TRENDS | With the recent debut of GPS services for business in Jordan, Ahmad Humeid wonders if we’ll be enjoying electronic city navigation anytime soon.
I only remember how big Amman has become when I visit a relative in a part of town I haven’t been to. Amman is big and is expanding in all directions. And with the flurry of investments into real estate mega project the city is about to become even bigger.
Still, as a dwellers of a city in the ‘developing world’, we Ammanis still think we live in a little village. We still give addresses in the form of: “take the fourth U turn after the supermarket, then the third street on your right, count 4 houses after the pharmacy, our house is the one with a blue Honda parked in front of it”.
This is especially frustrating when you try to order a pizza delivery. “Err, the guy who used to deliver to you left his job, so can you please give us driving instructions again, sir?”.
With the advent of mobile phones, Jordanians have proved they can ‘harness technology’ to overcome the challenges of everyday life. Once our guests arrive at a major road intersection, they call us from their mobiles and we, sitting at home, accompany them all the way to our front door, remote driving them through the streets until we can see them from the veranda and say “I see you. I see you! You can stop now”, while we greet them from the 4th floor with a wave of our hands. Charming.
Is there a better way?
In Germany, where I was last month, the latest consumer electronic hit seems to be Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation devices. Now GPS is not exactly something new. The whole system has been developed in the seventies and there have been handheld as well as car mounted GPS systems for quite a while now.
Using the signals from 3 or 4 satellites (from a total of around 24 satellites which constantly orbit the earth) a GPS receiver can accurately determine your position anywhere on earth. Add an accurate electronic map and some intelligence and you get a device that can tell you how to drive or walk from one place to another.
What’s new is that the market is being flooded with GPS navigation products in all shapes and sizes: from dedicated car-based systems from, to ones that can connect to your mobile phone or PDA via Bluetooth (check out the website of Gramin and Tom Tom to explore this GPS world).
The visual display of maps has also improved a lot. Users can choose from normal 2D map views or 3D displays which give you a better understanding of the roads and surroundings. Any good GPS navigator now can give you voice driving instructions, alert you to up to date traffic information, and show you points of interest such as hotels, restaurant and gas stations.
Jordan and the Arab world: A GPS desert?
Let’s leave the satellites up in the sky and get down to earth. Jordan and most of the Arab world has been left behind when it comes to GPS navigation. The problem is not with GPS technology, but with the lack of electronic maps for our countries and cities. A quick Google search reveals that the Gulf States (especially Bahrain) are in a better situation. Electronic maps of Jordan showing the road network and the major tourism spots are available, but I could not find anything for Amman or other Jordanian cities.
When you consider that Amman still doesn’t have a traditional, paper based proper driving map, the prospect of getting GPS navigation for Amman seems like a far fetched dream. Or is it?
GPS services make a debut in Jordan
Xpress telecommunications has recently announced its XGPS system. The launch was targeted at companies who have car or truck fleet management requirements (think trucking, courier and taxi companies). The company says that this is a first, not just for Jordan, but for the entire Arab region.
For now, this is a service targeted at businesses and we might be still far away from enjoying GPS city navigation.
But as Amman and other Arab cities grow and acquire a more sophisticated road network, a clear opportunity is on the horizon: the development of GPS navigation oriented electronic maps and Arabized navigation systems. This could be an opportunity taken up by Jordanian entrepreneurs. Amman can be the testing ground for someone who is thinking of properly introducing such services in the region.
Just remember: if people are really to rely on a Jordanian GPS navigations system, it really needs to be accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date. It needs to know, just for example, which streets in Jabal Luweibdeh are one way.. and in which direction they goes!
Read these related posts on 360east:
- Just a few days before Christmas..
- More ways to GPS Amman
- In Berlin, finding the best blog of the world ;-) (ahem, ahem)
- Death of free wireless internet at Queen Alia Airport
- A Lebanese man walks in Amman..
Bookmark this post on your favorite bookmarking service