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Appello Wisepilot: No Map, No Worries Print E-mail
Written by SymbianOne   
Thursday, 27 October 2005
GPS based navigation applications are something of a hot ticket at the moment. Anyone interested in this type of application is not short of choices. SymbianOne had the opportunity to put Wisepilot through its paces in the wilds of Country Durham and London recently, this is what we found.

Appello Wisepilot is one a of growing number of navigation applications available for Symbian OS devices. These applications broadly fall into two categories: those that store map data on the device and those which pull map data and routes on-demand from a central server.

Wisepilot falls into the latter category, it is an off-device mapping application; storing the minimum of map data on the device. This provides maps and route coverage in any country supported by Appello’s service, which currently includes most of Europe and North America. The drawback is that the application requires data access to obtain address, map and route detail, which on roaming data plans could be a significant cost.

Wisepilot’s capabilities broadly fall into three areas: finding places, providing directions and providing maps.

Finding an address can be done in one of three ways; by finding addresses, places of interest (POI) or people and companies. Finding a person or company, using the Yellow or White pages, is limited to Denmark, Finland (Yellow pages only), Norway and Sweden, although the coverage is to be expanded; with the UK likely to be added this year. The feature appears to include reverse lookup from a telephone number as well as more conventional name and address lookup.

Each of the finds works well, although looking up a UK address with a postcode stumped us at first. This is because the street name has to be provided as well, at which point you are provided with details of the postcode and can select the precise address.

Any address found can be added to a list of favorites, for later use. These favorites can also be synchronized with the Wisepilot web portal, of which more later.

The main purpose of finding a location is to navigate to it, to do that you need to know where you are. This is done with aid of a separate GPS unit. We used a RoyalTek GPS, kindly supplied by Sony Ericsson. This small, matchbox sized unit runs on a rechargeable battery but can also be powered using a car adaptor. Connecting the GPS is a simple case of searching for it in Wisepilot’s settings option and then connecting. Once connected, if a suitable number of GPS satellites are visible to the unit, it will find the current location.

Now that Wisepilot knows where you are selecting the “route” option in the destination location brings down the route details.

The following screens show the process of obtaining a route and then navigating from Durham to Beamish museum. First Beamish was located using the POI option. As there was only one matching option Beamish Museum’s details were opened directly (a list is displayed when there are several options). Now there is the choice of saving the location to favorites for later use, getting a route or a local map for Beamish.

Selecting route opens up the routing options: route type, routing detail and highlighted POIs. The route can be the fastest, shortest, easiest, predominantly using motorways (called freeways in this case), avoiding motorways or not using motorways and, finally, pedestrian. Then route corridor map width: no map, narrow, normal or wide. This determines how much extra map information, to the left or right of the route corridor, is downloaded. The more confidence in the journey, and your ability to follow it, the less detail is needed. POIs on route allow places such as petrol stations, restaurants or tourist attractions to be highlighted.

Once these options have been chosen selecting OK causes Wisepilot to connect over GPRS to obtain the route. For this 15km (8mile) journey the process of finding the location and downloading the route used about 15kb of data (about 14 cents US or 12 Euro cents on our roaming data plan).

With the route downloaded there are three display options: map (which can be set in a flat or perspective mode), pictogram or text. These are shown below.

With the journey underway Wisepilot provides clear turn-by-turn instructions. The map is animated, based on information provided by the GPS. In addition to directions traveling speed, distance and time to destination as well as a estimated time of arrival are also shown the various views.

While Wisepilot is easy to follow if you may stray from the recommended route. Then this happens Wisepilot first tells you how to return to it. Should you not be able to get back on the original route Wisepilot will re-route the journey, downloading a new route and additional map information if necessary. You can turn this re-routing option off if you wish.

While navigation with GPS is really what Wisepilot is about, it can be used without it. This is a very useful feature in cities. Tall building can easily obscure the GPS satellites and prevent a GPS from obtaining a fix. London is a typical example, particularly in the City. To work without GPS support you simply search for your current location, set it as the starting point and then get the route in the normal way. The route map or text view can then be used to navigate. It is certainly possible on foot, or if you have a companion in the car; driving alone it may not be so easy.

Finally if you are the type of person who does not like to be told where to go but likes to know where you are Wisepilot helps here too. With the GPS connected selecting the map options shows your current location and Wisepilot can then track your progress.

Wisepilot includes options to switch between metric and imperial measurements, set a maximum vehicle speed, control the display of various features (such as compass, distance bars and map scale), keep the backlight on and switch to a night mode.

In addition to the phone software Wisepilot also comes with a web portal. The portal provides access to the latest versions of the software, details on subscriptions (with options to extend and renew) and support information. The most interesting feature is the ability to search and maintain a list of favorites. The search options are the same as those on the device, with the addition of a find by latitude and longitude. Searched locations can be saved to the favorites list and then synchronized to the phone client. This is a very useful feature that allows places to be visiting to be preloaded so they can be simply selected on the device client.

Overall Wisepilot performed well in our somewhat limited tests. The only real issue we found with the service was the pedestrian routing. This appears only to cover street routes, which includes some no vehicle routes but not footpaths. While, with caution, you could use Wisepilot off-road it is not the ideal companion for a Sunday ramble. Wisepilot include features that take into account traffic information and problems such as roadworks, but we did not have the opportunity to test these either. The lack of audible direction information might be a challenge in heavy driving conditions. The fact that it downloads route and map data is more of an advantage than a disadvantage and the costs, even when roaming, are likely to be modest.

Wisepilot provides clear and precise navigation directions, which are read easily from the screen of a Sony Ericsson P910. It includes a comprehensive list of places of interest and, for those countries that have it, Yellow and White page searching is a great feature. The web portal is a good bonus, for those who like to plan ahead. Certainly we would recommend this application to anyone looking for a routing application for their Symbian OS device.

Wisepilot is currently available on 3 month subscriptions for either Europe or North America for 27.95 Euro. The client runs on www.wisepilot.com.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 14 June 2009 )


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