After two years of talk, location-based services are set to debut this year. But make no mistake -- these are baby steps. Telenavigation's Telenav service ($7 per month) is the first. Call in your desired destination with a Nextel GPS-enabled phone running Telenav and it gives you turn-by-turn voice directions. The service piggybacks on the FCC's e-911 initiative, which gives cellphone carriers until 2005 to enable their networks to detect the location (to within 300 feet) of 911 callers. Nextel, Sprint PCS and Verizon are already compliant.
Garmin's iQue 3600 (left, $589), meanwhile, is the first PDA to fully integrate GPS into the body and the OS, allowing you to access voice-prompted driving directions from your address book. The current version uses internally stored data like a handheld unit, but expect to see a Bluetooth-enabled device soon. Working with a Bluetooth phone, it would be capable of providing real-time, Internet-based services. All of which is the true promise of location-based
services -- information tailored to your interests delivered when and where you need it. Big fan of Banana Republic? Your phone or PDA might inform you if a nearby store is having a sale. Expect these more sophisticated services in about
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.