$250 gadget helps you stay InReach when off the grid

If you're clinging to flotsam in the middle of the Pacific and need to send an emergency message, DeLorme has a rugged new satellite communicator that can do the job on the cheap.

Its InReach device is a two-way satellite hookup with GPS that lets you send messages from anywhere in the world for as little as $249.95 and a subscription with Iridium's global network from $9.95 monthly.

Used alone, the InReach can send an SOS or up to three preset messages, as well as remote-tracking data; it confirms delivery too. Users can designate recipients such as other InReach devices, e-mail addresses, or Facebook or Twitter accounts before they set out for northern Siberia. … Read more

New software could create computerized sportscasters

Could a computer replace this era's crop of clownish sportscasters like Dick Vitale or Lee Corso? We can dream--while a Swiss company works on software that could create artificial intelligence systems to call sporting events.

Computer researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland are working on a system that can track multiple athletes on a football field, a basketball court, or a soccer pitch via multiple cameras and advanced scanning algorithms. These days, computers can track human athletes, racing cars, and other sporting elements via GPS. But that's illegal in many sports as the introduction of such technology threatens to overpower the human element of athletics. The EPFL technology uses visual cues instead. … Read more

TeleNav Auto 2.0 sends addresses from phone to car

TeleNav's new navigation platform promises to link cars and smartphones.

Drivers frequently find themselves consulting a phone for an address, then typing it into a car's navigation system. At the Telematics Munich conference, TeleNav announced a solution to this problem, seamless interactivity between smartphones and TeleNav-equipped cars.

A use case described to CNET by Mark Scalf, director of automotive products for TeleNav, involved a user getting an appointment notification on his cell phone, and easily sending the address for the appointment to the car's navigation system. After parking, the TeleNav system transfers navigation back to the phone, … Read more

TomTom Go Live 1535 M searches the Web, tweets your trip (review)

Testing GPS devices can be a grind--a dull, boring grind. So when a device comes along promising to revolutionize portable navigation devices, I tend to perk up and take notice. The TomTom Go Live 1535M is one of those attention-getters.

When this portable navigation device (PND) was announced a few weeks ago, I was intrigued by its integration of travel apps that enable the user to tap into Yelp, Trip Advisor, Expedia, and Google Local Search services for up-to-date point-of-interest data and reviews via the same Live data service that beams in its HD Traffic data. I was even more … Read more

BMW finds your parking spot (video)

Could parking garage maps be coming to BMW's ConnectedDrive navigation system? BMW released a video demonstrating its micro-navigation technology, which shows drivers the most exact route to their destination, down to the parking space.

BMW announced that it was developing this technology last year, and while the new video doesn't show much more detail than what was previously released, it could suggest that this feature, which was developed in conjunction with the 3-series sedan, could be making its way to production. … Read more

Mapping streets with a Navteq field team

On a sunny Tuesday morning I sat in the back of a Navteq Ford Escape meandering around the new UCSF Mission Bay campus, which had recently arisen on the bay side of San Francisco. Navteq employee Mark drove while Alejandro studied a big monitor on a post above the console. The monitor showed the existing digital street map of the area, which, because of the new construction, bore little resemblance to the roads we traveled.

Alejandro noted that when he tells people about his job it seems pointless, because the country has already been mapped, hasn't it? I was getting a first-hand look what a Navteq field team does every day, digging deep into the changes that can come about from a big development project, like the UCSF campus, or smaller road projects, such as when a municipality decides to block off a street. … Read more

Track NASA's crashing satellite to avoid getting hit by space junk

The satellite that once confirmed the existence of a hole in the ozone layer is now tearing a new path across the sky in a final fiery descent back to Earth, and there's a chance it could hit you upside the head.

OK, so the chance that you'll get smacked with space junk this week is only about 1 in 20 trillion, but why risk it? You can track the Thelma and Louise-style ending of the Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite--or UARS for short--on your Android phone or tablet with an app called Satellite AR.

AGI--makers of the augmented reality app that also has the nifty ability to tell you what satellites are currently passing overhead by simply pointing your phone's camera at the sky--have added a temporary button to the app's menu to easily keep track of UARS' demise.

While the odds that you, specifically, will wind up in an involuntary boxing match with UARS are in the trillions, the chance that someone on Earth will be hit by a piece of the satellite is about 1 in 3,200--that's lower than the acceptable threshold of 1 in 10,000 that NASA adopted after UARS was launched.

Related story • Heads up! NASA satellite descends toward fiery doomRead more

New OnStar privacy policy expands on data sharing

OnStar is updating its privacy policy--effective this December--with some daring new freedoms that allow it to share your data with more people. In addition, a new clause alludes to a possible sale of business operations, which has been a long-standing rumor surrounding the telematics company.

Regarding a possible sale of OnStar: "There may be instances where we sell some or all of our business operations," says the policy (PDF). "To the extent that the business operation that is sold relates to the equipment, service or data connection, we may transfer your information as part of the transferred … Read more

Bulletproof vest gets GPS, man-down alerts

If you already bought a bulletproof Mercedes and a bulletproof watch, then you might want to complete the look with a bulletproof vest.

The S-911 Vest from Laipac Technology is chest armor with brains. Just as phones have evolved to handle a gazillion different functions, this bulletproof vest has sprouted a GPS system.

Law enforcement, military, security personnel, and VIPs are the target market for the high-tech vest. Built-in GPS provides real-time tracking with location, heading, and speed.

The vest's most important function is to stop bullets, of course. Kevlar and optional armor plates handle that task. The basic Kevlar model has enough stopping power to protect against most handguns, including a shot from a .44 Magnum.

The vest works over a GSM/GPRS network and will record waypoints when out of GSM range. Set up a virtual geo-fence and get alerts when the vest moves in or out of a certain area.

You could do all that with a regular GPS tracking system, but the S-911 also has a built-in G sensor that sends alerts when it registers an impact or a man down. All this extra equipment means the vest comes with its own battery charger. You might want to pick up a car charger adapter for your bulletproof Mercedes.… Read more

Location-based deals app wins on Ford Sync

A new company developing location-based coupon systems won Ford's contest to integrate an app with Sync at the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. Developers from Roximity spent last weekend adapting their app to use Sync's voice command and display capabilities, making its service available in the car. Ford announced the winner of its contest this week.

Roximity is currently operating under the radar, with only a coming soon sign on its Web site. The company will offer coupons based on a user's location, through either a smartphone app or, as the Ford development indicates, a car.

Roximity's system … Read more