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Use 1000+ waypoints properly?
MDubbelboer
My company is looking for a GPS solution.

We do roadway maintenance. We've assigned every traffic pole, guardrail section, traffic sign, etc a unit number. We've assembled a list of all of our appurtenance with GPS coordinates.

What we want to be able to do is send our operators out to the field. When they identify a deficiency they pull up next to the unit, have a peek at the gps and find out exactly what Unit Number (our internal labelling system) they are beside so they can create a workorder on the fly.

The plan was to add each unit as a waypoint. i've been told the handheld GPS's max out at 1000 waypoints. From the garmin site it seems as though a similar limit exists for the Mobile PC. is this correct? It sure seems like the point of hooking up to a laptop is to get around caps like this. We already have laptops in our vehicles so this seemed like the best solution for us.

Can anyone advise if this product would be able to satisfy our requirements, and if another product exists that you'd recommend i'd appreciate that as well.

Thanks in advance,
mark
Marvin Hlavac
Mark, welcome to the forums. How many points do you need to mark? I think Microsoft Streets & Trips has a maximum limit of 10,000, but I may even be wrong and the limit may be much higher.
MDubbelboer
Oh sorry. As we sit now it's just over 4,000 points. Can't imagine it ballooning above 10k.
So if we have these points in a csv we'd be able to name and import the waypoints?

Everything else in my story made sense/is do-able?

thanks,
md
Marvin Hlavac
I see no problem with 4,000 pushpins, or even many more, in Streets & Trips, for your type of project.
MDubbelboer
Cool. I didn't actually realize that there was no software mapping program that came with the Garmin package.

We have an etrex in-office and I assumed the Mobile PC would allow me to plot waypoints in "space" in a similar method. I see Streets and Trips is really quite cheap so I'm not against buying the software but I was curious as to whether there was any default software that came with the garmin that could import the waypoints?

oh and thanks for the info Marvin. You've definitely earned your commission on this sale...in fact does this website have amazon referral links or referrals to other websites when we do go through with this purchase?
Marvin Hlavac
Some time ago I looked into the possibility of opening an Amazon store here at the site, but I decided against it. Amazon sells only very few products that relate to the topic of this website, and the price can often be found better elsewhere. I think a commission on a sale of an inexpensive product like Streets & Trips would be negligible, too, unless sold in large quantities. (As you can see I'm not a good business person as I only look at reasons why not to do it. )
Ken in Regina
Hi Mark,

You raise some interesting issues and you need to provide us with a little more information if we are to help you with your evaluation process.

1. Exactly what model eTrex do you have in the office? If you plan to use it to help understand what is possible, the exact model dictates its capabilities. No point in making suggestions for capabilities it doesn't have. I can make suggestions that will make my eTrex Legend HCx do exactly what you want in a way that will be so simple a monkey could use it. Lesser eTrex models may not have the same features.

2. What do you plan (or prefer) to equip your operators with, laptops or handhelds? No point in discussing the merits of different laptop programs if the preference is to issue handhelds to them. Or vice-versa.

Now, while we wait for some clarification, let's look at the problem and try to understand what will be important no matter what type of technology you use.

1. Ease of finding the Unit Number ... Any discussion of solutions has to begin here. It doesn't matter if a package has the capacity for the number of units in your database if it's a real pain to find them.

Most Garmin units, including Mobile PC, can be set to default the search routine to start the search "Near Current Location". What that means is with some units you don't even need to search. You just go to the search page and the list will immediately start to populate itself, starting with the closest known item. You don't have to actually search for anything, just go to the search page and the item you need will be at the top of the list.

Or can we avoid searching at all? Mobile PC and most Garmin handheld units will display waypoints and POIs on the screen. If the Units are not located too close together, you can just read the Unit ID right off the screen. Two conditions: First, you need to include the Unit ID in the name of the waypoint or Point of Interest (POI). Second, they can't be clustered so close together that the text display gets too cluttered to read.

With most Garmin units and Mobile PC you can control the size of text used to display certain types of items, like waypoints and POIs. You can also turn off the display of items that you have no interest in but might interfere with the display of things you are.

2. Ease of adding the data and relevant limitations. This is the next most important issue. With most Garmin units and Mobile PC it's pretty easy to load waypoints and custom POIs. If you use Garmin maps, they come with a program named MapSource. In addition to the sorts of trip planning features you get with other programs, MapSource allows you to import data and download it into Garmin handheld units or Mobile PC.

In this case, waypoints are what you are interested in. If you don't want maps on the handheld units, you only need to buy one set of maps for the office PC and you've got MapSource on the PC, which can then be used to load waypoints into as many handhelds units as you want.

As has been identified, there is a relevant limit on number of waypoints you can put into Mobile PC. I believe you will find a similar unsatisfactory limit in Garmin's handheld units.

Custom POIs are also very easy to load into many Garmin handheld units and Mobile PC. Garmin provides a POILoader that is free to download. This program will import data and place it as custom POIs onto flash memory cards or directly onto Garmin handhelds or Mobile PC.

I don't believe there is any relevant limit to the number of custom POIs. This is the approach I would recommend if going to a Garmin solution.

I am not familiar enough with the other manufacturers products, whether handheld or laptop, to address either of the above two requirements.

I know that it's quite easy to import an Excel spreadsheet into Streets&Trips. I did this to compare the ease of doing complex routes in Mobile PC and Streets&Trips but I was only interested in the routing results and didn't pay any attention to the display or searching features of Streets&Trips. I think the pushpins will display in a similar manner to the waypoint and custom POI display in Garmin products.

Another significant issue will be placement and mounting of the items in the operators' vehicles. Handheld units are generally a bunch easier and cheaper to set up in a vehicle.

The learning curve to use handhelds for your intended application will be virtually a no-brainer. If you use something like, say, a low-priced Garmin Nuvi (which has a nice large bright display), you simply install the mounts in the vehicles, load the custom POIs and show the operators where the ON switch is. You might have to show them what a Unit ID looks like, once, just in case other information might be displayed near their current location (although a little bit of preference setup can turn off the display of virtually everything except what you want them to see).

With handhelds, the GPS receiver and antenna are already built in, so there's no issue with selecting, purchasing, locating and mounting of an external receiver as there will be for laptops. No Bluetooth or USB driver or other compatibility issues.

That's hardly a comprehensive look at the project, but it probably hits most of the important issues.

...ken...
MDubbelboer
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken in Regina
1. Exactly what model eTrex do you have in the office? [.]
We have an older eTrex unit. It's pretty much the cheapest one you could buy 8 yrs ago. eTrex Legend I believe.
We want to roll this GPS program out into 5-6 trucks so we'll need to be buying extra gps receivers and we'd like to keep everything uniform. I'm not going to say that money isn't an issue, but as long as we're not going into diamond encrusted gps receivers it won't be an issue.

Quote:
2. What do you plan (or prefer) to equip your operators with, laptops or handhelds?[.]
Well I had actually originally begun searching for a handheld unit, but only because I wasn't aware Laptops would work. The work order we will be creating is done in the field with a laptop. The work order requires a unit number, that's where the gps system comes in. It seems to be most convenient to go with a laptop gps system for this reason.

Quote:
1. Ease of finding the Unit Number ... Any discussion of solutions has to begin here. It doesn't matter if a package has the capacity for the number of units in your database if it's a real pain to find them.[.]
Very interesting and good info. For the most part the on-screen POIs would work great for light poles that are generally well-spaced. Going into an intersection and trying to find a roadway sign would be a bit more difficult, but i've used the "find nearest waypoints" on the eTrex and that is more than sufficient (assuming of course that the POI is named as the Unit as you states)


Quote:
2. Ease of adding the data and relevant limitations. [.]
Wow. This is kinda news to me. I was asking specifically about waypoints. but it sounds as though we'd be able to load 1000+ POIs into pretty much any garmin with little to no issue?
We will be hard mounting the laptops into the vehicle so we're not against a purely laptop-only approach but it sounds as though a nuvi for gps/laptop for everything else system would also be possible?


Oh and then I guess I have a new question. A lot of our GPS locations are based off of construction drawings. They use Northings and Eastings, is there some simple conversion to get these into a more general GPS coordinate?

thanks a ton for all the responses, very very very good info
md
Ken in Regina
Quote:
Originally Posted by MDubbelboer
Wow. This {custom POIs} is kinda news to me. I was asking specifically about waypoints. but it sounds as though we'd be able to load 1000+ POIs into pretty much any garmin with little to no issue?
We will be hard mounting the laptops into the vehicle so we're not against a purely laptop-only approach but it sounds as though a nuvi for gps/laptop for everything else system would also be possible?
Naturally you would need to do a bit of homework and make sure that whatever model handheld you choose can have custom POIs added and that there is no limit that will matter to you. Generally, the ones that accept an SD or microSD expansion card should be expected to accept custom POIs and shouldn't have a restrictive limit.

Even with laptops hardmounted in the vehicles you still have some issues. I'm not trying to discourage you. I just want to make sure you explore the options and make the decision that will work best in your situation. It's impossible to do that if you aren't aware of some issues that might change your view. (I did this for a living for thirty years so it's pretty much genetically encoded. Please forgive me. I can't help myself. )

For this whole undertaking to be useful and productive, the operators need to be able to take only a short time to get the Unit ID. That means that you really need to have the GPS on the whole time so it always has your current location.

With the laptop you need to add a copy of the nav software and a GPS receiver. The cost will be very close to the cost of a handheld and mount.

By adding the nav software and GPS receiver to the laptop you increase the complexity of the initial setup and ongoing support tasks considerably. Multiple additional things to have to train for. Multiple additional things that can go wrong and to have to troubleshoot/fix.

With the handhelds your training, setup and support activities are much simpler, as strange as that may sound. The handheld GPS is self-contained and doesn't interact with anything on the laptop. You can make it totally plug-n-play with almost no learning curve for the operators. All they need to know is how to put it in the mount, turn it on and, maybe, get to the search screen.

As we've discussed, most of the time a properly labelled POI can be read straight off the screen. Worst case, as long as the vehicle is physically positioned near the item in question, they might have to go to the search screen. The list should immediately start to populate itself, with the closest item at the top of the list.

Using POIs has an additional benefit that you can include some descriptive detail that will make it clear that this unit is a pole, not a road sign. If you want to get fancy, I think you can assign specific icons to help make it visually clear on the screen (or just clutter it up worse .. some swords have two edges).

By selecting a handheld model that accepts SD or microSD expansion cards you have the ability to simply create one master copy on the PC and just copy it to as many cards as you need. All it involves is a Garmin folder with one (or multiple, depending...) POI folder in it. Just copy the Garmin folder to a blank formatted memory card, plug it into the handheld, turn on the handheld and the operators are in business. Support is almost nonexistant.

You have some other possibilities with custom POIs. If it makes sense to do so, you can have multiple categories. This is another way to get around any potential limitations in quantities.

Setting up categories of custom POIs with Garmin handhelds or Mobile PC is not quite as clean as doing it in Streets&Trips. But it's like any other process; once it's set up one time, you just do it the same way each time. It can be automated pretty much from start to finish.

Quote:
Oh and then I guess I have a new question. A lot of our GPS locations are based off of construction drawings. They use Northings and Eastings, is there some simple conversion to get these into a more general GPS coordinate?
It's not a simple question. .... Well, it's a really simple question. It's just that the answer might not be so simple. Here's a thread about the subject. Please read all the way to the end before doing anything. I think the last post will be useful for you, but you'll appreciate it much more if you read the messages that lead to it. If you don't find the perfect solution in that thread you will be much better prepared to continue searching for a good solution for your situation.

Be patient, Grasshopper, and you will prevail.

...ken...
MDubbelboer
k, back to the books. i shall return. thanks.
MDubbelboer
Alright. Got hit by a bit of a storm that kept me distracted for a couple days.
Talked to my boss (i.e. the person i'm going to have to convince to approve the spending) and he was super keep on keeping it to one device (i.e. a laptop only).

I was messing around with the trial to streets and maps and the import function was working great for everything we have in lat/lon. Northings/eastings are still giving me a problem at the link from the newsgroup is blocked by my IT group. I'll have to check it out from home. I found another link to a spreadsheet that can batch convert (Steve Dutch's UWGB website) but it didn't seem to be doing a very accurate job of converting. I'll have to mess around with it a bit.

Hey look at that I don't think I even asked a question. Must be because I know everything now right?

thanks for the help again
md
MDubbelboer
Hi. Remember me?

What's the diff between buying Streets & Trips with the GPS locator and buying a Garmin Mobile PC and Street&Trips software only?

thanks
tcassidy
Garmin Mobile PC is a software navigation program as is Microsoft Streets & Trips. Each is available as software-only or bundled with a GPS receiver. If you buy the software-only version, you will also need a GPS receiver. GPS receivers are available as USB connected devices or Bluetooth.

Terry
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