Friday, 21 August 2009

Freeware Windows Mobile Satnav? Ummmmmmmmm... not quite, unfortunately :(

Well, it's a nice idea, but it's not *quite* here yet, unfortunately.

Recently, I became aware of something called the "OpenStreetMap" project, or "OSM". It's ambitious, and exceedingly well-intentioned. Using open source data, and a veritable army of volunteers across the globe, it aims to provide free GIS (Geographical Information System) data to all who want it. The look is a little like "google maps" in appearance, but that's pretty much, as I understand it, where the resemblance ends. Unlike Telemaps or other commercial mapping data providers, the data is not updated quarterly, but almost daily. The data is updated by the users themselves, and is thus based on first-hand knowledge of a given place.

To stop the nay-sayers in their tracks before they even hit that "comment" button below, I am well aware that such a system is well open to abuse, but as far as I know, this has not happened (yet). I would imagine that before that happens, there will be a few checks and balances instituted. We shall see, anyhow.

So, to get back to the SatNav theme... who's making use of this data?

By the look of it, a fair amount of folks.

And how about freeware turn-by-turn GPS-based satellite navigation applications for Windows-based mobile devices? Well, no, not yet - but that's not for want of trying by some, though.

NavIt utilises OSM data for off-line usage. The map for the UK and Northern Ireland, for example, downloaded from an extractor using OSM data, is around a hundred megabytes (100 Mb) - that's almost the same as the size of map that Navigon MN7 uses (yes, I checked!).

There are a few problems, though.

NavIt is not yet able to perform to any level of navigational capability on Windows Mobile platforms - the location search is not working yet, all roads are treated the same, as far as I can tell, in that there are no database annotation as to whether they're urban streets, motorways, or whatever, no speed limits, and configuration to specific phones means a fair amount of head scratching and brain overheating (if not burning) for those of us who are not exactly not technically- or programming- inclinedand so on. Now, you might think that I'm having a dig at the idea.

Not so.

The idea of a freeware product, utilising publicly-available data, is a blindingly outstanding one, that I'm all in favour of (especially so when you remember the rumour that every time my wallet opens, a new crop of moths emerges!).

However, as you can see from the above, there's a fair amount of work to be done - not surprising, given that it's a project done for free, and typically in these projects, while the end results may be blindingly good, they take a LOT of time to come to fruition - to say the very least!

Instead, the development team appears to be concentrating on the iPhone and Symbian platforms first. Hardly a surprise there, to be honest, most of the teams' developers appear to be more at home with Linux-based operating systems, and that's something of an antithesis of ideology for Windows-based proponents

Still, that they're working in semi-slow-time on the WinMob platform is promising, anyhow

So. Nice idea, not yet mature enough in the Windows Mobile environment for use in turn-by-turn satellite navigation...

But they're working on it

Watch this space


Harry Wood said...

Hi Roger. I got your text message, but I keep forgetting to phone you at the prescribed time :-) Will try to remember again on Monday. Or you can phone me. Still coming to the OSM event on Wednesday? ( )

Roger said...

Heh, only just spotted that comment, mate - as you know, I *did* turn up :)