GPS Automotive Navigation in Pakistan

Posted on April 5, 2009
Filed Under >Shahid Saeed, Science and Technology, Travel
34 Comments
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Shahid Saeed

Automotive Navigation Systems have become extremely popular all over the world in today’s world. They are used extensively in major cities around the globe; by everyday people, by taxi drivers and by the general public of the city. The bigger the city, the more the need for a navigation system.

The images above show directions in the Rawalpindi-Islamabad twin cities area – more detail below

Sadly, we Pakistanis have long been deprived of this technology but finally we have working SatNav in Pakistan. Improper urban planning, lack of technical infrastructure and lack of voluntary efforts are the three main reasons SatNav has remained ineffective for Pakistan. While major companies are not keen in investing here keeping in mind the not so high revenue they would generate, the people have themselves not created maps for themselves because they want everything for free.

The biggest player in satellite navigation today, Garmin and TomTom have not developed any maps for Pakistan. They don’t see a reason why they should do so. But they have been gracious enough to provide software (and people have developed even better ones) to create maps capable of running on their GPS devices. A bunch of volunteers have dedicated quite a long time in creating maps for many cities of Pakistan and I’ll be explaining the extent to which these maps are effective later on.

Free Online Maps:

The two biggest names in community created online free for all maps are OpenStreetMap and Google MapMaker. The main difference between the two is that OpenStreetMap provides its map data under a Creative Commons license, any maps created by users of Google Map Maker are the intellectual property of Google. Both are community created and with time, they have developed quite detail. For cities like Islamabad and Karachi, they present a very high detail and therefore are a success for the online community. Google has promised that with time it will verify the integrity of the created maps and then export them to Google Maps.

A comparison between the two (location: PIMS – Jinnah Avenue Interchange, Islamabad) can be seen below :

Google Map Maker:

Open Street Map:

The level of detail as seen in the above pictures is quite satisfactory for pre-departure route planning.

Naqsha.net:

This was Pakistan’s first interactive map website. They provide two different online versions of their maps. One uses overlayed layers on Google Maps while the interactive maps utilize Adobe SVG Viewer to provide very good street level maps of all major cities of the country. The interactive maps also allow a user to plan a route quite easily. The same intersection is shown in Naqsha.net’s hybrid viewer below :

The best thing is that they provide excellent routing capabilities. The fastest or shortest distance calculations it does are indeed the ones which anybody could easily use.

Naqsha.net also provides maps for Garmin devices, and many people have utilized their maps.

Garmin Maps (Provided by http://pkmaps.freeforums.org/)

A bunch of what I can assume are GPS enthusiasts have worked hard to develop these Garmin compatible maps. Using free software available over the Internet, they have worked tirelessly to create maps for Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Wah Cantt. Indexed (means address searchable) versions are also available. The forum encourages open source map creation and does not allow discussion about cracking/unlocking premium maps available for the region.

Using maps provided by this community, I have been able to install a perfectly working Garmin Mobile XT. The GPS chip in my Nokia E71 is of course not the greatest, and I am able to lock my location in a minimum of 13m radius.

A-GPS (Assisted GPS), which primarily works by locating your position roughly by comparing your cell site on the cellular network to an existing databese of these cells/towers and thus triangulate you, is of course of hardly any use. The maps developed by these chaps provide a very good detail and make navigation for an unfamiliar person at least easy (of course the address in hand would be 3rd house on the right, after the second turn under the Pine Tree).

The setup demonstrated below is by using a Nokia E71 and Garmin Mobile XT. Garmin’s software was of course cracked using a keygen, but the maps provided by pkmaps are free to distribute. The onboard GPS has provided me continuously with even 8m lock.

As a demonstration, I want to bring to attention the title photos of this post above. These pictures show a drive from my home in Rawalpindi to Jinnah Super Market in Islamabad. The maps were of course not up to date, but will provide a relief to somebody new in the city. I am working on improving the Rawalpindi section of the twin city maps, and with even more volunteers we can create a very detailed navigation map.

Tracking World:

Naqsha.net has teamed up with Tracking world to provide Garmin SatNav units preloaded with maps. In-car GPS navigation is not available in Pakistan. The unit provides a range from in-car dash mounted devices to devices for motorbikes.

There is also a unit which can be integrated with the vehicle’s DVD/entertainment unit and displays the navigational information on it. Existing Garmin users also have the option to buy the map for their specific unit.

The map has street level detail of major Pakistani cities and all major national highways. Streets are labeled and searchable for Islamabad, Lahore and some parts of Karachi.

In addition there are close to 40,000 POIs such as fuel/CNG stations, banks, ATMs, hospitals, restaurants (categorised), hotels, shops, etc. Most POIs have address and phone number information available as well. Units equipped with FM transmitters and Bluetooth allow hands free dialing from the unit and are able to integrate with the vehicles’s audio system as well.

The current base unit, Garmin Nuvi 200w, retails for Rs. 29,750. If you are in Lahore, visit the display centre at Tracking World (Pvt) Ltd. For people in Islamabad units are on display at Hi Volts (F-8 Markaz) and Illusions (F-7 Markaz). You may also call at 042-111-22-66-66 for details.

Trakker Group:

Like Naqsha.net they also claim to be the first to introduce SatNav in Pakistan.

Trakker Group provides car tracking for personal or commercial use. They stepped into sat nav couple of years back.
The in car SatNav provided by Trakker has extensive maps for Karachi District. The very small number of customers who have used their service are extremely satisfied with their product as it has very good routing capabilities. The limitation remains the maps being for Karachi only as of now. The system provided with them has DVD playback and other benefits as well but is very costly.

Note: Versions of this post have also appeared here and here.

ATP’s Other Posts:

RFID Based E-toll System introduced on Pakistan Motorway

34 Comments on “GPS Automotive Navigation in Pakistan”

  1. Owais Mughal says:
    April 5th, 2009 11:42 am

    Shahid this is very informative. I have a question on the software. How are street names super imposed on satellite images? I believe the maps are satellite images but then how to add street names to these images? is it a manual process where somebody adds street names?.

    You mentioned using community based Google map maker to get street names but I noticed map maker full of mistakes and unnecessary details e.g. people have named cross-section of their street names by what it is called locally e.g ‘chajoo da chaubaara’ instead of its official name like Chaudhry Khaliq-uz-zaman intersection etc. Can you comment on this whether it is reliable to use google map maker to make GPS navigation software for streets?

  2. Umar Shah says:
    April 5th, 2009 12:15 pm

    This was very informative. Thanks for educating me on the subject.

  3. ASAD says:
    April 5th, 2009 1:59 pm

    Wow. great article and very informative. Very glad this work is being done.

  4. Aamer says:
    April 5th, 2009 2:20 pm

    I am happy to see the turn by turn directions w/maps. We can use GPS with maps in any part of the world but turn by turn directions are not available everywhere.

  5. Kamran says:
    April 5th, 2009 3:14 pm

    Wow. One of the best articles in recent history. When I was living in Khi, I always used to get lost, and now that I am a GPS *insert explitive here* I was hoping that a GPS system can be developed for Pakistan.

    The guys who worked on these maps have my immense support. I think they should have a paypal donate button on their website through which we can contribute for their great efforts. It’s always so rewarding to see the great brains in Pakistan being put to good constructive use.

  6. Zoufishan says:
    April 5th, 2009 6:33 pm

    Visiting Pakistan I always found it difficult travelling around Pindi/Isloo. Even finding a map in the bookshops was difficult, which was v.annoying :(
    So you can imagine how HAPPY I am; about theGPS automotive tracking system being implemented in PaK. Lets hope it informs us about the Toll Plazas etc, in good time.
    Is Naqsha.net an independant body creating maps, or is it part of Pakistans Defense Department? If maps have not been created for the others cities, surely the government have had this in place well before now, and therfore should liase with Garmin to make the maps availiable to the general public.
    Shortest routes will be most appreciated by MOI!!:)

  7. Aliya says:
    April 5th, 2009 7:07 pm

    This is really a very heartening post. Specially because it shows the voluntary efforts of people and programmers in Pakistan to fill an important gap. That is the type of team spirit that is needed in Pakistan more.

  8. ASAD says:
    April 5th, 2009 11:52 pm

    Interesting how many people claim to be the “first in Pakistan” :-)

  9. April 6th, 2009 2:48 am

    @Owais Mughal

    Street names are added using built in features which allow the person to create a road on the satellite image and then name it. Direction of traffic,type of road, traffic conditions can also be specified easily.

    As for the mapmaker, the problem of people naming places in the local lingo is still there, but one can become an area moderator on mapmaker and therefore look after all the editing going in his neighbourhood, making sure it keeps cleans

    @Zoufishan

    Naqsha is an independent company

  10. stelt says:
    April 6th, 2009 4:35 am

    It says you need the Adobe SVG Viewer. Every browser except Internet Explorer has SVG built-in nowadays, please make sure it works on those as well.

  11. Rafique says:
    April 6th, 2009 11:52 am

    This is a heartening post for many reasons.

    technologically it is great to see this technology now being available in Pakistan because this is something clearly and greatly needed.

    socially it is great to see Pakistani experts coming together to create the maps and make this technology available, technologies like this make such collaboration possible but it is good to see the will to do this. It does not matter who didi it first but so happy that it did happen.

    politically it gives hope that if we can get together to do things like this then maybe we can also do so for other things?

  12. krash says:
    April 6th, 2009 11:57 am

    It is indeed heartening to see private persons in Pakistan working together to overcome the hurdles created by the inefficiencies of our governments.

  13. Owais Mughal says:
    April 6th, 2009 2:19 pm

    Shahid

    The software which allows names to be added to satellite images; does it come with the GPS device or is it something that is indigenously made by programmers in Pk?

  14. Andrew says:
    April 7th, 2009 8:30 pm

    ………Interesting

  15. April 8th, 2009 9:04 pm

    Great Post

  16. iblees says:
    April 9th, 2009 9:52 am

    Whoa! Whoa! Slow down guys, GPS? SatNav? You’re going too fast for a country that doesn’t even have street level [paper] maps of major tourist attractions!

    If GSP (geological survey of pakistan) manages to pull even street maps of main cities, that will be helluva improvement.

  17. Owais Mughal says:
    April 9th, 2009 10:20 am

    iblees, that is the advantage of technology. One can skip traditional steps of development e.g with ubiquity of cell phones, there is no need provide land lines of telephone in far flung areas. Peeople can skip one step of development and go directly to next. Same goes for the map industry. If sat imaging can be made cheaper, paper map industry will be redundant.

  18. farooq says:
    April 17th, 2009 1:22 pm

    Dear All, here in Hyderabad we are working on Hyderabad city, guide maps are not difficult, we can use google earth for important areas, where .6m meter data is available ,through interns we digitize whole Pakistan urban settlements

  19. Owais Mughal says:
    April 17th, 2009 1:54 pm

    Farooq that is great to hear about digital mapping of Hyderabad. Are you doing it as hobby or is it an educational or a commercial effort?

  20. June 6th, 2009 9:16 am
  21. Shuaib says:
    June 22nd, 2009 3:03 pm

    There is another advance solution. Navigate Pakistan , Maps with house number details. visit http://www.ghop.pk

  22. July 8th, 2009 10:48 pm

    Dear Mr. Shahid Saeed,

    The article was indeed very good. Naqsha.net has recently improved itself with more detailed maps and a lot of new cities being introduced.

    We had a halt in between due to some piracy issues, but they are now to some extent solved. We would be very thank full if you could along with us help create awareness among people about

  23. Ather Syed says:
    November 18th, 2009 3:09 pm

    I dont live in Pakistan but love if we could have this technology in Pakistan. Our problem is that we blame others for what we do wrong. The day we will stop blaming others and starting working on ourself from scratch, we will for sure Insallah will emerge as great nation. No leader will come and fix us unless we fix ourself. I strongly recommend people to do as much volunteer work as possible, we cannot sit all day at home and do nothing…. I know I am totally off the topic :) But yeah I am glad that there is someone concerned about GPS

  24. December 5th, 2009 5:42 am

    Hello:

    I have a 2006 Reconditioned Toyota Corolla in Karachi / Pakistan. GPS system and Screen is installed but I need an appropriate Software to be uploaded to enable Pakistan Cities (especially / particular for Karachi).

    Can some help me provide latest / updated software with its installation assistance in Karachi.

    Regards
    Dr. Saleem Siddiqi
    cdeeky@Laojee.com

  25. February 8th, 2010 6:41 am

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  26. February 18th, 2010 2:02 pm

    AOA:

    I have a reconditioned TOYOTA Corolla 2006 model Car in Karachi with GPS is factory fitted in it. I need to put Karachi maps in it.
    How it can be done economically with the latest GPS maps.
    If any one would assist, I will be obliged.
    Regards

    Dr. Saleem Siddiqi
    email: cdeeky@LaoJee.com

  27. shahzeb says:
    March 28th, 2010 12:42 pm

    i m from hyderabad pakistan, how i get connection for gps in my car cd player? kindly help me.

  28. June 27th, 2010 2:04 pm

    Respected Sir;
    i am doing BS Electronics from SSUET Karachi.. our final year project is going on. the name of our project is PEDESTRIAN SAFETY BY USING GPS AND IMAGE PROCESSING…
    kindly give me some help and your contact details

  29. Shahzada Sohail Ijaz says:
    July 1st, 2010 1:48 am

    WELL DONE, GOOD WORK

  30. Imran Qureshi says:
    August 11th, 2010 6:51 am

    Garmin Nuvi 200w is available at $100 from BestBuy.com and RS. 20,000 from Shophive. I have just purchased one unit from bestbuy.
    This article is a very good work of author and I highly appreciate his work. I have downloaded maps from PKMaps. They are doing a marvelous job and I hope I will join them as a volunteer.

  31. Mohammad Nawaz says:
    October 18th, 2010 3:20 am

    Dear Sir ,
    This is to inform you that i want to install Mobile Booster/Mobile Tower /Wireless Tower. I have a Building 150 sq yards In khosar Hyderabad and i want to install a Mobile Booster/Mobile Tower /Wireless Tower at my building roof at reasonable rent. There was no signal of any network. This is most suitable location for your Mobile/Wireless Booster installation. If you have any chance to implant the Booster of Mobilink, Ufone, Telenor, Warid, Zong, V Wireless, I provide my building’s roof for installation of your tower for a reasonable rent for smooth functioning of your Network.
    Kindly send your Survey Team for inspection and give me a chance to be apart of your business. Your Co-operation will highly appreciate.
    Name; Mohammad Nawaz
    Contacts : 0322 3111549
    Email : nawazhyd@yahoo.com

  32. Sajjad says:
    March 2nd, 2011 6:16 pm

    for free mobile navigation software visit the link below
    http://mobile-navigator.blogspot.com/

  33. Nadia says:
    April 17th, 2011 2:59 am

    if i want to purchase this whole system to be installed in an ordinary taxi how much would it cost per taxi??

  34. Saadat says:
    September 20th, 2011 6:45 pm

    Dear ALL,
    Trakker have launched another application for IPhone, I pad and android phones.
    We have also re-launched IN CAR NAVIGATION…
    Features of our Product:
    1) User friendly software
    2) Advanced Search System
    3) Optimal Route Calculation
    4) House Address / POI search
    5) Turn by Turn voice guidance
    6) Coverage of 89 cities.
    7) 365,849 House Addresses.
    8) 81,000 POIs
    9) Including 3D landmarks/POIs

    See LINKS: http://itunes.apple.com/pk/app/sygic-pakistan-gps-navigation/id447065901?mt=8

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