A recently released patent has revealed a small hardware tweak that could make Garmin’s next running watch the most accurate for tracking and navigation yet.
Garmin has made a name for itself in satellite navigation – in fact, the company was originally called ProNav before adopting its current name. However, building global positioning systems into a watch is particularly difficult due to the small amount of space available, and it only gets more complicated as case sizes get smaller.
The patent, published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on April 28, spells out this problem in detail. It describes how a sports watch needs at least two separate antennas to receive and transmit signals simultaneously, and possibly more for different communication protocols (such as GPS, Galileo and GLONASS). Having them too close together can cause interference, reducing accuracy.
“Often a smaller [watch] the case is more desirable than a large case,” the patent explains. “As a result, it is difficult to separate and reduce the coupling between antennas and electronic circuits while minimizing the size of the device package.
“In addition, the performance of two or more antennas can be affected when the antennas operate at similar frequencies and are positioned close to each other. Thus, it is an additional challenge to space the antennas apart. others within the bounds of case and facet.”
Solving the space problem
Several of the antennae inside the watch have “arms,” which have open ends that need to be some distance apart to avoid interference. To solve this problem, the patent describes how the various antennas (which are inside the cavities of the watch bezel) could be precisely positioned to maximize the distance between them.
According to Garmin, positioning the antennas in this way could reduce interference and significantly increase their gain (i.e. efficiency) without having to resort to a larger enclosure. The overall result? A small but very precise GPS watch.
What else is on the way
There could be other big improvements on the way for the next generation of sports watches from Garmin. Other recently released patents described how Garmin engineers could create a super-bright OLED watch with extra-long battery life by positioning strips of photovoltaic cells between sub-pixels.
This would eliminate the need for a layer of photovoltaic film on the watch lens, which is the method currently used by Garmin’s pixel-memory solar watches, but would obscure an OLED display.
Of course, a patent doesn’t guarantee that either technology will show up in a finished consumer watch, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed.