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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The new Garmin Forerunner 50 is an affordable “sports watch.” It’s not a GPS. It does however measure speed and distance using what some would call the “low tech” foot pod, a sensor in the shoe that tracks each step. (It’s not that different from simple pedometers, really, and it’s what Nike + iPod uses, too.). And, it’ll measure heart rate, if you choose that “add on.” There’s also a bike speed add on. Data is moved to the computer wirelessly using a USB stick. The prices are good - $99 for the watch with wireless heart rate monitor, $150 with the footpod, and $199 with both.

In its marketing material Garmin notes the lack of GPS means you can use the device indoors (and in GPS challenged locations - Sunita Williams could have used it on the Space Station during her Boston Marathon!). The distance info is redudant for most people on treadmills, though the heart monitor would be nice. And, the distance info would be very useful on the track (Have you tried counting laps when it’s 8 laps to the mile?) The device also has movement sensing on/off so you won’t forget to turn it on.

I foresee just one challenge: GPS-basd solutions from other vendors are coming down to these price points, so the low cost aspect may not be such a draw after all. That said, the size, much more watch-size that GPS solutions will be appealing, especially, I’ll suggest to women with small wrists. (My friends have to wear a wrist band below their Garmin 305s to make it fit comfortably.) I continue to be happy with my Garmin 201 which is several iterations back and admit that on occasion I do forget to turn it on.

by Adena Schutzberg on 08/08 at 08:39 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

After last week’s bridge collapse I learned that the state of Iowa had posted a map of its bridges with information about them for its citizens. It was a Google Earth app. Why? It was quick, I suspect.

Today I read that NOAA offers a map for those in Hawaii to learn if they are in tsunami evacuation areas. It’s based on Google Maps. I’ll suggest that maps been longer in development than the bridge map above, but I can’t say for sure.

Now, as we as GIS professionals get concerned about the definition of GIS and whether Google’s tools (or Yahoo’s or Microsoft’s or Ask’s etc.) are GIS, we need to get one thing straight: putting locations on a map is the first step to higher level analysis and thinking. Further, such maps answer quite a few questions. Would the state of Iowa and NOAA have put together maps like these with higher end tools (professional GIS tools) if such a solution cost the same and insured user navigation success? I don’t know. I will suggest that choosing these tools was a “business decision” not one that revolved around whether online mapping API’s are GIS.

by Adena Schutzberg on 08/08 at 06:30 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

In our podcast this week we discussed the aging of the GIS workforce and the need to get young people involved (the average age of respondents to URISA salrary survey: 39). But, we forget, we can also look toward newly trained, experienced workers to take on today’s GIS jobs. I was reminded of that in an article in the Arizona Republic that highlights seniors taking on new carreers, including Lynn Hand, 51, of Chandler, Arizona. She’s getting a master’s degree in geographic information system technology from Penn State University while working at Trimble Mobile Solutions in Tempe. As my dad would say, “Education is wasted on the young.” (Thanks for sending me to college, though, Dad!)

[Disclosure: I’ll be teaching in the Penn State program in the future, should all go according to plan.]

by Adena Schutzberg on 08/08 at 06:12 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share
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