In the process of testing out the i-gotU GPS Travel Logger I went on bike ride around Eltham Park and the surrounding areas. Starting off on the South side of Eltham Park, existing out the other side to Eltham Common, then on to Shooters Hill, and down to Avery Hill Park.
Archive for July, 2008
The Mobile Action i-gotU GPS Travel Logger is a small hardware device designed to record and track your journey with photographs.
I picked one up at Maplin Electronics in a sale for £40.00. The first thing that struck me was how small the device actually is, the photos on site make it appear much larger. The setup procedure was fairly straight forward, the only issue being that it is supplied on a mini-cd therefore if you have a slot loading CD-ROM driver (i.e. certain laptops) you may need to copy the files to a network / make a regular size CD before hand.
The software application “i-gotU Desktop” allows you to configure the device, download data from the device, add photos and then export the trip/photos in a variety of formats. Settings include the ability to change the tracking interval from 1 second to 60 minutes (they quote battery life as 4 hours at 5 seconds, 20 hours at 15 seconds, 30 hours at 30 seconds, 40 hours at 1 minute), setup a password, and setup a weekly schedule as to when data will be recorded.
As a test I set an update interval of 15 seconds and went on a bike ride around Eltham Park and the surrounding areas taking pictures at intervals throughout on a standard Sony DSC-W5 digital camera. In an attempt to verify everything was working on several occasions I checked the i-gotU was still flashing its LED, an always on light would certainly make things easier with this regard along with when you first turn it on at the start of a trip however admittedly this would use up more power (and therefore battery life) which is likely the reason it does not stay on.
When the time came to download the data to the PC the software worked as premised – was just a case of plugging it in via USB and running the onscreen wizard. Most of the trip was through wooded areas, and from past experience understandably GPS devices are not that effective under tree cover. I was therefore suppressed to find that the i-gotU appeared to maintain a reasonably accurate GPS position throughout with only some occasional minor inaccuracies.
Adding pictures to the trip however was another matter. The software does this by matching up the time the picture was taken (stored in the EXIF data by the digital camera), to the trip data recorded by the GPS (presumably finding the nearest waypoint it has stored). For this reason I had carefully checked to ensure that the time on the digital camera matched the actual time (i.e. the same time the GPS would have) precisely in terms of minutes/seconds, but I neglected to check the hour which for the camera was 1hr behind due to it currently being BST (British Summer Time) in the UK. This could have proved to be a fatal mistake, but it was not because the i-gotU software has a handy feature that allows all the pictures to be selected and for the time to be adjusted back / forward as needed. After moving all pictures forward an hour they appeared on the map.
The results a dynamic HTML page allowing trip playback using Google Maps with the photos placed along the route can be seen here:
Along with the HTML page, exports can also be done to KML (for display in Google Earth) and photo sharing sites Picasa and Flickr. I tested out the Flickr uploading feature which worked as advertised although I was asked to authorise “Test Application” (likely an oversight on their part). Also I was slightly disappointed to find out that it did not seem to publish the location data to Flickr (at least on my account) which seems slightly odd seeing as they went to all the effort of coding Flickr integration and one of the primary purposes of the product is to share trips and photos. According to the Flickr API documentation they do support a “get.setLocation” method.
An extra option the i-GotU has is acting as a serial GPS receiver (after you install the drivers it emulates a standard COM port). This is another feature (along with the ability to adjust photograph times) that could have easily been left out but its inclusion adds a great deal of value – you get both a small form factor (easy to carry with your laptop) GPS that can be used for navigation, along with a standalone travel logger. I was previously considering purchasing a GlobalSat BU-353 for just this purpose because resting a bulky handheld Garmin unit on the dashboard, and using a serial-to-USB converter attachment along with plugging it into the cigarette lighter for power (although worked fine for me on a number of previous occasions) just seemed like too much effort when you are trying to get somewhere quickly. The only slightly issue is that when used in a vehicle the USB cable is very short but this can easily be solved with a USB extension cable.
I tried it out using MapPoint 2004 running under Parallels on a MacBook Pro and apart from the problem of loading software from a mini-cd on the MacBook’s slot loading drive everything worked fine.
Overall although it depends slightly on your particular needs for tracking functionality the i-gotU is both more than half the price of the Trackstick which I have used previously and half the size of it along with not requiring batteries (or a screwdriver to fit them) but rather charging via USB. As with the Trackstick it has data export capabilities such that you will have little trouble repurposing the recorded trips, but it also has extra functionality for photos, a slightly better GPS receiver (at lest as far as I could tell using very non scientific means) and the possibility of acting like a serial GPS for navigation which make it a very much low cost but fully featured device.