Sunday, November 13, 2011

Is Live Bicycle Tracking Going To Have A Major Impact On Cycling?

We have been trialling live bicycle tracking for a while now and last week I got the opportunity to present our work at the Applied Physiology Conference at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS). This is an annual gathering of people providing technical and science support for coaches and athletes. On the opening Monday the participants, who were mostly young fit and intimidating, seemed in widespread agreement when one speaker said there was too much emphasis on toys. Our toy began the Tuesday presentations, fortunately introduced by an insider, Dan Dwyer who had first encouraged us to try this after live tracking made its debut in the 2010 Tour de France.  Rebecca Wiasak, recent Tour of Geelong winner, has been testing live data transmission during training and racing and came along for the show. Dan introduced Rebecca and her bike set-up and Rebecca rode off from the conference. I presented the technical details and then we connected Rebecca's and our Bali based collaborators live data and two way audio. Rebecca chatted with the audience and put in a short 900 watt effort in response to a request. It seemed to go alright and Rebecca's coach John Forrest thinks it has sufficient potential to present at a coaching conference in Adelaide this Tuesday.

Live data is now available from multiple smart phone based sports tracking applications. The applications are developing rapidly and are used by thousands of enthusiasts but they aren't currently used by the AIS or ACTAS. When I ask why, I'm told they are keen on live coaching but its only a novelty without power data. Our solution provides live SRM power data, which hopefully will help get live coaching happening at the  AIS and ACTAS.

Google's live tracking at the 2010 Tour de France used the open source android app, My Tracks and we've stuck with that, providing a bridge application to control My Tracks and upload extracted data live to an existing web based sports training application. Unlike many of the conference participants I'm fond of toys but I'd be the first to agree there's a gulf between a new toy and changing how things are done. The challenge now is to bridge that gulf.

Avocado MyTracks-to-MapMyTracks Bridge
Interface of the Avocado
MyTracks-to-MapMyTracks Bridge.
 It controls My Tracks and uploads
live training data to Map My Tracks. 
Review the presentation or follow these instructions to try it out.

Avocado MyTracks-to-MapMyTracks Bridge Setup and Running Instructions

What you need to run the application:
1.       Android 2.1 update 1 or above.
1.       Avocado MyTracks-to-MapMyTracks Bridge is available for download. This version will upload  SRM PC7 data except for power data. A version that also uploads power data can be provided by email on request.
2.       An account on the website
3.       Latest version of Google MyTracks obtainable from the Android Market. 
Note: If you are interested in using an SRM PC7 to track power data you will need an ANT+ capable handset. Also, at this time the version of Google MyTracks (1.1.10) available on the Android Market isn’t able to connect to the SRM ANT+ Bridge. Use this My Tracks version instead.

How to setup the application:
1.       Turn on “Unknown sources”. You’ll find it in Android Settings >> Applications. This will allow you to install applications from sources other than the market. In this case, from the distributed APK. 
1.      If you are using Android 2.2 or above you can click on the install button while viewing the email with the  Avocado MyTracks-to-MapMyTracks Bridge app attached from within the Gmail app. For Android 2.1 you need to log in to Gmail through the browser to download the app.
2.      To install downloaded apps run the downloaded APK file either through the downloads in the browser or through a file explorer (it should be downloaded to sdcard\downloads).
4.       When the first run, the bridge application will ask you for the username and password. You should enter the MapMyTracks username and password. This will allow the bridge application to upload data to your account in MapMyTracks.
Note: Authentication of the MapMyTracks username and password won’t occur at this point, but rather it will occur when you start an activity. Hence you won’t get to find out whether or not the username and password are valid until when you attempt to start an activity. This will be changed in a future version.
5.       The bridge application will also ask you for activity details, these can be changed before every activity but experience suggests this is too much effort.
a.       The title is the name you give to the activity
b.      You can specify if the activity is public or private. Public allows everyone to see the activity details. Private activities are only available to you.
c.       Select the activity type from the list.
d.      Add any tags you may wish. The tags group activities and make them easier to find. E.g. you can place tags for the event you are using, the team you are playing for, etc. Other people, can then find all the activities with the given tag, including yours.
6.       Sharing and access to third-party applications needs to be enabled in MyTracks. You’ll find the setting in Settings >> Sharing >> Allow access. This would allow the bridge application to control MyTracks (turn recording on and off) and retrieve sensor information (e.g. heart-rate data) from MyTracks. Make sure this setting is turned on before starting an activity.

When you begin your activity:
1.       Make sure you have your sensors configured in MyTracks (e.g. your heart-rate monitor). You can go to “Sensor State” in MyTracks to check if the sensor details are coming up or not, even before recording.
2.       Go to the bridge application. It should be titled “Avocado MyTracks-to-MapMyTracks Bridge” in your application menu.
3.       Press the start button.
4.       Before you start moving, wait until:
a.       You get a GPS fix. This ensures that your whole activity is recorded.
b.      You start seeing “Uploaded XX:XX:XX” with timestamps coming up on the “updates” portion of the screen. This means the application has started uploading your data. When this happens, others can see your updates live online. Currently, there is a lag of about 5-15 seconds between the activity and the online updates.

At the end of your activity:
1.       Go to the bridge application and press the stop button.
2.       You can view the offline details of the activity in MyTracks. Notice that the GPS location samples in MyTracks are not the same samples used in the online version at present but we are planning to change this.


  1. Interesting - I have a similar ap that I have written myself that works with our own web servers and software.

  2. I think it will have an impact on how coaches manage their clients. My ap also has a self contained mode where the ap "speaks" to the rider like a coach would, as well as reporting HR and Power data via the ear piece.