Nurfika Osman & Anita Rachman
In the past, when you got lost while driving in the middle of nowhere there were few options other than to pull over and ask a friendly local for directions, a system that for the most part worked pretty well.
Those days, however, have passed and people today are increasingly relying on high-tech Global Positioning Systems to point them in the right direction, whether traversing the confusing maze of streets in Jakarta or exploring the back roads of the country.
Vendors in the country say the demand for GPS for personal vehicles has grown steadily over the past two years, and they do not expect the trend to slow down.
Aridan Widyatama, a bank employee, said on Friday that he had installed a GPS in his car to help keep him orientated.
“I need it. I’m bad at directions and the GPS I put in my car helps me a lot,” Aridan said.
He added that he bought his GPS in 2008 for Rp 4.1 million ($440) at West Jakarta’s Glodok electronics center.
Kartika Rani, a housewife who frequently hits the road with her children and college friends, also had nothing but good things to say about her GPS.
“I don’t mind spending Rp 4.5 million on a GPS for my car as long as I can arrive safely at the places I want to visit,” Kartika said. She bought her GPS in 2007.
Last year her husband also installed a GPS on his motorbike at a cost of just Rp 1.1 million.
Toni Achmad said he used his GPS simply because he was a gadget freak, rather than having any real need for it.
“I really love gadgets and that’s the reason I use GPS while driving. It seems to me that using GPS is cool,” he said, adding that he paid Rp 4 million for his GPS back in 2006.
“I also like the sound of ‘turn right’ and ‘turn left’ while I am using the unit,” he said.
Gunaris, who works for a store that sells GPS, surveying tools and maps in Pondok Labu, South Jakarta, said GPS technology had advanced markedly in recent years.
“More people are buying GPS units for their cars and it’s also getting more popular with the biker community,” Gunaris said. “Lifestyle trends have definitely had an affect on how many GPS units we sell.”
Gunaris said GPS sales had doubled from 2008 to 2009.
He said the Nuvi 205 series for cars, which sells for Rp 2.3 million per unit, was among his store’s most popular devices.
“That is the cheapest one available, but its accuracy is good,” he said.
He added that the Edge 705, which costs Rp 5.7 million, was the best-selling GPS model for bikes.
Gunaris said that he dealt with 20 to 30 customers a day.
“On average, we can sell 10 GPS units a day,” he said.
With dealers in 50 locations in large cities such as Jakarta, Surabaya and Pontianak, Gunaris is optimistic that GPS technology will remain popular.
Sidik Mulyono, an engineer at the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), told the Jakarta Globe that GPS receivers began to hit the Indonesian market when the United States started to offer information from its GPS satellite system to the public for free.
“It was probably in about the 1990s that GPS receivers first began to be sold in this country,” Sidik said.
The technology is mostly used to monitor positions, he said, adding that he had seen significant growth in the use of the technology in Indonesia. “And it still has more room to grow,” he added.
Sidik said, however, that not everyone who had the technology actually used the GPS information to its full potential.
He said only certain commercial interests, such as taxi or oil companies, were making effective use of GPS data, primarily to monitor how their vehicles travel from one point to another.
“In fact, people with smartphones can also benefit from the data provided by GPS satellites,” he said. “Most people don’t know that their cellphones can provide these kinds of alternative services.”
According to Sidik there has not been enough done to educate the public about the ability of smartphones to provide these kinds of enhanced services, in addition to the commonly used SMS, phone calls and browsing technology.
“GPS will give you information about your current position, and at the same time it can show you roads and maps,” he said.
In neighboring countries like Malaysia and Singapore, he said, people have benefited from GPS being used to provide information to the public. Some countries, for example, provide the location of trains or buses to people waiting at stations.
He said this kind of service had yet to be provided for Indonesian train and bus passengers.
Sidik said the accuracy of the data depended on the GPS receiver, but added that nearly all of today’s receivers had little problem delivering accurate data. In addition to providing location data, GPS can also provide information about altitude, he said.
“I am sure this technology is expanding and that there are still other applications that can be developed from data sent by GPS satellite,” he said.