Idea: Navigation Without Maps

This is an idea for an alternative, much simpler, type of navigation tool for smartphones and tablets. Instead of the usual system where you have a map showing your current location and your destination, this would just have an arrow and a display of the distance.

You would find your way to your destination by simply moving in the direction of the arrow. Just like a normal sat-nav system or GPS-enabled map, it would use your current location from the device’s GPS sensor, and your current direction from the compass, so as you move, the arrow and distance indicator would update.

It’s worth noting that the direction indicated would be “as the crow flies” i.e. it would point directly at your destination without any consideration of buildings or street layout. For this reason, it’s not going to be very useful in cities, especially when driving. The main uses I imagine for this application are when you are walking in more open areas, such as in the countryside or at large open-air events.

There would be some additional features which would make the application useful in certain scenarios:

  • You can store your current location, so that you can use the navigation to return to it later. This could be useful when you park your car somewhere to allow you to find it again easily. If you’re camping at a music festival, you could use it to store the location of your tent. No more wandering through a sea of similar looking tents at night, trying to find yours!
  • You can send your location to friends. It can be quite hard to meet up with friends if you get separated at a large outdoor event, like a music festival, and map based navigation doesn’t help much. With this app, you could send your location to a friend and they could use the app to find you.
  • You could also use the app when you are taking two cars to some destination in convoy, and you’re following someone who knows the way.  The app would show the leading driver how far behind the other car is, allowing them to slow down when necessary. If you’re following another driver you would use the arrow to figure out which way the leader went if you happen to lose sight of them for a moment.