GPS, Help!

Do you frequently lose your way? Are you often late because you don't know where you're going? Does a car full of kids make it inconvenient or unsafe to stop and ask for help? Does your husband hate to ask for directions? Learn about some types of GPS systems that can help you find your way.

GPS in car

Mandy, "the other woman," accompanied my husband and I on our return trip to Italy last summer! No matter where we went, I heard Mandy's voice chiming in my ears. At first, I resented her butting in all the time. Eventually I got used to it, especially since she usually knew what she was talking about. "Mandy" is our GPS system.

Our first trip to Italy is a vivid memory of driving around in circles; frequently finding ourselves on narrow one-way streets constructed hundreds of years ago for horses and donkey carts. That experience convinced my husband that a GPS would be a necessity for future vacations. "Sure," I said. What did I know about GPS! After having Mandy along in Italy... I'm sold! GPS systems are definitely cool and way helpful!

How does it work?

Ancient mariners and travelers used the stars, constellations and landmarks to guide their way. Today's Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) systems use satellites that transmit one-way signals back to Earth. An atomic clock in each satellite enables it to transmit precise information regarding its location and current time. A receiver picks up these signals and calculates the distance to at least four of the satellites. With this information, it can calculate your current location, and then looks that up on its map. GPS systems vary in accuracy according to quality, with most of today's hand held models accurate to within thirty feet.

Using your GPS is like looking at a live animation that moves when you move, turns when you turn. If you're driving, you can select the type of car representing your car in the animation. A truck? Sure. A sports car? Why not! You can select the type of voice you'd like to hear giving your directions. Male? Female? Accent? What kind?

When does a GPS come in handy?

 

  • When Vacationing
  • For work
  • During recreational activities
  • In emergencies
  • ANYTIME you want to find your way

Types of GPS systems

You'll be dazzled once you begin to explore the many types of GPS systems and amazing features available in today's market. There isn't one of us who can't benefit somehow from its multitude of applications.

1) Street navigation systems (sat-nav)
You'll never get lost driving with this type of GPS, since it gives turn-by-turn directions, including mileage, speed and estimated time of arrival. Some are optional when you purchase the vehicle and are built into the car's dashboard. Others are aftermarket purchases attached to the dashboard or windshield and can be removed for hand held use. Most are preloaded with US maps and offer international maps as an upgrade. The maps provide information such as airports, police departments, hospitals, places of interest, and gas stations. You can even program it to tell you where all your favorite latte stops can be found. Guess what? Most of these GPS systems can even interface with your cellular phone as a hands-free device!

2) Sports GPS systems and watches
Are you a sports buff? Well, there are types of GPS systems just for you. If you're a sailor, then don't worry about reading the stars on cloudy nights. There are systems specifically designed for marine conditions. If your sport keeps you on the move, there are GPS watches that can be perfect for you. A hiker? Orienteering with a compass is cool, but old school when you have a GPS that knows the lay of the land and will point the way. GPS watches are actually like mini-computers strapped to your wrist with multitudes of features specific to your needs. Of course, the down side is the small screen and the need to frequently change modes to accomplish a task, but I doubt that Dick Tracy would have had any gripes about that!

3) PDA based systems
Many of us are already slaves to our PDA's. The added feature of GPS makes them even more appealing. Having it with you at all times means you'll never be late for an appointment due to losing your way.

4) Phones with GPS
Many of today's phones offer a GPS feature for an additional service charge. That's a convenient feature, since most people these days tote a phone no matter where they go. All phones also come with a government mandated tracking capability that will help locate you in case of an emergency.

5) For kids too!
Wherify GPS Child Locator Watch – This kid's watch is a combination GPS and wireless radio that helps you determine your child's whereabouts via a Web- or phone-based service. Keeping track of your child, however, comes at a price. The watch will set you back about $400 and requires an activation and monthly service fee for tracking.

Do these types of GPS systems interest you?

Consider what you've just read only a "tease." The amount of information available about types of GPS systems out there is mind-boggling. Decide on your particular needs and then investigate and compare the various options and prices. No matter what kind of system you need and decide on, you'll certainly come to appreciate its convenience and ability to keep you in safe situations.

Mandy no more

I look forward to more travels with our handy-dandy GPS, but maybe next time a "Luigi" or "Pierre" can come along for the ride. For me, a sexy male voice with an accent giving directions would be a lot easier on the ears and the driving time.

More tech tips:

Go on a treasure hunt: A geocaching primer
GPS and Text to Find a Valentine! 
Teen Drivers: Track them or trust them?

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