Langa Letter: GPS Update - InformationWeek
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9/9/2005
12:49 AM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
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Langa Letter: GPS Update

Remember when cell phones went from fat, bulky, exotic devices to slim, must-have, everyday tools? That's what's happening to GPS technology right now, Fred Langa says.

Specialty GPS Devices
As the cost of the base chipsets for GPS receivers has plummeted, GPS technology has cropped up in some unusual hybrid- and special-purpose devices. Perhaps the most noticeable of these are GPS-enabled cell phones, which not only help the user stay oriented and on-track, but which also can assist in locating the user should he or she become disabled or unable to communicate.

GPS hardware is readily available either built-in or in add-on peripherals for PDAs and laptop PCs, making it an invaluable addition for road warriors and other frequent travelers. (As an aside: the GPS units included in some rental cars are usually adequate for the most routine destinations and common routings, but they tend to be quite basic. Consumer-type GPS units are usually more powerful, more flexible, and more responsive to your personal driving and routing preferences.)

Boaters can get maritime-oriented GPS units that contain detailed maps of navigable waters and that integrate with a boat's sonar or fish finders; pilots can get a GPS loaded with sectional map data, runway configurations, and instrumentation that can actually serve as a "glass cockpit" backup to the plane's primary instrumentation.

Frequent users of two-way radios can get GPS embedded in walkie-talkies and FRS Devices.

You can even get GPS devices small enough to wear on your wrist.

From Toy To Tool, In A Flash
We've seen hardware advances like this before: It happened in the 1980s when computers went from being exotic toys to routine fixtures in businesses and homes: Now, almost everyone has a PC.

We saw it again in the 1990s, when cell phones went from being expensive executive accessories to an essential tool for everyday communication: Now, almost everyone has a cell phone.

We've seen it in other devices, too, and now we're seeing it with GPS: This once-exotic technology is now within the reach of almost everyone.

The basic benefits of GPS haven't changed: It helps you get where you want to be with a minimum of fuss and bother. But the new gear is so affordable and so powerful, you really shouldn't be without it. Just as PCs and cell phones did in earlier years, GPS has come of age. If you haven't added GPS to your arsenal of tech tools, it's time!


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Fred Langa's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Fred Langa, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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