GeoBeacon: Garmin Chirp – on an iPhone (or iPad)

A couple weeks ago (July 20), a new app quietly popped up in the  App Store by Pi-Soft Consulting. These are the guys who brought us the Wherigo player for iPhone which later became Groundspeak’s official Wherigo App for iPhone. The new app is called GeoBeacon …. it enables another technology that is used for geocaching, namely Garmin’s Chirp beacons.

The $1.99 app requires you to purchase a $80 Fisica key before you can use it. These are sold as Wahoo Fisica (pictured above), or you can also get the one from Digifit. This adds the important Ant+ technology to your iPhone, since the iPhone doesn’t have it built in.  Once you have the app and the Fisica key, you simply open the app and use it to locate … or even program a Garmin Chirp. I have seen the Fisica key at Mountain Equipment Co-Op, might be a good spot to check before you import one from the USA.

The app can read a Chirp, program a Chirp, plot Chirp waypoints on a map. It’ll show you all the details including the number of visitors and when the last visit was, plus the run time and battery condition. One nice touch is the app will store lots of Chirp data rather than overwriting it immediately like the Garmin units do if another beacon comes in range.

The Fisica key is also useful outside the GeoBeacon app, so don’t feel like you’re spending $82 just to find a Chirp cache (though it is less than the average Garmin GPS with Chirp costs). I also use the Fisica key with my Garmin Heart Rate Monitor to keep track of my runs with RunKeeper.

Here’s a few screen shots from the app:

Connecting to a Chirp

Here the beacon data is being read. It's kinda neat how it "paints" in bit by bit.

Here's a detail screen that you get after the data is loaded. See the battery status?

Chirp details plotted on the map. Leave it to Pi-Soft to include the map view.

 

[ GeoBeacon (iTunes) ] [ Garmin Chirp ]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pro Tip: Using chirp on the Garmin Colorado

Starting with Colorado Firmware 3.52 beta, the device can listen for Garmin chirp devices. I loaded up that firmware and found very quickly it isn’t entirely intuitive to figure this out – it’s certainly not in the Garmin Colorado manual, having been added several years after the product line launched.

To use the feature, you have to enable it. As listening for chirp devices can potentially eat more battery on an already power hungry device like the Colorado, it is disabled by default. To enable it, go to your Geocaching menu, then select Options (top left button) and finally Start chirp(tm) searching.

Starting chirp on Colorado

When you encounter a chirp device, it will pop up automatically and grab the information from the chirp. Since the ANT hardware is not as efficient as it is in the newer Garmin devices you will have to be closer to the chirp. Once the chirp has finished communicating, you’ll have the option to display it’s details, or dismiss it.

Colorado chirp Detected

To go back and see the chirp again after dismissing it, simply go back to Geocaches, then Options and select chirp(tm) Details.

Colorado chirp Details

To disable chirp, it’s the same procedure. Go back to Geocaches, then Options and select Stop chirp(tm) Searching.

Colorado Stop chirp Searching

The chirp details will be remembered until you encounter another chirp, you reboot the device or you disable chirp searching. That’s right, shutting off the device or disabling chirp erases the chirp details from the unit.

You’ll want to save any waypoint details you want to keep before shutting off. I have not found a way to save the information on the device itself, I’ll update this article if I find a way (there HAS to be a way).

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New beta firmware for Colorado GPS Receiver

Colorado 3.52 Updater

Garmin has released a firmware update for the Colorado.  What’s exciting is that they added Chirp support.  There were mixed messages coming from Garmin tech support as to whether or not the Colorado’s hardware was capable of talking to a Chirp.

Colorado Beta 3.52 Screen Capture

Colorado v3.52: Download

  • Added support for chirp™ detection. This software update will allow Colorado units to detect previously-programmed chirp™ units. See http://www.garmin.com/chirp for details on which units are chirp™ compatible. NOTE: Due to the hardware present in Colorado devices, chirp™ detection range may be less than that of other compatible devices.
  • Updated magnetic Earth field data.
  • Fixed issue with certain JPEGs not drawing from Custom Maps.
  • Fixed issue with Oblique Mercator User Grid distances.

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