CEBIT: Navigation devices find their way to Cebit

GPS manufacturers at Cebit presented devices with new functions, including more realistic illustrations of roads and better advice on which lane to take

Among all the new features the manufacturers of GPS receivers introduced at Cebit this year, one thing they haven't cracked yet is how to navigate around the myriad halls and alleys of the trade show, which sprawls over 240,000 square meters of exhibition space. With the reorganization of the show this year, and the closure of Hall 1 for refurbishment, getting lost can be a serious problem even for seasoned show-goers.

Navigation devices, though, have found their way out of the shadows: 10 million were sold in 2007, according to distributor Ingram. This year they are in center place at Cebit, with Hall 15 dedicated to GPS (Global Positioning System) receivers and related fleet management software.

Manufacturers presented devices that offer a number of new functions, including more realistic illustrations of the road ahead, and better advice on which lane to take when approaching complex intersections.

In new devices unveiled at Cebit this week, Navigon and TomTom overlay colored arrows or lines on a perspective view of the intersection ahead to indicate lanes that lead in the correct direction. Drivers also see on-screen representations of the actual road signs to follow as an additional cue.

While other software developers are trying to fulfill the same needs of drivers, some are struggling with usability. To indicate the best lane to use, Sygic shows a series of small arrows tucked into the corner of the map view, colored green for the correct lane and white for others. Under the exhibition hall lights, it was not easy to distinguish the lights at a glance -- especially on the small display of a mobile phone. Sygic's software can be installed on phones with GPS running the Symbian or Windows Mobile operating systems, and is also available in GPS receivers from Freesat, Soundmax and Themap and multimedia players from Archos.

Mapfactor, from Prague, also highlighted the road signs drivers should follow, but indicated bad lane choices by tiny red dots on a small grid beneath the map view, which were hard to pick out at a glance. Mapfactor sells the Actis 3 and Actis 4 GPS receivers, and also offers its Navigator software for PCs and PDAs. Version 8, demonstrated running on an OQO ultramobile PC, will go on sale in a couple of months, staff said.

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