Imagine never being lost or needing to ask for directions as you drive. Imagine going out for a run or bike ride and capturing all of your speed, distance, elevation change and heart rate data and uploading it to a training log or an online map you can share. Imagine going hiking and always knowing the way back to camp. Imagine playing golf and always knowing the exact distance to the pin. These scenarios and many more are reality with the use of Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers.
1. In Your Car
Sales of aftermarket in-car GPS devices have more than doubled over the past two years, and automotive is the fastest-growing segment of the GPS market. Why? Better and brighter color screens, improved accuracy and usability of maps and directions, added features such as traffic alerts, the ability to wirelessly link a mobile phone to an in-car unit to get hands-free mobile speaker-phone use; all of these reasons and more.
2. On the Trail
Handheld GPS units have dramatically changed outdoors travel, replacing map and compass with moving digital maps, and precise location, elevation, topographic and other data. These handhelds let you enter "waypoints" -- precise locations -- for a favorite fishing spot, safe passage across a stream, a campsite; anything of importance to the user. Handhelds can enhance outdoor safety, as well, making getting lost much less likely, and providing precise position information that can be relayed to rescuers in case of an emergency.
Some manufacturers offer GPS products specifically for cycling or running. In cycling, for example, a GPS unit can replace a conventional cycle computer, and add another layer of features, such as route mapping, and trip, heart rate, and cadence data that is uploadable to a computerized training log or to a Web site. Specialized golf GPS receivers provide precise yardage and other useful information and can be preloaded with your favorite courses.
4. On the Water
GPS has been a boon to recreational and commercial boaters. Moving-map displays and navigation overlays are incredibly convenient, easy to use, and dramatically enhance all-weather, all-light-condition safety. The ability to provide precise position information in case of an emergency is another key safety feature. Built-to-purpose, portable chartplotters often come loaded with detailed coastal maps, and many additional maps for the earth's oceans and lakes are available.