Navigation Systems: Technology that lends a helping hand.

Ever felt like you’re so used to technology that sometimes you can’t exactly remember when you started being so dependent on it? We take technology for granted, so much so that we can’t imagine our lives without it. Personally, I did not rely much on navigation systems (Google Maps specifically) until I moved out of my home in Bangalore, India to Munich, Germany. Have I piqued your interest? Then read on, my friend.

Phalguni Nayak

Navigation Systems in Munich

I moved to Munich (from India) earlier this year, only to find my German was limited to words like ‘Hallo’ and ‘Tschüss’ among other pleasantries. Necessity being the mother of invention, my situation was such: My husband and I needed to move out of our (contractually flawed) flat. And soon! The only logical thing to do was for one of us to search for flats, request appointments for viewings and hope that a guardian angel would come through for us.

This was a long and arduous process. It was not unusual to get last minute appointments in areas that I had never heard of, much less pronounce. My guardian angel (I have several) turned out to be Google Maps. With a sim card installed in my mobile device (armed with Google Maps), I was (virtually) unstoppable! Google Maps helped me navigate Munich like a pro. Not for long though, I needed a public transport ticket and here’s where the MVV app played a front and centre role.

The MVV app allowed me to figure out how to get from point A to B based different modes of transportation the city of Munich has to offer. And that’s not it, I could have access to information about disruptions in transportation, network plans and buy tickets online using my credit card. Buying a ticket on the MVV app is a hassle-free solution to buying tickets on the bus or at the U-Bahn every time.

For an out of towner (or in my case an Ausländer) these two apps make it very easy to navigate the city. Physical maps and travel timetables are great when technology lets you down, but till then digital navigation systems are extremely convenient.

To tip the scales a bit, in favour of traditional maps, transcribed below is an interview with two people who travelled around Germany with regular ol’ maps:

Navigation Systems in India

Launched in 2005, Google Maps has been around for over a decade. While some Baby Boomers use Google Maps to get around, for Millennials in particular, it has become an essential tool. Currently Google Maps is the biggest navigation system in the Indian market.  Don’t believe me?

Here’s a fun video of an advertisement campaign called #LookBeforeYouLeave by Google India:

Pro-tip: Turn on the subtitles for context 🙂

Google Maps and navigation systems have become a necessity for many reasons:

  1. Poor infrastructure
  • People hardly use traditional maps to get around India due to poor planning and infrastructure in cities. It’s hard to account for all the bylanes and alleyways that sometimes aren’t even passable until you’re on foot. The bylanes are not small by design and are more likely to exist due lack of planning. Google Maps is in the midst of rolling out a feature (for India) that allows one to navigate with turn by turn directions for exactly this reason.
  1. Language Barrier
  • A 2011 census revealed that India has 22 recognised languages and over 720 dialects! As you can imagine, communication is bound to be an issue, especially when it involves asking for/getting directions. Bridging gaps in communication, and ignoring inaccurate directions are some of the benefits of Google Maps. Thus, allowing you to be self-sufficient and on time!
  1. Location Sharing
  • With great technology, comes great responsibility. Having the ability to share your location real time is another benefit of navigation apps. What’s even better you ask? The ease of use and ability to share your location via apps like WhatsApp, Uber and built in apps like Motorola Alert. So, should you find yourself passing through an unsavoury neighbourhood, these apps can be used to alert loved ones of your whereabouts.
  1. On demand services
  • On demand taxis, food delivery services are also heavily reliant on navigation systems. The convenience of these services increase employment opportunities resulting in a win-win situation for employers, employees and customers alike.
  1. Exploration
  • You no longer need a Lonely Planet city guide to explore new places. Google Maps offers 4 very broad categories which consist of: Food & Drink, Things to do, Shopping and Services. So, whether you’re new to a city or have been raised there, these categories make it extremely convenient to explore nearby restaurants, shopping centres and avail other services based on user generated reviews.

Bridging the gap: Older generations and technology

While technology certainly has been a boon to most people, its ease of use with older generations is debatable. A concerted effort needs to made towards creating apps that are easy to use from the get go, keeping in my mind the age of the user. One of the biggest markets for this exists in India. As the price of mobile phones decrease, the number people buying them increase. In India, paying electricity, cable TV, phone and credit card bills have never been easier thanks to banking and payment apps. However, there’s a lot left to be desired when it comes to the user interface and user experience for said applications. App developers need to actively work towards to creating more inclusive solutions to bridge the gap between late adopters and technology. Thorough market research and user feedback are some ways to tackle these issues.

In developed and developing countries, the value addition and importance of digitalisation can no longer be ignored. Technology (for the most part) is here to increase our efficiency and if you’re not on the bandwagon, rest assured, you will be left behind.

Phalguni Nayak