Garmin Forerunner 630

Garmin has shifted their focus from automotive GPS navigation systems to wearable technologies in the recent years. If you care more about your fitness than just the number of steps you take each day you might find their Forerunner 630 quite useful. Though we should mention that it starts at $400.

The battery claims it can track your workout for 16 hours and last 4 weeks as a watch alone. It tracks both GPS and GLONASS satellites and provides some pretty sweet features for runners alone. It can estimate your VO2 max, give you tips on your recovery, predict your race outcomes based on your speed and has an accelerometer to calculate distance indoors when you’re stuck on a treadmill.

Telit announces dual GPS Glonass module

Telit of Italy just announced a new dual mode module that listens to both GPS and GLONASS satellites. As you may know GLONASS is Russia’s alternative to US’s GPS constellation. The new module is called Jupiter SL869 and it can track up to 22 satellites as opposed to six or eight which is the norm for standard GPS. Some features SL869:

  • reduces the delay from several minutes to seconds for a navigation
  • reduces the incidence of lost satellite coverage by enabling additional satellite fixes that reduces blind spots
  • features “automatic jamming immunity,” automatically blocking up to eight radio frequency interferers

Qualcomm goes dual core with GPS receiver

Qualcomm’s new SnapDragon processors now support both GPS and Glonass satellites. This means now instead of 27 satellites your phone can look up an additional 24 satellites for a grand total of 51 satellites. This will be available on the Qualcomm SnapDragon S2, S3, S4 processors. The dual core functionality won’t use up too much battery – it will only look for GLONASS satellites when the need arises. When both are in service you can get down to 2 meters of accuracy and get a position fix a lot faster. Apparently T-Mobile’s Galaxy SII phone already uses this processor.

Russia throwing money at GLONASS to beat GPS

Russia has deep pockets when it comes to their version of satellite positioning system called GLONASS. GPS belongs to Americans and it’s been the standard for years but Russian is hoping to change that and end their dependance on US. They’re going to throw another $11 billion at it to be at least as good as GPS.

GLONASS is in working order right now but it does not have coverage all around the world yet. They have to put more satellites in orbit. They are also going for sub-meter precision. By 2015, with the help of ground stations GLONASS hopes to be there with GPS.

GLONASS has had a stormy past. Just last year for example three of the satellites never reached orbit and cost billions of dollars. GLONASS has actually been around for a while. 1995 to be exact. However by 2001 they only had 6 satellites left in orbit; far away from the bare minimum 24 satellites.

Since those days Russia came up with GLONASS-M which is the second generation of their satellites. These last twice as long in orbit, are about 1.5 times more powerful. The first of these was put in orbit around 2005. Currently Russia is working on GLONASS-K, the third generation of their satellites and already sent one up.

Garmin eTrex to follow GLONASS satellites

The satellite tracking system GLONASS developed by the Russians will now be used by the new Garmin eTrex series (eTrex 10, eTrex 20, and eTrex 30). The new eTrex models will be able to track both GPS and GLONASS satellites at the same time. What this means for you is that you’ll be able to get a satellite position fix about 20% faster than you were to use GPS alone. Since there are 24 GLONASS satellites so far this gives your device more options to use and listen for the strongest signal. The only downside of activating both technologies is the reduced battery life. There’s always a trade off.

Samsung Mango uses GLONASS to improve positioning accuracy

Just yesterday we were talking about Qualcomm’s ‘dual satellite’ receivers that worked both with GPS and GLONASS satellites. Today we hear that Samsung now has an High Fidelity Position app which improves satellite positioning on Windows Mango devices. One of the things this app does is to give the user the option to “Use Sensor Aiding” which will use data coming from the gyro sensor and the electronic compass. The second thing is the option to turn on GLONASS capability in which case it will start listening for Russian satellites for a position fix.

I guess you don’t have to wait until next year to get your hands on some GLONASS power.

Russion GLONASS in action in New York

If you have a smartphone it probably has a GPS receiver module from Qualcomm which looks for US owned GPS satellites in orbit. Soon this will change and those Qualcomm receivers will start looking for Russian made GLONASS satellites too – yes very unAmerican – providing a lot quicker and accurate position fix. This will specially come in handy for those urban jungles like New York where your current setup relies heavily on cell phone towers to figure out your approximate location.

The interesting fact is GLONASS satellites mostly focus on northern latitudes (think location of Russia) which provides a lot better reception in northern countries such as Canada and northern states of U.S.

Just like GPS you’re using right now, GLONASS won’t cost you a penny however you’ll have to buy a new phone – possibly next year – that has a new Qualcomm recevier which can listen for both GLONASS and GPS satellites.

One of the writers at PCMag had a chance to see a demo unit in action in New York. They went to 28th St. in midtown Manhattan where’s there’s plenty of concrete blocking view of the sky. First they let the phone look for satellites using only GPS and it only got two – which is not enough for a position fix. And then they turned on the ‘use GLONASS’ button or whatever they had and started seeing 14 satellites. They immediately had a location fix.

Russia already has GLONASS powered phones and in the U.S. Garmin’s new eTrex seem to be the only end-consumer products that uses both GPS and GLONASS.

SkyTraq GLONASS/GPS receiver

SkyTraq of Taiwan just recently announced a receiver that is both compatible with GPS and GLONASS satellites. The dual purpose GLONASS/GPS receiver only measures 25mmx25mm in size and can function as a drop-in replacement to upgrade any GPS receiver into a GLONASS/GPS receiver (of course you’d need a dual frequency antenna too) making it suitable for manufacturers that want to update their lineup.

SkyTraq’s new receiver boasts 29 second cold start TTFF (time to first fix), -145dBm cold starting and -159dBm navigation sensitivity. It can 12 track channels for GPS-only mode, 12 channels for GLONASS-only mode, and 24 tracking channel when combined. It actually combines multipath detection and mitigation algorithm to provide tracking in difficult urban canyon and deep foliage environments…

Read the rest of this entry »

new GLONASS/GPS receiver from SkyTraq

SkyTraq from Taiwan just came out with S4554 GNS-LP, a new low power GLONASS and GPS receiver. This new chip can track 88 satellites at once and has a 29 second cold start TTFF (time to first fix). Once locked in it can work with signals at -159dBm, and -145dBm when cold starting.

S4554GNS-LP is quite flexible; it supports GPS-only, GLONASS-only, and GLONASS + GPS modes. It embeds a dedicated search engine which is capable of performing 10 million time-frequency hypothesis testing per second. It can operate in temperature ranges from -40 to +85 C…

Read the rest of this entry »

three Russian GLONASS satellites crash into Pacific

After the failed launch of a Russian Proton M rocket today three GLONASS satellites for navigation ended in the Pacific Ocean somewhere near Hawaii.

They were launched from Kazakhstan from the Baikonur Space Center as part of GLONASS project which is supposed to compete with US’ GPS satellites we’ve all been using.

According some reports the rocket was off by eight degrees from its course and the payload never made it to its planned orbit and eventually succumbed to gravity.

These three navigation satellites were part of the last batch to complete the planned 24 which Russia has been working on for quite sometime.