Guest blog by OS Partner Rob Smith from Away Team Software
Twenty years ago, photography was an expensive hobby which needed specialist kit. Then some bright spark had the idea of putting a digital camera into a mobile phone, and suddenly taking photos became cheap, easy and accessible to all. It was revolutionary.
Location tracking is undergoing a similar metamorphosis with the advent of apps like Trkd™ (pron. tracked). Using our space industry experience, Away Team has designed a GPS app perfectly tailored to mobile devices, to make the most of the limited resources available. It’s easy to use, small enough for budget phones, and supported by the free Maps service on our website to show users their tracks on OS Open Data maps and satellite images.
There are many apps-with-maps with their own proprietary data formats, but Away Team has deliberately chosen a different approach by providing a clear numeric display and recording location using the open GPX (Global Positioning Exchange) standard. As a result, our app runs for longer and on a wider range of devices than its map-based brethren, and is compatible with the maximum number of other GPS-based systems. It’s kind to your battery and memory card, as no maps are streamed or stored, and works in remote areas without any phone signal, or even without a SIM.
The Maps service also supports GPX to allow free and open access to the wider GPS community, whether you use Trkd or not. Simply visit our website and drop your GPX file onto the map to instantly see your track on an Ordnance Survey map or satellite image without the need to upload your file to our servers, so it’s quick and your privacy is guaranteed.
Away Team has cleverly extended the GPX format to record additional details like location accuracy, allowing our Maps analyser to refine the tracking quality and make best use of your data with the benefit of hindsight.
An example of this is provided by Trkd data of a riverside walk from London’s O2 Arena to the Tower – a distance of around 9 miles. While the file reports an inflated total of 12 miles from the GPS hardware, the Maps analyser automatically estimates a very creditable 9.2 miles from the same data, clearly highlighting the value of this novel approach. Download the example file from our website and try it for yourself.
See what you’re missing
There’s a common misconception that tracking is only for fitness, but it adds a new dimension to all outdoor activities, even everyday ones. Start your tracker, put it in your pocket and, in the words of Monty Python, get on with it. In a world of attention-seeking apps and gadgets, here’s one designed to be ignored. Enjoy what you’re doing and when you pause for a moment, you can immediately see how far you’ve come and how quickly.
While the technology may be rocket science, the idea is not: wherever you are and however you travel, you can record your route, your distance and your speed. Whether you’re on foot, riding, boating or skiing, the only limit is your imagination. It satisfies that very human need to explore and quantify the world around us, and combined with the glorious detail of OS maps, a mundane walk becomes an exploration of your local landscape and its history.
Vive la revolution
Get involved to see what it can do for you by downloading the free Trkd Demo app from Google Play (tinyurl.com/TrkdAndroidDemo), or try your own GPX files on Maps at Away Team’s website (tinyurl.com/TrkdMapsOS), and join the revolution today.