Turf and GPS

Turf zone – SouthEsk

The Global Positioning System, commonly known as GPS, is an essential tool when playing Turf. GPS tells us where the zones are located and where we are located in relation to the zones. When the two come together we get points, possibly medals and a happy turfer. But just how does GPS work and what are the problems, if any, we might encounter?

Simply put, and I stress simply as I’m no expert, the GPS on your mobile phone uses multiple signals from a network of satellites out in space to calculate your position. Imagine you are sitting outside your favourite cafe, having been in the saddle all day turfing and have just taken your 100th zone and deserve a coffee and some cake. In your mind’s eye, see a network of satellites in orbit around the Earth, each knows its own position in space along with the position of all its pals and each is broadcasting a signal to say, here I am.

Your cunning mobile phone GPS detects these signals and does some fancy trigonometry – remember that from school? – using a bunch of these signals, along with time, speed and distance, and some Hogwarts magic as well, to calculate where you are supping that coffee. Imagine a line between each satellite and another line from each down to you. That’s the triangles of trigonometry. It’s not 100% accurate, but within five meters is generally considered good, at least good enough for our needs. It can be better on occasion, such as once in a blue moon, and also far worse. You’re getting the use of billions of pounds’ worth of high-tech space-tech for free, so we shouldn’t really complain.

The accuracy of GPS can vary greatly, for a number of reasons. Different models of mobile phone, different operating systems, even different versions of the same operating system, can all have an effect of GPS accuracy, as can the mobile phones embedded GPS chip. To get a good signal, GPS needs a good clear view of the sky, so built-up urban areas can have quite a significant effect on accuracy. You can see this in action if you follow turfers on the Turf map.

In areas of tall buildings, their turfman icon can sometimes appear to be running across rooftops, swimming rivers or even leaping between tree tops, and while that could possibly be a very fit and keen turfer, its more likely to be a poor GPS signal. You may see the turfman icon jump to the road when it reaches an open space, a good indication of weak GPS signal improving itself. Trees, tunnels, bridges, underpasses, deep river valleys, passing UFO’s, types of terrain and the like, can all affect the GPS signal. And just to complicate matters further, the GPS signal can also bounce around buildings and structures.

As far as playing Turf, I’ve found that things work better if you keep the GPS running all the time. Some players appear to turn the GPS off between zones, possibly to save battery power, or perhaps just to be a deliberate pain-in-the-butt. This is really not very cool and very annoying to other players. If everyone plays fair and lets all players know where they are it’s much easier to plan routes, to either avoid a zone about to be taken, or meet for an assist, or whatever. A better option if you are wishing to save battery power is to purchase a power pack. One costing £20 will power your mobile two or three times over. You also get a 5 second reduction in take time if you leave your GPS on between zones, which is not to be sneezed at when trying for an Eager Beaver medal.

There are a few things you can do to get a better GPS signal. One is to look at the make and model of mobile phone itself. Newer phones may have the most recent developments in GPS chips or operating system but you would need to do your research first and take any advertised benefits with a pinch of salt. It’s all designed to sell you the phone. And ask yourself if it’s really worth spending £1000 on the biggest, best and latest model of phone.

If using the Android operating system, depending on the version, you can switch on high accuracy location mode. This allows the use of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and mobile phone towers, in addition to the GPS signal, to triangulate your location and hopefully, improve accuracy. Another piece of the accuracy jigsaw is the mobile phone signal itself. While the phone uses its own GPS to calculate its position, it uses your mobile’s data service to connect, via the Turf app, with the Internet and the Turf data server. We all know about loss of phone signal, so it’s also worth keeping this in mind when the Gremlins start getting up to mischief.

The Turf app has a couple of setting regarding GPS. The first is “always enable GPS on start-up” When on, your turfman icon will appear when you start the Turf app and you will be visible on the Turf map to other players. Switch this to off, and you are not visible and will need to switch on GPS to be visible. The other option is “enable background turfing”. When this is on, the app continues to run in the background even when the phone is dormant. One other point to mention, and that is I’ve always found the GPS works better when mounted on the bike handlebars, rather than carried in a pocket when out turfing on foot.

Sometimes the Gremlins are out and about. You enter a zone and nothing happens on the screen. You try again, still nothing. Sometimes the zone taking bars stop part way and will not complete the take. Sometimes you appear to have taken the zone but notice later that it still belongs to the previous taker. All these things, and more, can happen, that’s Turf. There are a few possible fixes, try turning the GPS off and an again, restart the Turf app or reboot the mobile phone itself. You can also download and install the free anti-Gremlin app 🙂 and see if that helps. Failing that, be patient, stay calm and chill. You can always try another day.

Copyright ©2021 Gary Buckham. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted in Turf. Bookmark the permalink.