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I am looking for a device that can track my location (lat,long) and speed all day long. Perhaps, I need GPS and accelerometer data bundled together.

What I want to do is to log my daily activities. I spend time walking, running, driving, taking a bus, staying in a building, etc., just like any normal human-being :) I am willing to carry the device with me at all times and would like to see every place I go into and my speed at certain positions.

My requirements are that the location and speed data should be recorded at least every ~20 seconds. I would also like the device to timestamp (date+time) each record. It would be enough if timestamp is precise to nearest minute and the location can go off about a maximum of 10-15m. (30-50ft.)

What I want is a portable device so I can carry all day long for about 2-3 months. I will only use it during casual, daily activities.

I don't want real-time tracking. I can collect the data from a storage later on.

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11 Answers 11

IBlue 737/747 are great passive GPS collectors. No screen/map (there's your primary power drain... not the GPS). A little bigger than a Matchbox car. Rechargable 23-26hr cell-phone battery. Collects user-selectable items (lat, long, altitude, speed, LDOP, PDOP, etc). Customized collection time or spacing (every x seconds or positino change: 10 feet, 50 feet, etc). The software interface that comes with it is clunky, but works. Exports to various output, including KML. With a little scripting, the txt/csv output can be regurgitated to ArcGIS formats or ???

Unit also can optionally bluetooth the NMEA sentance, so if you have another device with no GPS or a poor(er) quality GPS, this can be used for positioning. Though I wouldn't call it mapping grade (trimble XT/XH), I would say it's better than recreational grade (Garmin handheld units).

Like almost any other GPS, doesn't work well in buildings (this is a GPS frequency thing, not a GPS receiver issue). To get passed that, you need to wait on the next generation of GPS, which should penetrate buildings (to a point).

I've used my two units just like you are intending. Primarily for vacations. Hasn't let me down in 3 years. Very minor issue with GPS wondering (example: 3 times on a 7700 mile trip for about 4-5 points). But I've seen the same with mapping grade receivers. Likely signal reflection or other GPS signal related anomoly. Otherwise, incredibly perfect for my purposes.

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Hi Ray--thanks for your thoughtful answer. Welcome to our site! –  whuber Jan 12 '12 at 17:59
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ray, thank you very much for bringing a new, useful and reasonably cheap ($99 from Amazon) device into the discussion. Have you tried any mainstream smartphones' GPS? How would phone GPS's compare to IBlue? I am especially curious about the time it takes to re-acquire the signal when transiting from indoors-to-outdoors. (see my first comment to @Sasa Ivetic) And what about cloudy days? –  Murat Jan 13 '12 at 11:31
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Sorry I haven't responded sooner. Phone vs IBlue. 2 years ago, the IBlue won hands down. My wifes blackberry couldn't compare (this is where we used the bluetooth capability). The IBlue has a nice balance for sensitivity vs accuracy. I've worked with several GPSs. Like I said before, more of a GPS signal issue than the GPS unit. I just got a Droid Razr. Comparable precision. Technology! I can already see a day's worth of GPS would be pressed (battery). Apps are VERY useful. If you have post-mapping needs, either way. For battery life, IBlue wins! No issues with clouds. –  ray May 8 '12 at 12:32

Most modern smart phones have a GPS, often assisted by use of cell towers for times when there is weak GPS signal, such as travel in downtown, etc. Provided you have a GPS capable cell phone and there is a GPS tracking application available for your device, it would be simply a matter of installing and configuring the application to track your position and speed at all times. You don't need an accelerometer as a GPS will track your speed data (though at times, somewhat inaccurately).

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Thanks for the advice Sasa. I've tried several apps on iPhone4 but it didn't really meet my needs. Firstly, when you stay in a building for some time and get out, the location data is very imprecise. For the first 1 minute or so after you go outdoors, it shows as if you were 150-200 meters away. Imagine I got out of my house and walk to my car and take a ride. When using apps on iPhone4, in such a case, I wouldn't be able to see the route I took from my house to my car because the GPS would show me somewhere else. It would record correctly on the portion I travel by car, if u know what I mean. –  Murat Sep 29 '11 at 18:40
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Secondly, those apps on iPhone tend to consume a lot of battery power. Last but not least, on most apps, incoming calls affect the GPS in an intolerable amount, or calls just deactivate the GPS. But I haven't tried a non-Apple phone yet. Are they any better? –  Murat Sep 29 '11 at 18:42
    
The reason it is imprecise when you go outdoors is because it needs to re-acquire the GPS signal. Most consumer-level GPS devices will have the same issue, however what will depend is the time it takes for the device to get a reliable signal again. It may be useful to note what your goal and budget are in deciding on devices. –  Sasa Ivetic Sep 29 '11 at 18:43
    
I would prefer not to pay more than $100. But depending on the device's elegance, I'm prepared to sacrifice ~$300, but I really don't want to do that :) –  Murat Sep 29 '11 at 18:47
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One more thing: suppose I visit a shopping mall - a large building with several doors. I'd like the traces to show which door I use to get in and which one I use to get out. I don't really know if I am asking too much for a non-pro device :) –  Murat Sep 29 '11 at 18:55

Following on from your comment above, even a "pro device" will struggle as you walk in and out of a shopping mall. What you need is not million dollar hardware, but smart software.

Now, I don't know of any such software, but even if there was, it'd be more than a couple of hundred dollars!

But to outline the sort of thing I mean, your hypothetical software could take a leaf from in-car satnavs by locking you to a road, rather than assuming you are in a neighbouring field. So imagine your device tracks you into a large building. OpenStreetMap has lots of useful topological data such as building entrances, so it could assume you entered by the door nearest your last good location (GPS has a notion of accuracy). Then when it gets a signal again, it waits a bit for it to settle down, and then assumes you left by the nearest doorway.

Time is pretty accurate with GPS, so the application could do some sanity checks to make sure you're not travelling at 300mph, and discard that data until it is sure. The Android application MyTracks doesn't do that, and when I went for a walk last weekend, it thought I had averaged 10mph by zipping across a field and back, but my Garmin that I was using in parallel (just to see the sort of differences between an HTC Desire and a dedicated GPS unit), gave me a much more accurate track.

Although this is mostly just idle speculation, it's with your sort of question that provokes someone to start work on an open source app...

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Thank you for the informative answer MerseyViking. But I don't quite get how I can utilize OpenStreetMap? How is it better than Google Maps or similar? I found the map to be less densely tagged compared to Google/Bing/Yahoo's. –  Murat Sep 29 '11 at 21:03
    
And secondly, does your HTC Desire provide speed data as well? I would try to eliminate any two consecutive points with, say, 1 mile/min. But what if I'm traveling in a fast car? That would also be eliminated. So I feel like speed data would help me weed out those zippings. –  Murat Sep 29 '11 at 21:06
    
Discard my last comment :) I just read the reviews on HTC Desire's accelerometer. –  Murat Sep 29 '11 at 21:08
    
Google Maps doesn't give you the topological connections between the data, and it also doesn't generally map individual buildings. True, OSM can be quite sparse in places, but you are encouraged to add data to it in the spirit of open source! Navigating with an accelerometer is very inaccurate, especially with consumer hardware. Look up "inertial navigation" on Google, and most (all?) GPS use interpolation between the current and previous points to determine speed. You'd probably need to tell the app manually what mode of transport you're in. –  MerseyViking Sep 29 '11 at 22:57
    
@MerseyViking: could you comment on battery life with your phone running MyTracks for longer periods of time? I'm using GPSLogger For Android - it has really small impact on battery once you set it up to log every X seconds and/or meters. However it suffers from usual accuracy problems that Murat described (inside buildings, leaving building etc.) –  radek Sep 30 '11 at 16:06

too bad you said cheap. This is a really cool solution. The box is about the size of a cig pack. Global Tracking

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Sounds cool Brad, but really out of my budget :) –  Murat Sep 29 '11 at 20:51

I use a HTC HD Touch and GPS Cycle Computer. You can get this data into QGIS by using the function in GCC to convert the fiels to gpx. I believe you will find it a very steep cost benefit curve once you try to go beyond solutions like this. The challenge you would have using GCC all day, probably any GPS tool on batteries, is the heavy drain oof power. This afternoon for instance I went out for a bike ride, with both GCC running and a Garmin Map application running on the HTC (to both track history and provide a good road map) and it took more than 1/2 the available battery reserve in 1 hr.

GCC also ouputs a kml. If you bring this up in Google Earth I think it shows speed on segments. It will certainly give you a rerun movie of where you went (which is what kml was built for).

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Here is a pretty comprehensive list of the specifications of several GPS receivers from the folks at OpenStreetMap:

http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/GPS_Reviews

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You might want to check out Antimap. It's a smartphone data logging utility that was originally developed as a way for snowboarders to record their movements and play back their data back like a video game.

Start and stop screens

You can record latitude, longitude, compass direction, speed, distance, and time, along with an optional input field to mark significant spots. Data is stored in easy-to-read CSV in your phone so you can do what you want with it later.

Sample data

Here's a sample visualization produced from Antimap data.

enter image description here

It's available for both Android and iOS.

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Sounds good R.K. Thanks for the info. I am still considering all the options. Thanks. –  Murat Jan 13 '12 at 11:22

QSTARZ track loggers are excellent. In addition to logging they have a waypoint button. I have been very impressed with the quality which is usually better than 2m with WAAS. The MTK chipset is a good alternative to the SirF chipsets that are usually in cheaper devices.

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If you have an iPhone (and I think from one of your comments that you do) then Sensor Monitor Pro is a reasonable app. It shows nearly everything; accelerometer, gps, compass, gyroscope, etc.

The drawback is that it doesn't record these, but it does let you push them to a recorder via a network connection. If you can find a UDP program that will record incoming data, then I think you'd be set.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sensor-monitor/id381075251?mt=8

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There's also the i-GotU units. I haven't used one, but they seems inexpensive, simple and have long battery life and decent storage capacity. I'd love to hear any reviews!

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TrackSticks are pretty good http://www.trackstick.com/

Since you are interested in tracking your activities, you might want to look at FitBit http://www.fitbit.com

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