DennisO (denniso) wrote,

  • Mood:

Design. Safety. Sport.

“...Hardware and software, developed together, come work to define a singular experience”

'Taptick engine' - efficient vibro motor

Jonathan Ive have been saying these words over and over again. On the merit of these words alone, Apple has me as a loyal customer over many years.

I don’t buy into hype. I don’t buy into euphoria. I buy into philosophy. Philosophy of a meticulous design, art and software development, combined. Apple is the greatest consumer electronics company there is, with lots of talent and capacity to do things right.

BTW, the words above have been said about new advancement in taptic feedback, 3D Touch. Here is the entire four minute video.

3D Touch and Taptick Engine - watch it.

Surprised? Don’t be. I’m an engineer, and every phrase of this, what seems to some lengthy and boring part of iPhone 6S launch, tells me how much effort went into development of this one particular experience. I salute Apple for this achievement!

When you appreciate the effort, blood and sleepless nights, that went into many components of, what may look to most simple and obvious, you can’t go back and look at the works of traditional OEMs or ODMs.

You develop permanent allergy to imperfection.

And that what makes singular experience - magical. 3D renderings can’t convey the effort that goes into creation of such a complex, yet beautiful design. And that is why Apple has my business, even when their other teams fail in a major way.

And when they do - I write my reviews.


Over the Labor Day weekend, I spent many hours going thru massive listings and OEM catalogs, looking for a simple, yet elegant and lightweight solution for my upcoming marathon in Munich.

Something simple and primitive that no one have been able to deliver in an elegant and efficient way. Care to know what that is?

Here. Ugly and unattractive, child or elderly GPS tracker. Yuck ;(


Why would I need that junk!?

You don’t run with your feet. You run by the effort of your brain. Brain excites neurons, send commands thru the nerve system to the muscles, and that results in movement. Not the muscles first - but the brain.

It is the reason why so many entrepreneurs, executives, leaders, thinkers choose either extreme sports or endurance challenges. It develops and forms you into a better, more efficient person. And you want to be in the elite. That is the human nature - to be the best.

While, I’m not to set world records, I do want to learn, train and run like olympian. And to achieve that - you need to be an efficient and economical runner.


Lack of bulk, zero extra weight, only absolute minimum amount of resources and equipment needed to support your brain and body functions thru the course of 26.2 miles.

Of course, elite athletes enjoy support and help from their teams. They never have to carry supplies of energy and water for extended distances. Energy mixes and hydrates are placed in advance so that athletes can focus on one and only task - running.

I analysed dozen of marathons, strategies, listened to a number of tech talks by world-known runners. I talked to some of them about their experiences. One thing is consistent - you need economy of running and weight savings.

It makes a lot of sense. Right technique and optimal strength is needed to propel body of an optimal mass. Every pound, every couple of ounces - there is no such thing as unaccounted weight in a long-distance running, if your goal is to achieve decent result.

So, you need minimalistic approach. But some things you can’t skip. Here is my ‘dream list' of things I need for a marathon:

  • Waterproof iPod Shuffle - check

  • GPS watch, 40 grams - check

  • 2x5 ounces of energy mix - check

  • 5 ounces of water or minimalistic half-empty water bottle with electrolytes ( I choose not to use electrolytes offered at the races) - check

How is it possible, you may wonder?

Only due to enormous help, offered to me by my friend and companion in my adventures, Dani. He is my support team. He carries all other extras I may need during the race and he rides his bike ahead of me to meet me at critical milestones.

There is one small problem. I don’t have live TV cameras following me all the time. As a result, Dani needs to know my location in the massive crowd of runners and spectators. And remember, I refuse to run with the phone - so he can’t locate me thru the 'Find my Phone' - type of app.

I need lightweight, portable, waterproof, no BS, GPS tracker. And guess what? There isn’t one. The one that would work reliably!

Tinitel GPS - small startup, pushed delivery date once again to the end of the year.

Who would need it? Anyone, who needs a backup or SOS-like beacon to signal about whereabouts while on the run, hunting trip, fishing route, road or a marathon, ultra marathon, kayakers, windsurfers, kids, elderly - applications are endless.

Anyone who is in distant or in overcrowded area, where 20-byte positioning coordinates would allow your teammate, or anyone you choose, to know exactly where you are during that particular event in real or close to real time.

Global positioning, without complex and expensive solutions such as APRS, Sat-Fi, Iridium or many others industrial grade offerings.

We need simple solution. Machine-to-machine smart sim, GSM\GPS SoS and programmable SOS number with ability to transmit our real time GPS coordinates. Did I also mention security of communication?

Probably dozen of startups tried to solve this problem in the last 2 years alone. Only 3 (actually 2), delivered semi-product to market. Here is one startup pitch that I liked the most, which failed despite right design:

Brilliant design and marketing compain. Startup never took off. Watch it. I'll love it!

These ones are on the market today:


Trackimo is 50 grams, costs $139 with 1-year service included, but allows to send on a hand-full SMS-based alerts every month. What a joke. Solution - program the tracker to use e-mail, which increases latency for communication. You can only setup Trackimo to update coordinates once every minute. It’s on a heavier side. Not waterproofed. No go.


TRAX GPS tracker is much more progressive. Mass - 25 grams. It is as close to real time monitoring as you can get, it uses additional sensors to initiate ‘sleep’ mode for power savings. But reviews vary.

Looks like the company has issues with QC, and at $249.00 price point, even with 2-year included service, it is expensive. Because of reliability issues - no go, again.

In reality, this space, for such basic and trivial use case, is cannibalized by semi-low cost, low quality, non-reliable knock-offs.

Apple Watch, FitBit Surge, Android Wear, Samsung Tizen, Garmin, TomTom - all should have this basic stand-alone feature of SOS beaconing and object positioning implemented.

None of them have it today. I can only hope that in 2016 someone will cave and realize just how many applications and how basic (safety-wise), this feature is. It's a must have for a child, elderly or an outdoor (and indoor) athlete - anyone who may or choose not to be around a phone at the time of emergency.

So, for this year races, I’m building my own. 20 grams, two-day tracking with about 30-sec positioning turn-around and basic AT command support. Hacking, as usually, something what is based on 15-year old design, and in reality should be an elegant, seamless, ‘magical’ sport and fitness user experience or safety feature in the Internet of things and humans.

I may take Trax GPS tracker as a backup with me, but it has too many negative user reviews, and coverage is only negotiated in 33 countries. Trackimo - maybe as well, but it is 50 grams, which is borderline for me. Too bad Trivo GPS didn’t take off. I liked these guys. They are funny.

I need a quality GPS tracker. I’d rather focus on my running rather than on hauling supplies with me, like a medieval tropical explorer.

Would it be simpler to get big boys excited about the prospect of addressing safety for masses and creating better experience for sport enthusiasts? Absofuckinglutely!

But, I guess for now, safety of millions is not on their minds.

I’m passionate about synergy of hardware and software. So, I’ll keep publishing my notes on a subject of a major, yet trivial, fuckups of a couch-potato-type product ‘managers’. One extra mile, that for whatever dubious reason someone chose not to take for the sake of higher margins and lower costs.

Yes, you can physically place quad-band GSM, GPS, BT and WiFi antennas in one elegant design. You could do it last year - you chose not to.

Oh, did someone say Samsung Gear S2?


Yes, rrrright….. I wonder why guys at Samsung forked their OS, like Amazon did years back? Hmmm….. Guess what - I’ll buy that watch too, just for the fun of it, and I’m pretty sure - it won’t cover such a basic requirement. I would be positively surprised, if it did.

Good night! Be safe.

Tags: diy, gps, marathon
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.