrated to a new server and ISP in the 2nd/3rd quarter of the year and the website stability has been rock solid and extremely fast. We have migrated to a new forum software (and I must take my hat off to Mike for doing an excellent job here!), and also migrated the whole site away from a Microsoft based server to Linux, including adding a new PHP front end system to the website. We've increased the Safety Camera Database accuracy, created an online Sync Service, hosted a Pocket GPS Summit in the Lake District, and hey all of that's not including the vast amount of articles and reviews we write!
We have expanded the knowledge in the team over the past year, which has been helped by Lutz coming on board from North America and is helping Pocket GPS World not only write reviews for Europe, but North America.
We also created an extensive aviation section (thanks to Peter). Oh and we've re-branded the site as PocketGPSWorld.com. A lot of people in the industry can't quite work out why we've done that, and we will reveal this soon in the new year once we are ready. If you thought Pocket GPS World was great, then you'll love what we have in store! Many people say we have conquered the GPS industry and have the best and informative site available, that may be the case but you haven't seen anything yet! ;-)
Bluetooth GPS takes off
2003 was the year of Bluetooth technology for GPS. In late 2002 there was one Bluetooth GPS, in 2003 we had an explosion happen. Just look at some of the new Bluetooth GPS Receivers (right).
Manufacturers all decided to jump on the same band wagon and invent their own Bluetooth GPS, and for the ones that didn't, they either re-badged another manufacturers Bluetooth GPS, or currently have one in the works for 2004.
I think the main thing that makes Bluetooth GPS mostly accessible is that more Pocket PC's have come onto the market, and where there were only a few Bluetooth enabled Pocket PC's in 2002, we have seen Microsoft bring out the new Windows Mobile 2003 Operating System, and many Pocket PC manufacturers re-incarnate newer models with Bluetooth and WiFi support.
- Will there be better support for Bluetooth in 2004 ?
- Windows Mobile 2003 for the Pocket PC and Mobile Phones ?
SiRF XTrac creates a bit of a stir
SiRF brought out their new firmware XTrac which gives better performance in difficult areas when under heavy trees/foliage, close to buildings or skyscrapers etc. Some people get on with XTrac well, some people expect a little bit more out of XTrac.
Fortuna has been the only company taking the bull by the horns and created both a Compact Flash and Bluetooth dual-mode switchable SiRF IIe/LP to SiRF XTrac GPS Receiver and currently has a Patent Pending on this switchable technology.
We have seen a huge influx in new mapping programs both in the Street Navigation arena, and also the Topographical arena, including newer maps from NavTech, TeleAtlas and Ordnance Survey, but also 3D maps, and this really has given GPS an even greater leap forward. We have also seen new versions of software from TomTom, PowerLOC, ALK, TeleType, Mapopolis to just name a few.
Pocket PC Awards
Pocket GPS received one of the prestigious awards as a Best Site and we currently have this logo on the left hand side of each page.
Not only that, I was invited onto the Board of Experts which comprise of several hundred experienced and knowledgeable Pocket PC users around the globe who are considered experts in their field of Pocket PC and GPS.
It was a privilege and an honor to serve on the Board of Experts and to vote for the top software for 2003 in the Pocket PC Magazine Awards 2003.
Another thing to mention regarding the Pocket PC Awards 2003, was ALK took the award for best GPS Software in 2003 with it's CoPilot Live | Pocket PC 4 software.
We have created strategic alliances with many companies in the GPS market, we now actively talk to over 50 GPS companies on a weekly basis and are starting to help shape both hardware and software products for the PDA market.
Predictions for innovative products in 2004
Navigon Mobile Navigator
I can see a number of products becoming extremely popular in 2004, one will be Navigon's Mobile Navigator for Europe. Towards the end of 2003 we saw Navigon and Medion bundled together at Aldi Superstores, and Navigon will officially be entering the UK market by selling through authorised retailers in 2004.
SD GPS Receivers
Another will be SD GPS cards which will take off and are currently in their infancy.
Panasonic announced it would release the first SD GPS Receiver on 1st October 2003.
The GPS receiver can be used in Palm/PDA devices and desktop computers.
The designated model number of the GPS receiver is ECG104. The dimensions are 71mm x 30mm x 14mm and it weighs 20 grams.
The GPS sensitivity is accurate to within 10 meters.
One thing we will start to see more of is datalogging GPS Receivers. These are handy if you need to map out an area of the country for a specific task, or map out a route that is required or needs further examination. In 2003 we saw TFAC (Taiwan Falcon Aerospace Corporation) produce a GPS mouse called the TFAC MGL30. We also saw RoyalTek bring out a Bluetooth enabled datalogger (RBT 3000) and Deluo also brought out a Bluetooth enabled datalogger which can be hard wired to the car battery.
One thing I do predict is we will see a lot more Bluetooth GPS Receivers become dataloggers, starting with an Emtac/Socket BT GPS sometime in the new year followed by many others.
WiFi GPS Receivers
Another thing we will probably see enter the market soon is WiFi enabled GPS Receivers. Bluetooth is great, but it has a limited distance. WiFi will come in much more handy when trying to interface with the GPS in the car whilst sat in the house, and if using 802.11x would give a much greater level of security so not just anyone can walk along and download your data which is currently where it stands with the Bluetooth models that are on the market today - most of these do not require bonding, and the ones that do have easy to guess passcodes.
One of the biggest flops for 2003 was the Tablet PC. Why ? Such a good looking device that can be turned from a laptop or desktop style PC into a larger Pocket PC with touch screen surely would take off ?
The main problem with the Tablet PC is cost. Most coming in at nearly double what a normal laptop would cost, the screens aren't as durable as a Pocket PC screen, nor as bright, and the digitilising technology still needs work. If a smaller tablet PC based on a Windows Mobile 2003 Operating System could be brought out, which was twice or three times the size of a regular Pocket PC screen, gave you all the same features as a Pocket PC, but with a higher resolution, I think Microsoft and hardware manufacturers will be onto something and will sell tons of these devices. The tablet PC's are still too large for in-car use for the most, and having a smaller screen, making them also lighter and giving better battery performance at the same time, would win the market over. There has already been talk about this happening in 2004. Will we get to see it though ? or is it still another year or two away ?
Another thing that we saw in late 2003 was Toshiba's new VGA Pocket PC Screen.
This gives an increased resolution compared to what would be normally seen in sub VGA based screens at 240 x 320 pixels.
The Toshiba e805 is capable of running the standard 240 x 320 pixels (Quarter VGA or QVGA), and it has the screen technology to also beef it's resolution up to a whopping 480 x 640 pixels without losing any information or detail on screen which is something the current set of VGA screens cannot do.
This is all packed in a 4" screen and will be the way forward for most Pocket PC manufacturers in 2004.
2004 will be the year we see the European Space Agency push forward the new EGNOS Satellite system for improved accuracy and will go live officially in April 2004. Extensive testing has been carried out over late 2002 and 2003 and should still be ready for release as planned. This should bring full Wide Area Augmentation System to Europe and provide greater accuracy for consumer and business based GPS right the way across Europe.
Launching of more GPS Block satellites
In 2003 we saw a number of rockets launched into outer space with GPS payloads on them with the intent to replace old and decrepit GPS satellites that are failing.
The US Department Of Defense (DOD) who currently operate the GPS satellites in the sky have been looking to replace satellites over previous years, but military satellites have taken priority over the GPS satellites.
However, now that Europe is getting it's own satellite system online for 2004 (Galileo, and many more satellites planned in future years, the US Department Of Defense (DOD) are getting a little concerned and have re-engineered it's replacement program of failing satellites.
18 Satellite All-In-View GPS Receivers
In 2003 we saw Cobra, the manufacturer of Speed Camera Detectors create several 18 Satellite All-In-View GPS Receivers, and we'll be sure to see more GPS Receivers that support greater than 12.
Although you won't see many more than 12 satellites on a very good day because of the way they are positioned and hidden by the earths curvature to be visible to other countries whilst they are not visible to you, the greater support for satellites will be a welcome edition, you can receive a 12 sat signal quite often, and the more satellites you can receive will give you more stability in retaining that fix and giving greater accuracy.
TMC (Traffic Message Channel)
TMC has started taking off in Europe, primarily Germany and Austria and is soon to hit the UK by force. TMC basically gives you Traffic information like what the AA/RAC can provide, but wirelessly over the radio waves. Several manufacturers have already created TMC based GPS Receivers with an FM Radio Receiver built in, and we should see more TMC GPS Receivers and hardware/software available in 2004.
One application we have seen which verges on the edge of TMC is Team Warrior's LiveWire. This provide Traffic information via a Bluetooth connected Mobile telephone and Bluetooth connected Pocket PC. This works fairly well, and this will be improved upon early in 2004.
Location Based Services
In 2003 we also saw the introduction of Wayfinder on Mobile phones which has started opening up a whole arena for location based services. In years to come, having GPS on a mobile phone will be like second nature, just as it is today to walk out of the house with the mobile phone in your pocket. This will open up LBS (Location Based Services) to a whole new market place. Also with the convergence of Pocket PC's and Mobile Phones, or inter-connected via Bluetooth, this will also allow people to pass by shop fronts and be notified on a map or in an application about the particulars of a shop, or tourist location giving people much more information at their finger tips when they are out and about.
I could go on talking for hours (and many who know me well will know I will), but I think this sufficiently sums up 2003 and also what we should expect from 2004 in terms of GPS.