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Bluetooth GPS Nav Kit from Socket Communications
  - posted July 22, 2003 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor

Socket Communications is known for their Bluetooth products such as their Bluetooth CF card for Pocket PCs. Now they offer a Bluetooth GPS solution that includes a small Bluetooth enabled GPS receiver and an easy-to-use navigation software package bundled with maps for North America or Western Europe. The Bluetooth GPS Nav Kit supports any Bluetooth enabled Pocket PC or Pocket PC 2002. We tested it with the Pocket PC 2003 iPAQ 1945, and that worked fine as well.

The GPS receiver has a built-in rechargeable Lithium Ion battery with 5V DC input charging circuit. You can get about 6 hours use per charge. The receiver is 12-channel all –in-view tracking receiver, and there is an external antenna port if you wish to get even better signal strength, though the external antenna is sold separately. The map data includes 48 contiguous States in the US, Canada, and Hawaii (big island). The Western Europe package includes France, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Benelux, Finland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

We used the Dell Axim X5 Advanced with the Belkin Bluetooth CF Card and an HP iPAQ h1945 which has built-in Bluetooth.

 Socket Bluetooth GPS

What’s in the box?

The Socket GPS Nav Kit comes with a Socket GPS receiver with Bluetooth wireless technology, a DC power adapter with Y cable, leather carrying case for the GPS receiver and 2 CDs with MyNavigator installation and map data software, a Quick Start Guide.

Installation

After you’ve connected your Pocket PC to your desktop/laptop via ActiveSync, insert the Disk 1 to install the navigation and map software. The installation will install the navigation software on both desktop and Pocket PC. You will find a Map Loader program on your desktop, which will help you load map data. The program strongly suggests that you have a 64MB storage card if you wish to download state maps and only download city radius maps if you don’t have much storage space.

You can download the maps by either State or City. When you download the data by State, you can choose the states by either clicking on the states on the map or by checking the list of states on the right side of the map screen. For large states like California and Texas, you will find the map is split into two download files. When you download by City, you can define the City Map Radius by mileage. In both download methods, you can specify where to install the data: Pocket PC internal memory, storage card or your PC’s hard drive. The Map Loader will give you information on the size of the download and the available space on your target location. Once everything is set, hit the Generate Map button.

Working with the Bluetooth GPS Receiver

Before we get into trip planning on your Pocket PC, let’s look at how the Bluetooth GPS receiver works. You must first charge the Bluetooth GPS Receiver using the included in-vehicle power adapter. Socket does offer an AC power adapter for an additional cost. Make sure that you fully charge the receiver before using it for the first time. On top of the GPS receiver, you will find three LEDs, the power jack and the on/off switch. The LEDs indicate Bluetooth status, GPS status and Battery status, marked with little icons. There is also an external antenna port on the right hand side of the receiver where you can plug in an external antenna for maximum signal strength.

Turn on the Bluetooth GPS receiver to get a fix before connecting to your Pocket PC. The cold start takes about 25-30 seconds and warm start only a few second. I usually can track 5-6 satellites in full signal strength with 7-8 satellites in-sight. Once you have a fix, you can pair up your Pocket PC with your GPS by performing a Bluetooth device discovery on your Pocket PC. You’ll bond the two devices, making sure that you use “0183” as the Passkey.

The Bluetooth connection was very easy to create and the process is fairly simple. You don’t need to be Bluetooth savvy to use the Bluetooth GPS. The only small issue I’ve encountered with this Bluetooth receiver is the LEDs were a bit hard to see in strong sunlight.

Planning Your Trip

You can plan your trips on your Pocket PC directly as long as you have the map data downloaded. The main menu of MyNavigator is very intuitive and links to Destinations, Map View, Route Options, Display Options, Speed Alert, Record, Volume and GPS Info.

 

 

 

 

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Destinations is where you will start to map out your routes. You can enter a destination via Address, Intersection, POIs (Points of Interest), My Contacts, My Favorites, My Recent and Selecting a location on the map. You will see a large on-screen keyboard when you need to type in addresses, and once you have a destination, you will have choices of navigating the route, saving it to your Favorites or seeing the map. You can choose POIs in the map database as destinations. The categories include airport, bank/ATM, entertainment, gas station, emergency, hotel/motel, parking and restaurant. Entering your destination via My Contacts feature is integrated with your Contacts database. You can look up a name in your Contacts to get the address for navigating a route. Once you are set with the destinations, you Pocket PC will look for a GPS signal and calculate the route. You will see a map displaying your route and navigation instructions on top of the map screen, and hear the voice commands.

There are several Route Options to help you to create a customized route. You can choose to create the Quickest or Shortest route, using Major road or local road, include or exclude tollbooth and car pool lanes.

Driving with Your Bluetooth GPS Nav Kit

The Map screen tracks your movement and gives you driving directions. The current location is on the bottom of the map screen and the turn direction with distance to the turn is on the top left corner. You can get ETA info and access to Guidance volume, GPS stats and the zoom map functions with a single tap on the respective shortcuts on the screen. You can change to Guidance View from this map screen. Just go to the View option on your menu bar and choose Guidance. This view looks largely like the Map screen except with bolder lines and larger fonts to show your route on the map. If you find the map is distracting, you can turn off the Map view all together and switch to Route list, which gives you driving directions in text and icons.

screen shot
screen shsot

The voice guidance seems on target and provides frequent instructions and status reports. The voice is a soft female voice. You can change the volume anytime during planning and driving by clicking on the shortcut button on the main menu or at bottom of the map or guidance screens. The navigation software also offers daytime and nighttime color display themes.

You can access the GPS Info screen to check on GPS status. You will find Latitude/Longtitude, Altitude, Speed, number of Satellites, UTC Time and Local Time as well as a graphical chart that gives a quick visual reference on the number of satellites that are in-sight and tracked. In additional to GPS status, you can also check info about the Sun and Moon in the Almanac screen. For your driving safety, you can set speed alerts that will notify you if you exceed the speed limit you’ve specified. The Record features allow you to record your routes and save them into .gps log files.

About the Map Data

Socket Communications licensed their North American and European map data from NavTech. I find NavTech’s map data to be the most up-to-date and complete, at least for North America. They not only get the most up-to-date material collected from all levels of government, planning agencies, police and fire departments and aerial photographs, but they also they have an unique approach to collecting hands-on data in real time. NavTech has over 100 field offices staffed with over 400 analysts and engineers who drive everyday to collect data and feed it daily to the live database. NavTech uses up to 150 data attributes in each road segment that may affect the way you get from one place to another. These road attributes are characteristics in the road and include Road Names, Address Ranges, Turn-restrictions, One-way Info, Time of Day Restrictions, Speed, and more. So the data you get from the NavTech database is not only updated frequently but is the most complete in terms of road and traffic conditions. If you are interested in knowing more about the NavTech map data, check out NavTech’s web site here.

Conclusion

I much prefer Bluetooth GPS solutions because the units are small and wireless. With more and more PDAs supporting Bluetooth either natively or via Bluetooth cards, Bluetooth GPS units will enjoy a bigger playground. The Socket GPS Nav Kit can be qualified as a great wireless GPS package that gives you very good satellite signal strength, full-featured navigation software with text, map and voice guidance system, NavTech map data and Outlook Contacts intregration. The navigation software has very intuitive interface and easy-to-use features. I did experience some problems on the Dell with our generally reliable Belkin Bluetooth CF card where the software would hang about half the time when I tried mapping out the routes. However, I doubt this is the Socket GPS navigation software’s fault as I didn’t have any problems running it on the HP iPAQ 1945. The LED lights are very useful when it comes to understanding the status of the GPS receiver, however it’s hard to see the lights under strong sunlight. The price is a bit steep compared to other Bluetooth GPS solutions for PDAs.


Price: $529 with 3-year warranty
Web Site: www.socketcom.com