PORTLAND, Ore. -- If you are like me (that is, always running late), then a personal navigation device borders on divine intervention. Rather than download Mapquest routes into my computer, print them out, then fiddle with the paper maps while driving, the personal navigation device gives me turn-by-turn instructions in real time--as if I had an expert navigator riding shotgun. Unfortunately, the current price of most personal navigation devices is still in the $400 to $700 range. As an alternative, you might consider upgrading your cell phone to one with a built-in global positioning system (GPS) and paying as little as $4.16 per month to have it give you directions.
"We give all the same functionality as a personal navigation device," said Dave Singer, vice president and general manager of Telmap Inc. (Jersey City, NJ). "But rather than use a dedicated device, you can just use your existing GPS-enabled cell phone, which we believe is a big advantage, since people always have their cell phone with them."
The downside is that your existing cell phone probably does not have a GPS chip-set in it, unless you have one of the new smart phones, like the Blackberry 8800. If your phone does not have a GPS chip set, but does have Bluetooth, then you can add an external GPS unit, but upgrading to a new phone is a less cumbersome solution. And if you delay long enough, you might end up with a GPS-enabled phone without even trying, since every major carrier has mandated that future cell phones include GPS.
"Only a small percentage of the phones out there today have built-in GPS, but we estimate that 95 percent of new phones will have GPS chip sets," said Singer. "In fact, we have already ported Telmap to 150 different devices, and about 30 of those phones are already available in the market."
When Telmap ports to a new phone, it adapts its maps to the screen size, the memory capabilities and other peculiarities of that particular phone.
Besides offering a cost advantage--Telmap costs $50 per year ($4.16 per month), while TeleNav Inc.'s (Sunnyvale, Calif.) GPS Navigator is less than $10 per month--using your GPS-enabled cell phone offers all the features of a personal navigation device, but includes real-time map updates rather than depending on you keeping your map database up-to-date.
"Ours is a hosted solution--so its database is always up-to-date--unlike a stand-alone personal navigation device," said Singer.
Mapquest Navigator, Telenav and Telmap all work by downloading real-time navigational databases from a host computer into the cell phone, then give the user navigational directions even if they are simultaneously speaking on their cell phone.
"When the user says 'I want to go to this location,' we identify their current location with the GPS, we map out the route, and we download the entire corridor up front so that we don't have to go back and keep pinging the user's current location, so that even if you loose connection to the network or go off route you still get your turn-by-turn instructions."
Telmap provides 3D maps and text-to-speech instructions for upcoming turns with street names. Telmap also offer a personal navigation mode that ignores one-way streets and provides different points of interest for pedestrians. When driving, real-time traffic conditions are also provided, at no extra cost, from Inrix Inc. (Kirkland, Wash.)--the same company that provides real-time traffic information to personal navigation devices.