Maps on your PDA: Simple Stuff #6 - A Handful of Demographics in Real Time

By Hal Reid

While we have been looking at mapping on both the Palm-based PDAs and the CE based PDAs so we could see our Franchise territories.One of the applications that seemed to immediately bring the PDA out of the address book and calendar mode was Demographics for the Real Estate Rep.

This, of course, brings me to a story.

Not too far back in time, I was in our booth at the ICSC in Las Vegas.One of our Real Estate Reps had just fired up her laptop when a Shopping Center developer came in and asked her if she would be interested in a pad location that he had in her area.Using I-SITE on her laptop, she identified that the population growth was very negative, the income and other variables were way off from our profile and from her knowledge of the area.It was a loser.The developer faded quietly away.

At the same ICSC, Jim Stone, president of geoVue, showed me one of his latest apps (at the time) running on the Palm VII.He was able to connect in real time to his demographic server, enter an address on the Palm, and have the top half dozen or so demographics appear on the Palm's screen in real time.Pretty cool.Yes, a useful wireless application!

The problem with entering an address, there is always the chance it will not match or will match on the wrong side of town, because the system cannot find North Main, or "South Whoknowswhere Avenue." A better approach would be to use a GPS receiver and capture the actual location coordinates and get the demographics from there.Coordinates match every time.

Using the Palm VIIx and my Palm 705 to see if there was a GPS expansion module for it.It was inferred in the literature, but I haven't been able to find one listed for sale.The Handspring Treo doesn't have its' traditional expansion slot and I haven't seen a GPS module for it either.The literature on the Treo speaks to supporting GPS positioning for 911, but it isn't there yet.

This brings me back to the Palm VIIx and the NavMan.Both of these units work as advertised and I can currently capture a Lat/Long to the Memo Pad and email it to geoVue or mail it to myself and put it in geoVue's ISITE software on my laptop.Not well integrated, but it proves the possibilities.

When you look at the total cost, about $199 for the Palm VIIx, about the same for the NavMan, plus free GPS capture software from Cetus, it is not a bad buy.The NavMan soundly attaches to the Palm and feels like quality.It also fits in your pocket.

If I could have the perfect device, it would be the form factor of the Visor, with the GPS, wireless and the digital camera all built in and weigh about 5 ounces.It would be the perfect field kit for Real Estate Reps.

Remember that in our opening story, our Real Estate Rep has already booted up her laptop and so it only took a short while get ISITE running to do the demographics.If she had started cold, the boot time plus loading the application would have made the story a non-starter.The Palm O/S and the CE devices are on immediately; the point capture by the GPS takes less than 30 seconds (cold start); and the transit time to and from the demographic server should be about the same time.So in less than a minute, you could have the basic demographics and a sales forecast, too.

Sure beats using the address book.Then again, maybe not.

Published Wednesday, March 27th, 2002

Written by Hal Reid

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