• A friendly and periodic reminder of the rules we use for fostering high SNR and quality conversation and interaction at Stormtrack: Forum rules

    P.S. - Nothing specific happened to prompt this message! No one is in trouble, there are no flame wars in effect, nor any inappropriate conversation ongoing. This is being posted sitewide as a casual refresher.

Using a phone/tablet as a GPS puck.

I recently had an idea to get rid of some of the cable management and software issues for Gibson Ridge Products (GR) and Spotter Network (SN). As most of you know/use, the most common way to have your GPS location displayed on GR and SN is to use a USB GPS Puck (~$30) and GPSGate ($35). This creates a virtual port for one of the programs to use that essentially mirrors the NEMA output.

My thought was, could I use my phone/tablet (which already has a GPS in it) to transmit a NEMA signal to my PC? Turns out, I made it work. I personally own Android products but I believe there are also iOS equivalents. How it works is that the GPS signal is sent via Bluetooth over to the PC from the phone/tablet. My PC already has a bluetooth built in it, but a small USB dongle can be bought for (~$10).The app I used was "Bluetooth GPS Output". (Free trial, $1 for purchase). I paired the devices, hit start, started up GR3's GPS, selected the COM port and worked perfectly.

I want to point out that the COM port issue still remains, so you can only use the GPS signal one program at a time. Unless you have GPSGate. However, the GPSGate Express edition is available for free which connects two devices. So, for example if I run GR3, SN, and a mapping software I would only need to delegate one of those off to another device. Good news is that my phone & tablet (and I'm assuming other Android & iOS devices) already port share. So I run SN (via Chaser Location ($2)) and Bluetooth GPS output on my phone and have GR3 and my mapping application on my laptop.

Total cost: $2.98
Traditional way: ~$65

Advantages: Wireless, no more pulling the GPS cable out.
Disadvantages: Wireless, if your bluetooth transmitter gets too far out of range, it will cut out. But it should "re-pair" quickly once you come back into range.
That does sound pretty useful. I tried using just my phone's GPS a year or two ago to track my route on a chase. I downloaded a free GIS tracking program and set my Galaxy S4's GPS settings to "high accuracy." I was very disappointed in the performance of my phone's GPS. It had me miles off course at many points, and the software only saved a data point like every 30 minutes, so my chase route looked like crapghetti. I have heard about the bluetooth option for sending an accurate GPS position straight to your computer (assuming the bluetooth GPS is more accurate than a cell phone), and I may try that sometime. I will say that I still use the wired GPS-to-laptop-with-GPSgate setup, as I have done that since 2010, so it has more than paid for itself in that time. My GPS puck (BU353) has incredible accuracy, so I demand that any other GPS system I invest in approximates my current puck in accuracy.
That does sound pretty useful...

Most modern smartphones GPS are pretty darn accurate these days with the rise of mobile driving apps. I know mine (Galaxy Note4) stays within about 5 yards when outdoors. If there is a signal blockage it can get up to 30 yards, but 100ft is way better than the half-mile-ish that old phones used to have. The pucks are better because they sit up out on the dash in front of everything. But the difference between the pucks accuracy (~1yd) and a phone/tablet ~5yds) isn't too bad nowadays.

Also, for logging purposes, I use GPS Essentials(Android). Has export options to all the main file types and you can set the frequency of logging to as little as 1 second.
Last edited:
Do you think a phone cover/case could interfere with the signal enough to result in poor tracking? If I recall correctly on that chase i had the phone in a favorable location (exposed on/near the dashboard or in my hand when out of the car) for tracking.
Do you think a phone cover/case could interfere...

It could, but I don't think there would be any real noticeable effect. The only situation I can think of is some big heavy metal case. GPS frequencies are under 1500Mhz which can still push through a good amount of material. Your (metal) car itself would be more of a barrier to signal reception.
I bought one of those Delorme BT-20 pucks back in the day and it still works perfectly. It works so seamlessly with GPSGate that I'm reluctant to try anything else, but at a certain point I would think Windows Location Services would supplant these older technologies. Only time will tell. I know US GlobalSat also sells a few BT units, but it seems most opt for the USB model (BU-353) since it's often bundled with mapping software.

It sounds like you happened on an inexpensive solution that works for you James. I imagine someone will benefit from it this chase season.
I bought one of those Delorme BT-20 pucks back in the day and it still works perfectly.

Exactly. For those who have invested the time and money to set the puck and GPSGate etc. up, and it works for you, there is no reason to change from that formula. This is for those who are either just starting or using a phone or tablet as the primary means of navigation/radar who are looking for an upgrade. I'm going to trialing it this season and see how it works out. If it turns out that it isn't accurate or can't keep a connection then I'll report back. Encourage others who want to try this system out to report their experiences as well.
I noticed yesterday while on GPSGate.com they already have a GPSGate Splitter plugin for Windows Location Services. I need to add that to the "checklist" of things to look closer at soon. The more streamlined the better if you ask me.

Sent from my iPad using Stormtrack mobile app
If you put your SN ID into PYKL3 and leave it running, it'll keep your beacon location updated - then you can use the Bluetooth GPS Output direct to GRX, or if you're running a mapping program too you can get away with using the free version of GPS Gate.