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Smartphones About To Get Even Better For Geocaching

It’s Not About The Numbers noted yesterday the theory that Garmin was enforcing a new pricing regime that would make PNDs a low-volume, high-value item and lamented the failure of Garmin (and others, I should point out) to forge ahead with the development of a GPSr/phone hybrid.

Well, maybe we needn’t have worried about that …

It seems smartphones are going to continue getting more robust whilst providing better accuracy as the technology that goes into them progresses.

To start with, Daikin Industries is “developing a coating, mainly for use on the circuit boards of mobile phones, that’s resistant to water and moisture, environmentally friendly, and dries as a thin film”.

The video below is well worth a watch as it gives very clear example of how effective this product will be.

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So part of the robustness problem is taken care of there. Throw your phone in a decent, robust, water-resistant case and it’s likely you’ll have something every bit as good as that dedicated GPSr.

But what about accuracy?

Some mobile phones still have dodgy GPS capability and the accuracy of their marked waypoints cannot be trusted. However, a new chip by Broadcom Corp will communicate with four different satellite constellations, giving access to the 59 satellites up there.

But why stop there? It’ll also be able to track your location indoors and your vertical position as well.

“It establishes indoor positioning by pulling from a bunch of different wireless sources, like Wi-Fi, near field communication (NFC), and inertial sensors plus its built to capitalise on emergent technologies, like Bluetooth beacons and 5G Wi-Fi access points (using the new 802.11ac standard, even though everyone is still catching up with 802.11n). The more precise vertical and horizontal positioning is accomplished by communicating with a host of various sensors, like accelerometers, step counters, gyroscopes, altimeters and magnetometers.”

So the result of all this is that, inevitably, smartphones will likely catch up, if not surpass, our traditional GPSr technology. And it might even happen soon!

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  1. Tim T

    Battery life would have to be addressed too, before a smart phone can replace a dedicated GPS with replaceable batteries. When I’m out caching all day, I have the option of using AA batteries when the ones I start with die. Not so easy with a smart phone. Plus a smart phone sucks the life out of batteries incredibly quick!

  2. Pete

    “To start with Daikin Industries is “developing a coating, mainly for use on the circuit boards of mobile phones, that’s resistant to water and moisture, environmentally friendly, and dries as a thin film.””

    Excellent. Mrs B never has pockets and had to stop using her bra to store her phone as her natural radiance would cause the phone to get moisture on the inside! :)

    Tim T has a good point about battery life. It’s the major part of holding back smart phones as full time caching devices.

    I never understood why an essentially passive receiver such as a GPSr chip would need to drain so much power while having the WiFi or Bluetooth transceivers on seems to be a lot less of a drain on the phone.

  3. Cumbyrocks

    Yes, battery life is probably the biggest headache for developers. Adding more functionality to a device does tend to increase the demands on energy supply. I’m sure this is something the R&D boys are beavering away at though, we just haven’t heard about it yet.

    There are also alternatives to help extend battery life in these devices. My phone is always plugged into the charger everytime I get into the car and that makes a big difference to how long it lasts. One can also buy a second battery for the phone, or you can get something like this http://www.coolest-gadgets.com/20120419/solariffic-portable-solar-station-charges-sun/ or the one I have http://www.kathmandu.com.au/Product/60961/Carabineer_Solar_Charger .

    The kathmandu one I have can be charged in under an hour from your computers USB port and seems to extend the life of the phone when I’m out in the bush quite well. Unfortunately I haven’t been out for any decent walks so I don’t know exactly for how long!

  4. Pete

    Cumby, I had 68 cache 14 hour day, and plugged the phone in every time I got back into the car. The drain rate was higher than the charge rate. After 3 hours I had to pop in a fresh battery. After an hour after that, I would leave the phone in the car and walk to GZ with the Garmin.

    I did manage to do a 15 cache day on one phone and two batteries.

    Look, let’s be blunt – smart phone battery life is a major issue. When we’re back to a week’s standby-time and 6-8 hours talk time, we’re back in the game.

    It will come. :)

    Would I put up with a phone 2 times as thick if I got 4 times the battery life? Quite probably. But 4 times the battery life for geocaching only barely stretches a good car caching day out.

    1. kjwx

      Maybe you and Cumbyrocks two should switch to a real smartphone?
      I flew to Auckland early one morning, found 120 caches using the iPhone as my main GPS, text my darling brother, my spouse and a friend repeatedly, and made one brief phonecall before I flew home at 6pm – and despite that, I didn’t have to recharge the battery until after I’d had dinner that night.

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