11 September 2018

GPS Android road navigation - Google Maps (2018)

After four years it is time to check Google Maps again. Last years were turbulent on navigation market. Faster devices, better communications and connectivity, cloud solutions...
Google is one of the major players when services for a broad number of people comes into play.  Their Google Maps (not only on phones) becomes an unofficial standard when people want to see a map, check the location, prepare a route to destination ...
Let's look at some characteristics.

+ Online maps are often updated and you don't have to wait for new map release. Maps are available for almost all world, so users don't have to deal with some clumsy map packages. If you want to explore a world on a map, you don't have to look any further.
+ Excellent search engine leaves competitors far behind. Fast and with Google's effective adjustments for concrete user really shines. You don't have to know an address, just start typing and results are shown. After the desired result is selected, you (generally) get the address, phone, reviews, (sometimes live!) occupancy, opening hours. If you want to read a review, reviews from users and Google's Local Guides are just one click away.

+ Street View and Satelite View are very useful features to see the real situation. It isn't available everywhere or in full quality, but the most interesting parts are usually covered.
+ The most accurate Live Traffic at the moment. If something happened on your way, you will be notified and rerouted. More information about Live Traffic in this article.
+ Synchronization between devices is really instantly. You can prepare a route on your computer and then send it to your phone with one click. Besides that, all history searches are seen on all devices (if a user is logged in of course).
+ Application is available on many devices (computers, phones, tablets, car radio/Android Auto ...).
+ Navigation is very good with quick rerouting if necessary. 
+ Application opens and works fast, without battery drain. Navigation can use PIP (Picture In Picture) mode or works without navigation - just with real-time traffic info. One-handed gestures are supported.
+ If we leave privacy besides, navigation is totally free. 
+ Fantastic combination with real-time public transport (where available). A simple click on Transit button shows nearby train and bus departures. It instantly calculates the best combination of different transit options and shows if your bus/train is on schedule or delayed.
+ Some places like stores, airports or hotels have indoor maps and photos.
+ Real-time sharing location to friends. Can be useful. For example, you don't have to be asked where you are at the moment and how long you will need to the destination. 
+ Sending feedback to Google. Reporting missing roads, roadworks and other problem are simple. My experience is that feedbacks are taken seriously and usually shows in one or two weeks. Probably response time depends on the importance of location and type of correction. Google's feedback works much better than any other services I tried. And because Google Maps works online, your feedback will be seen by all people.
+ You can define some of your favorite locations (Home, Work ...) and Google Maps will show distance and time necessary to that location all the time. If the traffic location will change, the color of time will change from green to orange (or red). 
+ Tight integration with Google Assistant. Many commands can be executed with your voice. For example, you can search for nearby gas stations or restaurants while driving. 
+ Developers can use almost all features of Google Maps in their applications and websites with a Google Maps Platform
+ Google announces augmented reality Street View mode to help you follow directions in real time, along with personalized recommendations to help you discover places in your surrounding. 
+ We can hear rumors that Google will integrate Waze Incident Report (road closures, accidents, police cars...) to Google Maps.

- If you drive a camper or truck, you won't get all the important information. 
- Speedcams are not supported. Otherwise, you can use TomTom Speed Cameras which works excellent with Google Maps.
- You won't see all the roadworks on the map. In some countries, only those reported by users are shown, but we are sure, that Google will improve this in the near future.
- Searching for POIs at the destination isn't very convenient.
- While driving it is helpful if navigation shows two actions ahead. The latest versions use this feature more, but there is still a place for improvement.
- A user can download an area and navigation is also available there. But if you don't have an internet connection, Google Maps isn't very useful (you won't get traffic information for example).
- Privacy consideration. Should I have to write something more?

- You can help Google (and other users) by reviewing the places you know well. After some time, you will be awarded.  Maybe with early access to new Google products, participation in exclusive workshops, get some free place on Google Drive ...

In the last two or three years, Google Maps becomes a number one navigation tool for me. It is really useful, easy to use and available on almost all devices with different operating systems. Google Maps really makes navigation experience better and easier and I can't find a better service right now. I can highly recommend it for almost everyone who needs a navigation, information or just for looking on a map.
It is hard to understand that some car company still integrate their own audio/navigation system without a support for modern connectivity. All new systems should have Mirrorlink support or a support for Android Auto (and CarPlay).

Rating: 9/10 (check whole rating table)

04 May 2018

TomTom Speed Cameras Review

In last years I'm starting using Google Maps over and over. Very good coverage, navigation, real-time traffic, transit, excellent search for POIs with additional information ... if you didn't try it in last months, do it immediately. 

But there is one disadvantage in my eyes - lack of speed cameras. Usually, navigation applications have support for speed cameras, but Google Maps isn't one of them. Let make things clear - I'm not a fast or ruthless driver but there are moments where I drive faster then it is allowed. Sounds similar?

My idea was to develop an application which will follow my location and compare it with a database of known speed cameras location. But before starting I opened a Google Play and search for something similar. And as you can guess - something similar already exists :-) and its name is TomTom Speed Cameras.

I installed it and here are some observations after using it for almost a year.
TomTom Speed Cameras is a simple application which follows phone locations and warns a driver when in front of him is something "interesting" (speed camera, traffic jam ...). TomTom is a well-known company known for very good navigations systems, road maps, traffic information and user's support. All this means that my expectations were high.
TomTom Speed Cameras uses its own database of speed cameras which is moderate and verified by a TomTom team and controlled by an enthusiastic community.
You can use an application alone or in an overlay mode. An overlay mode provides a simple integration with Google Maps for example. See how it looks:

Users will appreciate that application isn't battery hungry. This usually shows that application is developed with users in mind and it is a good sign.
You can check available speed cameras on maps view. You will probably see that some of the speed cameras (or police traps locations) aren't there. As I understand, TomTom is quite conservative and adds speed camera only when they are really sure that it is there.

The good and quality information is something that I miss in today's world. So I can give a compliment to TomTom for that. But in this case, I'm not sure if this is what users want. Drivers want to be alerted when a police trap is in front of him. Maybe I'm wrong, but I didn't get even one proof for that type of alerts.
In a typical world, there are two types of speed cameras: fixed (with all subtypes) and mobile (police traps). And it looks that only fixed types of speed cameras are covered. Again - maybe I'm wrong because in my part of the world there are too few application users.

It is quite interesting that application covers average speed zone. Some countries use this a lot. In my example, a trip in Italy has a lot of speed zones. The application works fantastic - it alerts you and then shows your average speed.

TomTom Speed Cameras uses TomTom Maps with coverage for many countries. I'm sure that traffic information for some countries is covered better than for other, but TomTom has a lot of experiences with that. To be honest, in my opinion, Google Maps has the best traffic information, but TomTom is in the second place.

When traffic jam is in front of you, the application will warn the driver. This information is a little late, but I understand that TomTom Speed Cameras isn't navigation software and don't know what is your next move. As I said before, for me the perfect combination is using Google Maps for navigation and TomTom Speed Cameras in overlay mode for speed cameras and additional alerts.

As you can expect, a user can report a (new) speed camera location. I see a big problem here - user can report a speed camera with only one click, but it is all. Yes, it is simple, but the user can't say what type of speed camera is it. Maybe it is only mobile one? After pressing a "report" button, an application should show two buttons: fixed and mobile. If user won't respond within 10 seconds, then it should work as it works now. If the user responds, TomTom's database will get an important additional information.
And don't expect that your report will be shown on the map soon. No, it goes throw the process and should take days/weeks. If TomTom will use my suggestion, they can show mobile speed cameras immediately. Users will understand that mobile speed cameras locations aren't so bulletproof. This type of camera can also have a default time of validity.

There are situations where an application works strangely when I stop the car. Sometimes the application closes, even if I'm sure that my "Close app when idle" setting is set to off. Automatic startup is available, but it works only if your phone has Bluetooth on.

Beside speed camera warnings, an application also has safety warnings (speeding, jam ahead). Speeding warnings are interesting, but drivers have to know that all road informations aren't correct. With this in mind, speeding warnings are useful and can calm down your driving.
Maybe application should have a tolerance setting for speeding. It is annoying when you get a warning if you drive 101 km/h and road sign is 100 km/h. Tolerance setting should help.
For years I use TomTom website for reporting changes and inaccuracies, but sometimes this is a lot of unpaid work for a TomTom company. Is it reasonable? You will decide.
If I add reporting speed cameras to this, then TomTom should think of rewarding users. How? I don't know, but they can find something if they want.

As I said an application is quite simple and there are only a few settings. I mentioned a missing speeding tolerance setting before and there can also be some other additional settings without ruining the simplicity of application. One more thing - TomTom invites users to "help us improve this app by answering a short survey". If you click on it, you will get an information that survey isn't available (for some months).

Conclusion: TomTom Speed Camera is an interesting application. It works as you expect, it is free without ads and can be really helpful. You can use it alone (even with screen off) or in combination with Google Maps (for example). Give it a try and/or comment it here.

01 April 2018

Posodobljena vremenska postaja v Tunjicah

Po šestih letih je prišel čas za novo vremensko postajo:

V zadnjih mesecih je bilo kar nekaj težav z Oregon WMR200: odpovedal je senzor za dež, senzor za veter je imel svoje muhe, senzor za temperaturo pa je baterije požiral kot za stavo. Sodu je izbilo dno dejstvo, da sem v zadnjih tednih dobil več prošenj za različne podatke, analize, poročila. Zagovarjam namreč dejstvo, da morajo biti podatki čim bolj točni, sicer je vse skupaj neuporabno.

Za tiste, ki jih zanima le uporabna vrednost:
Mislim, da bi celoten sistem moral delovati naslednjih nekaj let. Občasne izpade lahko še vedno pričakujete (izpadi elektrike, baterije, izpad internetne povezave, težave na samem spletnem strežniku ...), hujšega pa ne bi smelo biti.
Ob vsaki spremembi podatkov se spletna stran pripravi znova, zato priporočam, da preverite datum in uro podatkov, ki sta navedena na vrhu.
Predlog za dostopanje iz mobilnih naprav - v brskalniku vpišite http://izo.amebis.si/sofaskin

Stran je prilagojena mobilcem in bi se morala lepo prikazati.
Odprite meni in poiščite možnost, ki naredi bližnjico na namizje do te strani. Tako boste imeli bližnjico na namizju. 
V Firefoxu (na mobilcih) je "MENU -> Page -> Add Page Shortcut".
V Chromu (na mobilcih) je "MENU -> Add to Home screen".

Nekaj tehnikalij za bolj radovedne:
Skratka - odločil sem se za Davisov komplet senzorjev za temperaturo, vlago, pritisk, veter in dež. Da se denarnica odpre bolj na široko, je seveda potrebna tudi konzola (skupaj je to komplet Vantage Vue), predvsem pa svinjsko drag kabel za prenos podatkov.
Podatki se prenašajo v simpatičen Raspberry PI 3, ki ga poganja strežnik Linux. Podatki se obdelujejo s pomočjo programskega paketa Weewx in hranijo v podatkovni bazi SQLite.
Ko so podatki obdelani, se:
1. pošljejo na Wunderground,
2. pripravi spletna stran z zgodovino in standardnim izpisom in pošlje na http://izo.amebis.si,
3. pripravi obogatena spletna stran in pošlje na http://izo.amebis.si/sofaskin. Ta spletna stran se prilagaja velikosti zaslona uporabnika,
4. pripravi iframe za stran na blogu.

Morebitna vprašanja, želje ali ideje lahko pošljete na kacnje@gmail.com.