Monday, May 02, 2005

Making Your Own Way - GIS Navigation

Think about large vessels carrying shipments on a strict deadline. Think about an oil spill on the route of a vessel carrying important shipment to be delivered on time. Think of a truck load of medical supplies, which doesn't reach on time because it missed a turn. Think of a family going on vacation to a remote resort. These are real world challenges. And then think of how easily all these challenges can be addressed if there were a navigation system that guided each of these people/vessels/trucks to effectively reach their destinations. GIS plays a major role in developing and operating these navigation systems of the real world. The most advanced auto pilot in the modern day aircrafts is a result of meticulous calculations done by the navigation solution inside the aircraft's computer. GIS navigation solutions can be classified as Personal Navigation Solutions and Commercial Navigation Solutions.
Speaking of personal solutions, In-Car Navigation and PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) based navigation solutions are on the top of the charts. No matter where you are in the world, a navigation solution can help you reach your desired destination running on a desired route. The route could be the shortest route (in terms of distance) or could be the quickest route (in terms of time). In most of the cases , the shortest route is the quickest root, considering traffic conditions.
A Navigation system is the integration of a few very vital components namely, the geographic map of the territory, the Map display engine, Routing Engine, navigation Engine and the GPS. These components are required for both In-Car navigation system as well as PDA based solutions. The other accessories are the display screen and the speaker. The user has an option to have both screen display as well as voice or either of them. But however voice instruction is almost always preferred.
The map of the territory is a huge database consisting of the base map and the attributes of each feature (mosque, church, retail outlet, gas station etc).
The Map Display engine is required to display the navigation map on the user screen. This can be opted out if the user needs only voice instructions.
Routing Engine calculates the route from the source location to the destination based on user preferences.
GPS is a homing device that gives (fixed to the car or in to the PDA) the location of the user in terms of latitude and longitude. The GPS uses half a dozen low orbit satellites put up by the Department of Defense, USA. At any point of time, the GPS has access to three satellites and locks in its position in the earth.
The Navigation engine, the most crucial component of the Navigation solution, reads the real time co-ordinates (latitude, Longitude) from the GPS, and interactively displays it on the map, and gives turn by turn instructions, based on the route selected.
The PDA solution is a little different from the In-car systems. All other components remaining unchanged, the database is in a compressed format as PDA's don't have vast memories. All functionalities are same in both the solutions.
Theses solutions can be used on any part of the world provided the map of that territory exists.
Speaking of commercial Navigation solutions, Fleet Management solution plays a vital role in the transportation industry. With this solution, an entire fleet can be navigated, controlled and directed from a single control center. The control center has the exact position of each truck/vessel, thereby allowing ease of operations. Fleet management plays a vital role in the transport and logistics where timely delivery and dispatch are very crucial for customer turnaround. The solution helps the fleet to bypass major traffic delays, work on the shortest and fastest routes and deliver shipments on time.
So you see, how important a role the navigation systems can play to make our lives easier and comfortable.

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