Thanks to our new app you can easily add GPS support to your favorite paper map and use it offline on your phone with many extra features.
Have you ever thought how nice it would be to see a pulsing dot on your map when you are in the middle of nowhere trying to find your position on the lifesaving piece of paper with some lines and icons? This very detailed map you always have with you when hiking, trekking or sailing. Unfortunately, the only possible way to track your GPS location in the wild in offline mode is to use a very expensive device or some apps with digital maps, like Google Maps or OpenStreetMaps. Both are excellent for a city-break weekend but not for hiking. They were invented for a different purpose and will never be able to cover the whole world in such a detailed way as standard paper maps do. While preparing for my Kings Trail adventure last year, I looked this place up in the apps mentioned above:
Compared area on Google Maps
Compared area on OpenStreetMaps
As you can see - even the more detailed mapping application is still a far cry from a regular paper map. I gave up and just took a picture of my map - every time when I go hiking I do it as a backup in case of losing or damaging the paper map. Besides, it is often easier and faster to check something on your phone screen. And then - bummm… I’ve realized that now I can use my map on the same device as other navigation apps. Now it’s “only” about displaying a “dot” at my current location on the map 😉. I shared the idea with my colleagues at kreuzwerker and we decided to try to make it real as one of our side projects!
We decided to put all the GPS features onto the paper map. That’s how PaperGPS was born.
Of course this simple idea wasn’t so simple to implement.
Firstly, we had to decide how to “tell” the app which point on the map’s image refers to which point on the Earth. We introduced a “calibration process” which is now quite simple and straightforward – a user can calibrate the map in two different ways:
at home by using a GPS grid on the map or by checking coordinates on Google Maps, or
in the wild by pointing at the current place on the map and then repeating this process again, let’s say, after 100 meters when he/she is still in a familiar area.
The other challenge was to deal with UK maps (which do not use the WGS-84 grid - a standard for GPS) and with maps not oriented upside to the North. However, now our app works including all non-standard maps as well (tested in Scotland Highlands 😉).
Position accuracy depends on a few factors (like the ‘quality’ of the map’s picture, calibration and the GPS accuracy) but in most cases it’s very precise. We have already used it at kreuzwerker many times and it always worked perfectly!
Somewhere in Białowieża Forest - exactly at viewpoint, as the app “says”
After hundreds of hours of our work, you can now also enjoy it. It’s available in the App Store as a free iPhone app. You can easily plan your trip, draw a path (and check its distance), mark some points of interest and easily switch between your maps. You can even tap (at once) two points on the map and quickly check the distance between them. In the paid version (only 2.99 EUR) you can also share your map with friends. We used this feature during our team building event - the map was calibrated on one device only and shared with others afterwards.
PaperGPS is not only about hiking/trekking. If you are sailing - just imagine how nice it would be to have a backup map with GPS and quick reference source for free, simply based on the map you have to buy anyway. Or, if you are organizing some exhibitions and would like to provide some nice navigation for visitors - just calibrate your map and upload it to your website for an easy download (don’t forget to put POIs with exhibitors’ names and descriptions - user will be able to search for a given exhibitor, locate him on the map and check distance from the current position). Even for a city sightseeing - wouldn’t it be fun to navigate in Rome, using a map of ancient city and see what was there thousands of years ago?
Our heads are full of feature ideas for the next releases (such as an elevation awareness), so download it, rate it, enjoy it and wait for exciting updates.