iPads, GPS, and one Bad Elf

This semester Myrna Breitbart’s class “Creative Interventions: Locating the Spatial Practice of Social Change” is experimenting with a mapping project, with support from Caro Pinto, our CSI and Emerging Technology Librarian. They’ll be using mobile devices and an app called Fulcrum to collect location-specific data about our campus.   An amazing amount of her students had personal smartphones with GPS already, but we needed to get something on hand for the rest to use. iPads seemed the obvious choice, but there were a couple things to sort out.

1. The wifi-only model of iPad won’t know where you are once you leave the range of our wireless access points.

2. The 3G/4G models of iPad do have GPS, AND that GPS will work even if you have no data service connected whatsoever. BUT they are quite a bit more expensive.

The solution was suggested to us by Jon Caris, a colleague at Smith College. It’s a little bitty GPS device you simply plug into your iPad (or iPod touch) called Bad Elf. No idea what the name is all about, but it works really well! It saved us money, too, because the price is much less than upgrading to a 3G iPad.

You just plug the little thing into the iPad’s data port and it magically knows where you are. It followed me very accurately around Hampshire’s paths and roads. As long as you load the map for your area before you leave, it even keeps working when you have no internet signal. Very handy if you own a wifi-only device but want to use mapping functions in the field!

I’ll be very intererested to see what Myrna’s class collects and how this works for them.


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