Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wayfinder Earth Beta Available

Darla Mack's blog which has some pretty cool stuff wrote about it first and AllAboutSymbian has some screenshots. Go to WayfinderEarth and send a SMS to one of the supported models for a download.

The list is pretty extensive, including Sony-Ericsson UIQ and Windows Smartphones. Blackberry and Java support will come soon. Among the supported devices are Nokia, Motorola, T-Mobile and Sony-Ericsson models. Also listed are Windows Smartphones from Qtek and HP like the hw6510 and hw6515.

The package uses TeleAtlas map data and let you zoom from a 3D globe into any place on Earth to street level.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

GPS Chipsets

A while ago I found this list of GPS Chipsets Manufactures made in 2002 and another, longer list on a Canadian website. (The first lists on a table which is the best way to present this type of data). Not as comprehensive as the latter I'm listing the major brands below and I will add more IC's to the corresponding manufacturers as required:

Sirf (SirfstartIII), Qualcomm, Sony (Single-chip: CXD2951GA, Baseband: CXD2956AGL-1, Receiver: GXB5005/GXB5210), Fujitsu (MB87Q2040), Nemerix (NJ1030A Baseband processor, NJ1006A RF Front-End), Philips (SAA1575), Freescale* (i.250, i.300 platforms; MXC300, FS Oncore MG4100), STM (STA20576).

RF MicroDevices: Bluetooth/GPS Receiver solution RF8900 and RF8110 Software solution. SiGe GPS Receiver and Radio IC's.

Atmel: Antaris 4, Single-chip ATR0630 and ATR0635, RF Receiver ATR0601, Baseband ATR0621/22

Maxim: MAX2742, Single-Chip GPS receiver Front-End, MAX2674, standalone GPS receiver compatible to other baseband IC's.

u-Nav: GPS Receiver Baseband [uN1008, uN8031B]

Zarlink: GP2000, GPS Receiver Hardware Design [Application Notes, pdf]

A-GPS: Infineon [Hammerhead] PMB2520, Ceva Xpert-GPS 3000, GlobalLocate Marlin

*Motorola sold (Freescale?) GPS chipsets to Sirf.

Baseband

Some companies offer only the Baseband IC, like Prolific's PL-6301 and Soc Solutions GPS-B3 and GPS-S3 that includes IP (Intelectual Property) blocks.

Most papers, including those from Sony, put at least two basic chips side by side: a baseband processor chip and the radio frequency receiver front-end.

This paragraph from the Maxim paper explains things in the clearest possible way:

GPS receivers on the ground pick up the signals and use the coded information to calculate a position on an earth coordinate system. A receiver determines position by calculating the time it takes for the radio signals transmitted from each satellite to reach the receiver.

Multiplying the time by the speed of light determines how far the unit is from each of the satellites: Distance = Rate x Time. Time is determined using an ingenious code matching technique within the GPS receiver. The location of each satellite is encoded in its transmitted signal. With these data, the receiver can triangulate to calculate its location on Earth.
But I still can't quite understand what a "baseband" whatever is. Nemerix paper comes close to describe one: "GPS correlation is carried out by a correlator core optimized for high efficiency, low power correlation [...] delivering formatted navigation information (NMEA protocol) or as a flexibile GPS enabled microcontroller".

So in one word, it is software, IP.

Compatibility

I see things from the software-side more often and one can say that protocols are getting better defined. Hardware has its own set of issues about putting pieces, blocks together, at any level you want to talk about.

GPS World published "The Challenge of a Single Chip" back in 2001 which gives a good perspective on the current offers by describing what are the pieces needed for a GPS receiver.

One example of such combination was given recently by TearDown at EETimes: David Carey opens up a Navman iCN510 and describes its parts. A dedicated PDA it ends up being. An here is another tear down example.

In the same issue of EETimes, the eeProductCenter lists other GPS blocks from vendors including NEC, NavSync and u-blox AG among others.

Two other pointers here are the GPS Module by TRControl Solutions and the GPS Logger from Spark Fun Electronics.

To close, I also have to point out this paper[pdf] by Cello. Something that will help put cellular and location technologies in perspective at a similar hardware description level.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Best GPS Software Recommendations

Just to give the view I got from the market after a year looking around into Pocket PC GPS packages. I put together the following list:

Recommendations:

. Differential GPS package:
Beeline GPS

. Topographical Map package:
GPSDash

. Connected Wireless package:
BackCountry Navigator

. Directions
Papago
Nominations:

. GeoCaching and everything else
GPS Tuner

. LBS Future:
A2B

. Location with no GPS:
Navizon

For a whole package solution including Topographical maps, Windows and the PDA clients, check National Geographic Topo! offers.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Navizon, Nokia in UK, Road Tax

Wired posted about Navizon's creator: Cyril Houri, and how geotagging and buddies list will take a while to catch up compared to similar services offered currently in Asian markets.

This one is coming back again: ODOT in Oregon is considering using GPS to grab some more taxes from drivers.

Nokia phone models offered in the European market like the Nokia 3250, have a new option for navigation with ViewRanger. If you want to get lost in Great Britain you can try it on a Symbian Series 60 V9.

Trimble is now offering a tracking device, TrimTrac. It connects through GSM to send data when something that is not supposed to be moving decides to.

Monday, June 05, 2006

GPS News

CNet published a comprehensive article on GPS products for fitness and exercise. The news is a Finish-based company, frwd technologies offering the whole shebang: receiver, software (mobile and PC-based) and full featured web service. The only issue is that you can't buy (yet) in the U.S. from the list of available dealers. Opportunity alert.

German emergency workers will carry GPS units during the World Cup. This way control centers can direct them as needed.

And Scientific Components is making available for Windows Mobile developers, the VB .NET GPS Toolkit.

GPS Privacy Must-Read

Great, fantastic article "Meet the Cell-Phone Tracking Parents" at Sci-Today.com. Like this pearl:

"I have a problem with any kind of tracking device, especially for kids," she says, "because they will grow up with the expectation that tracking your every move is a normal part of life. It raises the hair on my neck because we're training kids to be tracked at all times and they will think that some authority tracking them is fine."
And by her, the article refers to "Katherine Albrecht, coauthor of Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID".

Repeat after me: "Senior Citizens", "Senior Citizens", ...

Open Source Radio

The idea is in the air. Make the specs public and sell hardware for prototypes if you know how to put them together. Check the article in Wired talking about GNU Radio by Matt Ettus.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Pogue, Berlind: just give me a map

Interesting post and story. After the visit to USGS I could barelly stop looking at paper maps. Guess it has to mix and match, instead of pure replacement. Plus the key factor will always be the quality of the map data and there you have Navteq and TeleAtlas competing for everyone's device.

For driving directions on a PocketPC, PaPaGo was the best in the block (TeleAtlas Maps). For a notebook DeLorme does a fair job (Tiger database plus updates).

Saturday, June 03, 2006

USGS: Open Goverment

Just coming back from Menlo Park where Western Region USGS workers and their families and friends are given a really cool display of active governance. Very productive and instructive. I realized how little I knew about a fantastic example of goverment work.

Earthquakes sure. But there is so much more. And the people and their attitudes towards themselves and the focus of their work showed how dedicated their are to a cause. Earth.

I could have spent most of the day at their Map Store, if you do check for the 3D relief map of whole US, item #114587 and a topographic map from Yosemite Valley. Just those are worth the trip.

GPS is tracking earth's crust movement. In millimeters, according to Karen. Ground stations using differential GPS and L1 signals make that possible. Plus software post processing.

Old examples of benchmarks are displayed at Bob's cube where he uses GlobalMapper to create 3D reliefs by combining even 6 different images to make a single one. Pattern recognition makes the rest.

Alicia is testing new offers of online maps, like the project of the San Francisquito Creek. Still beta so take note of what might not be there yet and mail to the appropriate contact info: http://mapsonline.wr.usgs.gov/.

Try also the National Map Viewer and the National Atlas.

If you got a feeling of what you might be missing, check it out tomorrow. Here is the map, parking extends all the way to Ravenswood. Walk away from it a good block and half. Sunday 4th. From 10 to 4 pm. It is great kid program. Take yours.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Rat race

How do you get off of the technological rat race? Picking a winner and betting all those chips? Grooming a good candidate till it parts with the higher bidder?

The fact that you have to make technical choices when you want to use some new tool like GPS, iPod, Cameras, some sort of communication and storage shows how far we put ourselves from our real needs.

We wait for the tech giants to decide our chosen paths. Afraid of trying new waters ourselves.

It is all out here: GPRS, or APRS; packets, servers, webservices, storage, racks, memory. Find some hole in the spectrum and hop on it. Whatever we as a group can put together that works towards those goals. Now Google is the savior. Ok, enough already.

The Open concept has to expand into hardware so that what has already been established in software can now be combined into actual products, hardware. Making specs available for anyone to put them together. E-Blocks is a pretty neat concept when used for prototyping.