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A project log for Ocean sports fitness tracker

Real-time GPS tracker for surfskiing (or kayaking, paddling, rowing) with real-time display as well as LoRa and LTE radios for safety.

Thorsten von EickenThorsten von Eicken 07/14/2018 at 22:250 Comments

I've now taken the prototype on several outings and it's starting to become useful. I'm learning how much I can display one the screen so I can actually read it with a quick glance while paddling and bouncing up&down in the ocean. It currently displays speed, min-max speeds over the past 10 seconds, heading, heart rate, time, LoRa RSSI, as well as number of stored trackpoints. Sorely missing is distance covered and to do that properly will take some work.

The LoRa link has been giving me some trouble. It is working but not quite at the distance I need. Right now, trackpoints are recorded to the SPI flash chip and when radio connectivity is available the trackpoints are sent. What is happening is that I don't have connectivity while paddling and then on the drive home as I get closer it starts "spooling" the recorded tracks. So everything is pretty much working except for the fact that I don't quite have the range I need. I've narrowed the problem down to two issues: I have poor antenna positioning in the waterproof case (I knew that) and the anetenna isn't great (knew that too) but in addition I'm loosing close to 10dB of RX sensitivity at my GW, which is "not good". Put differently, both ends TX at the same power level and RX SNR is almost 10dB worse at the GW end. I'm suspecting it's because the radio is on a linux box (a CHIP), but it may well be something else.

From my LoRa GW packets are injected into Node-red where they're processed and injected into the node-red-contrib-web worldmap. The code is currently displaying the "real-time" position (except for the fact that there's no real-time radio connectivity) as well as a track. One of the photos attached here shows one outing of about 6.3mi I did with the tracker.

So far the proof of concept shows lots of promise and at the same time there's lots left to do! Yay!

=== Next steps ===

The thing that bugs me the most is the LoRa radio connection. I've tried a better antenna (home made dipole) and I get connectivity using that, but it's not great from an ergonomic point of view. And it made it clear that if I could solve the 10dB RX sensitivity loss I could do with a smaller antenna. So that's the next thing to fix.

One of the other tasks is to add code both in the tracker an in node-red to smooth the track in order to be able to calculate distance covered without over-inflating it due to GPS-induced zigzags. The keyword here seems to be Ramer-Douglas-Peucker algorithm and some on-line variants thereof.

The other task is to automatically determine the start and end of an outing using some form of geofencing, and then storing the track of each outing in a proper database so it can be processed in various manners and also sent to endomondo or a similar sports tracking site automatically.

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