By Dale DePriest - All rights reserved.
This page supplements my main WinCE/Pocket PC page with hardware specific information on gps and other navigation hardware support for WinCE/Pocket PC platforms. Generally any gps that can be used with a laptop can also be used with PocketPC. This page covers the information needed to get this hardware connected as well as dedicated gps solutions. There are several sections on this page including:
Note that many companies are listed on this site as a service for users. This is not necessarily an endorsement of any company.
The consumer and professional has many sources of Pocket PC units. There are general purpose units and there are special purpose GPS navigation units running the WinCE operating system. An example of the later version includes the Trimble Geoexplorer. For a rugged integrated solution this is as good as it gets. Another rugged pockepc product is made by Symbol Technologies. It can use a dedicated gps attachment called GlobalPoint GPS from linkspoint. Trimble has spun off a company called Tripod Data systems to develop ruggedized WinCE devices for GPS and GIS use.
Another very rugged solution is available from Sokkia. It is based on a pocketpc from Panasonic. This combination is waterproof and claimed to be very rugged.
The Mio 168 is a pocket pc with a built in GPS system. The basic unit comes with Designator Mapping software which makes it a complete navigation solution. I have also seen it for sale with CoPilot Live software. The GPS itself is fully contained in the module attached to the back of the unit so it behaves just like a permantently attached CF GPS device.
The Mio hardware is also available in a Soluton from Navman. The Navman solution is called the PiN and contains a copy of the Navman SmatST Navigator software. CoPilot also has a soltuion using the Mio hardware.
A new unit is available from Mobile Crossing. This unit, called the WayPoint, includes the mapping product in ROM with dedicated GPS integration features in the unit. It uses the Mapopolis mapping engine which has been highly customized specifically for this hardware integration. The GPS devices can be either a CF or Bluetooth based units. As shipped this is a full navigation solution with no dependency on a pc connection. It has 128 Meg of onboard map memory besides the 64 Meg of RAM. It also has both a CF slot and an SD slot.
Garmin has released its own Que version called the M5. It contains a built-in GPS with the software built into ROM. The is a full Pocket PC as well.
Any pocket pc can be used for gps navigation with the appropriate hardware additions. And any gps with a serial port can be hooked to a pocket pc that has serial input capability. In addition there are Hardware Specific gps solutions available. For a standard gps units all you really need is some software and an appropriate cable.
The primary hardware connection on a pocketpc is the hotsync serial port. Using adapters and cables that are described below you can hook up any gps with a serial port capability directly to the pocketpc. Most Garmin handheld units have external data port capability and can be hooked to a pocketpc. Most Magellan units also have a data port capability and can be hooked to a pocketpc. Note that Magellan does not output data until a fix is achieved or placed in simulation mode. In addition units with serial ports from Lowrance, Trimble and other gps manufactures should have no trouble hooking to the pocketpc. All of these units understand an industry standard NMEA protocol so that programs that use this protocol can get real time data from any of these units. In addition to NMEA most units also support a proprietary interface to provide extensions to the NMEA capability. To support upload/download of waypoints, routes, tracklogs, etc. you will need to use a program that understands the specific gps device you are using.
If you want to wire the unit yourself you will need the serial port connection data. One source for this is Bev Howard's web site. There is information for Jornada, Ipaq, Axim and other serial data. You can find connectors for pockepc's from Gomadic.com.
There seems to be some confusion about the connector that is used on the iPAQ ppc models. The same connector is used in the 38XX, the 39XX, the 54XX, the 55XX, and the 2215 iPAQ units so a cable for one of these will fit any of them.
There are a few PocketPC units that do not have serial ports and this can cause a problem in working with GPS devices. The new Toshiba e740 does not have a serial port at all thus it cannot be used directly with most handheld gps units. If you need a solution you might want to check PC Counselor for a description of how to get a serial port on your Toshiba. Other Toshiba products such as the e330 may use the same solution.
Other PocketPCs that are reported to not have a serial port include the Dell Axim X5. Dell has announced a serial port adapter for hotsyncing but it seems to depend on pc voltages that are not present on a gps units and thus will not work directly with gps devices. Here is a site that offers a solution as does Bev Howard's web site. Here is a third site that has a solution for this problem. Another interesting discusion is a pc-mobile.net. Another problem that has been reported is the fact that the Axim thinks that all serial cable connections are active syncs and starts active sync that ties up the port. The trick to using a GPS that connects to the sync port is to first disable auto-sync (in the PPC's Activesync app, select tools > options and disable (uncheck) "Enable sync when cradled". If you want to build your own interface to the Axim X5 try this solution from Penthode.com.
The iPAQ H1910 does not have a serial port and the SD support doesn't seem to support I/O devices. There may not be a solution for this platform until some third party develops a USB solution with software to make the H1910 a USB master or some other inovative solution using the iR perhaps. If you want to build your own solution for an iR adapter try this solution. There is an announced solution from Avesta which is a french company but I have no details on how they did it.
It is also possible to add a serial port to pocketpc devices in some cases. If you really want a serial port there are Compact Flash to serial port adapters from Elan Digital or SocketCom.
There are also gps devices that are intended to hook to laptops because they have no storage or display capabilities. Because of their similar appearance these are often called a GPS Mouse. Many of these devices can also be hooked to a pocketpc. Most use a standard serial port so can be used just like the standalone units mentioned in the previous section. The Rand McNally unit, some units from Garmin, a new unit from Trimble (requires a custom turn on message), and several others fall into this category. You may need to figure out how to supply external power to these units as you cannot get power from the pocketpc itself. The Rand McNally units does have an external 12 volt adapter available from their web site support area and some of the others support internal batteries. Another unit is from Holux that features the same engine as their dedicated unit described below. In addition to the above units check the section below since these same manufacturers often make a gps mouse.
Delorme makes three units that can hook to a serial port. The Delorme products are similar to other laptop devices except that they do not speak standard NMEA (exept for the latest version) and are intended for use with Delorme software only. But, because of their popularity on pc's there are some other software products that can work with them. The older product called a "Tripmate" does use a mostly standard NMEA but requires a special initialization sequence to start it running. The newer "Earthmate" unit uses a Rockwell binary format. Check with the software maker you are interested in to see if they support the Tripmate or the Earthmate before attempting to use these products with the PPC. There is also a hardware solution, GST-1, available from Byonics. It offers translation from Rockwell binary format used on the Earthmate and the Sony Skymap receiver to standard NMEA protocol allowing these receivers to be used with Pocketpc programs that don't directly support the Rockwell format. Note that they also have a translator, GST-2, available for the Aisin GPS for those that want to build their own gps.
Earthmate also requires the DTR signal so be sure this signal is in any cable you build. One way to provide this is to build a male to male gender changer that wires 2/3 and 3/2. Also wire 6/4 and 4/6 to handle the DTR signal. You only need 4/6 one way but having it both ways means you can't plug the adapter in backwards. Note the DTR from the pocketpc will keep the earthmate receiver on all the time it is hooked up. You should unplug it when not in use to save batteries.
Delorme has announced a new gps that has a USB interface with a serial adapter on the way. It uses the SiRF chipset so it does have NMEA support and WAAS capability. Note that most pocketpc devices cannot servce as a USB host without third party software so serial is still the best choice.
Deluo Electronics has entered the pocketpc market with two offerings. A CF receiver (described below) and a universal mouse style product. They come with Rand McNally software or can be bundled with the Routis product. They have interface cables for standard serial port, USB, iPAQ 3600/3700/3800/3900, Jornada 548/568, and Dell Axim. There is a review of this product.
For commercial solutions see below. This section covers general information for users want to build their own cables or adapt existing cables. Pocketpc devices generally come with both serial ports and USB ports but since gps units use the serial port this section will focus on serial port connections.
With any of the above solutions you will probably need a cable to connect up the two units. You can fabricate your own using a cable with the appropriate GPS connector on one end and wired directly to the pocketpc via a connector or if you prefer you can try one of the solutions described in some of the links below.
Another solution is to get a pocketpc hotsync cable and a standard computer interface cable for your gps. Then obtain a male to male gender changer null modem adapter connector to hook them together. (Fry's has these.) If you can't get a male to male gender/null modem changer in one unit then you buy a male to male connector and add a gender changer adapter but the overall link of cables and adapters starts to get a bit messy at this point. You can make your own male to male gender changer by obtaining two male 9 pin connectors. Then you would wire pin 2 to pin 3, pin 3 to pin 2 and pin 5 (gnd) to pin 5.
For pinout data check this source for the ipaq. Another source for Ipaq and Garmin gps pinouts is kh-gps.de. For Jornada and some others try Bev Howard's page.
If you are building your own cables you will need some connectors. Some folks have been known to make their own connectors as well but generally it is easier just to buy them. A few sources for Garmin gps connectors include pfranc.com and pc-mobile.net.
There is an increasing need for commercial solutions to the cable interconnect problem. As new units are released many folks are unable to create all of the cables for themselves or would prefer to just buy a custom solution. To meet these needs there are now many companies that have cables to interface a gps to a pocket pc. I have tried to collect a list of them with a brief description of their products in the table below. Be aware that these companies are constantly coming out with new products so just because I don't mention support for a particular pocket pc unit doesn't mean that they do not produce a solution. Many of these companies offer generic interface cables and external power solutions as well, either for the gps or for the ppc or both. A few offer one cable solutions for specific gps units. I have a separate section in this document that covers issues of external mounting and power.
| ||cables for most PocketPC systems. Follow the retail links on their site to buy them.|
| ||Generic cables including small pigtail adapter cables for modems that can be used for standard gps cables (no null modem or gender changer needed). Search for 191002. One cable includes power as well. They have a new line of power/interface cables that can power both the gps and the pocketpc at the same time. I have a review of this product. They also have dongles for pcmcia/compact flash adapters if you lose yours.|
|Cables for Garmin and Magellan and most PocketPC units.|
|Pfranc has moved beyond just having connectors. They can also supply full cables these days. Note that Pfranc isn't just one company, they are a franchise with lots of companies in many countries. Most are individuals working out of their garage and many can supply custom solutions.|
||Cables for IPAQ and Jornada|
| ||PDA adapters.|
|A Hong Kong shop with IPAQ cables. No gps specific cables.|
|Custom cables for various gps to pocketpc devices. Features Garmin and Magellan specific interface cables. Will ship overseas from Australia.|
| ||. They have Garmin adapters and support for Compaq iPAQ, HP Jornada, CASIO E-115/e-125/e-500. They will ship overseas.|
|Garmin adapter cables for Compaq units.|
|Good seleciton of cables.|
One of the more popular gps connections to a PocketPC is to use a GPS that is designed to plug into a Compact Flash slot. The use of a Compact Flash GPS unit avoids cables entirely for many users, which is a real plus. In addition, most of these units obtain power directly from the PocketPC thus an external power source for the PocketPC unit will power both units. The flip side is that they will also run down the internal battery faster if you are not using external power. There are many CF devices shown below in the hardware specific section.
Garmin has released a CF receiver which includes door to door mapping and voice support. The receiver only works in Garmin mode so a program must support this mode to work with this receiver.
SDIO GPS devices are just around the corner. Check iGolfGPS for example.
Some gps devices use the pc-card (pcmcia) interface to laptops or to pcmcia enabled PocketPC units. There are adapters for these interfaces available on many pocketpc devices which will permit any of these devices to work on a pocketpc. Some of them are listed below in the section on pocket pc specific solutions. Bluetooth devices are also beginning to be dominant in the market.
You might look over the Emtac Crux unit as a source gps devices that support Bluetooth. They have pcmcia, CF, as well as the first BlueTooth model. Also check the Linkspoint GlobalPoint GPS although this may be the same model. There are now many new bluetooth devices on the market.
Another popular solution is to supply a sleeve or sled. These devices slide onto the back of the PocketPC and are specific to a particluar brand and perhaps even to a specific model. These are covered in the next section.
All ppc devices have an iR port so this solution may offer some possibilites.
In addition to the generalized gps receivers and other navigation hardware that can be connected to a pocketpc via a cable there have arisen several navigation devices that are specifically designed to be used with PocketPC devices or include specific pocketPC bundling. This section covers these devices. Note that many other companies include software/hardware solutions that provide gps units but these are usually one of the devices mentioned below.
There is a tendency among gps vendors on pocket pc products to bundle software in with their hardware offering. This is too bad since you have to sometimes make your hardware decision based on the bundled software. Often another company's software may include an option for some of the hardware in this list so you have to look around to get exactly what you want.
||Pharos have specific devices for most pocketpc hardware configurations. These include serial interface mouse style units and CF devices. They can be purchased with or without the PocketPC Navigator software.|
| ||The is a gps in a compact flash format from Pretec. It uses the SiRF chipset.|
| ||There are the folks that make the Pretec and they have some other nice units including the sapphire, a very small gps mouse. They use the SiRF chipset.|
| ||They sell gps in a compact flash format using the SiRF chipset and is WAAS capable. They also have a pcmcia version and either is available with or without software.|
| ||They provide a gps in compact flash form and have just announced a new iPAQ sleeve model. (used in the TravRoute CoPilot package)|
|This is a CF gps receiver from emtac. They also make a pcmcia version. TDC is a dealer in England that carries this while Mobit is dealer for this product in Italy. The description is in Italian but you can look at the pcmcia version that has a description in english or use a web translator. It uses the SiRF chipset and supports an external antenna.|
|Talon Technolgy is an New Zealand company that provides the hardware for many products for gps use incluing a model 34XX specifically for the ipaq using a sleeve attachment and includes a car mount and power adapter. Note that the NMEA mode on some units is at 57600 baud, but the latest firmware release for the 3000 series can negotiate the baud rate so that it can work on any software that supports NMEA. For europe try NavMan Europe Navman comes bundled with SmartST software if purchased from Navman, but the hardware is often bundled in other products as well. I do have a review of this product. There is also a review for their included software.|
|They have SiRF based gps units packaged as CF, PCMCIA, Mouse type, and standalone. The CF unit features the ability to support an external antenna. There is a review available for this product.|
|They make mouse and CF types based on SiRF chipset and make the unit that is shipped with the Destinator product.|
|Mouse, CF, and iPaq sleeve models. Comes bundled with street level map software.|
|A solution specifically designed for Cassio units and includes a car mount.|
|Tom Tom Navigator includes the Tomtom gps and power cable for car use and a car mount. The gps is usable world wide but the software is only available for Europe. Available for iPAQ, Jornada, and Casio. The gps receiver is from LeadTek.|
|NeoGPS includes 3 models of gps receivers for use with pocket pc and winCE devices including their own offering. Two models use a CF slot (one has its own batteries) while a third hooks to the hotsync port. Navigation software with street level mapping is included.|
|The Australia division of Magellan has announced a new GPS for iPAQ and Toshiba products. It uses a CF slot and provide mapping for Autstralia. I haven't seen a corresponding product for anywhere else yet.|
|Several new hardware gps units including a compact flash receiver, a bluetooth gps, and an add on attachment for symbol PDA's|
|RadioShack has also a mouse unit called DigiTraveler that is inexpensive. It is bundled with XMap from Delorme and has special adapters for iPAQ units as well as a standard 9-pin connector for WinCE devices or can be adapted to other units.|
|CF gps devices. include WAAS support using SiRF chipset.|
|CF gps with WAAS support using SiRF chipset.|
|CF gps with an adjustable antenna for optimum placement. Uses the lowpower SiRF chipset. From control vision corporation.|
|A Garmin CF based GPS with the Que software pioneered on the Palm platform. This product is only available as a bundle of hardware and software. This is a full featured voice guidance system with door to door routing. Uses Garmin City Select maps which are available for many areas of the world with extensive POI support. Can also use any of Garmin's extensive map sets. A PC mapping program is included. The GPS receiver only operates in Garmin mode.|
For a good list of gps accessories check the Mobile Planet web site.
The first thing to do if you have problems with your gps connection is to suspect the cable connection. Often there are several cables and adapters in use and a poor connection is always a possibility.
Once you are sure the connection is sound make sure the gps is putting out signals. Check the settings and ensure that your unit is set to NMEA out and then test the connection with a terminal emulator. There are several available for the pocket pc but the only free one I have found is tty.exe. This is a sample application in the pocket pc sdk download from Microsoft. It was shipped in earlier WinCE releases but is no longer shipped in the latest version. In any of the programs you will need to set up the serial port connection to 4800 baud, No parity, 8 bit words, and 1 stop bit. GPS receivers don't use rs232 handshaking so disable this if you can but don't worry too much about it if you can't.
Some shareware tty programs may be of use, or a utiltiy called WinFast Navigator CE from Leadtek Research Inc. This utility is an excellent troubleshooting tool, particularly for the SiRF chipset. View the development screen to see the NMEA messages.
If you can't connect to the serial port it may be that another program still has control of it. You could try a soft reset on the pocket pc to set the unit back to a pristine starting point. It is also possible that it is on a different port. The pocket pc has several serial ports. The serial hotsync port is generally com 1 but if the gps is hooked via another route it could be on any com port. For example, on the iPAQ 3970 the serial ports are assigned as: 1 - serial hotsync port, 2 - IrDa, 3 - IrComm, 4 - expansion, 5 - CIR Uart, 6 - 0100 (expansion connector port, this one is used by the Navman sleeve and CF products), 7 - BlueTooth send, 8 - BlueTooth receive, and 9 - the USB hotsync. One item to check for is the possibility of a keyboard driver tying up the port.
All gps receivers may need some help to achieve a rapid lock if they have been moved significantly since their last lock. For example if you travel more than 300 miles and then attempt to use your unit you may find that it takes a lot longer for the first lock. This time can easily exceed 5 minutes. Once it has achieved its first lock then the performance will go back to its normal time. It is possible to improve this first lock on time if you can initialize your receiver position so that it has an approximate starting location. Using a initialization capability can improve this first lock on time to 2 minutes or less. Most all standalone gps receivers include this ability but many of the units intended to interface with palmtops or laptops may depend in the software to provide this initialization data and not all programs are capable of doing this.
GPS receivers (with the exception of the Delorme and Magellan units) will automatically start issuing NMEA messages once this is enabled even if you don't have a fix yet. If you are testing where a fix cannot be obtained then use simulation mode if available. Once you turn on a telenet program you should see sentences appear on the display. You may get an error when turn on the interface since it is totally asynchronous to the terminal program and it may require trying a couple of time to get success. Once connected you will see the data scroll pretty fast so you will have to turn off the interface to actually read the messages. Be sure that the sentences being sent are the ones the program you are using needs. If you don't know then check with the author if you have problem with a particular program after verifying this. Some gps devices have options to include or exclude certain sentences.
Sentences begin with a $, a sentence name, and then are followed with all of the data separated by commas. Some sentences you are likely to see are $GPRMC, $GPGGA, or $GPGSA. These are some of the favorite sentences but there are plenty of others. If you see this data then the interface is working properly. The $GPGSA sentence can be used to verify if the gps has a current fix. The first entry after the sentence title is A for active and the second entry is a number that indicates the status of the fix. A 1 - no fix yet, 2 - a 2D fix, and 3 - a 3D fix.
Once you have verified the connection then start the program you want to use and make sure the settings in the program are correct as noted above. Some upload/download programs use a different protocol that is not NMEA so you will need to reset your gps to match the protocol and settings you need. If you are working with Delorme units you will need to select this option and may need to supply the initialization messages and other data. Check your documentation for this information. Some programs have a gps interface page that can be used to verify connection but some don't. Some programs may not work if the location the gps is sending is not on one of the maps you have loaded. Be sure the gps position is on the map and change it in the simulator if needed. Check your program documentation and note whatever status information is available to indicate gps readiness. This is often an icon up in the corner of the screen so it is easy to overlook.
A GPS obtains a lock best when it has a clear sky view and is stationary. If possible get it started a minute or so before you leave. While it will achieve a lock while moving the time will be longer if you drive under any wires or trees while it is trying to get its first lock.
If your gps quits working with some software but still works with others it is likely that some software has changed the NMEA messages that are being sent. This particularly true of the SiRF chipset since the NMEA messages are fully customizable. The program WinFast Navigator CE from Leadtek Research Inc can be used to fix this.
While mounting your palmtop in a vehicle is not unique to gps usage the new Unimount system provides some essential features to solve some of the palmtops major problems when using it for navigation. Not only do they offer a good mounting system but also provide for externally powering the palmtop unit. They have released a unit specifically for the ipaq.
Many pocketpc's have mounts available from the manufacturer but also check Ram Mount for some robust solutions. Less expensive solutions are available from The Clip. There are others as well including some from Teletype and Pharos GPS vendors. Arkon makes a number of units that are available from many vendors. Or check Proclip for custom vehicle solutions.
For mounts that solve a multitude of problems you might consider a powered PDA mount with a built-in speaker, it can also serve to charge your PPC as well as amplifing the volume for GPS programs with voice output. Arkon and Seidio make almost exactly the same mounts and you can choose from 3 different mounting styles - suction cup arm, doublesided stickey-tape dashboard mount, or vent mount.
Most if not all PocketPC models use rechargeable batteries. This can lead to problems when using them in an environment where a charger or external power is not available. The solution is to have a battery box than can be used to recharge the internal battery. One source for battery cases for lots of PDA's is wholesale-pda-accessories. Other sources include Teletype and Pc-mobile.net. An expensive but universal solution is from Laptopsforless. Also check the cable suppliers mentioned above. They may also have power solutions such as Pc-mobile.net
Perhaps you need to charge your PDA and you are on a week long hike. The solution may be a solar charger from Silicon Solar.
One really important consideration if you intend to use you palmtop for navigation is protection. Most Pocketpc units are not waterproof and are not particularly shock resistant. For most folks some sort of protective covering may be useful.
One issue is waterproofness. This can be solved with a plastic bag such as aquapac or Eastman or perhaps an inexpensive ziplock bag. The Eastman link will also yield some other sources for waterproof bags, while the Aquapac link also has some waterproof cases with extra protection for the faceplate. The units can be operated while remaining inside the protective cover although stylus operation can be a bit tricky. Some bags are large enough to contain the gps as well which will work fine while inside the bag.
There are many cases available for palmtop units which offer some protection but for hiking use they generally fall a bit short of the mark. For mechanical protection you might want to look at the armored unit from Otter Box. This box, based on an earlier storage box, allows the pocketpc to be used while providing shock protection. There is a clear plastic panel on the front that provides viewing and stylus access and a belt clip accessory provides a place to carry your palmtop. Unfortunately the current model cannot be used with a gps attached unless the gps is really small. Future models are planned with cable access.
Another suite of cases is available from PocketGoods. They
have protective cases with room for CF cards and have cases with a
serial port connector on the box that is suitable for a GPS
Tips and productivity accessories
If you are using a program that outputs voice prompts in your car and they are not loud enough or clear enough I would suggest the iRock 300 or 400 wireless music adapter. This plugs into the headphone jack on the ppc and transmits the signal via the car fm radio. It can be purchased at many electronic stores including RadioShack. Another choice would be a cassette adapter that works by plugging it into your cassette player. These are available from many sources, or you can even build your own.
For mobile use the need to use a stylus can be a problem. Unfortunately many of the programs insist on navigating via menus and it can be hard to click menus in a moving vehicle. One solution is to use a finger stylus. This device is inexpensive and much easier to hit what you want.
One of the problems with using a pocketpc in the field is that there is no place to recharge the batteries which can run down in only a few hours when you use the backlight and a gps unit that obtains power from the ppc. One solution is to bring along some spare batteries and use something like this recharger to put some life back into your ppc. Another source of a similar charger is Pc-mobile.net.
Some of you iPAQ users may wish that you had a dual CF sleeve for gps and some maps. You might like to check out PiTech.com. They have a dual CF or CF/memory stick that has the second slot on the side allowing it to be used easily even when a gps is occupying the slot at the top. A side benefit is that you can also use your screen cover that came with the iPAQ with this sleeve to offer some protection for the screen.
When an Pocket PC is used in a car the shiny screen can have mirror like reflections than make the data difficult to see. One solution to this problem is to use a screen protector like the ones from PPC-Techs. These protectors have a matte finish that can significantly reduce reflections. Another protector that reduces glare is one from Brando Workshop. Another good protector is from BoxWave.com.
As with other gps receivers, pocket pc receivers can often benefit from an external antenna. If they won't accept one then a re-radiating antenna may be the solution. They are readily available from a number of sources. These can improve lock times and susceptablity to noise. They may also be necessary if the windshield of your car has a metallic finish built-in, as some do. One source for a battery powered unit is pc-mobile.net.
How about a full VGA display and no compromise on portability? Try Second Sight which is a wearable viewer that uses a CF slot to plug into a pocketpc or win-ce handhelds. It is a 640x480 display viewer attached to a headset. Not all tools support full resolution but memory-map professional does.
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By Dale DePriest - All rights reserved.