Navigation and more
The TomTom Bridge might possibly break the mould of what was once perceived to be a conventional GPS’ shortcomings when compared against a smartphone or even a tablet. Johan explains how…
A lot has been said over the last few years about the imminent death of the GPS. Companies like TomTom and Garmin were slowly becoming less relevant as cell phones and tablets became the new way to navigate. But then the GPS companies came forward with innovative ideas like action cameras, heart rate monitors and various other gadgets although the general consensus was that this was merely delaying the inevitable. But with the launch of a brand new device — the TomTom Bridge –literally and figuratively ‘bridges’ the gap.
On our recent trip to Madagascar, we faced a dilemma – how would we navigate the planned 10 000km on the island? Our normally trusted source when it comes to navigating on the African continent, Tracks4Africa, admitted that they had limited information of the island. They hoped that our visit to Madagascar would contribute to getting a lot more detail for future travellers. Our normal way of navigation – a Garmin with MapSource and T4A was therefore not a realistic option.
I was approached by Etienne Louw of TomTom South Africa. From past experience, I was aware of the fact that T4A and TomTom were not compatible with one another. I also knew that the data TomTom had collected on Madagascar was not necessarily any better than the T4A detail. But, while we were all a little in the dark, why not test a new device, Etienne suggested. A device that would, if well developed, change the way we look at the instrument stuck with a Ram bracket to the windscreen of a 4×4. This device is called The Bridge.
The Bridge was not designed with the leisure market in mind. The purpose is for business to have an integrated platform to move vehicles and goods safely and securely with a device that is rugged and robust. But that is just where Etienne saw the opportunity to apply the product for our geographical needs.
The Bridge is actually an android tablet, but a very special one at that. Tested in tough conditions, The Bridge can cope with high vibration patterns, has the E-Mark certification, works in extreme operating temperatures (-20 / +60) and is shockproof. It comes with the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor to ensure all your business applications integrate seamlessly with navigation, and it is built with the latest technologies including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and USB On-The-Go.
TomTom asked me what my navigation device needs were. The devices I worked with over the years had seriously improved into something more than just a navigational tool. Extras such as cameras, calculators, etc were added, but what was lacking?
The need was for a device that is flexible, without being complicated. This is what I believe we managed to achieve in the development of the Voetspore TomTom Bridge.
The developers at TomTom in Centurion wanted my wish list. During a few brainstorming sessions we came up with the following: a GPS, calculator, currency convertor, camera, translator or two (French/English and Malagasy/English), trip monitor or fuel log, weather App, compass, internet browser and access to Facebook, email and Adobe reader for the downloading of field guides. Amazingly, all of these were installed on the Voetspore Bridge.
On Madagascar, we set off. The Bridge was our only navigation aid. We had both TomTom and T4A (the App) to guide us. The information was limited. But that is exactly what was expected. We, therefore, more often than not, had to rely on the compass. But also on the Lonely Planet guide book that was downloaded on the Adobe Reader, and even the English-French dictionary. We also required the services of the English-Malagasy dictionary from time to time, yet this was less successful (it seems this dictionary was developed somewhere in Russia).
Herein lies the answer for future navigation devices. Where information is freely available, like when I drive between Pretoria and Johannesburg, I utilise TomTom with its live traffic and all other applications to its fullest. But when I get to a place like Madagascar, where GPS information is limited, I need a device that can still help me navigate. More often than not means just to know where north is, or to ask a local how to reach the next town, or to make a local currency calculation of how much fuel is needed to reach your next destination.
Other forms of communication also become essential. Most people, even on holiday, need to check their emails from time to time. This the Bridge offers immediately. So too, access to social media. And if you really want to know how many baobab species there are in Madagascar, then you can Google it, just after checking your bank balance and making a few payments via the internet.
The TomTom Bridge was not developed for a Voetspore Adventure, yet it became the essential navigation device on our journey. This, I believe, is the future of what was used to be known as a GPS. This is why it is called The Bridge.
– Johan Badenhorst