Using a GPS receiver as a Location Sensor in Windows
Marvin Hlavac
Last night I was playing with the new Sensors feature in Windows 7. I used one of my GPS receivers as a Location Sensor in my new laptop.

Microsoft writes:
Starting with Windows 7, the Windows Sensor and Location platform enables your computer and applications to adapt to their current environment. With location sensors -- including GPS devices, WWAN radios, and even triangulation technology -- your applications and gadgets can know exactly where they are, enabling them to provide more locally relevant content and functionality.
Microsoft USB GPS receiver

The USB GPS receiver, Navation GPS 168, which has been in recent years included by Microsoft in its mapping software MS MapPoint, MS Streets and Trips, and MS AutoRoute, can now be used also as a Location Sensor in Windows 7.

I have a few USB GPS receivers and also a few Bluetooth GPS receivers, but at the present time (December of 2010) only the Microsoft's unit has the driver software needed to enable the Location Sensor feature of Windows 7.

The driver software can be download from uBlox.

Location  Sensor driver installation

The installation program contains two components:
  1. USB Sensor driver files
  2. Virtual Com Port driver files
We've been using virtual com port drivers for years, so the following will focus only on the sensor driver and how I enabled the new Location Sensor feature in Windows.

Enable Location Sensor

When the sensor driver files were installed, I was able to enable my Location Sensor in:

Control Panel ► Hardware and Sound ► Location and Other Sensors

Device Manager

The Device Manager confirms the presence of my Location Sensor.


I'm not aware of any mapping or navigation application being already able to take advantage of this new Windows Location Sensor functionality (edit: I just read about a Location Sensor plug-in for Google Maps).

To test the Location Sensor, I used the Weather gadget that comes with Windows 7 (Right-click an empty area on your desktop, select Gadgets, and then click on Weather).

Weather gadget setup

The gadget found my current location automatically via the Location Sensor.

Weather gadget

This is a close up on the Weather gadget sitting in the top right corner of my desktop.

Will the upcoming Microsoft Streets & Trips 2011, AutoRoute 2011, or MapPoint 2011 support the Location Sensor in Windows 7? That remains to be seen.
As you would normally know where you are, that is not particularly interesting in a stationary situation. I wonder if it would update things like that weather gadget if you were moving.

Marvin Hlavac
That's true, and the only reason I used the Weather gadget because it was so readily available. It's a part of Windows 7, so I didn't have to install any application just for testing purposes.

I'm not sure if it would update while in a moving vehicle. I may give that a try later today, if it doesn't slip from my mind. I'm in Toronto now, but in a couple of hours I will drive back to Richmond Hill.

I wonder if this Location Sensor feature, if used by various navigation software, would benefit us in any way. Would there be any advantages in using the Location Sensor feature versus using virtual com port drivers? Would it in any way improve performance or compatibility? Does anyone reading this have any knowledge about this?
I've created a driver that will map any Bluetooth or serial port GPS as a Windows 7 sensor.
It's available in MSDN forums. Search for "GPSDirect sensor driver"

Best Regards.
Marvin Hlavac
Hey, that's cool. You are most welcome to attach the file to your post here, so people can download it right here. Or, if you prefer, post a link to the other site.

I'd certainly would love to try it.
Welcome to GPSDirect GPS NMEA Windows 7 Sensor Driver

And the discussion is at GPS Generic NMEA COM Port (Bluetooth, USB etc) Sensor Driver

No attachment here because its frequently updated, I wouldn't want to render the attachment obsolete.

Best Regards
Marvin Hlavac
Easy installation and configuration, and it works immediately.

I tested it with Garmin's Bluetooth GPS10x receiver that is sold as an optional GPS receiver with Garmin Mobile PC software. It worked immediately with no issue. Windows 7 gadget was used to test it.

I then tested the driver with the very popular USB GPS BU-353 by GlobalSat. It worked immediately wth no issue noticed. I actually even used GpsGate to split the signal from BU-353. One output was then used by the Location Sensor driver to feed the Win 7 Weather gadget, and the second output was used to feed iGuidance navigation software. Both appeared to work just fine simultaneously.

Suggestions for future versions of the Location Sensor driver:

1. Start when Windows starts
2. Let the driver run even when the window is closed

Keep up the great work, Michael.
Basically the driver still runs when the window is closed. I think it just terminates on restart - I really hate applications that automatically run when Windows starts.

But anyway, thanks for your comments
Marvin Hlavac
For what ever reason I had the impression the driver stopped working when I closed it's window. I'll test it again tomorrow, thanks.

If the driver works even when the window is closed, it would be nice to be able to launch it with the window closed. I simply would like to enjoy the functionality of the location sensor, but I have no need for the features offered when the window is open.

I think it would be practical for me to use this software if I could add a shortcut to it to my start up folder, so it starts when the computer starts, but I would not want to have to close the application's window each time.
Perhaps the driver application can present an option to run minimized with its icon in the System Tray.

--- CHAS
Will add it ASAP.
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