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Susan Smith, Managing Editor
by Susan Smith
The 2007 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week may not be a geospatially oriented affair, but it should be noted here because 1) it draws one of the largest crowds in the computer industry, and 2) geospatially or location-enabled products are showing up in their list of “Best of CES” and LAPTOP Magazine awards.
The CNET Best of CES Awards honor the hottest products that set the standards in consumer electronics. LAPTOP Magazine looks for the best mobile tech products.
Navigation systems are growing in popularity, as evidenced by Garmin’s gross profit margin of 50 percent and growing competition (Sony is entering this market). The cost of a GPS has gone down, although the cost of in-car navigation systems is still within the $600-$1200 price range.
Dash Navigation, Inc. announced on Thursday that it won “Best of CES” awards from both CNET and LAPTOP Magazine at CES for its Dash Express, the first Internet-connected GPS device.
To summarize the press release, Dash offers a number of unique features with real-time two-way connectivity.
-The Dash Driver Network informs users of the best routes around traffic by using information generated from other Dash devices.
-Find virtually anything—people, places, products, and services—with Yahoo! Local search. --- Select your result and drive right to it.
-Automatically receive the most up-to-date maps and software.
-Wirelessly send the addresses you need from any computer straight to your dashboard.
-Get movie times, gas prices and more – right from the driver’s seat.
Dash Navigation Chief Executive Officer Paul Lego stated, “We can’t wait to get the product into drivers’ hands in the coming months as this market is growing so rapidly."
Thilo Koslowski, vice president, lead automotive analyst for Gartner, stated, “Ultimately, these devices have to be connected to the outside world in order to maximize the benefits for the end user. Consumers are looking for a more holistic navigation experience. We estimate that the demand will continue to grow and that by 2010, navigation devices will surpass 30 million units globally.”
Some, like Ford and Microsoft’s collaboration on in-car communications and entertainment, are kind of peripheral to the geospatial market, but embody geospatial capabilities, even if consumers don’t know it. The product unveiled this week at CES is called Sync, a service to include “a fully-integrated, flash memory system that enables drivers to call hands free and controfl a range of digital audio via voice commands and buttons mounted on the steering wheel.”
Based on an a Microsoft Auto operating system, this system is made up of an ARM 11 processor, 64MB of DRAM and 256MB of flash memory. The software will most likely be able to be updated via the USB port.
The interface for Sync-enabled cars will be a small text display that will be part of the instrument cluster. Drivers and passengers will use hands-free dialing, accomplished by pairing up to 12 different phones via an always-on Bluetooth connection. Many hands-free systems now have the ability to automatically copy phone books from cell phones or other Bluetooth enabled wireless devices, and this is the case with Sync. The system then “memorizes” the entries, which allows users to place calls via voice commands.
As with so many other consumer products these days, Sync will support Bluetooth audio for streaming digital audio from mobile devices such as iPods that hold music files. For in-car music, drivers can play music from their MP3 players, iPods, Zunes and others by connecting them to a USB 2.0 port. The standout feature for Sync is that it is able to play songs from a connected media player such as iPod, via a voice command. Imagine being able to tell your system to “play track Yesterday” by the Beatles, rather than having to scroll through the entire CD! Sync’s voice command capability also allows users to “find similar music,” relying on a series of algorithms to search for tracks that are like the music playing – clearly not a geospatial function, but a lot of fun anyway.
The nüvi 370 and nüvi 670 also include preloaded, detailed street maps of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and over 30 countries in Europe. These transatlantic nüvis are available with the standard 3.5-inch display (nüvi 370) or larger 4.3-inch widescreen display (nüvi 670).
Both the nüvi 370 and nüvi 670 come with an integrated traffic receiver that leverages available traffic service broadcasts to notify drivers of traffic congestion, accidents, construction, and weather-related delays. The nüvi will also automatically suggest alternative routes to avoid delays. In Europe, most countries provide real-time traffic broadcasts free of charge. In the United States, service for the nüvi 370 and nüvi 670 is provided by Total Traffic Network and includes the first three months of traffic service for free, after which the customer may subscribe to 12 months of service for $60.00.
The nüvi’s Bluetooth Wireless Technology capabilities and integrated microphone and speaker provide for hands-free mobile phone calls. This feature makes it possible for drivers to make and receive calls using the nuvi’s touchscreen interface, and access the phone’s personalized phone book, call history log, or the nüvi’s huge points of interest database. More than 200 Bluetooth phones are supported.
Garmin has also announced an Asian Americas version of its nüvi 350 and nüvi 660. These devices allow North American motorists who speak Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, or Taiwanese to access menus and text displayed in one of five Asian languages. In addition, the turn-by-turn, voice-prompted directions are audibly announced in Asian languages. To date, Garmin is the only manufacturer to offer an Asian language interface combined with North American maps.