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Capturing Your Tracks on Android

Learn how to #Capture Your #Tracks, using #MyTracks and #GoogleEarth.  To start the new year, we are playing with some freely available apps and making our own data.  As an extra bonus, you don’t need to be in front of a computer, since this is a tutorial using your Device and an App that you need to pre-load.  My Android-based tutorial does not require internet or data.

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Live read of my average speed and elevation while capturing data.

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Elevation and Speed read out

Today, I’m sharing you my fun adventures in demonstrating how to record your location using your own device.  My tutorial was Tracked right in Verner, which is Northern Ontario.  You know, where all the people live in Igloos most of the year (joking….seriously I’m joking…but it gets really cold there).  To do this tutorial, you need:

  1. GPS enabled device (tablet, cell phone)- note Data is not a requirement
  2. A mode of transportation (foot, bike (hopefully in tandem), vehicle).
  3. And pre-installed application.

So there are three ways you can do this Capture of your tracks.  One way is to use a GPS unit like a Garmin, where you can export you data.  Please review the instruction manual for you device.

The second way is to use an Apple iPhone, and a trusted software you can use is MotionX-GPS.  This is a software I found trusted for iPhone.

The third way, and the way I will be demonstrating is using My Tracks on Android Samsung Tab 4 (Tablet).  Just a disclaimer, I chose to use My Tracks because its a Google software.  To some extent, I have trust in a Google software.  There are many others, just use with caution.  Considering the amount of data being collected, you want to be careful.  Especially downloading an application to your phone or tablet, a device you may use for personal photos, emails, phone calls…you want to make sure you aren’t opening yourself to cyber attacks or something.  So here is Part 1 of my Tutorial:

Once downloaded, I needed to enable “Location” or the GPS capabilities on my android device.  What’s cool is that you get GPS communication without subscription and no Data required, its really cool!  Now on cell phone, it may be different, your GPS may be also influenced by cell towers, where you location is constantly triangulated between cell towers for accuracy.  Fun fact, Samsung Tab has GLONASS capabilities, but that feature ain’t supported in USA and Canada…hehe.  Here’s a link to the specs if you’re curious.

Once its set to go, you can press Record, that will be located on the left side of the application, its a big Red Button.

While you’re recording, I thought it was cool how you can record even markers by manual entry or photographs.  For example you can take a photo at the start, middle or end.  What’s nice is that it pulls your full featured camera (not the very basic camera on your screen before you unlock your device).  This is great, because if you’re driving, you may want to change it to action mode since you driving (otherwise you get a complete blurrrrr-not cool).

I do have a Disclaimer for any users using this while driving, make sure you aren’t operating a vehicle.  I was very fortunate, I had someone driving the vehicle while I was capturing.  You should never be operating a vehicle while playing with a device, devices can be a distraction.  More so, depending where you are, fines can very from place to place.  In Canada we have some hefty fines.

Once you do a good length and you are happy with what you recorded, you can stop the recording and you can export it to your Google Drive.  Now, if you want to view in Google Earth, Google Earth really likes using Google Drive, so you may need to use Data or access Internet.  The beauty of My Tracks is that you can capture without Data and upload later.  Plus, if you want to view on Google Earth, you’re going to need Internet… As a warning, if you are uploading to Google Drive, double check your security sections just to be safe.

Now, when I had access to Internet, that’s when I started viewing my data.  Here is Part 2 of my tutorial:

So I uploaded to Google Drive and launched Google Earth right on my Android device.

So you can adjust settings on the accuracy in your device, and thinking about it, this is how we get that lovely elevation read out and play-by-play statistics.  But when I opened it in Google Earth, I was disappointed, the default export appeared to only show the start and end of my data collection, not the interval collections in between.  So a bit disappointed.  What I might do is export the kml (or kmz) and see how the data looks like some time.

As a special treat, I had a kml of my own Novatel GPS unit that runs at 20hz frequency, just so you can see how high resolution data looks like.  That’s the type of output I was hoping for, so I’ll have to make some time and poke through my data and see what is happening with My Tracks.

So if you found this tutorial, install an App, Track your travel and share with your friend.  I challenge you to snap shot a nice scenic route for a jog with your favourite stopping points (just make sure you only share with trusted friends…).

All-in-all, I hope you found this tutorial fun.  I’m looking forward on building on this captured data for another tutorial, so stay tuned and happy GIS-ing!