New Zealand gets TomTom Car Navigation on iPhone first!


OK, we were only ahead of Australia by a couple of hours, but we need everything we can get. Maybe we should give some iPhones to the All Blacks to help them find the try line in the TriNations and Bledisloe on Saturday, but that’s another story. As another aside, when I wrote TriNations, my spell checker suggested ‘urinations’. We’ll let that one be too.

So this morning I got a phone call letting me know that TomTom Car Navigation is now available with GeoSmart maps, for New Zealand in the iTunes Apps Store. This is awesome news. We’ve had some routing applications available in New Zealand, but nothing with any real accuracy. Also the other apps required that you download data frequently, which means additional cost to your Telco, whereas the iPhone application has all of the maps and Points of Interest you need on the device.

The application requires OS3.0 but as I understand it, as long as you have the OS version, you can run the application on any iPhone as well as iPod Touch if you purchase the TomTom Car Kit. Neither helps me as I only have an iPod Classic and a Blackberry, but I hope to remedy that situation soon.

The car kit itself seems very cool and I hope to get the chance to try one. The car kit includes the new TomTom mount, which I really like. It also incorporates a speaker and a microphone as well as an external GPS antenna which means that you don’t have to buy the very latest iPhone with GPS and Compass (although that would be my pick right now) if you already have an iPhone or iPod Touch. The car kit also charges the iPhone when it is in the cradle.

Now the debate has begun in earnest. Why buy the iPhone App and Car Kit, when for the same price you can buy a dedicated PND (Portable Navigation Device) for the same price or maybe even less? This is a similar question to the one I get frequently, which is, what navigation unit or brand is the best? My answer is that ‘best’ is subjective. Different brands and different models currently have different features and the feature set is part of the argument that defines what is best for you.

TomTom and Navman both have new product ranges and different features relating to the user interface, functionality etc. Both brands in New Zealand have GeoSmart Maps (and if you don’t know by now, I work for GeoSmart) which are the most accurate for New Zealand. Why is not relevant for today’s blog. For example Navman now has AA Traffic and TomTom has IQ Routes (which are not the same concept, just an example).

Perhaps part of the answer is how often you travel. As I’ve said in previous blogs. your mobile is your ubiquitous device. You always have it with you. I always have car navigation in my car, but if I’m out of town (without my car) I don’t always take it with me.

The TomTom iPhone Car Kit solves another problem because you can use it as a hands free kit for your mobile. From 1 November, driving and talking on a handheld mobile will become illegal. You will either have to use a hands free kit of some sort or not use your phone at all in the car. I have stopped accepting or making any calls in the car, although I might accept important calls if I had a hands free kit. There is always a tension and anxiety around not answering calls on your mobile. People expect to be able to reach you, which causes an unpleasant feeling for both parties. So here’s a nice solution for your car.

So back to the application, this is essentially the same application as the one residing on the normal PND devices carried by your favourite consumer electronics stores. One cute thing is that on iPhone you can orient your phone to landscape or portrait and it will automatically adapt itself.

The nature of car navigation is changing and like most new technologies it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict what will happen in the near future. LBS on mobile is a given and if you search through my blogs, you will find several about mobile applications, car navigation on mobile will become common place and of course there are many situations where you would like guidance while walking, exercising, travelling in a taxi or on public transport. These are often scenarios where you want to travel light, but wouldn’t go without your mobile.

If you had asked me last year, where car navigation is going, I would have told you about ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems), for which R&D has been funded by the European Governments. This was to develop systems that would reduce accidents in a number of ways, including monitoring vehicles positions in relation to the lane markings on roads, legal driving speeds, speed and distance of vehicles in front and behind you and much more. Many of the innovations for this are being developed and in some cases launched by brands as far apart as BMW and Nissan.

This system was originally going to be made mandatory in all new cars sold in Europe from 2012 and if this was still the case, it could have meant significantly reduced demand for PND’s. When I was in The Netherlands earlier this year, I was advised that the date had been dropped and the European Union were having a rethink on the subject, and particularly their ongoing commitment to funding it. They determined that it would take more than 10 years before the majority of vehicles in Europe would have this system in place and therefore the deadline wouldn’t have any immediate impact. A cynic would say that this would mean that current politicians would not get any credit within their career to justify spending time on it.

So now we have (I reiterate I haven’t tried it yet) a new system which will provide an all but identical experience to a PND on your iPhone. Of course TomTom isn’t the only mobile product available, but it is the first one being commercially sold in New Zealand. The new Android phones also have GPS and Compass and of course there are some very good Windows Mobile applications as well such as iGO8. Will there be a move away from PND’s? I doubt it, at least in the near future. Navman will certainly be hoping not.

There will be a camp that says a PND is the best device at being a PND. They said the same about PDA’s, but SmartPhones are now viable devices, even though I still have to reboot my new Blackberry Bold at least a couple of times a week. The future is going to be interesting. There are phone companies such as Nokia who showed their intention by purchasing Navteq and are planning converged devices that combine a mobile with car navigation. There are PND manufacturers who are going to be putting SIM Card slots into their car navigation devices.

The market will decide what the best is and the answer to all questions will be yes:)

I’ll leave the last word for today to TomTom.

I want a Segway Puma


I’ve been meaning to cancel my NZ Herald subscription, but every time I think about it, I find a nice little snippet that I might not have read, or at least till much later. In this morning’s paper (and online yesterday!) was news about a new version of the Segway designed to solve problems with urban traffic. Now first of all I have to say that I love Segways. I’ve only been on them twice and I am hooked.

A friend of mine, Steve Simms is involved with Segway Polo in New Zealand and makes me jealous every time I hear about the competition, which attracts tech leaders from around the world. I asked Steve how I could join in and he replied “Buy a Segway”. Unfortunately my wife didn’t like that idea very much.Anyway, if you go to YouTube and search for Segway Polo, you’ll find some examples.

Segway’s are used a lot in the US. When I was in Los Angeles earlier this year, I saw airport police similar to the ones in this image using Segways to get around the massive complex. I could have used one myself, having set off in the wrong direction to change airlines. If you are in Auckland and want to try one, go to Devonport Wharf and you can go for a 2-hour tour of Devonport and historic locations for only $75, cut that in half for US dollars.

So what caught my attention this morning was a story about the new Segway PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility) which is a 2 man Segway with little trainer wheels on the front for safety and a roof that looks a bit like a roll cage. Looking like something out of a futuristic Science Fiction movie, this is for real. Once again an example of Science Fiction becoming reality, I guess its about this time that I appreciate the value of all those It is designed to haver a range of around 55 km at 55km an hour according to the NZ Herald. On the site I found that it also has features such as regenrative breaking, which means that it uses the inertia from stopping, to help charge the batteries. I’m not sure where the rest of the story came from because it wasn’t mirrored on the Segway page, but it said that it could ultimately drive itself using GPS and by monitoring traffic around it, being able to stop in a hurry if there is an incident ahead of it.

Given that I’m into LBS, I had a couple of issues with that concept. It would work if there were roads or paths that were only to be used by Segways but otherwise there could be a fatal flaw, because the concept of vehicles driving themselves and being aware of other vehicles (which will definitely happen one day) will only work if all the vehicles on the same stretch of road also carried the same technology. In New Zealand, the new RapidcV that GeoSmart is driving around New Zealand could certainly provide the data that would support this type of technology, because it is gathering full road and lane information nationwide at sub 20 cm accuracy. What is also nice is that as well as camber information it is also gathering inclination data, which could be used to identify routes that would support the Segway by identifying the range based on hills it has to climb up and downhill where it can recharge itself.

Anyway, bottom line, I want one:)

Grandmothers Miracle Survival


So it happened again. A 62 year old woman driving home from Christchurch crashed her car down a 5 metre bank on her way home to Greymouth, was the story in this morning’s NZ Herald.  If she had a GPS capable mobile with the type of tracking application I have been blogging about here and here, she may not have had to spend2 days lying on broken grass out in the cold and could have been rescued far sooner.

The GPS in her phone could have told family or rescuers exactly where she was and with tools like GeoSmart’s Directions API, her rescuers could have had turn by turn directions right to the site of her misfortune.

This is not an uncommon story. Given the bush, the narrow, dark and windy roads around New Zealand’s beautiful countryside, combined with sometimes treacherous conditions of rain, black ice, snow, flooding and slips, there are frequently stories of people losing their car and slipping into a ravine, or worse. I hate to think of what the cost is in resources for search and rescue. Over a year it must mount up to far more than the cost of developing a mobile application that could work on all phones.

In urban areas, often cell triangulation would work, but in the many rural areas, the cell towers are often too far apart to provide an accurate fix. It’s interesting that the topic of Tracking Elderly People is one of the most popular searches that find my blogs. Of course it isn’t just about elderly people. There are many segments of our population that could benefit from a mobile tracking application. People like diabetics, blind or disabled, people with other illnesses such as asthma, allergies such as bee and wasp stings, epilepsy and Alzheimers or other forms of dementia are just a few examples.

Hopefully sometime soon, someone will use GeoSmart’s tools or come up with some funding to develop a tracking system to solve this problem.

While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

Thanks so much for your support:)