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GPS obsessed

Thursday
27 April 2017

What’s the most hackable GPS navigator?

gpshack Whats the most hackable GPS navigator?The Slashdot forums have an interesting discussion currently happening regarding hackable GPS units.  There’s also a fair amount of chatter about beating people with keyboards and why mother-in-laws being driven off cliffs by faulty GPS devices is a good thing (if you’re looking for a laugh).  But there are some good resources for those looking to modify their navigators.

Really, anything that stores all of its files on an SD card is the easiest to modify because you just have to replace the files.  There isn’t any hacking or coding involved.  GPS navigators such as the Navigon 2100 would be good examples.  I also learned that there is quite a large Pioneer AVIC-hacking community at http://www.avic411.com and the open source Openmoko Freerunner is a popular choice for GPS hackers as well.

Have you ever modified a GPS navigator?  A TomTom or Garmin?  Please share!

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Did Research In Motion buy Dash Navigation for a tax cut?

Dash ExpressBlackberry maker Research In Motion still hasn’t mentioned its acquisition of Dash Navigation publicly despite the story milling around on the web for almost a of month now.  Why is this?  According to some number crunching by Davis Freeberg, the secrecy may lay with RIM’s intentions for the navigation company.  While it’s assumed that Dash’s software will be integrated into the navigational component of Blackberry smartphones, Freeberg reveals that the real intention for the purpose could be nothing more than a tax cut for RIM.

By digging through RIM’s recent 6K filing (which doesn’t mention Dash by name), Freeberg was able to derive a final $8.3 million purchase price for Dash.  Peanuts when you consider the company raised 3 rounds of financing worth $71 million.  But while that amounts to an 88 percent loss for investors, RIM grabbed a $26 million tax credit for the purchase giving the company a return of over 300 percent.  And that’s without doing anything.  As Freeberg points out, hopefully this isn’t the only reason RIM went for the hot deal because it would be a shame to see Dash’s technology go to waste.

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Koi fish thieves using Google Earth to pick targets?

koi Koi fish thieves using Google Earth to pick targets?Bizarre uses of Google’s mapping products are nothing new, but the apparent use of Google Earth to steal expensive koi carp from residential ponds is pretty creative.  The Telegraph reports that 12 thefts of the exotic fish and pond equipment have occurred over the past 3 weeks in the Hull, East Yorks region of the UK.  Given the location of some of the targets, often set back from the road with high fences, police believe the crooks are using Google Earth to select their marked properties.  Google is usually the target of such accusations, but the company does point out that its mapping service is just one of many available on the web and that responsibility for the crimes lies with perpetrator.  True that.

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Brightkite for Android open for business

brightkite android Brightkite for Android open for business

I know there quite a few Brightkite fans that read this blog, among them quite a few Android users.  Late last week the company, which provides a location-based social network, announced that Brightkite is open to the public via the Android Market.  The Android application has a “smoother interface” than its iPhone-oriented sibling, as well as integrated Google Maps and background notifications.  This latter point has been a big problem with the iPhone app, though it’s recently been alleviated somewhat by the addition of Push Notifications.  You can grab Brightkite for Android now for free.

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HTC Hero with customized HTC Sense Android interface announced

htc hero HTC Hero with customized HTC Sense Android interface announced

One of the most significant announcements of the past week was the unveiling of the HTC Hero, the company’s latest Android smartphone.  It shares many of the same hardware specs of other HTC Android phones such as the HTC Magic or T-Mobile’s myTouch 3G.  But most importantly is the new interface, HTC Sense, that moves away from the usual Android look in order to create a uniform look regardless of the operating system used.  Likely this means HTC will use Sense on Windows Mobile phones in the future.

Sense has a distinct focus on personalization.  You can choose the widgets placed on the Hero’s homescreen and the widgets themselves can also be customized.  Organization tends to be focused around your contacts whether they be in your phonebook or on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.  The one inconvenience caused by the customized operating system is the lack of over-the-air updates.  Unfortunately HTC Hero owners will have to manually update Android and I’m not sure if that means Sense will require fixes everytime a new version of Android comes out.

The 3.2-inch touchscreen HTC Hero has an onscreen keyboard, GPS and the usual other wireless features available on HTC Android phones.  It’ll ship in Europe in July, Asia later in the summer, and North America sometime after that.

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Bluebird Pidion BIP-6000 handheld gets GPS, barcode scanning, RFID reading

bip6000 Bluebird Pidion BIP 6000 handheld gets GPS, barcode scanning, RFID readingKorean handheld maker Bluebird Soft has entered the US market with the Bluebird Pidion BIP-6000, targeting industrial applications such as meter reading, parcel delivery, inventory management and public safety.  The powerful Windows Mobile 6.1 job runs on an 806 MHz Marvell PXA320 processor and features a variety of wireless capabilities including a 5-band GSM modem with HSDPA, 802.11b/g WLAN, Bluetooth 2.0 and GPS.

The BIP-6000 has a 3.5-inch VGA touchscreen, comes with your choice of a numeric or QWERTY keypad, not to mention a 1D/2D barcode scanner, RFID reader and even an IrDA reader.  Other notable features include a 3 megapixel autofocus camera, a RS232 networking port and a couple of USB slots.  You can also expand the PID-6000’s 512 MB of flash memory via a built-in microSD slot.

Available through US distributor SDG Systems, the Pidion BIP-6000 costs $1650 to $2100 depending on optional features.

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Foursquare 1.3 gets iPhone Push Notification–choose your friends wisely

iphone foursquare push Foursquare 1.3 gets iPhone Push Notification  choose your friends wiselyLocation-based mobile social network, Foursquare, is just about ready to launch version 1.3 of its iPhone application which will include Push Notifications.

Just recently enabled by Apple with its 3.0 OS update, Push Notifications ping your iPhone if someone is attempting to contact you from an application that isn’t opened on your phone.  Prior to the feature, LBS networks such as Foursquare were a bit of a pain to use for many users because unless they remained open, they were useless.  Once the new Foursquare app is released, you’ll know which places your friends have checked in at regardless of whether the app is open.  Of course, you’ll still need to open it if you want to respond or check in somewhere yourself.

As Techcrunch’s MG Siegler (who broke the news) points out though, not everyone will be impressed with this new feature.  The idea of everyone knowing where you are at all times causes discomfort for the privacy wary, regardless of whether they’ve chosen to share that information or not.  Foursquare does provide the ability to toggle Push Notifications on and off for each friend though.  It just remains to be seen if functioning Push Notifications will be the default choice in the new app.

One other thing I like about Push Notifications for a social networking app like Foursquare is that for many users, the relationship choices they make will become more meaningful.  Unlike the conscious or subconscious effort to jack up our Twitter and Facebook friend numbers for whatever psychological, emotional or strategic reason, having too many Foursquare followers all pinging your phone constantly will quickly become a nuisance.  Hopefully this will result in people engaging with fewer people, but in a more meaningful and real-world way.  That’s not necessarily the best for Foursquare from a scaling perspective, but it does put it in a position to be a location-based social network that encourages real-world social connections around the places people love. Iphone foursquare push.

Unfortunately for me, up here smack dab in the middle of the Great White North (also known as Winnipeg, Canada), Foursquare isn’t an option, similar to most of the other popular location-based social networks.  But for those in the United States living in Foursquare-compatible cities, Foursquare version 1.3 will be available in the App Store soon for free.

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Garmin Dakota 20 and Dakota 10 handheld GPS navigators launch

Garmin’s Dakota 20 and Dakota 10 handheld GPS navigators, announced this morning, are the latest Garmin mapping handhelds in a successful line that includes the Oregon and Colorado families.

Heavily based on the Oregon in physical design and user interface, the Dakota line is rugged and waterproof with a glove-friendly, 2.6-inch color touchscreen display.  Inside is a high-sensitivity GPS receiver with Garmin’s HotFix technology, improving the ability to acquire and keep satellite communication in heavily-treed or mountainous outdoor environments.

850 MB of internal memory means users will be able to store up to 2, 000 geocaches, 1, 000 waypoints, 50 routes and an active GPS tracklog of 50, 000 points and 200 tracks.  Both devices are lightweight, weighing only 6.75 ounces, have a AA battery life of 20 hours, have a preloaded global basemap and compatibility with Garmin City Navigator NT (for turn-by-turn street directions), as well as BlueChart g2 marine maps and TOPO US 24K and 100K terrain maps.

The flagship Dakota 20 throws in a few extra features as well.  Included with the Dakota 20 is a 3-axis compass that shows directional heading, even when standing still and the handheld isn’t level (I think Garmin has the potential to create some useful augmented reality applications here).  It also has a barometric altimeter, microSD card slot for expandable memory, and wireless connectivity for sharing data with compatible Garmin Oregon, Colorado, Dakota and Foretrex devices.

Both the Dakota 20 and Dakota 10 are scheduled to ship in the 3rd quarter with respective prices of $299.99 and $349.99.  Check out the pictures after the cut.

Garmin Dakota 20

garmin dakota10 Garmin Dakota 20 and Dakota 10 handheld GPS navigators launch

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A Nokia netbook running Android? That doesn’t sound right.

I’m still trying to figure this one out, but Lazard Capital Markets analyst Daniel Amir said in a research note this morning that Nokia will offer an Android-based netbook in 2010.  But think about this for a second: the netbook is rumored to be based on an ARM processor, despite the fact that Nokia is teamed up with Intel.  Never mind the Android OS detail.  Granted, that partnership is mainly based around the development of the Moblin operating system.  But then why not use Moblin?  Or what about Nokia’s own Maemo OS?  Something tells me the details regarding the Nokia netbook aren’t completely accurate, though they are apparently “confirmed.”

The netbook is supposedly going to be offered through carriers which wouldn’t surprise me.  But while Amir figures Nokia will be facing “an uphill battle” given the relative dominance of PC players in the netbook market, I disagree.  Nokia, despite being the number one smartphone seller in the world, has been working hard to create a successful web-based service called Ovi.  I for one have been pretty impressed with its mapping prowess (courtesy of a NAVTEQ purchase) and some of the navigational features on its newer phones.

A Nokia netbook might just find a niche apart from all other netbook makers–people who drive for a living maybe?

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Sense Networks emerges with $6 million after vicious investor boxing match

CitysenseSense Networks, a company that crunches location data in order to group anonymous mobile users into ‘tribes’, has secured $6 million in financing led by Intel, according to VentureBeat head Matt Marshall.  The company, one of my LBS companies to watch in 2009, grabbed the cash after a bit of an investment battle.  According to Marshall, Sequoia Capital moved to pressure Sense Networks into taking money from it exclusively, but Sense chief executive Greg Skibiski shot them down (in my opinion, a smart move).

While VentureBeat has all the details about the battle, at the core of the tug-of-war is Sense Network’s approach to advertising.  Its MacroSense software, which uses complex machine learning algorithms, can analyze massive mobile phone location data patterns to group people into ‘tribes’ with others demonstrating similar movement patterns.  Because of the accuracy the analysis provides, Sense can help LBS social networks and advertising providers target ads so precisely that investors very obviously believe there’ll be a huge return on investment in the future.

Sense Networks has a demo application called CitySense for a variety of mobile phones that displays how the technology works at a basic level.  Behind the scenes the company crunches location data in order to provide a heat map of the hottest places in San Francisco.  Try it out and it’s immediately apparent how Sense Networks will be a big name in location-based mobile advertising.

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