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Navigating The History Of Navigation, Telematics

Suppliers and retailers of portable and in-dash navigation systems, cellphone-based navigation software, and vehicle-tracking and vehicle-emergency services such as OnStar built their livelihoods on the foundations of two visionaries. Their names are Stanley Honey and William Reagan.

Stanley Honey was the founder, president, and CEO of Etak in 1983 and the visionary behind the world’s first consumer-oriented car-navigation system, the Etak Navigator, which launched in the U.S. in 1985. That was before GPS systems were available to consumers. Having conceived the system, Honey led the engineering team that developed the final product, which was a significant achievement for its time. The system used an 8088 microprocessor, 256 kilobytes of RAM, and a high-speed tape drive to read digital maps stored on 3.5MB tapes. A solid-state compass and wheel sensors continuously tracked the distance traveled and direction of travel. The vehicle’s location was displayed continuously on a map appearing on an in-vehicle video monitor, which displayed a rotating heading-up map and the driver’s intended destination.

The Navigator paved the way for Pioneer’s 1990 launch in Japan of the first consumer car navigation systems to use CD-ROM maps and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to fix a location. DVD-ROM discs put nationwide maps on a single disc, whereas Etak’s technology, state-of-the-art for its time, required three tapes to cover the San Francisco Bay area. Each tape also included the regional highway system.

Etak was acquired by Newscorp, then by Sony, then merged into TeleAtlas, which became part of TomTom in 2008.

For almost four years through January 2014, Honey was director of technology for the America’s Cup.

For his part, William Reagan founded Lo-Jack and invented the world’s first commercially available consumer-targeted stolen-vehicle location and recovery system. He passed away in 2013 at age 78.

Reagan patented the Lo-Jack system in 1979 and in 1986 launched the first Lo Jack system in Massachusetts. The system used a hidden car-mounted transponder and a tracking device, which was installed in police cars to track down and recover stolen transponder-equipped cars.

At the time of Reagan’s death, Lo-Jack operated in 28 states and the District of Columbia and in more than 30 countries throughout North America, South America, Europe and Africa

Lo Jack was the first of many vehicle-tracking systems to come to market. Although having undergone changes of its own since 1986, the system primed the market for vehicle-tracking systems that use other wireless technologies to track stolen vehicles, inform authorities or monitoring stations of a car’s location in emergencies, and in concert with wireless-phone technology, deliver concierge services.

Here’s to Stanley Honey and William Reagan.