09 October 2014

GPS road navigation - CoPilot

CoPilot isn't a newcomer in road navigation group. They offer two applications - a free CoPilot with route planning and CoPilot Premium with turn-by-turn navigation. In first two weeks with free CoPilot, you can use turn-by-turn navigation within one country. Just to taste a navigation.

+ Good menus and features (for example: Show POI on display only when stopped).
+ Simple route editing (adding/deleting waypoints, reordering...).
+ Fast application without phone warming.
+ Fast recalculations without stubbornness.
+ CommuteMe feature can be interesting, but I can't try it in Slovenia. It intelligently learning a driver's preferred route to and from work. It automatically scans the route for traffic to avoid delays. Could be interesting in bigger cities.
- Primitive/dull view on navigation (no houses, just some roads ...).
- Bad packages of countries. For Slovenia, I have to download a Balkan package, but I need just Slovenia. In trial version, I can't try navigation in Austria and Italy for example. There can be a lot of differences between maps in mentioned countries.
- Using Navteq/Here maps with many mistakes. It is also interesting that even latest version of CoPilot uses Navteq logo. Navteq was merged into Nokia and their band name is Here since 2012.
- Navteq Traffic is official not available in Slovenia. But I tried it because Here offered it some weeks ago. It shows traffic conditions, but very slow and not so clear as Here Navigation.
- Almost all categories of roads (except the main roads) are shown with the same color and same size. It is hard to orient yourself.
- Car location is usually ahead of real location. It is interesting that many road navigation is late with position, but CoPilot is ahead.
- I didn't find a way to enter a letter if it is a part of house number.
- Recent destinations (history) is available but with one unnecessary click to "My places"+"Recent". It would be better if recent destinations should be available on first level.
- Application sometimes stops. I noticed this several times on the beginning and if GPS connection is lost.

My feelings are a little ambivalence. On one hand CoPilot has very interesting menus structure with many (not very usual) features. On the other hand maps aren't very good and display between navigation is somehow boring.

30 September 2014

How Live Traffic Works?

What is Live Traffic? 
In short - it is real-time distribution of road conditions. This means that drivers gets information about traffic congestion, detours and accidents. Drivers can avoid traffic problems if they know about problems. All modern GPS applications can smartly use live traffic information and reroute driver if it can find better variant.
There are different live traffic providers (for example: Google, TomTom, Here…). In core, their approach are similar, but their technologies have some differences. At least road coverage and update frequency are different. Some systems also use history data to predict when congestion can occurs. Just for example – TomTom updates their traffic information every 2 minutes. As soon as something strange is found on your route, GPS application reroute you to an alternative (faster) route.

Live traffic (Here.com) for Slovenia

But how they get real time traffic information?
Usually they use three types of information:
- Real-time incident data from third party providers (government departments of transportation, private data providers, road companies, police, cameras, counters…).
- Flow data on the movements of vehicles with connected devices and phones.
- Historical data.
The most interesting is second type of information. You all know, that telephone companies always know where your phone is. They use triangulation with cell towers so your position is pretty accurate even if you don’t have GPS enabled. With GPS enabled, your position is very accurate (forget abnormal conditions).
Nowadays almost all people use smartphones and this means that crowd of information are available for analyzing. You probably know that your phone sends anonymous (hm?) bits of data back to Google (or other service). This data can describe how fast you are moving. And if all phones move in the same direction and this direction is the same as road on map ... that can be an important information. Of course live traffic services have to exclude some anomalies which can occurs. And more data comes from users, more accurate live traffic information we gets.
If we have enough information and if our algorithm can extract something meaningful from them, we can show how traffic go on.

Did you think of privacy?
Google explains that people can opt in or opt out of sharing their travel data under Android settings. If we believe them – Google says that they don’t know what data is coming from which user and they cut off first and last minutes. I don’t believe them, because on my Google Location History I can clearly see all my trip.

29 September 2014

GPS road navigation - Here for Android Beta

Some days ago many web pages starts to talk about Here for Android (beta) application. So I had to check what this experienced provider can offer. Here really isn't a newcomer, they were known as Ovi Maps and Nokia Maps before. In last two years they start to prepare a new design - on web and on mobile platforms. I dislike their maps until some months ago, but I must confess that their big effort (new design, using some local map providers, simplify user corrections, introduction of live traffic in small countries (Slovenia for example)...) now shows first results. On mobile platforms, Here provides services to Windows Phone, but low market share has made Nokia to devote to Android and iOS.
Here app for Android is still in beta version, so I won't be very strict. Beside this, I didn't drive a lot with it until this post and I can miss something.
Here for Android

+ Clear and nice user interface.
+ Fast application.
+ Very good and accurate maps.
+ Live Traffic integration (even for Slovenia!).
+ Phone wasn't hot after navigating with this app. This can mean that application isn't a big resources eater.
+ Many POI available.
+ Map and driving mode are separated. This is maybe strange for someone, but it offer really fast and good map looking with some different layers (satellite, traffic...).
- Pretty good route planning - this was usually the biggest problem with Here maps, so I have to be careful with this point.  UPDATE! (some hours later): I have changed evaluation from plus to minus after I have driven some hours on different locations. Simple too much problems, bad decisions and wrong roads. It is interesting that route planning on the web is different from that on phone (with same route settings of course). Maps also aren't as good as maps from Google or TomTom.
- Some maps are abnormal big. For example - Slovenia map uses 288 MB on this app. Latest Slovenia map for IGO from the same provider uses only 10 MB. I can see that they included individual building on map, but if I compare it with similar IGO map, it is still ten times bigger.This can be a beta version problem or maybe satellite view is included in it (I didn't have time to check).
- Strange icon on roundabout (look at screenshot) - it says third exit and is show like the exit is on the right side of roundabout. The reality is just opposite from that - you can see it on map bellow (on screenshot).
- Car position is late sometime. Not always, but when it is late, it is quite a bit.
- Missing second maneuver when driving.
- You can't insert waypoints, just a destination.
- Incomplete cloude solution. User can work with web version, but prepared trip won't be available on the phone.
- Searching for POI sometimes don't work as expected. It is also strange, why it goes to web if I select offline using before.
- I expected more application settings.

To be honest - it looks very promising and I'm waiting to buy a final version. If only Here developers can solve problems with bad route planning.
Nokia’s Here should be landing for Samsung Galaxy devices shortly, with support for other Android devices to follow by the end of this year. The price is still blowing in the wind. Fernback (Senior Vice President at Here division) says: "I want the focus to be on building a great product and build a big user-base, then we can talk about how we might want to monetize." (TheNextWeb). Does this mean that Here app will be free? Their big competitor is (free) Google Maps... so it is possible. We will see this very soon.