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Research for New GPS Receiver, Continued...


Firefishe
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Hello, all. Firefishe, outta Michigan, with news on my gps receiver project.

 

This is for those still following this thread.

 

The current status is as follows:

 

I contacted a person from my local Small Business Administration (SBA) office, and was put in contact with another person.

 

I contacted this other person--the one who I'm told writes R&D grants for new product development--last Friday, August 16th. I have plans to meet with him this coming week, where I will lay out what I'm wanting to do, and how I want to market the gpsr, and to what particular group.

 

This is what I have decided to do. This may be taken as a tentative move, as marketing-dictates may necessitate change:

 

I am going to market this unit with the primary focus on geocachers and geocaching. So far, I have plans to incorporate the following:

 

-Reflective Color Screen for easy daylight reading.

 

-USB Connectivity, with respect to map downloading and uploading.

 

-Internal database for logging geocache (and other location) information. This database will be modifiable by the user. I am still out on the interface format to view this database, but am considering some type of overall GUI, possibly with the QT Toolkit, from Trolltech. That's right folks, this thing may just have embedded LINUX residing inside of it!

 

-With the advent of the ARM (StrongARM, etc.) processors currently being used in PDA's (PalmOS will eventually be going to a version of the ARM processor), a lot more processing ability may be available.

 

-I've been mulling it over, and have decided to include a standard type of data card interface, combined with as much on-board chip memory that I can muster. I am shooting for 256MB on-board, with a completely enclosed area for the SmartMedia (thinnest profile), CompactFlash (would require more space, but is a tougher card format and has that wonderful IBM MicroDrive available), or the MMC/Secure Digital MMC cards. I"m still out at this time on which format I will eventually decide upon.

 

-The unit's casing will definitely be waterproof, quite possibly to better than the current IPX-7, or JIS-7 standards. Whether it will float, has not been hashed-out yet.

 

-The mapping database will be user-selectable for whatever type of condition you're using it for. To that effect, I am considering a proprietary--read: commercial--cartridge-based solution for individual activities, Some might include: Cartridges for Aviation, Marine Navigation, Land/Road Navigation (w/ Auto-Routing), Geocaching, Orienteering, Mountaineering, Trekking, These cartridge-based solutions would provide pertinent and specific data-types--as well as displays--for the activity specified on the cartridge. The information contained therein would be as exhaustive as possible. The unit would come standard with the geocaching cartridge. Additional cartridges would not break the wallet or pocketbook of the cost-conscious consumer.

 

-The incorporation of an expansion port for various useful devices (some may require their own battery power), such as a weather/wind meter, digital camera, IR/UV Scanner (limited range), compass/barometer, and the like. This expansion port will be similar to the Handspring Visor's expansion port, but will be specfic to my unit only, as well as be much smaller. I do not plan on incorporating the PalmOS into the unit at this time--although that might change. I think that Open Source is the way to go at this point, especially for rapid software development and incorporation (into the gpsr's firmware scheme). Think Sharp Zaurus here, folks!

 

Maps would be of a standard type--most likely vector-based for auto-routing compatability--and would be free of any type of licensing scheme for things like "additional areas," "regional unlock codes," etc. Initial coverage will be largely dictated on where I have the unit built and assembled. For example, if I have it built in Australia or New Zealand (2 distinct possibilities), I may have to serve those areas, as well as the United States. If this is the case, coverage for Europe may take a bit longer. And Vice-Versa, as well. Regardless, the good ol' U.S., of A. will be covered meticulously! I promise all of you this. And as accurately as I can make it so.

 

-The database will work seamlessly with gps-and-mapping overlayers. Users will be able to set up multiple tracks-over-maps at will. It will take some hashing-out, but I want to incorporate the ability to put a track over a photogrammetric image.

 

-Lastly, some kind of Internet, Web-Based downloading area, with maps, photos, and cache areas that can be downloaded directly to the unit. All standard protocols would be supported.

 

-------------------

 

Well, I guess that's a lot to digest for now. Now, just a word to those skeptics out there (you know who you are icon_wink.gif ) who may find all this rather daunting, I say this: Rome wasn't built in a day! Nor was it destroyed in a day, but rather crumbled to dust over time, this mostly, imho, due to neglect and apathy.

 

I have passion for my products! This is why I see myself as "already a success!" Technical knowhow, marketing savvy, and production knowledge are but parts of a very large wheel. Passion, Vision, and Desire are the other three spokes on a six-sided wheel (for this paragraph's example).

 

The end-unit will have a good portion of the features mentioned. I believe I can put them all together in a unit costing $500 or less with better features then gpsr's that are currently available! I have decided to put $500 as the top-point of my challenge. I offer no consolations. Only that I will put my best feet forward (both of them!) and continue on the path.

 

--------------------

 

To Those Who Really Know and Can Really Contribute:

 

I can be reached at: or through these forums.

 

I can also be reached via ICQ. My UIN is 16439317. I go under the nickname of "Firefishe," same as here.

 

I'd give out my home address, but as you know the 'net is full of kooks these days. Pertinent information would be given upon necessity, as events warrant.

 

I leave you with my warmest regards,

Stephen Brown (Firefishe)

 

-------------------------

 

Oh yes...almost forgot. A part of each sale of each gpsr would be donated back to the geocaching community, the primary geocaching web site, and community outdoor recreation, restoration, and maintenance projects-in-general. Those projects which focus on gps use in the development of the Human Potential would receive first priority.

 

This goes along with another, broader project I have already started, called: The Return To Innocence Project. Essentially, it's a far-reaching attempt to understand just Who, What, and Why we, as Humans, Are. Geocaching will be part of it, as geocaching fuels the human desire to seek and find answers to life's mysteries about him/her. I hope this meets with community approval.

 

Best regards,

--Fishe

 

 

196939_600.gif

 

[This message was edited by Firefishe on August 18, 2002 at 12:15 AM.]

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Stephen,

I just made a comment on another thread about the USB, and hoping that you decide on USB II or Firewire.

 

Since you mentioned Linux inside, I think you would sell tremendous amounts of hardware if you could come up with a GPS receiver mated to a current processor, with generous amounts of memory, and connectivity, and be totally open with the software. You would have people not only using it to do probably more than you imagined, that would boost sales for people who like to tinker with software, like me. Give it basic functionality, and I guarantee you, with open source, people would run with it. Like right now, I would love to get at my Garmin V's code to change up a few screens and make some changes of my own. I don't want to mess with the algorithms, just work on some display things I would like seen. Keep it open, and you will have a following, and people helping out your endeavor in ways you probably haven't even imagined.

 

On the CF/Smartmedia, CF has my vote just because of portability, and price. I picked up two 128mb CF Cards for $40 each, and the price is coming down.

 

If it's everything you have said so far, put me on the list for one..

Fig

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quote:
Originally posted by Raouljan:

If you don't want to start from scratch...

http://www.tapr.org/tapr/html/gpsf.html

Then you can add the "value add" s/w


 

--

 

Thanks for the link, Raouljan. I have some questions for you.

 

I did happen to run across this sometime ago, but didn't think much of it as the GPS engine is surplus and not company supported anymore.

 

This said, how do you see it as being integratable to my unit? What about support from the manufacturer?

 

Was this a suggestion to count on the surplus of this particular gps engine being able to provide me with a "first run" or something like that?

 

Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

Warm regards,

Stephen Brown (Firefishe)

 

196939_600.gif

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I was thinking more of it as a prototype rig to help though the initial engineering stages. As I saw it, you probably don't want to go through the re-work of getting the receiver working and all the trig math working when you can buy something off the shelf that will provide a receiver / math front end.

 

Since then I have learned that Garmin has licensed Palm OS. But that was early in 2001 and I guess nothing more has been done about it. (Are you listening Garmin?)

 

Should Garmin package a unit with Palm OS on board AND if they leave it open enough to allow developers to write apps AND if they allow the developer to get to the GPS info then I think it would kick the doors wide open of very focused apps (like geocaching specific) to be hosted on a common platform.

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I completely concur with an earlier comment.

 

CF is the way to go. I don't know much about the socket hardware that it takes to accept CF on a device... but I know about CF and I know I have it for my camera, my PDA, my MP3 player, etc.

 

I've only had one device ever that used smart media and it was an Olympus Digital camera. I found it very expensive to buy additional memory. That was a year or so ago, so take that with a grain of internet time salt.

 

Open software standards are an absolute 'must have' IMHO. Being able to download some kind of app from some 'dude' on the internet, plop it on a CF card and run the application on the device would improve the marketability of the device by like 1000% if you ask me.

 

In fact, initially... the unit could just be sold blank with an SDK.

 

Anyway, I like the ideas, but as a professional skeptic - it sounds really expensive. I think this is why Garmin, et. all don't produce such units. And cost is not only measured in hardware, you can't ship a GPSr to the general public without software on it. It has to have something and while software may seem 'free'... unless you have the skills to program an entire GPSr software setup with features at least on a par with Garmin's stuff... this unit will be just a bunch of really great hardware soddered together.

 

Just my input. I applaud the effort and am looking forward to seeing where this goes. Will be excited to buy one someday when they get to market icon_wink.gif

 

--------

trippy1976

 

migo_sig_logo.jpg

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SmartMedia is cheap, and thin, but is limited to 128MB. Also the controller circuitry is in the hosting unit, not the card, so even if larger sizes are created/defined they wouldn't work in a unit designed prior to their release. (The controller circuit in the unit has to know the details of how to fully address the card, and with smartmedia that changes as the size increases.)

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As a skeptic by nature ...strictly off the top of my head ...I don't see how you can get the device you described to market for much less than a retail price of around $1000 US. (You may have to make some 'concessions' somewhere in your feature list to bring it in at $500.)

There appears to be just too much cost associated with the combined hardware, R&D, licensing fees (such as with basemaps), etc., required for the development of the "All in Wonder" unit you decribed ...to make your $500 price point and still turn a profit.

And $500 is a 'reasonable' price for a high-grade consumer GPSr ...while $1000 is not...(reasonable, that is), IMHO.

 

Spoken as a die-hard Debian user, I'd love to see a Linux-based open source 'hackable' GPSr ...so I hope I'm wrong about the feasibility of your projects' price point ...but I don't think I am.

 

With that said, if you can produce what you describe for the price point you quote, you can sign me up for one ...I'll buy it. (As long as it isn't, like, 10 years to market icon_smile.gif

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quote:
Originally posted by clps:

As a skeptic by nature ...strictly off the top of my head ...I don't see how you can get the device you described to market for much less than a retail price of around $1000 US. (You may have to make some 'concessions' somewhere in your feature list to bring it in at $500.)

There appears to be just too much cost associated with the combined hardware, R&D, licensing fees (such as with basemaps), etc., required for the development of the "All in Wonder" unit you decribed ...to make your $500 price point and still turn a profit.

And $500 is a 'reasonable' price for a high-grade consumer GPSr ...while $1000 is not...(reasonable, that is), IMHO.

 

Spoken as a die-hard Debian user, I'd love to see a Linux-based open source 'hackable' GPSr ...so I hope I'm wrong about the feasibility of your projects' price point ...but I don't think I am.

 

With that said, if you can produce what you describe for the price point you quote, you can sign me up for one ...I'll buy it. (As long as it isn't, like, 10 years to market icon_smile.gif


 

--

 

Hi, clps. Nice to hear from you. Thank you for your post.

 

I've made significant progress in a number of areas pertinent to the implementation of my gpsr project. I've also decided to couple the advent of the gpsr-in-question with a companion service for it, namely, a website that allows the manipulation of existing map data to whatever form a person desires--and that the technology will allow; for example: overlaying an aerial photo image over a topo or street map (et al).

 

This would be a very simple part of the service the web site would provide. It would also allow users to upload their own data to a secure, personal GIS database. This database could be referred back to whenver the user felt a need. This service would be funded via reasonably priced subscriptions, possibly of varying lengths (Yearly, Monthly).

 

The gpsr hardware/firmware/desktop software would be able to sync directly to this site, and upload and download information to the subscriber's personal GIS database effortlessly (or nearly so, we hope icon_wink.gif hee).

 

As to the $1,000 price point you mention, I respectfully choose to politely disagree. I believe I can get the price down to the $500 dollar range--although it will take some finagling of the whole marketing and design-implementation cost strategy a little. The bottom line is this: any "deal" can be struck, all one must do is find cooperative partners. Therefore, I am seeking out cooperative partners.

 

I have been in contact with people from my own State of Michigan as well as an IT/Consulting Firm in the Ukraine that has done GIS work. All this in the past week and a half. This is only the beginning. I expect to make more contacts soon.

 

Thanks for the moral support, good criticism, and overall interest. It's nice to see a few good people interested.

 

'cache on!

 

Warm regards,

Stephen Brown

 

196939_600.gif

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I really hope you do get this project 'on the shelf' as it sounds like it would be the greatest thing to happen to geocaching since the removal of SA (and a wake up call for the other GPSr manufacturers as to what users want in a GPSr)

Of course being a New Zealander I would love to see it being built here (but sorry, I am not in the GPS industry here, but we do have a couple of cachers who work for one of the manufacturers (though probably not the one you were going to use, if you were going to use an existing GPSr maker))

Cheers

Nick.

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Bursting Bubbles? Not really. Me personally, if it had the features described, readily available updated mapping, with routing, CF card availability, IR, and USB II/Firewire, etc.. I would gladly plunk down $1000 for the unit. Hell, I would buy one for some close relatives as well. I have a Garmin V right now, and have seriously considered getting a Street Pilot III just for the ability to load 128mb worth of data and have routing. I am just holding off till I see the next generation of gps come out. I realize that this is just a techno gadget, but I can say it has helped me many times now navigate to where I wanted to go without worry. Sure, a set of maps in the glovebox work also, but hey, I can hand the V to the kids and have them belt out directions as we drive. If you have ever travelled with kids, and been "lost", figuring out where you are on a map, and soothing frantic children isn't my bag of tea.

 

To me, the ultimate gps would be one I could load the entire U.S., with POI's on my 1gig microdrive, stick it in the gps, and just go. The V is a step in that direction, and whenever they come out with a V that takes cards, I will probably upgrade. I'm not happy about proprietary cards, but for now, that's all we have. Firefishe, like I said, if it comes to fruition, make sure I am on the list. Hell, I wouldn't mind helping with some of the coding.

Fig

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For $1000, it would be cheaper just to build a custom-form low-end laptop with a GPSr embedded in the body with some sort of software package sitting on top of it.

 

At least then, I could do my word processing and web surfing on it too icon_wink.gif

 

In fact, I would highly recommend you exploring an avenue such as this. The unit wouldn't need a sound card, or a very large hard drive. Use older processors and a bare-bones linux OS setup and you'd have low memory requirements. You might be able to get away without a cooling fan.

 

Keep an eye out for 'LEP' technology for your screens as well. Light Emitting Polymer. It will hopefully allow for a very thin, extremely lightweight, and flexible color display that does not fade when tilted (like an LCD screen does). Not sure when this stuff will come to market, but I saw a demo on CNN the other day of a competing organic product being created by Kodak.

 

LEP, from what I remember, will be inexpensive. Which is the primary reason I mention it icon_smile.gif

 

--------

trippy1976

 

migo_sig_logo.jpg

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Well, size would be an issue for me. Personally, I don't want it too large, since I will be strapping it to a motorcycle. I have seen somewhere basically an older 486 on a single chip. Since we are talking about our dream gps, how about a ps2 port so that you can hook a regular keyboard to it, to enter data, or maybe hook a mouse to it. Again, just tossing more ideas out. I do like my PPK (Palm Portable Keyboard.) Trippy's idea is good, I just need something pretty manageable in size.

Fig

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