CES - Mapping products show the way at CES

Geographic positioning technology might come in handy when navigating the thousands of vendor booths and pavilions at the Consumer Electronics Show here, but the clever new products in that genre target applications closer to home.

One combines a GPS, a mobile phone, and a pager to help you keep track of your kids. Wherify Wireless Inc. positions the product, which looks like a slightly oversized wristwatch, as a kind of OnStar for children.

A child wears this device like a watch. When you want to know exactly where he or she is, give or take a foot or two, you sign onto the Wherify Web site and see the location on either a street map or aerial map. If you can't get online, you can call the company for a report.

You can also place the Wherify watch in "breadcrumb" mode and follow the wearer's path. For now, Wherify Wireless is positioning it as a way to find your child, but future versions might be used to help locate Alzheimer victims or to track stolen goods, product shipments, and so on. The product costs US$399 plus a $24.99 monthly service fee.

Other Map Utilities

Timex Corp. has teamed with GPS manufacturer Garmin Ltd. to produce a two-piece device called the Ironman Speed and Distance System, which tracks distance for joggers, bikers, skiers, or anyone else who wants to see how far they've gone in a set amount of time.

The $200 package includes a wristwatch that looks like a normal digital watch and a small device about the size of a large beeper that contains the GPS technology. You can wear the GPS unit on your belt or around your arm.

Also, Rand McNally & Co. has combined its StreetFinder software with Magellan's GPS and produced a mapping product for Palm 500 devices.

You run the application on your PC, selecting the area you want to cover. When you sync your Palm Inc., the map is loaded onto the handheld. The software provides hands-off assistance like audio prompts and directions in enlarged type to guide you without distracting you from driving. Whether you're walking or driving, it also points out points of interest along the way such as stores or restaurants. The kit, including accessories like a mount for your car, costs around $200.

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Andrew Eisner

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