Wednesday, October 8, 2008

GPS Routing in Jakarta

One of the cool stuffs you can do with your GPS is routing. It's not only that the GPS shows your destination point on the map, but it can also show and lead you the way to get there. Fancy ay?

Well, unfortunately based on my personal experience, in Jakarta (I mean greater Jakarta, ie Jabotabek) you can't rely 100% on the GPS routing for two main reasons :

First, Jakarta's traffic condition is unpredictable, hence each of you already has your own favorite route to go to some places.

Second, Jakarta's traffic rules may change from time to time.

Let's discuss one by one. The first reason; GPS route works using two linear approaches, first is by using the shortest distance and second is by the fastest (travel) time. Please note that the shortest distance is not necessary the fastest route, therefore you need to choose which approach you prefer. My suggestion is to use the fastest time approach.

The thing is, while shortest route is fixed, the actual fastest route is actually changed depends on time of the day. For example, I already have several different routes just from Lebak Bulus to Citos before 7am, between 7am to 10am, after 10am, on weekdays, on Saturday, or on Sunday.

I don't think even Garmin have the ability to analyse the traffic pattern! I believe Garmin will only consider the road size (small, major) and type (toll and non toll) to calculate fastest travel time.

Please also check your route preference/avoidance setup, for example do you prefer to take shortcut via small roads? do you mind taking a u-turn? do you mind taking the tollway? These setups will determine how the GPS will calculate the route for you. However in Jakarta this is very complex, I like to take small road, but not in all parts of Jakarta. Therefore, my recommendation is to avoid small roads, because you cannot be sure about the situation of that small road. However, do not avoid u-turn and toll road, because based on my experience, if you do not allow u-turn then your route will be extra long, while the toll road will help saves time (but not always).

The second reason; Jakarta's traffic rule is often changed. I'm not talking about the traffic rules in the major road, but more on the local traffic rules outskirts of Jakarta. This is not limited to the traffic signs, but also physical road barriers, traffic cones etc. Jakarta's traffic is so heavy sometimes the authority closed a u turn spot or put a barrier to prevent the traffic to make a left or right turn. For example, Tendean road from Santa towards Warung Buncit, you cannot make a u turn back to Santa under the flyover at Buncit intersection in the morning (before 10am?) because all incoming traffic is directed to turn left to Kuningan. I'm not sure whether Jakarta map data includes this time based traffic rule.

Therefore, this is my final recommendation for GPS user in Jakarta :

a. Use your own proven route whenever possible, most of the time that is the best route for you

b. Only use the GPS route on the section that you are not familiar with

c. Browse the GPS map before you follow a route, so you understand how the GPS will take you and analyse if the route is make sense

d. Always observe traffic rules and sign, don't follow the route if it's against the traffic rule (eg enter a one way street, make a turn where it's prohibited to do so). There's a possibility that the traffic rule has changed and you GPS map is not updated

e. Check you route preference and setup. Reset the setup according your needs and situation

Palm TX and Garmin Mobile 10

When I moved back to Jakarta last July, one thing I planned to do was to update my GPS map. It's not that I have forgotten the streets in Jakarta but hey, it's a mega city, there are still areas that you are not familiar with, no matter how long you have stayed in this city.

My GPS is a Garmin Mobile 10, paired via bluetooth with my Palm TX PDA. The GM10 acts as the satellite receiver and the pda acts as the data processor and screen display. The large 4" color touch screen display is really helpful for browsing the map.

GPS consists of two main elements, hardware and software. The hardware consist of the satellite receiver, the data processor, and the display. Most GPS will have all these 3 hardware in one unit, except mine. The only reason why I bought only the satellite receiver was because of the price. Routeable GPS was still expensive back then. Nowadays, the price is much cheaper and I suggest you bought the complete unit.

The software consist of two main components namely the GPS software and the GPS map. Since I only have Garmin, then I can only write about this brand. The GPS software is just like the software in your mobile phone. It's the program that operates the function of your GPS and just like mobile phones, Garmin software are also available in several OS beside Garmin itself, such as Symbian, Pocket PC or Windows Mobile, and Palm OS. At the moment, I'm using Garmin Mobile XT ver 4 for Palm Garnet, because that is the OS of my Palm TX. Therefore, you will need a different GPS software depending on your GPS device. If you are connecting Garmin receiver with Nokia phones, for example N72, you will need to install the Symbian version.

However, unlike Garmin GPS software, the Garmin GPS map (or compatible) is universal for several types of Garmin devices which are able to read the same map type, regardless the device OS. However, please note that not all Garmin GPS device read the same maps. There are different types of GPS; aviation, marine, off track, on road, sports, etc and they all required different type of map data. My GPS is for on road navigation, hence it will not be suitable for hiking or off track camping.

Garmin maps consists of two separate maps, the base map and the detailed map. The base map will cover a very large area, for example a continent, and the detailed map will cover the detailed streets in a smaller area, such as big cities. The GPS will use these two maps simultaneously depending on your zoom factor (ie the scale of your map). So if you zoom out to let say 50km scale, you will use the base map, but if you zoom in to 20m scale you will use the detail map. At the moment, I'm using the Asia Pacific base map with Jakarta City Navigator v3.1 as the detail map. If I travel to another city in Asia, I just need to change the detail map while maintaining the same base map. However, if I travel to US or Europe, I have to change both the base and the detail map. What happen if you don't use the right map combination? if that happens, the GPS display will show you on uncharted or blank area.

Where can you get a correct map? My advice is to as much as possible buy the correct map at the GPS dealer at your destination point. For example, if you travelling to Melbourne, you better buy the GPS map in Melbourne. The main reason is to make sure that you buy the latest map version of that city. This is the same logic of buying a printed map.

Please note that similar to computer software, Garmin maps software are also locked. In fact, you will need two unlock codes for garmin city map. The first code is to unlocked the map, and the second code is to unlock the device. One Garmin map is designed to be used only in one device, but one device can have many maps. Therefore, you have to use different maps if you have more than one gps device. However, most of the time, whenever you buy a gps device, the map data is already included. If every mobile phones have a unique IMEI number, every Garmin GPS device also have a unique serial number. This serial number will be match with the unlock code of the map, if it does not match, the map cannot be opened.

If you want to find out more about Garmin GPS, you can visit their website here. If you already have a garmin device and want to get the latest sofwares and drivers you can click here. I

If you want to know more about Palm TX, you can click here.