Last week's Switched On explained how Dash Navigation's use of wireless technology intends to teach the GPS bloodhound some new tricks, but the company plans to primarily use its new design to tackle two of the hottest trends in portable navigation. Many GPS units now offer real-time traffic information based only on incident reporting, and the devices are not very intelligent about weighing the traffic in alternative routes to determine the fastest path. As a result, you could drive off of the freeway and into the fire. In contrast, Dash's traffic esimates are based on traffic flow. It begins with a historical database of what traffic speeds are like for sections of highways at specific times of the day.
Beyond that, Dash GPS units act as probes, reporting back on actual speed of cars on those segments. This clues in those who come after them about construction and other aberrations from traffic patterns. To do this effectively, though, Dash must take advantage of a network effect; the company estimates that a few thousand Dash units should provide good coverage of major roadways within large cities.
While the Dash unit includes a point of interest database, it can use its connectivity to query a local search engine such as those offered by Yahoo! and Google, leveraging the efficient if fallible semantic categorizations that these Web-based local search engines offer. Typing in practically any word will return listings, even if they are not in the title of the business. For example, typing "burrito" might return local Mexican restaurants that have them on the menu. Dash is also exploring RSS feeds -- a natural fit for this kind of device -- as well as enhanced business listings that might include, for example, hours of operation.