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1 T1 Tact Watch ($94.99)

Many people wonder if there is a T1 Tact Watch GPS to track movement and distance during fitness routines. However, what they don’t realize is what they actually need is a distance tracker with a built-in pedometer, which is what the T1 offers. Particularly, while the T1 Tact watch doesn’t have GPS, it does include an integrated tracker with a 3-axis accelerometer to give you perfectly accurate results.  Still, it’s important to understand what GPS is and how it works, so you know exactly what you need in your smartwatch. Typically, people will go for GPS functionality without knowing how they want to use it, when instead they could pay far less and get better results in a fitness tracker. Here we’ll show you everything you need to know about GPS and distance trackers, including the history of how it all came to be!

What is smartwatch GPS? 

GPS stands for Global Positioning System, and it’s a way of finding your location (or position) anywhere in the world through the use of satellites. Some smartwatches have built-in GPS systems, however, a T1 Tact Watch GPS is not required to keep track of fitness or exercise routines. The reason for this is that some devices, such as the T1 Tact Watch uses a high-quality pedometer and accelerometer to track step count and distance travelled by foot. 

Still, it’s important to understand exactly what GPS is, its origins, and how it’s used today to get a better understanding of its use in a smartwatch. A T1 Tact Watch GPS system is redundant in this case, since it already has a built-in pedometer and tracking system. We’ll start by explaining how GPS works and give some insight into how it developed over the years.

Different Ways to Read Distance and Elevation

Another tool smartwatches use to determine your position is barometric altimeters. These record the pressure changes at different points of your workout and give you accurate information on elevation changes. Note that this is done without the use of watch GPS. Product Manager Joe Heikes explains it this way:

“We’re putting a barometer in more and more of our wearable products because it enables the ‘floors climbed’ feature…However, I think customers should understand that, for the vast majority of runners, there is very little benefit to this measurement,” Heikes said.

Young Black woman reviews her Distance tracker feature which replaced the T1 Tact Watch GPS function

Runner reviews her Distance tracker feature which replaced the T1 Tact Watch GPS function

Although, your distance traveled isn’t affected by your elevation change, according to Heikes: 

“A quick mathematical check shows that a 10-percent grade over one mile creates only an additional eight meters of distance as compared to one mile over a flat. While a 10-percent grade may not sound like much, that would be because one has not actually tried to run a mile up a 10-percent grade!”

As a result, you don’t need 3D readings, that is, readings that take into account both your distance and elevation. Again, tactical watch GPS isn’t necessary, and simple 2D readings are sufficient, as Heikes explains:

“In most products, we do not take elevation changes into account in the distance calculations. Except in rare cases, it really doesn’t matter.”

How a Smartwatch with GPS Can Show Different Distances

With so many smartwatches on the market, many users are finding that their distances vary with their friends’ when they go on long runs together. The reason for this is that GPS readings work differently on different devices. This includes receiving, registering, and filtering GPS signals. Remember that you’re relying on several satellites orbiting thousands of miles above you, so there’s bound to be differences.

Product manager and Triathlete, Markus Kemetter commented on this phenomenon in more detail: “The battery-saving option available in some devices may decrease the accuracy of the GPS measurement… Nowadays, the GPS technology has developed to be very good, and distance variation between devices is often below one percent.” This is another reason a T1 Tact Watch GPS is not necessary. When GPS gives you slightly different readings across different devices, you’re better off tracking your own steps. As mentioned before, the integrated pedometer in the T1 Tact Watch accurately tracks your steps and distance. With this feature, there is no need to make complex calculations based on triangulation satellites floating around in space. 

Interference Can Cause Problems with GPS

Precisely because of this triangulation, which we’ll explain in detail below, your GPS relies on receiving a radio signal from far away. When things get in the way of this signal, it can distort it or make it lag, giving you inaccurate results. This is called ‘multi-path’, and if you’re in a city, this means that skyscrapers and billboard, and even airplanes, can distort your signal. Additionally, if you go for a run in the forest, tall trees can also cause interference.  Head of Marketing Solutions & Services, Simon Loe commented on how strong signals can be and how interference disrupts them:

“For users on land or sea, a GPS signal is about as strong as a light bulb would be to your eye when it’s a few miles away,” he said. “However, seeing more satellites makes it easier to establish a more accurate position.”

“In deciduous forests, as leaves fall in winter, a watch may record a different path from the same route taken in summer,” Heikes added. Obstacles “also create other problems such as when the signal bounces off a building before it reaches the watch, in which case the GPS receiver in the watch will think it is farther from the satellites than it really is.”

Healthy Mature Male Using His Smartwatch Distance Tracker Function Coupled With Smartphone To Tracking Running & Fitness Data

Healthy Mature Male Using His Smartwatch Distance Tracker Function Coupled With Smartphone To Tracking Running & Fitness Data

To avoid interference, make sure you run or exercise in clear and open areas, without obstacles. If this isn’t possible due to where you live (including dense areas like NYC), there are options. Some watchmakers offer a feature called GLONASS which can read signals from Russian satellites. This is a good option in case the primary satellites are blocked for some reason, although it does come at a heftier price. 

Smartwatch GPS History

Watch GPS systems work based on the time it takes for a satellite to send a radio signal to your watch. This is known as triangulation, where your device solves equations based on the positions of different satellites, calculating their position and the time it took to receive their signals to determine where you are positioned. 

This is possible mainly because the radio signals submitted by a satellite to a smartwatch with GPS is constant, so you can accurately determine where you are. 

According to Product Marketing Manager Tom Lund:

“Triangulation is a way to determine the difference between the time that your running watch receives a GPS signal and the time that GPS signal was sent to your running watch. The difference between sending and receiving a GPS signal determines how far away the satellite is,” Lund said.

“By integrating GPS technology in a fitness or sports watch, the watch measures a series of points that are used to accurately derive metrics like distance, speed, and pace. These metrics give runners real-time insight into their running performance,” he added.

You Are Here , book by Hiawatha Bray

You Are Here , book by Hiawatha Bray

 

 Important Developments in GPS History

 

1950-1969:

  • 1957 – The Soviet Union launches their Sputnik I satellite into orbit.
  • 1959 – As a response, the U.S. Navy creates a Transit system of satellites to track locations of submarines.
  • 1963 – A widespread study of all military satellite technology by the Aerospace Corporation creates the basis for our modern GPS system.

1970 – 1989:

  • 1974 – The United States launches into orbit the first NAVSTAR test satellite
  • 1978 – The U.S. begins their Block I GPS Program, launching another 11 test satellites into orbit.
  • 1983 – The U.S. announces that GPS technology will be available to the general public to make air traffic safer after Korean Air Lines Flight 007 crashes. 
  • 1985 – The U.S. awards contracts to private companies for the creation of smaller, portable GPS receivers for civilian use.
  • 1989 – Magellan, a GPS company, releases the NAV 1000, the first hand-held GPS device. Also, The U.S. Air Force launches a completely operational satellite into orbit as part of a new program called Block II.

1990 – 1999:

  • 1990 – Selective Availability begins– this is when the U.S. Department of Defense lowers the accuracy of GPS readings for non-military use. The reason being that they didn’t want other world powers to gain tactical advantages from their satellites. 
  • 1991 – While GPS wasn’t fully operational, it played a decisive role in U.S. operations in the Gulf War.
  • 1995 – With 24 fully functional satellites in orbit (known as the GPS constellation), the U.S. military officially declares Full Operational Capability (FOC), meaning they completed their mission in regards to GPS satellites.
  • 1998 – Al Gore, then U.S. Vice President, announces that all GPS III satellites will send additional signals after being used selectively for military purposes: one for civilian use, and one for aircraft use. 
  • 1999 – Benefon, a mobile phone company, releases the first GPS phone.

    2000-2020:

    • 2000 – The U.S. government officially ends ‘Selective Availability’, which opens up full GPS capability for civilian use, ushering in more innovation and creativity with GPS.
    • 2004 – Qualcomm, an electronics company based in the U.S., runs a test of live assisted GPS on a cell phone, using both mobile signals and GPS signals to increase accuracy.
    • 2005 – A signal dedicated to civilian GPS use is accessible through the Block IIR satellites.
    • 2010 – The U.S. launches what would be the first of Block IIR satellites. This created a dedicated GPS channel specifically for civilian use.
    • 2016 – U.S. launches last Block IIR satellite, signaling the completion of their Block II program which lasted from 1989 – 2016.
    • 2018 – The first GPS III satellite makes it into orbit, launched by the U.S. Air Force.
    • 2019 – Second GPS III satellite lands in space, this time launched by a private U.S. company. SpaceX, with its Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral. 
    • 2020 – Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the newly created U.S. Space Force halts the launch of the GPS III-3 satellite by SpaceX.

    Problems Getting Signal

    When you use your GPS device for the first time, it might take longer to receive the signal and display results. This is because your watch needs to identify the satellites around you, and this may take longer the first couple of times. However, once you’ve already tracked your distance in a certain area, the next time you use GPS will probably be faster. 

    One industry expert describes how this might work: 

    “The speed of getting your first fix is dependent on how well the device knows the current satellite constellation around you… Many devices also use satellite orbit predictions. This prediction data is valid for a short time and can be refreshed using a data connection to the device.”

    Essentially what this means is that the more you sync your GPS to your smartphone, the faster and more accurate the results will be. 

    How Distance Trackers Work

    Distance trackers, such as the T1 Tact Watch, avoid all these problems with GPS because they do not send and receive signals to orbiting satellites. In fact, all the information they need is attached to the watch (hint: It’s your body!). Usually the fitness tracker needs input such as the wearer’s weight, height, and gender to properly analyze data.  The most common type of sensor used in fitness and distance trackers or motion sensors which sense body movements. These sensors ‘feel’ the movements of the body using a 3-axis accelerometer. Data is recorded into the watch every second the watch is moving– this tells the sensors whether the person is walking, jogging, running, or even standing still. The data is then processed when transferred to a health or fitness app.  The apps take the movement information and compare it with the user’s profile: their weight, gender, and height. Then it goes through a complex algorithm that’s completely personalized and displays the results. The T1 Tact Watch may be more accurate because its constantly reading information from the wearer’s body, instead of tracking movement from thousands of miles away. A smartwatch with GPS is a great tool for finding your location wherever you are. You know that you can reliably depend on satellites in space to tell you general information including your location, path, and distance. However, if you want more personalized information based on your characteristics and movement, a distance tracker such as the one included in the T1 Tact Watch is perfect. This tracker will tell you everything you need to know about your fitness and exercise routines, which you can later sync up to an app and analyze your stats.