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What Is Garmin SatIQ Multiband GNSS
If ever there were a lot of techy acronyms that needed explaining, that title had plenty, so I’ll explain them as straightforwardly as possible.
Garmin SatIQ TL;DR: Automatically enable/disable the high accuracy mode on high-end Garmin devices.
What Problem Are We Trying To Solve Here
Garmin’s latest Airoha (MediaTek) chipsets are some of the most accurate I’ve ever used in both the regular mode and high-accuracy mode. However, the highest accuracy comes with a cost of significantly increased battery consumption. It’s perhaps not the hugest of problems as battery consumption is still more than acceptable even in high accuracy mode.
What Is GNSS?
Most people say GPS but really mean GNSS. GNSS stands for Global Navigation Satellite System. It’s the generic term for satellite-based navigation systems.
When smartphones, sports watches or bike computers determine your position they measure the distances from several satellites. By using ephemerides data, the whole system knows the position and trajectory of all satellites, so your position can be trilaterated (multilaterated) by your piece of tech to give either a 2D position or 2D position+elevation (3D).
The satellites were launched by several countries and are managed by the same countries in groups, or constellations. The constellations with a global reach are these
- GPS – the USA’s Global Positioning System
- Galileo – The EU’s system
- GLONASS – Russia’s system
- Beidou – China’s system
Garmin’s original sports watches have always relied on electronic chips from 3rd party manufacturers like MediaTek and Sony. Over time these chips have become progressively more competent by adding GLONASS, Galileo and Beidou compatibility to the original GPS-only capabilities.
Broadly speaking, more satellites can either mean more accuracy or an increased chance of achieving the stated level of accuracy. However working with more satellites typically also requires more battery power and until 2021 the main driver for most tech seemed to be to boost the battery life of devices, seemingly at any cost…including the cost of accuracy.
Today, the latest Garmin devices have a GPS-only mode as well as an All Systems mode. For most of us, All Systems means GPS+GLONASS+Galileo+Beidou.
What Is Multiband GNSS?
It gets more complex.
Many satellites emit 2 or more signals at different wavelengths/frequencies/bands. Only very recently has Garmin (and Coros) been able to use GNSS chips that receive two of those bands (called L1 & L5)
Each band should report the same distance from the Garmin to the satellite but often will not due to refraction in the air, reflection from buildings and trees or other reasons.
The key thing to remember here, in terms of SatIQ, is that newer, more powerful Garmins have spare power to be able to determine a degree of confidence in the accuracy of the signal from each satellite based on the discrepancy between the distances reported by the two bands.
Finally, we come to SatIQ.
Now, SatIW doesn’t know if you are running in a forest or through an urban canyon of skyscrapers. All it knows is the degree of confidence in the accuracy received from each satellite.
Garmin’s SatIQ algorithms have a trigger point when overall accuracy falls to a certain level. At this point, SatIQ automatically enables/disables the Multiband mode as appropriate.
SatIQ will result in a level of battery consumption somewhere between the highest and lowest possible on your device (!) determined by the environmental conditions. Most of us will not need Multiband most of the time thus using SatIQ should be a bit of a no-brainer.
What Garmin Devices Will Get SatIQ?
How to Enable SatIQ
At the time of writing (5Jul2022), you had to have the latest beta/alpha firmware.
- Press START/STOP to view the activity list.
- Select a supported activity sport profile.
- Press UP/MENU to access the menu.
- Select the activity settings.
- Select Satellites.
- Select AutoSelect.
You should already have these options
- GPS only
- All systems
- All + multiband
On the face of it, this is a good feature. If I can use GPS-only mode 95% of the time and only the All System Multiband mode from SatIQ for the other 5%, I’ll be happy. At least I’ll be happy if the feature correctly enables/disables itself in a timely fashion without gobbling battery. And I’ll be delighted if it records the GNSS mode in the FIT file.
Rarely Asked Questions
Q: What is GPS 3 and should I care?
A: The next iteration of America’s GPS, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
Q: What Is GLONASS and is it better than GPS?
A: It’s Russia’s version of GPS and it’s not quite as good as America’s GPS although that observation misses the point.
Q: Don’t Garmin use Sony GNSS Chips?
A: Yes they still do but Garmin appears to be transitioning en masse to Airoha (MediaTek)
Q: Galileo, is it rubbish?
A: That’s a bit harsh, especially after the EU has spent billions on it. No, it’s not rubbish it’s just their version of the USA’s GPS.
A: Yes, Coros has and Apple might have.
Q: Will I lose sleep tonight if I don’t correctly understand the key xDOP accuracy components of GPS?
A: Maybe, take a sleeping tablet or read this, just in case…
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