How We Engineer RAMS GPS Dashboards for Accuracy, Efficiency, and Reliability

RAMS (Road, Air and Marine Speedometers) is our series of Mobile GPS Dashboard apps with unique sets of features suited specifically to different modes of transport.

The apps of the series share a core Journey Recorder component designed for high accuracy, memory and power efficiency, fault tolerance, and the capability to record for any length of time. We have focused on the following key aspects to create a high-quality mobile app experience.

 
RAMS 3.5 GPS Dashboards and Journey Recorders for Android
RAMS 3.5 GPS Dashboards, July 2021

The RAMS 3.5.7 builds: Velocity GPS Dashboard for road vehicles (left), and Mariner GPS Dashboard for marine vessels (right), June 2021

 

GPS accuracy

GPS chips in mobile phones and smart watches can generally achieve accuracy down to 3-4 meters. Strong signals cannot be guaranteed in all situations, and will most certainly vary as you travel over land. Nearby obstructions such as buildings, machinery, and unfavourable weather conditions can all affect signal strength.

To keep your statistics as accurate as possible during and after your trips, the apps will filter out any readings with poor accuracy. You will also be notified at the start of a trip if weather conditions are likely to affect accuracy.

Overcast weather warnings in Mariner GPS Dashboard for Android
Overcast warnings, Mariner GPS Dashboard 3.5.7
 

Signal Strength Indicator

The three-colour GPS signal indicator is used across the dashboards so you’ll be able to quickly gauge your signal strength at any time.

GPS Signal Indicator for RAMS GPS Dashboards
The RAMS GPS Signal Indicator, since 2017

The signal indicators will remain a solid green when a highly accurate signal (within 7 meters/22 feet) has been received in the last second, blink green for less accurate signals (7-15 meters), and will flash amber when an adequate signal has not been received for a more than a 3 seconds. They remain a solid amber until the first GPS signal has been received in the session.

 

Smart watch connectivity

As smartwatches are a lot smaller and more compact than phones, onboard GPS capabilities tend to be a little slower, which means it can be difficult in many cases to find a strong enough signal to show your speed accuracy and in good time.

The Wear OS apps offer the option to use either the onboard GPS, or to stream from your smartphone over bluetooth for a faster and more reliable connection.

Velocity GPS Dashboard on an Android Phone and Wear OS Watch
Velocity GPS Dashboard 3.+ pairing between an Android phone and Wear OS watch

💡 To use this tethering feature, you’ll need to have the same app installed on both the watch and the paired smartphone.

 

Fault tolerance

Various kinds of problems may occur while recording a journey; RAMS was built with this in mind. Prolonged use of GPS consumes a lot of battery power in most cases, and occasionally we forget to charge our phones and they run out of juice. Hard-to-find bugs may also be present in complex mobile apps, despite any precautions a development team may take. 

In case of runtime failure, the RAMS recording engine is designed to recover gracefully and minimise the loss of journey data. The apps will detect if they were shut down improperly and will pick up right from where you left off before the interruption. 

Crashes in the apps are reported to our analytics platform so that we can address them as quickly as possible. These crash reports are completely anonymised and no personal data will ever be included or necessary. 

🔗  Learn more about our analytics practices in our privacy policy. 

 
RAMS GPS Dashboards Mariner and Velocity on the drawing board, journey recording apps for Android
RAMS GPS Dashboards 3.4 WIP on the W&N drawing board, May 2021
 

Power efficiency 

There’s now a lot happening under the hood after four years of development. Processing of GPS and other sensor data, unit conversions, and network calls are made frequently throughout each session in order to display the most accurate data at any given moment. High power usage is necessary to provide such accuracy and give us as users the best possible edge.

Smart Background Processing

We regularly review and monitor app performance to find new ways to improve efficiency. Journey statistics are calculated in the background while a session is underway, and as of RAMS 3.5, the interval at which this data is processed varies throughout longer trips to contribute to lower power and memory usage.

💡 We recommend keeping your devices plugged into a power source while recording with a RAMS GPS Dashboard. The apps will show a reminder of this when a user begins their first session.

Reducing the GPS update interval is the most effective way to prolong battery life while recording. You change this via the main settings menu; tap on ‘Update Interval’ under the GPS section.

 
GPS Configuration, Velocity GPS Dashboard and Journey Recorder for Android
Changing the GPS Update Interval, Velocity GPS Dashboard 3.5.7

You will be prompted before starting a new journey if your GPS update interval is set to more than 1 second.

 

The 24-hour test

Before launching a major change in the Journey Recorder component, we run at least a 24-hour simulated journey to measure performance and catch any runtime errors along the way. The more data is recorded, the more power the apps will require to calculate your statistics most accurately. After the recording is finished, we analyse the track to make sure that it’s recorded as it should be.

Testing Mariner GPS Dashboard for Android
 

Data security

The RAMS Cloud is designed to be a robustly secure place to back up journey data. Everything is compressed and encrypted with the AES standard before being uploaded, and your unique personal encryption keys are stored on your end in a protected Google Drive folder that only the RAMS app can access. This ensures that only a record’s owner will ever be able to read it.

🔗 Learn more in-depth about our cloud security practices.

 

Better apps for better journeys

We build these apps to be capable of taking on any challenge, and as an independent team of avid explorers, we enjoy using them as much as creating them.

We wish you pleasant journeys!

 

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