How to Improve the Functionality of GPS Units

Our thank you to the corporation for writing this article in May 2008 specially for . The TomTom corporation manufactures GPS devices and notably the “Sat Nav” models!

GPS units have been available to civilian consumers for a decade, providing benefits over a myriad of terrains. GPS units are known to be useful for navigating while driving, as well as almost vital to take on hiking or camping trips. But as useful and revolutionary as GPS devices have proven to be, some things about GPS units can still be very frustrating for users.

Specialized” units cause headaches for users

Most GPS manufacturers have divided up the market into different segments, offering GPS systems for cars versus those for aviation, sailing, hiking, or other terrains. This means that your boating GPS is not transferable to dry land, nor is your hiking GPS system compatible with your car – but lugging around multiple electronic devices while trekking through the woods will considerably hamper what should be an enjoyable experience.

With that said, integration of all GPS devices into one unit, applicable to all terrains, would be somewhat impractical – requiring certain sacrifices to be made on both ends of the spectrum. For instance, integrating the portable device with the maritime GPS would require that the hand held system weigh more to accommodate features like nautical depth calculation and the fish-finder.

However, while such an end-all be-all unit might not make sense for the majority of the population, there are logical ways in which a GPS system can be integrated over several terrains. Better integration between the portable handheld unit used for hiking and the in-car GPS device would suit the purposes of a large demographic. A GPS device that can accompany you through all terrains of your journey offers both convenience and cost-effectiveness.

Choosing a GPS system that crosses over terrains

Some GPS units are definitely better than others for multiple-terrain uses. For instance, a GPS device like TomTom suits travel needs, whether in a car or out in the woods. While it might worry some that the integration of a portable device with the more sophisticated in-car unit would mean the elimination of upper-level features, TomTom offers versatile, intelligent technology.

On the road, TomTom's PLUS Services allow its users access to real-time traffic and weather reports, as well as updates on road conditions. For the outdoors person, TomTom provides myriad useful features – including fitting in your hiking jacket’s pocket. Best of all, it's user-friendly, while still retaining its GPS sophistication. For instance, while it makes mapping a driving route very easy, it also has a feature that can be used in hiking or biking that ignores road rules, like one way streets.

The device comes complete with TomTom HOME software, which helps the user to manage content between the home PC or MAC and the GPS device itself. Subsequently, users can easily plan routes and install maps from the comfort of their home – meaning you can through plan out your hiking and camping trip ahead of time.

The issue with GPS maps

There is also a wide selection of maps available that you may want to download into the TomTom device. In addition, there are programs that allow you to customize your maps. A good example of such is the TomTom MapShare, which is a very comprehensive, interactive tool. TomTom MapShare is a proprietary map improvement technology that allows its users to customize their maps with ease as soon as they notice changes in roads or routes - and it can be done with just a few touches of the GPS device's screen.

Best of all, all TomTom MapShare users are connected, and thus, receive dynamic improvements the maps as others send in updates. Thus, it's easy to make improvements, and once the program has been purchased, adjusting the maps is free.

However, keep in mind that not all map updates are free. In fact, obtaining the appropriate maps, whether for domestic or international destinations, from your GPS manufacturer can become costly. In addition, the map you need for all of your hiking or rock climbing spots may not even be available from your manufacturer. What’s an adventurer to do?

Converting a GPS device for multiple terrains

The key to unlocking the ultimate usefulness of GPS is to connect open map publishing websites with your device. With the myriad of useful maps, ranging from rock climbing to hot spring locations, the adventurer has many resources – which would allow you to effectively use your “car” GPS system with your hiking adventures, and vice-versa. However, unfortunately, these open publishing sites are not easy to sync into your GPS device.

With this limitation in mind, let us envision an adventurer from Germany, who decides to take a climbing vacation in the Grand Canyon of the United States. As a rock climber, she would like to use the open publishing site to plan the trip.

Because she can't download the maps directly into her GPS unit due to the current restrictions, she will probably also order U.S. road and topography maps on a CD prior to the trip, just to be safe. And maybe she'll download a waypoint program from, but then she'll have to transfer the waypoints to the GPS because they can't be downloaded directly...and at the same time, she'll also having to get a paper climbing guide for all the places she'll visit, as well as a tourist guide to determine where she can sleep and eat. In addition, she will most likely need a laptop to switch maps and manage all the information. The whole endeavor turns into a logistical mess, and it shouldn't have to be so difficult to coordinate her trip!