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Recommendations for a road crew
mweaver
I work in IT for a construction company, and we're looking to replace the software some of our guys use out in the road. Our IT department is small and none of us have much experience with this kind of GPS use, so any help is appreciated!

Their current setup is a mounted laptop with a Verizon hotspot, and we have both BU-353's and Garmin usb pucks. They're currently still using 2014 Streets and Trips, so we'd like to start getting them used to something new that will continue to get updated road maps in the future. Functionality wise they don't need a whole lot. Typically, they just drive out to to a location, or a few different locations, and drop a pin with the coordinates to print out a map for where the crews need to go for maintenance jobs. Having built in navigation capabilities would be a plus though.

My other option is to look into getting iPads out to all of them, but I'm still not sure if I'll be able to get enough for everyone that goes out for mapping. They all seem pretty attached to the idea of having a laptop on the dash. I'm open to suggestion for good iOS apps I should be testing out though.

Here are a few of the routes I've tried so far:
Google Earth works okay with our GPS units sometimes, but they don't like the lack of a street view. I also tried having them import google earth pins into MyMaps, but it's too much computer work to be doing on the side of the road. I tried a google maps overlay as well, but it doesn't work that great in low service areas with the hotspot. My next idea was to use Franson GPSGate's web output to write a basic web app to use the GPS signal to place pins on Google Maps with their web API, but I couldn't get it to work all that well. Currently I'm testing out Land, which is looking promising from my initial testing.

This forum has been helpful so far in my research, but I'm still stuck on which products I want to move forward with. I figured I'd finally reach out and see if there were any suggestions based on the use case. I can tell there hasn't been much love from companies supporting windows GPS applications as they shift towards mobile.

Thank you all so much for any suggestions you can make!
Boyd
You can get keyboards for iPads which make them pretty much like a laptop. Apple's new software includes trackpad support and they also introduced their own trackpad/keyboard combo. It only works with the more expensive iPads however, and probably isn't suited well for vehicle use.

But you can use the regular low-cost ipads with third-party keyboards. I have a 2018 iPad with a Zagg Rugged Book case that I really like. This would be right at home in a vehicle.






The cellular iPads have internal GPS chips with GLONASS that are pretty good. If you want something better, you can use a bluetooth GPS receiver such as the Garmin GLO. The regualr wifi iPads are cheaper but don't have GPS chips, so you would need a bluetooth receiver for them. But the cellular models would probably be better for your use, since you can get a data plan and eliminate the hotspot.

There are many apps that allow you to load the maps directly on the iPad such that you don't need to rely on a data connection for Google Maps or Apple Maps. I make my own maps and use the free open source Mobile Atlas Creator software as a platform to distribute them. Mobile Atlas Creator also has a number of built-in free sources for maps that can be used to make you own offline maps that will work in the field with no data connection. For a summary of iOS apps that work this way, see https://boydsmaps.com/mobile-atlas-creator/

None of these will give you automotive routing (turn by turn directions) however. For that, you could use TomTom GoMobile or HereWeGo. They provide full routing and traffic capabilities and allow you to install the maps on the iPad for offline use. There are also other options. The pre-installed Apple Maps might even be adequate, although it doesn't allow offline use.

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/here-wego-city-navigation/id955837609

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/tomtom-go-navigation/id884963367

The situation is pretty similar with Android tablets as well, there are probably even more apps available. IMO, navigation and mapping is a dead end on laptop computers today. 7 or 8 years ago, it was still viable, but your choices are very limited today. But there are a wealth of reasonbly-priced apps available on iOS and Android.
Ken in Regina
Boyd isn't wrong about more support these days for the Apple and Android platforms. But that doesn't mean it's a dead end for those with Windows laptops. If you visit the Windows Store and do a search for "navigation" you'll find quite a few apps.

I haven't done much testing with them - a situation I am embarrased to admit as a moderator here, and one that I should really remedy. So I can't specifically recommend anything. But if you're up for a bit of testing you might find everyone's life easier if you could just upgrade the software on everyone's existing hardware and carry on.

I see that Mapfactor and Sygic are still in the picture. Both have been around for a long time and now have Windows 10 apps in the Windows Store. Mapfactor uses OpenStreetMaps and optionally TomTom maps. Sygic uses TomTom maps. Both run just fine without any internet connection because the maps are loaded on the laptop. If you were inclined to do a bit of testing those are two that I would suggest first.

Since I haven't looked at them I'm not sure how they connect to external GPSs.

Since your needs are pretty straightforward and basic the Windows Maps app might even do the job. Again, I haven't looked at it in any detail so you would have to do your own testing at this point. The one thing I don't know whether it can do that you need is marking a location and then sharing it. That might be the key factor for any of the apps you check out. It's one of those things you think should be a given in any navigation app but sometimes doesn't show up.

...ken...
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