Talon hooks up GPS to handhelds

When Nick Maire tells you to get lost, he means it in the nicest possible way.

Maire is international sales and marketing manager at Talon Technology, a Kiwi company based on Auckland's North Shore that builds global positioning satellite devices for anything from fish finders to the burgeoning car anti-theft market. The latest devices attach to both Palm and Compaq's iPaq handheld devices and Talon claims to lead the pack in several areas of GPS development.

"We partner with companies in the various markets around the world like Rand McNally in the US," says Maire, referring to the giant US mapping company. Talon has been working with Rand McNally for a year, offering a GPS solution for Palm's operating system. "It's a sleeve, similar to the iPaq design, that clips on the back of the Palm."

Software, in the form of maps and tools, comes from the partner firm in whichever market Talon is working. A version for the iPaq is due out in the US in second half of the year in partnership with Travroute Systems and the New Zealand equivalent will launch around the same time.

The iPaq model can use either the device's own internal memory or the flash sticks in either 32MB or 64MB varieties. GPS systems are typically very low on power consumption, around 32 milliamps, and the drain on batteries is "hardly noticeable", says Maire.

Future products from the North Shore company include voice activation modules, aimed at the dashboard models, as well as modules that work in conjunction with laptops instead of handhelds. "The screen size is obviously better and you have colour screens as well," says Maire.

Don't expect to see a GPS beacon in a small cellphone in the near future, however. "That may be a way off yet - there are probably better ways of pinpointing location using triangulation of cellsites and so on."

The handheld add-on units will retail for probably around $600 to $700 in New Zealand, says Maire. "It's a true consumer product rather than a business product."

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