Thursday, 18 January 2018

Earn money when doing iWalks


If you haven't heard of sweatcoin, it's a digital currency unit (a bit like a bitcoin) created by a British company and is generated via an app which counts steps when you are outside (doesn't work inside).


The sweatcoin app pays a rough rate of one sweatcoin for each half mile walked (0.95 sweatcoins per 1000 verified steps).  These can then be spent on products and services through their app/website.



Like bitcoin this is a "cryptocurrency" and can also be converted to cash.  Currently 1 sweatcoin is only worth 5p if you cash in 20,000 of them via Paypal!  However there are plans to trade it on currency exchanges and as with bitcoin, it's quite possible that sweatcoins could appreciate in value so it's no bad thing to be an early adopter.  The sweatcoin company have just landed £4 million in investment so it all looks fairly promising.

You can run the sweatcoin app in the background whilst doing a walk with the iWalk Cornwall app.  Since the GPS antenna is already powered-up to supply the iWalk app with locations, running the sweatcoin app even with battery saving mode disabled won't use significantly more battery during a walk.  Just remember to re-enable battery saving mode when you not doing a walk. 

The one grumble with the sweatcoin app is that it does use a bit of battery on Android when you are NOT walking by trying to detect whether you are (not as much as running the GPS flat-out though).  It seems likely this is something that will be improved as the app gets more refined.  We've already had a quick chat to @sweatcoin on twitter about it.

With the free subscription (called "mover"), you're limited to "mining" 5 sweatcoins per day.  If you are planning on doing longer walks, it might be worth spending 5 sweatcoins on a month's higher membership level ("shaker") that allows you to earn up to 10 per day.


If your first walk is likely to be more than 2.5 miles, a nifty trick so you don't lose out is that if you tap on your username and tap "change" next to the monthly subscription, you can also get the first 30 days of  "shaker" membership for free.  That means you can mine more than 5 sweatcoins on your first walk, and then you've got some in credit for next time.

If you're planning to install the sweatcoin app, we'd be really grateful if could you do so via this link:



so we get 5 sweatcoins for iWalk Cornwall as a recommendation reward.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Starting a walk part-way round

A question we often get asked is whether it's possible to start a walk from a location part-way round the route with the app.

The answer is yes with the couple of things to keep in mind:the main one is that you need to remember where to finish!



When you first reach a direction point on the route, the app will offer to navigate from here. You can then follow the walk until you reach what is normally the end of the route.


Once you reach the normal end of the walk, use "Restart Walk" on the Summary screen to continue from what is normally the start of the walk until you reach the point where you joined the walk.

    

Note that because the app doesn't know where you are planning to finish the walk, the distance and estimated time remaining won't be useful to you as the app calculates these assuming you will finish at the normal end location.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Battery tips

An obvious concern with using any electronic device for satellite navigation is the lifetime of the battery, particularly given the high amplification levels needed to use weak GPS signals from space.

For mobile phones, there is a cheap solution:  USB "power bank" (external batteries) can be purchased for as little as £5 and are small enough to slip in a pocket.

Even the cheapest ones should last a walk but for around £20 you can get something that has many times the capacity of the phone's internal battery (over ten times that of the iPhone 6 battery, for example) so with those you really can walk all day long and probably all night (some include a torch!).   The flat ones are convenient as a phone can sit on the top and be secured by a couple of elastic bands! Amazon category: portable power banks



Battery monitoring in the iWalk app

During the walk, the iWalk app will monitor how fast your battery is draining and estimate how quickly you are likely to finish the walk based on your current walking speed.

Saving battery during planned stops

If you decide to have a long stop during the walk (e.g. for a swim or meal), you can use the "Pause GPS" button which can be found by pressing the extended menu button "...". This will temporarily stop receiving location updates which allows the phone to shut down the satellite receiver to save battery power. Don't forget to un-pause it afterwards to re-enable location tracking before you resume the walk!



Battery safeguarding measures

If it looks like the battery is definitely going to run out before you finish the walk, the app will warn you so you can connect an external battery.


If that happens, the app also offers you some options to conserve battery power if you are "caught short" and need to eek-out your battery.

 
      

The first step is to switch off WiFi and Bluetooth as these use a fair bit of battery power and you don't need them to do a walk. On iPhones you can do this by swiping 1 finger upwards from the bottom of the screen to show the toolbar.


You can also dim your screen as much as you can get away with as this is another large drain on the battery, although for viewing outside you'll need it brighter than for inside, particularly in the sunshine.  During the walk, you can also switch the screen off entirely by pressing the power button during long stretches between directions.  The iWalk app will continue to run in the background, even when your screen is turned off, so will still beep/vibrate when there's a new direction to follow.  On Android you can use a free app to disable the screen lock during the walk so you don't have to unlock your screen each time you press the power button.

If all of that is still not enough, the app will warn you again:

   

The first emergency measure you can use is to disable GPS tracking when the app is in the background (i.e. when the screen is turned off).  This means you'll have to switch on the screen and allow the app to get a GPS fix to check your position, but for potentially long stretches in between your phone can be using minimal battery.  If even that is not enough then the app offers you a last resort - to suspend GPS tracking entirely:

       

This means you can still use the directions text and map, just like a walk book, and you can switch on the GPS just for a moment if you're not sure where you are on the map.


Friday, 4 August 2017

Staying on track


Whilst we try to make the directions as clear and unambiguous as we possibly can, there are times (especially when chatting) when everyone takes a wrong turn.



There are a number of things in the app you can keep an eye on to ensure that you're on the right path.  The easiest way to check is via the map screen:



Another thing to watch out for on the summary screen is if the distance to the next direction is INCREASING!!

...   

Where it can, the app will attempt to warn you if you are wandering off-route:



However there are certain directions where it won't do this when a legitimate divergence from the route is anticipated as "likely", for example to explore the beach (where being nagged would be annoying):



A quick glance at the map or the distance to the next direction is the guaranteed way to avoid any long backtracks.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Distance and speed tracking in the app

When you're walking, it's often handy to have an idea how far it is to the next direction so you know whether you need to pay attention or you have a few minutes to natter to your friend before worrying about navigating.

Therefore as well as the displaying the text for the current direction, the summary screen of the app provides a real-time countdown of distance to the next direction as you are walking along.


There's also a distance remaining for the whole walk to deal with any "are we nearly there yet?" although feel free to use artistic interpretation!  The distance is based on a (flat) map.  In reality it will be a fraction longer due to the extra (height) going up and down hills but because Cornwall is not the Himalayas then that's pretty small.

The app calculates your average walking speed over the last couple of minutes to estimate how long the rest of the walk is likely to take.  We do this rather than averaging over the whole walk because your speed varies with the terrain (where possible, we aim to get the steeper bits out of the way in the first half) and also as you get a little more tired towards the end of the walk.    The speed measurement ignores any periods where you have stopped or are moving very slowly so pausing to take a photo or have a picnic shouldn't mess up the estimate of the time remaining.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

App reviews

If you've used our app to do a walk, we'd be really grateful if you could leave a review in the app store if you haven't already, as more reviews help to give other users confidence.  In particular, any visitors from "up country" won't have encountered iWalk Cornwall before and there is a lot of amazing stuff awaiting them here if they give it a try.

If you have an iPhone, open the App Store, search for "iwalk cornwall" and tap the iWalk Cornwall entry in the list. Tap the Reviews tab and then tap "Write a Review".  Select the number of stars, fill in the title and the review text.  Press "Send" and enter a nickname that is likely to be unique.  If all is well a "Sent" box will flash up.  



If you find that the "Send" button won't work, this is because your nickname is clashing with that of another user (but there is nothing to tell you this is the case).  If so, copy your review text so you don't have to type it all in again, cancel the review then start again and use a different nickname.

With an Android phone, open the Play Store app, search for "iwalk cornwall" and choose the iWalk Cornwall app.  Scroll down to find "Rate this app" with 5 star icons below it.   Select the number of stars, fill in the title and the review text and submit.



Note that our average rating is above 4, so any genuinely well-meaning 4-star reviews actually have a negative impact: the ratings average feeds into the app store rank which determines how many other users find out about the app.

A big thank you to everyone who has left a review and their incredibly kind and encouraging words which have kept us going through some tough periods.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Free materials for accommodation owners

We've made menus of 5 walks available for 40 distinct areas in Cornwall that accommodation owners can print out to include in the location information about their area for their guests. For owners, there is no need to maintain printouts of directions - the menus stay in the accommodation, don't get grubby and don't go out of date when directions are updated.

All guests need to do is download the app via wifi and use this to scan the codes for the walks. Guests always have the latest directions via the automatic update mechanism within the app. Once downloaded, walks work completely offline without any need for a phone signal. Most importantly the GPS guidance means that visitors don't risk having a bad experience by getting lost.

We've recently updated our menu of 5 walks in Poldark filming locations for series 3, and also the walks in the Porthcothan area to include our new Bedruthan Steps walk.

All the free materials for accommodation owners can be found on http://www.iwalkcornwall.co.uk/accommodation-resources (on the desktop site).