JIS News

Lost on the road and unsure of the correct route to take? With the launch of Jamaica’s first Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) navigation system, getting lost while driving can become a thing of the past.
By just plotting in the destination, the digital road map, which was developed by the Mona Geo-informatics Institute (MGI), will recommend the route to be followed, giving turn-by-turn directions from a starting point to the final stop.
In an interview with JIS News, Director of the MGI, Dr. Parris Lyew-Ayee Jr., says that the device, which is installed in the car, is user-friendly and is “for anyone who can get lost.”
“Housewives can use it…expatriates and diplomats, tourists, taxi men and auto dealers,” he adds.
The system features 10,000 Jamaican roadways and 69 categories, including police stations, attractions, banks, post offices, gas stations, restaurants, dentist offices, cemeteries, and churches.
In highlighting the safety aspects of the device, Dr. Lyew-Ayee notes that “we have pre-programmed the system to avoid crime hot spots.”
“Let us say you are in Kingston and want to reach Ocho Rios…while going through Spanish Town would be shortest route.the system would give the Spanish Town bypass as the option.”
He informs that the device can give directions in various languages, which include Chinese, French and Portuguese and the Jamaican accent will soon be added.
According to the MGI Director, the multi-million dollar project took two and a half years to be developed and was funded from money generated “by doing work outside. We then reinvested it into the research and development of this project.”
He says that one of the main intentions of the product is to take geography to the mainstream, “this is something that people, who proudly boast that they cannot read a map, they can now play with technological devices and this is where we can (merge) technology and maps,” he says.
He notes that the technology can be used “in many other non navigation purposes, including enhanced tracking systems, (and) property identification.”
Deputy Director at MGI, Alva Maxam, notes that the main challenge in introducing the technology was that “most of the roads were not named and for those roads that were numbered, the numbers were not sequential…and the numbers for some of the lots were fractions. That kind of numbering system could not work on a system like this. What we decided to do was have you navigate to the road itself.”
“You can actually type in the name of the road on the system and it will navigate it to the road,” she explains.
In terms of cost, she says that the starting price is $11,500, to install the data on the unit, and the units vary in cost from US$150 to about US$1,200.
“So, what you will do is buy the unit and then we put the data on it at the additional cost. You can order a unit through us in which case you are looking at about $35,000 for the package,” she adds.
Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, who was at the launch, endorsed the technology, noting that it is actually being used in the Ministry.
“We just completed a mapping of banana plantations throughout the country and it is something that we would like to do more of. It helps us in terms of tracking farming activities whether in cattle or in crop production,” he informs.
“It can help us in praedial larceny, (and) in terms of disaster assessment, so it is important to use it in agriculture as well as in other areas,” Dr. Tufton says.
Dr. Tufton further informs that time will be spent in exploring the device to determine how its usage can be increased within the sector.
First year student, at the University of Technology (UTech), Tarique McFarlane, notes that the navigation system will help a lot of individuals, not only Jamaicans but also tourists as they will have easier access to information in finding their destination.
“Especially for me, I am a university student and I really do not know Kingston as I am from the rural area, so it will assist me a lot in finding places,” she asserts, noting that “this is a good thing for Jamaica.”
In the meantime, Dr. Lyew-Ayee urges users to use the device responsibly and safely. “Nobody is telling you to keep staring at the GPS and not look ahead of you when you are driving, nobody is telling you to slavishly follow the commands that this thing is going to be ‘barking’ at you. You are going to need to use commonsense when you are using this product,” he says.