APRS SmartBeaconing Parameters for Bicycling

Setting relatively prime beacon times for the GPS-to-APRS trackers on our three bikes worked quite well, but I wondered how much better SmartBeaconing would be. The trick is getting the numbers right for typical bicycling speeds.

Here’s some settings (from the TinyTrack3+ config program display) that seem to work reasonably well…

SmartBeaconing Parameters
SmartBeaconing Parameters

The general idea is to beacon every 10 minutes at rest and about three / mile in motion.

The only time I hit 3 MPH is up a really nasty hill, the likes of which I avoid with all due diligence. On the other end, 24 MPH is pretty much as fast as I can go for any length of time; faster, certainly, on downhills, but those are rare & precious commodities on most rides around here. The Slow and Fast parameters control both ends of that range. The beacon rate increases linearly below the Fast speed: 180 seconds at 12 MPH, which is roughly what I used for the constant-time setting.

Note that the Rate parameters are actually periods. Rate is thing/time, period is time/thing. The period varies as 1/speed, while the rate varies directly with speed. See the SmartBeaconing writeup or the TinyTrak3+ doc for the algorithm.

The Turn Slope parameter is the most confusing. It has units of degrees/MPH degree·MPH and serves to modify the Min Turn Angle so that you must turn more sharply at lower speeds to generate a beacon. This works better for vehicles with a wider dynamic range: our bikes tend to stay within 5-20 mph and a factor-of-four doesn’t affect the basic angle very much at all.

My track through a residential area shows pretty good “Corner Pegging” for those settings and, in any event, it’s much better than the simple every-three-minutes beaconing I’d been using before. On the other hand, this is in a low-RF-traffic area with a digipeater about a mile away across the Northway, so very few packets get clobbered.

APRS Track with SmartBeaconing
APRS Track with SmartBeaconing

Perhaps setting Turn Slope to 240 degrees/MPH degree·MPH with a Fast Speed of 24 MPH and a Turn Angle of 10 degrees would be slightly better. At top speed the minimum turn angle would be 10 + 240/24 = 20 degrees and nose-pickin’ speed relaxes the angle to 10 + 240/6 = 50 degrees. On the other hand, that track looks pretty good as-is!

One problem with three bikes in close proximity (the track above is just me) is that we’ll all be turning at about the same time and, thus, sending beacons almost simultaneously. This will take a while to sort out, given that many beacons never make it to a receiver…

[Update: A correction shows why the units aren’t what I expected.]

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