How to Improve GPS-Tracking Accuracy in Your Workout Apps

How to Improve GPS-Tracking Accuracy in Your Workout Apps

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Harry Guinness
2020-08-07 04:00:17

A jogger running on a road.
l i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock

Monitoring your runs, bike rides, and different exercises is enjoyable as a result of you may see how a lot you’re enhancing (or, in my case, dismally failing to enhance). For it to be efficient, although, it’s important to get probably the most correct GPS outcomes doable. A four or 5 % error might be the distinction between a median run and a private greatest.

How GPS Works

A satellite above the Earth.
Andrey Armyagov/Shutterstock

The International Place System (GPS) is a severely advanced setup. There are 24 satellites (plus a couple of spares, at any given time) orbiting about 12,550 miles above the earth each 11 hours and 58 minutes in one in all six completely different orbital planes. That’s 4 satellites per orbit.

They’re unfold out in order that there’s all the time a minimal of 4 satellites overhead, all over the place on Earth. Extra usually, there are six or eight overhead. GPS satellites continuously transmit their actual time, orbital place, and the standing of the remainder of the constellation, which is the data that makes GPS work.

The bottom management community is manned by the U.S. Air Drive, which coordinates every little thing and makes positive the GPS community stays correct.

Then, in fact, there’s your receiving gadget. It collects indicators from all of the satellites to which it will probably join and makes use of the data they broadcast to calculate your place as precisely as doable. If all’s going effectively, the outcomes can be correct to inside about 30 toes.

Not all GPS receivers are created equal, nevertheless. The satellite tv for pc indicators aren’t significantly robust and might be blocked by hills, tall buildings, and even tree canopies and cloud cowl. Extra highly effective receivers, although, can choose up fainter indicators and presumably even join with extra satellites.

It’s sort of loopy that is the system I take advantage of to trace my straightforward Saturday morning 10okay round my native park.

Let Your GPS Lock On

GPS is designed for accuracy, not velocity. It might take a receiver a couple of minutes to lock onto the 4 (or extra) satellites essential for it to calculate an correct place. This is the reason apps like Google Maps cheat a bit.

Whereas most smartphones have an actual GPS receiver, numerous their positioning is finished by Assisted GPS (no less than till they get a GPS lock). It triangulates your place from that of close by cell towers, slightly than simply the overhead satellites, which is so much quicker.

This is the reason, once you open Google Maps, you don’t have to attend a couple of minutes to seek out out the place you might be. After all, it’s so much much less correct—particularly if you need a exact GPS monitor.

Earlier than you go on a run or a experience, activate the gadget or open the app you utilize and provides it a couple of minutes to connect with the total GPS constellation. Use this as a possibility to stretch or warm-up.

Some units, like these made by Garmin, will let you already know once they’ve bought a very good lock. Others, nevertheless, just like the Apple Watch, is not going to—you’ll simply need to cross your fingers and provides them a while.

A GPS map showing a running route that goes into the ocean.
This seems to be like an unlikely operating route.

Use a Devoted GPS System

As a substitute of utilizing your smartphone, listed here are a couple of explanation why you would possibly need to get a GPS operating watch or biking pc:

  • Battery life: Receiving GPS indicators takes fairly a little bit of energy. If you happen to additionally need to use your smartphone to hearken to music (or have sufficient cost left to name somebody in an emergency), it’s higher to have a devoted GPS gadget.
  • Comfort: Wrist- or handlebar-mounted GPS items are simpler to make use of than a smartphone that’s stashed away in your bag, pocket, or armband. Additionally they offer you stay updates about your velocity and distance.
  • Accuracy: Though no gadget is 100 % correct, devoted GPS units are usually extra so. They’ll additionally use predictive algorithms primarily based in your bike velocity, stride size, or cadence in the event that they lose a sign.
  • Higher GPS chips: Devoted units have a tendency to make use of higher-end GPS receivers that may choose up fainter indicators.

If you happen to don’t need to use a devoted GPS gadget (or simply can’t afford one for the time being), attempt a couple of completely different apps and see which one offers you the most effective outcomes.

I’ve had success with iSmoothRun and Runkeeper. Strava and the Fitbit app each appear to overestimate distance a bit an excessive amount of.

Watch The place You Prepare

A runner in a foggy forest.
His operating watch in all probability has no GPS connection. Sander van der Werf/Shutterstock

GPS indicators can simply be blocked by overhanging timber or the steep sides of a gorge. Tall buildings also can mirror them and confuse the calculations. Keep in mind, your receiver must see a minimal of 4 satellites to precisely place you. If its view of the sky is blocked, it can probably battle.

If you happen to want a GPS monitor that’s as correct as doable, say for a virtual marathon, or to set a private greatest, then rigorously think about your route. Discover a good open-air monitor or park and run there as a substitute of dodging by alleys or charging down steep hills within the woods.

Allow Secondary Satellite tv for pc Constellations If Doable

GPS isn’t the one International Navigation Satellite tv for pc System (GNSS). There’s additionally GLONASS (Russian), Galileo (European Union), and some others.

Some units, just like the Apple Watch, can obtain indicators from these and can mechanically connect with the strongest one. Others, like some Garmin watches, require that you just manually allow secondary satellite tv for pc constellations. Your gadget’s battery life will take a small hit, but it surely’s in all probability price it.

Use the Identical Setup Every Time

A GPS map showing a circular running route.
This seems to be like a reasonably respectable GPS monitor.

No GPS setup is completely correct, however most of them are no less than constant in how they monitor issues.

My Apple Watch, for instance, all the time makes use of the identical cadence and stride size information to fill in any gaps within the GPS monitor. Whereas the general monitor is perhaps out by a share or two, it’s nearly all the time going to be out in the identical method.

If I had been to modify to a Garmin watch, it might use a distinct algorithm to clean out my route, so it might be tough to check to my previous outcomes. This is the reason it’s additionally a good suggestion to make use of the identical app to log your exercises. In any other case, you gained’t know when you actually ran quicker, or if the distinction is simply resulting from how the units or providers calculated the gap.

This doesn’t imply you must by no means improve your gadget. Moderately, simply attempt to preserve your setup as comparable as doable. Put on your watch on the identical wrist and monitor issues in the identical app with the identical settings. It’ll preserve your coaching historical past way more correct.

Settle for That It Gained’t Be Excellent

GPS apps are a beautiful software for monitoring your coaching, however that’s all they’re. Don’t put an excessive amount of inventory of their outcomes—particularly the stay tempo updates, that are extremely error-prone.

If you happen to had been 10 seconds slower, perhaps you had been simply slower. Nevertheless it may be a monitoring error. Deal with having fun with your exercises and deal with your coaching document as a bonus.

After all, when you actually need to know the way quick your 5k time is, head to a monitor and run 12.5 laps with a easy stopwatch—it’ll let you know precisely what tempo you held.

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