When I was last on a home visit back to the UK, I had occasion to use a couple of cars during Christmas-time. What surprised me was that suddenly, everyone seemed to be driving around with GPS (Global Positioning System) boxes on the dashboard. My driving experience even in the depth of winter was a delight. I never got lost in those three weeks, and was always on time.
I must confess that I had always prided myself on my sense of direction, at least until October 1999. That was when I first came to Malaysia. The apparent haphazard placement of road signs, the never-ending road diversions, not to mention the traffic jams, create a daily nightmare. The essence of stress is when you realise you're lost, late for an appointment and cant do much about it.
Of course a key to resolving such pressure is properly knowing where you are at any given moment, and in which direction you need to move.
At the speed of light
Finally, its seems that GPS devices are coming to the centre stage. But havent they been a long time coming?
These gizmos sit on your dashboard and are officially known as GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) devices. At least 24 medium earth orbit satellites transmit precise microwave signals - moving at the speed of light - that a GPS device will use to determine your location, speed, direction and time. It works 24 hours a day rain, hail or shine.
Of course, you must keep the maps up to date, but that's another story...
Recently, Malaysian design company K-One launched the first of these home-grown devices, with extra frills. However, another local company, GPS-Bay (www.gpsbay.com) was probably the first company that started rolling out these useful gadgets. The company started distributing them last year and I have the benefit of using one each day, to get around the country.
I won't say that my GPS device has made driving an actual pleasure again, but it certainly has saved me an awful lot of time, and stress-- now I only wish I previously had one, before I pulled out all my hair.
AvantiKumar is the Malaysia correspondent for Fairfax tech brands and deputy editor of Computerworld Malaysia.
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