Meet GPS, the New Bluetooth


Last week, I posted about a couple of piece of news in the Bluetooth sector. The standard is now able to take advantage of higher-speed Wi-Fi connectivity and a lower power version is coming. I found it odd that Bluetooth, which is so ubiquitous that people hardly notice it, was making news.


The Global Positioning System (GPS) seems to be rising to the same strata of ubiquity. There seems to be no limit to how deeply the technology will penetrate. In-Stat says cell phones will continue to be the main users of GPS, but consumer electronic and mobile computing devices will be key growth areas. That may be something of an understatement: The two types of devices will be responsible for the sale of more than 100 million GPS units by 2013. In-Stat makes a number of predictions about the immediate future of GPS, including the fact that the optimistic outlook is somewhat tempered, at least in the short term, by the bad economy. But times are good for GPS: It is even being discussed by President Obama.

It's fascinating to see the breadth of devices that are being outfitted with GPS. In that way, it is similar to Bluetooth. For instance, CNet reports that SiliconSky GPS has developed a protocol asthma inhaler with GPS functionality. The story says the prototype was the work of the company and University of Wisconsin researcher David Van Sickle, who suggested the idea six months ago. The goal is to track and map areas where there are asthma outbreaks. This information, when cross-referenced with data from other sources, can aid researchers fighting the disease. The prototype features GPS, a GSM modem, integral antennas, a microprocessor, and rechargeable batteries.


Another medical-related new product is available from Arbor, which is putting GPS, along with cellular, on the M1256 medical tablet. The device is in the mobile clinical assistant (MCA) subcategory. The 1256 has a 12.1-inch display and is the only MCA that uses the Atom N270 processor. The GPS, whose chipset is not known by the writer, is in a separate vehicle cradle.


On the non-medical front, a GPS platform bowing in this month from Juniper Systems is designed to incorporate real-time GPS data into custom and third-party applications. The LandMark Mobile utility performs tasks such as navigation, checking of satellite status and recording positions. The utility runs on the Allegro MX or Archer Field PC and is a Windows Mobile application. Elsewhere, GPS-related functions are making their way into the core of the iPhone and other smartphones.


GPS is one of the key facilitators of presence which, in turn, is a main ingredient of unified communications. UC, of course, is a growing and all-encompassing family of applications. For this reason, and many others, GPS will continue its rapid expansion.