If you are one of those road warriors who can’t function without their GPS, then you may want to check out Dash Express, a new navigation device that connects to the Internet. Unlike the previous generation of directional devices, Dash Express offers—in addition to directions—a link to web-based data via Wi-Fi and cellular connections for a monthly service fee of $10.00 to $13.00. This new tool epitomizes a trend towards an ambient Internet – a move that that Bill Gates recently predicted will allow every surface to function as a computer. It is potentially much more useful than traditional navigational aides, because it links into other subscriber systems allowing the GPS device to become a multi-faceted data delivery system.
Not only is its manufacturer, California-based Dash Navigation, a believer in an ambient Internet, but the company is also an advocate of “open systems”. This means Dash Navigation doesn’t maintain a lock on applications that are compatible with Dash Express. The necessary specifications are freely available to outside companies to allow then to build programs on top of the Dash Express platform. These companies then develop specific applications and data subscription services that Dash users can purchase if they wish.
Who is linking up with the Dash GPS system? It is early days yet, but already some great ideas and useful programs have emerged. Perhaps the most obvious synergy is with real estate sales. By offering data that works in tandem with the navigation system, a real estate company –for a fee— meshes timely information on properties for sale within specific GPS locations and send the information straight to the Dash Express navigation device. Using it, real estate agents not only gain a significant competitive edge but also a tool that boosts their productivity. If inspiration strikes while an agent and client are driving through an area, the real estate professional doesn’t have to return to an office PC to get online, or drag out a laptop to locate data on nearby properties. Using a real estate application hooked into Dash Express, subscribers can get a map showing available properties as they drive through the neighborhood.
The basic Dash Express service (available for $10-13.00 per month) provides the same basic traffic data as other GPS systems plus real-time traffic information gathered from the position of each Dash Express device in service. The eventual number of added-value applications or “links” with outside companies whose customers need access to accurate information and real-time data on the road could be significant, and is limited only by the creativity of application experts in various industries.
The service is in its infancy, but subscriptions are already available from companies who provide a variety of practical information including real estate listings, news on traffic flow and speed traps, and – in one instance—from a software developer who can mesh your online appointment calendar with Dash Express to provide directions from one appointment to your next one. Applications are not limited to business functions. There are programs you can download from your PC that match your location to radio stations to help you “find that tune”. Other entertainment link-ups are in the works, too.