The skill of navigating, whether backpacking in the remote country or traveling the urban jungle, remains vital. Knowing how to use a map and compass and the ability to read terrain are extremely useful especially when you find yourself off the beaten path. Although in as recent as three years ago, with the technological surge in digital mapping for personal navigation, many observers have predicted that paper maps will soon become obsolete. This is not likely to ever become true. Geographic literacy using paper maps cannot be replaced entirely by digital GPS maps. The latter serve only to widen the range applications for which maps can be used.
Digital GPS maps of all types can be stored in dedicated GPS receivers or downloaded to memory cards for later use as needed. Maps can be stored in Smartphones or accessed while on-the-go. Mapping software and apps allow for instant calculations between coordinates and the very popular use of personal and in-car navigation with turn by turn voice directions. The information that can be provided in the blink of an eye has grown to tremendous proportions and will most likely not let up soon.
All over the world, starting with the U.S. and Canada, cartographers have reduced the production of paper maps whilst the digital map makers have developed more sophisticated and feature-rich digital GPS maps. In a study by IE Market Research, the global sales for GPS/LBS devices, which include PNDs and Smartphones, is forecast to reach 946 million units by the year 2015, with the largest percentage rises in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. This means more applications being developed for these devices, all of which will require the use of digital maps.
Digital road maps have evolved along with the technology that utilize them, and are now full of detail. Complete road maps are now available for almost all countries and not just maps of the metropolitan areas but of most counties as well. The Middle East, one of the fastest growing personal navigation market has detailed road maps available. For instance, Iran has a complete road map available for both the Garmin PND and Android Smartphones which features the essential voice directions and includes more than 78,000 points of interest (Read more). Although paper maps will not go out of style soon, nothing beats the convenience of accessing all of these information on digital GPS maps with the push of a button or the flick of a finger.