Monday, February 05, 2007

Franson GpsGate

A while ago if you had to run two programs that feed of NMEA sentences you would be in trouble. The fast answer nowadays would be go check Franson GpsGate so you can open the GPS with a COM port and share it among one of more virtual ports.

Now GpsGate means more than just that. In fact there will be soon even a GpsGate Server. Franson is expanding its territory in a pretty interesting fashion.

Are you looking into adding yours or somebody, something else’s position to your blog or website? If that’s the case, you might be interesting in taking a peek at its latest incarnation.

GpsGate 2.5

Grab the download after proving a valid email address at the main download page. [Sidenote: Franson’s website might be a bit loopsided, it is easy to end up back where you started].

Anyhow, on a Windows box Franson GpsGate installer will look for Garmin USB and Serial devices, Bluetooth and NMEA compatile units and spend quite sometime updating USB drivers to provide Virtual ports to your system.

To add a bit more of setup time I had to re-install activesync for its current version 4.2. It asked to reboot obviously but it did connected to PDA and sync’ed normally anyhow, even without rebooting. I also had to recharge the PDA, re-install wireless and install the GpsGate for the PocketPC package itself.

The idea behind GpsGate is that you configure an input and output connections. For example, a Bluetooth Serial Port providing NMEA data and Google Earth KLM generation as output.

GpsGate 2.5 while running either on a PDA and notebook will allow you to combine inputs and outputs in a pretty large way.

But this has been available for a while now, what is new if the ability to output and input data to or from a server. The server keeps track of location data which can happen automatically if you setup it up to provide your respective position back to a server at Franson.

You do that by adding a new entry in the Settings, Output dialog. But at that point you will need to have an account set up with Franson. Beware that you can also register to the Forum’s website with its own registration page. While back at the PDA, provide your username and password and test the connection.

If you got a working wireless connection, you are done. Thing is you will only be able to update your position if you are connected, otherwise you can’t be seen. You can also run GpsGate as a service.

GpsGate Server

At the Forum you can find out where Franson is taking its product:

"Embed Google Map on my webpage for live tracking without them having to log on to a GpsGate website. With the ability to display multiple buddies on that same map."
But the bottleneck will again be found inside carriers. If you want to provide your location continuosly while in movement, be connect over say GPRS would make your life easier and good news, bad news:

"With this release of and the extra PlugIn you install on your Pocket PC, GpsGate does support position sharing over GPRS / Internet."

But even with support provided by Franson, Cingular seems to be blocking this type of traffic to servers not blessed by them.

Still from the forum:
"Check gprs.htm where it seems customers asked for the update location to work over GPRS but it seems that Cingular blocks or won’t let Franson’s server to be connected to. Again, blocked by the giant paw."
GpsGate Plugin

You can track yourself at Google Earth and/or Google Maps but even though GpsGate 2.5 is supposed to have the necessary support, I still had to install a Plugin to add support for this functionality. This will also add a toolbar to Firefox. As mentioned somewhere at Franson’s site:
"For tracking using Google Earth you will need to install the GpsGate PlugIn Pack 1.3."
Franson sells GpsGate to end-users to run their GPS packages sharing the data from a single receiver. The same package is also packaged as a SDK with development libraries for .Net, ActiveX and C++ for both Windows and PocketPC platforms so that others can write software with the same capabilities and now with live tracking support.

Soon Franson will make available GpsGate Servers so that you can host your own tracking software.

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