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Going In The Right Direction: SymbianWare's Power Navigator 2 Print E-mail
Written by Richard Bloor   
Wednesday, 04 May 2005
SymbianWare's Power Navigator 2 is a comprehensive navigation application packed with features. Now, armed with a UIQ, Series 60 or Series 80 smartphone and a GPS receiver, you should never get lost again. We take a look at this powerful navigation package.

Power Navigator provides a comprehensive set of screens which display information on almost every imaginable aspect of GPS based navigation. It is available in versions for UIQ, Series 60 and Series 80. The three versions offer very similar features, so are all covered in this review.

While most GPS enabled application focus on getting from A to B Power Navigator is more about providing detailed information on both current position and route taken. As such it is much more suited to specialist activities than application that provide driving direction or alike. Power Navigator provides the user information through four main screen, the GPS Information, Navigation, Information and Track screens.

Power Navigators provides basic GPS information in the GPS Information screen. This screen has a graphic showing the positions of the satellites visible to the GPS unit, along with each one's signal strength. Static position information, including, latitude, longitude and altitude are also provided as well as the Delusion of Precision (DOP), a measure of the position accuracy, and details of the fix type, such as 3D for a full position and altitude fix. The Series 80 version includes an odometer to provide a measure of distance traveled.

The Navigation screen provides an active compass. Again basic position, speed and altitude information is included. Several options are offered for displaying the compass and other details, including a rotating or fixed compass of various sizes. For bearing work the bearing can be set and is marked on the compass.

The Information screen provides a time based view of the speed over the route or altitude attained. The plot is supplemented with a display of current altitude, speed, track length and position accuracy information. On the Series 80 screen an odometer is also provided.

Finally there is the track view, which is likely to be the most used of any of the views. This view displays the users current position with a plot of the track followed to get there. The current direction of travel is shown by a tracking pointer and once again the basic location, altitude and speed information is provided.

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The track view offers features to manually or automatically pan as the position moves. It can also be zoomed so a screen unit (marked by the dotted lines) represents anything from 10 meters up to 82 km.

A recorded track can be saved for later playback. Track replay is shown on all the available information screens, although the GPS Information screen only shows position information. The replay allows a track to be paused and wound forward or backwards.

Simply recording a track is of limited use. Any navigation product needs not only to provide information on where the user is and has been, but should help them work out where they are going. Power Navigator has two features to achieve this.

Waypoints can be created to identify specific places. This can be done by using the current location or by entering known co-ordinates. Each waypoint can be assigned an icon and a sound, which is played when the waypoint is near.

The second feature is a route planner. Routes define a number of points and the path between them.

Power Navigator 2 does not include any mapping information with the application. While the ability to record tracks, create routes and waypoints makes it practical to use as a navigation tool the absence of map information is somewhat limiting. It is hard to make alternative route decisions when there is nothing to base them on. SymbianWare does however provide a free PC application called MapEditor that allows maps to be custom built using scanned images of paper maps.

The map creation process is straight forward. A map is scanned and the scan import into MapEditor. The map image is then "snapped" to known geographical co-ordinates and additional image layers added if required. The map is then saved and transferred to a device using connectivity software included in the application.

For basic routing, say for road navigation, this is a rather cumbersome process when there are already a number of digital maps available. However for more specialized requirements, such as orienteering, off roading or walking, SymbianWare's solution has the advantage of allowing the user to select a map with exactly the detail they need for the activity being planned. There is one important caveat - the user needs to take care that they are not breaking any copyright restrictions on the maps they are using.

Once transferred to the phone the map is displayed in the track view, both during live tracking and the replay of a recorded track.

Overall Power Navigator 2 is a sophisticated and powerful GPS information and navigation application. It provides a wealth of features which enable the use of a number of different navigation techniques. The absence of predefined maps means Power Navigator is not an ideal solution for general day to day turn-by-turn route guidance. However for more specialist uses, and for those who want to get off the beaten track, the ability to create and load custom maps is invaluable.

A 15 day trail of Power Navigator is available directly from SymbianWare or from ClickApps. The full product license costs for $19.95. A separate GPS unit is required for Power Navigator to function.

 


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