Track and Be Tracked

For the last few years, I have always felt envious of my friends and family abroad, whenever they have driven me around in their cars from one place to another. Virtually all their cars are equipped with GPS tracking devices, which use detailed road maps to help them get from one place to another, without the need to refer to map books. These GPS (Global Positioning System) devices are palm-sized, use the power of multiple satellites orbiting the Earth’s atmosphere and come with detailed maps so that once the destination address is entered, the device automatically calculates the most appropriate route and then guides the driver along the roads with audio-based instructions.
I may be mistaken, but I have not as yet seen GPS devices in India that work with the same precision as those in the US or UK. This seems to be less a hardware issue and more a software problem, probably related to the poor availability of detailed maps with updated road-names, considering our penchant for changing the names of our roads and cities ever so often.
But as with all things these days, there are workarounds, which I have been able to find using my Nokia E71, which is incidentally a great choice for those who want a full-fledged QWERTY keyboard for typing and find the on-screen keyboard on the IPhone a pain, and also hate the constant email beep-beep of a Blackberry.
If you install Google Maps on the E71 and then use both GPRS and GPS, you can clearly see your current, actual location with a high degree of accuracy. I have used this method to successfully navigate a route from Powai to Madh Island at midnight, as well as to make sure that my cabdrivers in non-familiar cities in India don’t take me for a ride (pun intended).
GPS technology though can do more than give driving instructions, allowing other forms of tracking as well. For example, if you are an anally obsessed parent with control issues, you could potentially track the exact location of your son/daughter by either putting a GPS chip in his/her car or in a very dark Orwellian manner, surreptitiously implanting the chip in some part of his/her body.
But what really blew me away, early this week, was the way I was able to use GPS technology to track my running. On Tuesday, I stumbled upon a program called Nokia Sports Tracker (NST) and its companion website. NST works on a large number of Nokia models and I was able to successfully install it on the E71.
When you start NST, using GPS, it first pinpoints your exact position. Then when you start running, walking or cycling, it accurately tracks your movement, and on your cell-phone, shows you the distance that you are covering, the speed with which you are running or walking, the altitude, the time per km or mile and the total calories burnt. And all this information is real-time.
As if this is not enough, it actually traces the route that you have taken and superimposes this on a low-resolution map on the cell-phone. Then, once the run is complete, you can send the entire workout record to the program’s server, which superimposes the tracked route on a high-resolution Google map, which you can then view along with the rest of your track record, on the companion website.
The best part? Actually what I’ve described is the best part…NST also comes with a “free” tag.
How absolutely cool is that!

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