When deciding to purchase the new Garmin Edge 510, the LiveTrack feature wasn’t high on my list of reasons for selecting this model over the 500. However, as it turns out its becoming one of my favourite features.
Once my 510 arrived and I checked out the details of the LiveTrack functionality I was left scratching my head a bit as to when and how it might be useful. Mobile phone reception is the biggest issue as the feature only works when there is a signal to transfer the data. This mainly limits it’s use to metropolitan areas or rural areas with good mobile coverage. In Canberra that means anything west of the suburbs is pretty much out for me. Never-the-less I persisted looking at the feature and came up with a few ideas on how it might be useful.
- Keeps the kids entertained. I often switch on the feature in the morning, so that when the kids wake up they can see where I am. It’s also helpful for my wife Beth as she can get a fair idea of when I will be home! More than once the kids have tried to zoom in on the map to see if they can actually see me riding. Now there is an idea for Google’s StreetView feature!
- Race Tracking. This one is more for race organisers and media but its basically live telemetry for riders during a race. Would be especially good if you could set up a big screen at the finish line and watch where the riders are on the course. Split screening could then potentially show a number of riders, which would be great for monitoring groups. Al riders would have to do is activate the feature on their phone (in their back pocket) and include the race organiser on the distribution list – or better yet just tweet it. I thought about using this for the recent Blayney to Bathurst event so that my family could wander around town and then rock up at the finish as I was getting closer. Alas my wife doesn’t have a smart phone yet and sitting in McDonalds for free wifi on the laptop wasn’t an enticing option. But if your partner does have a smart phone, iPad or mobile broadband on their laptop then you’re in luck.
- Organising ride meeting points. You all know what its like. You arrange to meet your riding buddies at the regular spot but someone is always late. Trying to text updates on eta isn’t a good idea but what if you could simply whip out your phone, click the LiveTrack link and see how far away they are. Then when they arrive you can also give them some stick about not pushing hard enough to get there sooner!
- Reviewing ride data. Yep there is plenty of software that will do this for you and Strava provides a good option for checking your progress on certain segments, but the LiveTrack feature has some features that allow for a good, quick review of your ride as soon as you get in the door and before you even upload your data. This can be great if your main ride was before work and you just want to check the basics before you get home later in the day. The image below show a portion of my ANZAC day training session. You can see the blue line marking my route and the pop up box contains the pertinent stats for my first 5km. Up top is some basic data on avg speed, time and distance but in my experience the avg speed is always too low (bug fix on this would be nice). The best details are at the bottom. You can click on the blue ‘graphs’ bar to show/hide the live tracking of ride data. As you can see from my graph, it contains all the key training data, such as power, heart rate, cadence and elevation. This data is naturally ‘smoothed’ and this means you get a really good indication about the type of effort over the ride. A nice steady power or heart rate line shows a consistent effort and any intervals will be clearly visible. One nice feature is the ability to show, hide or highlight any of these items. Simply click on the name of the item in the graph’s index (below the graph) and that item will disappear, click again to show it. You can also hover over the name and to bold/highlight the appropriate line making it easier to see.
As is usually the case with new items there are always some bugs in the system. This is certainly the case for the Garmin 510 and LiveTrack feature. So far these are the things I think they need to improve
- Avg speed calculation
- Handling of mobile phone coverage interruptions.
- Handling of when the LiveTrack session has ended.
- Reviewing LiveTrack session after it has finished
#1 – as mentioned above, its a small issue but they need to fix it. Showing an average speed of 19.68kmh when the actual speed was closer to 30kmh is just way too much of an error.
#2 – I would like to see the phone store the data and then re-transmit it once mobile reception is re-established. I do need to do some more testing in the uncovered areas but my experience so far is less than positive. Being able to locate someone’s position (in the case of an emergency, etc) is usually far more important than it is in metropolitan areas as it takes longer to get to them and often this can be affected by which direction the emergency service vehicles take. Imagine having completed most of a Tidbinbilla loop from Cotter to Point hut and then have the Ambulance go in the same direction when it would have been faster to go from the south. Perhaps utilising the phones own GPS signal would help with this but that's one for Garmin to figure out.
#3 – Yesterdays ride was a standard UC loop but when I got home I discovered the LiveTrack had ended just before I arrived at Stromlo. At that time I had changed the screen display (swiped to a different view) and this appears to have ended the LiveTrack session. That’s a definite no-no in my book and I will be doing a few more tests and reporting this as a bug if it continues to occur. Other than that, the session ends when you end your ride (press the timer button and save). But this can mean you miss the last update of LiveTrack. I think it would be good if the system could be updated so your phone still provides any outstanding updates once the ride has ended. That way you get the full ride in the LiveTrack.
#4 – One flaw in the system is that you can only view the LiveTrack data while the session is in progress. As soon as you finish it the LiveTrack is no longer available. The only option you have is to have opened the LiveTrack view prior to this and then once the ride has finished you can review it. This means if for any reason your browser closes or you try to refresh the data – you lose it. It would be so much better if they kept the LiveTrack available for a fixed period of time after the session concludes (say 1hr). That way when you get to work (as mentioned above) you can stop your ride and then review the data when you get to your desk (or get home as the case may be) rather than having to leave the device on until that time, which potentially adds extra time to your data stream.