Handheld GPS Tracks All The Things

With a GPS on every smartphone, one would be forgiven for forgetting that handheld GPS units still exist. Seeking to keep accurate data on a few upcoming trips, [_Traveler] took on a custom-build that resulted in this GPS data logger.

Keeping tabs on [_Traveler] is a Ublox M8N GPS which is on full-time, logging data every 30 seconds, for up  to 2.5 days. All data is saved to an SD card, with an ESP32 to act as a brain and make downloading the info more accessible via WiFi . While tracking the obvious — like position, speed, and time — this data logger also displays temperature, elevation, dawn and dusk, on an ePaper screen which is a great choice for conserving battery.

The prototyping process is neat on this one. The first complete build used point-to-point soldering on a protoboard to link several breakout modules together. After that, a PCB design embraces the same modules, with a footprint for the ESP’s castellated edges and header footprints for USB charing board, SD card board, ePaper, etc. All of this finds a hope in a 3D printed enclosure. After a fair chunk of time coding in the Arduino IDE the logger is ready for [_Traveler]’s next excursion!

As far as power consumption in the field, [_Traveler] says the GPS takes a few moments to get a proper location — with the ESP chewing through battery life all the while — and plans to tinker with it in shorter order.

Not all GPS trackers are created equal: sometimes all you need is a stripped-down tracker for your jog, or to know exactly where every pothole is along your route.

[Via /r/electronics]

9 thoughts on “Handheld GPS Tracks All The Things

  1. Cool – those 3-color epaper displays look really nice, but the $10-15 price tag has made me stick with the monochrome OLEDs or 18-bit TFTs you can get for ~$3.

    It probably saves a lot of power though, huh? Anyone have a good library and/or recommendations for which type of module/breakout to look for?

  2. I was thinking about that time it takes the other day, I normally tell people that GPS is passive and you can use it without being tracked, but actually with smartphones that’s probably not true. To make it useful for the US mandatory 911 locationing phones now all have A-GPS, where the A stand for assisted where cellular towers assist, with things like positions of satellites at the location and computing things. Now that process means there would be a log and information about people’s use of GPS, or in other words it’s no longer passive.
    And that is also the reason why you can’t expect the same startup speed on passive GPS devices, and you should really not be sad about that.

    1. I’ve never seen anything that would suggest the towers participate in computing a location, merely breathing a current almanac and ephemeris into the receiver. So every start is a hot-start, basically.

      But yes, putting your phone in airplane mode makes the GPS TTFF a lot slower!

      Tablets without cellular radios do just fine standalone, too. And standalone nav units without bluetooth, etc.

  3. I know hackers like to hack, but if you’ve got a non-hacker friend who needs to track—an perhaps display for others—their location and travels, you might point them to the Garmin InReach SE+, an Iridium satellite messaging device. Here’s one of the features.
    Track and Share Your Whereabouts
    Turn on the tracking function of your inReach SE+ or Explorer+ communicator, and let family and friends follow your progress on their computers or mobile devices, using the web-based MapShare™ portal. The inReach device will send waypoints at preselected time intervals, so followers can track your whereabouts online.

    You can find them online for about $350. An earlier model of the same device from before Garmin bought out DeLorme, the DeLorme InReach SE, still sells online for about $260. Youtube has numerous positive reviews of them, particularly from hunters, hikers, and fisherman.

    The downside is that the UI isn’t great. It is much like that of the old feature phones. But there are apps that run on Android and iOS that give it a better UI. I’ve often thought they’d be great for those who travel internationally and need to stay in touch but hate the hassle of having SIMs for each country. This device is direct to satellite. It makes no use of cellular systems or the Internet. All you need to send texts is a clear view of the sky.

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