Heading in the Right Direction with GPS

It’s easy to see why portable global-positioning-system (GPS) devices have grown to be among the hottest tech products in the incentive market. While navigation systems are being built into more new vehicles, that doesn’t help one of your employees if he or she is driving a rental car on an out-of-town business trip or is trying to find his or her way while walking around a new city during a vacation. A GPS unit employs a receiver that can communicate with orbiting satellites to determine the user’s precise geographic location, which is then overlaid on a map that the device displays. While GPS technology was developed by the U.S. military back in the early 1970s, it’s only in the last few years that GPS receivers have been offered commercially as handheld devices. These units now either have enough built-in storage to hold maps of the entire United States (and more) or offer slots that accept flash-memory cards that store those maps.

The following GPS products show the wide range of mobile devices that are using the technology, which include everything from iPod-like units to add-ons for BlackBerry devices and Treo smartphones. Magellan Maestro 4050 The Maestro 4050 has one of the latest features GPS devices are now offering–live traffic updates. It can provide directions via voice as well as on-screen and can respond to voice commands to provide the nearest locations of ATMs, hotels, and restaurants. Its Bluetooth support lets your valued employee make hands-free cell-phone calls, and its 2GB of built-in memory holds street maps of the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

$599.95, www.sharperimage.com

Garmin Mobile 20

For those who would prefer not to have a separate GPS device, the Mobile 20 can provide GPS functionality to a wide range of smartphones. (A special version, Garmin Mobile for BlackBerry with GPS 20SM, is available for BlackBerry devices.) A car mount for the user’s phone contains a GPS receiver, while a data card with navigational software and maps slips into the phone’s expansion slot. The mount’s built-in speaker, microphone, and Bluetooth support provide hands-free calling for the user. $299, www.garmin.com TomTom GO 910 A GPS device that can pull double duty as a portable MP3 player, the GO 910 is equipped with a spacious 20GB hard drive to hold thousands of music tracks, audio books or digital photos, as well as complete maps of the United States, Canada, and Europe. The 910’s text-to-speech functions allow it to announce street and address information and even read text messages from select cell phones.

$499.95, www.incentiveconcepts.com

SkyGolf SkyCaddie SG2

Believe it or not, GPS can even help employees or clients on the golf course. The SkyCaddie can track the precise distance you are from the hole on any course. An additional SkyPlayer membership gives the user access to navigational information on thousands of courses (via a PC), or he or she can just manually chart any course in a few steps. The device can even track the distance of each shot a player takes. $279.99, www.crutchfield.com

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