Central Maryland YMCA Masters Swim Team: Reviews

Review of the MotionLingo ADEO GPS

by Michael Jacobson/Head Coach CMYM Swim Team 

This is a review of the Motion Lingo audio GPS device called the ADEO which lists for $149 on their website.  I first heard of this unit about a year ago and instantly thought that it would be a great device for open water swimming.  I contacted the company to see if they had a waterproof case or if they had tested it in a water environment.  After talking with the CEO of the company, Jeff Lovejoy, he said that no one had tried to use the device for swimming since the main targets were running, walking and biking.  He offered me a unit to review for open water swimming.  I just needed to find a case to protect the unit in the water and still allow it to receive satellite signals.  (if your interested in buying one of these units you can get it directly from the manufacturer by clicking the link below)



The ADEO Audio GPS

ADEO_side.jpgI received the unit in June 2006 and started to evaluate. First, let me list what came in the ADEO kit: a belt to hold the ADEO, headphones, a jump stereo cable for connecting it to an MP3 player, a USB cable and a CD with USB driver.
First the USB driver needs to be installed and then the MotionLingo MotionTrak software needs to be installed.  Once this is done the ADEO needs to be charged before use.
At this point you can now start using the ADEO with the default configuration (I’ll explain about the different configuration settings later).  Take the ADEO outdoors to a location away from tall buildings, trees and obstructions. Connect your headphones and orient the ADEO’s antenna towards the sky. Turn the ADEO on by pressing the POWER button (located on the bottom of the ADEO). You will hear this greeting: “MotionLingo Active Intelligence. Searching for Satellites.” The LED will glow red. You will begin hearing periodic updates, such as: “Satellite strength: Good. 3 satellites are in view.” When you hear “Satellites found” and the red LED begins blinking, you are ready to start your workout. ADEO_Connect.jpg
You can now start your workout and listen to music on your MP3 player at the same time.  During your workout the ADEO will override the music at programmed intervals with workout updates.  These audio updates include Total Distance, Elapsed Time, Time of Day, Average Pace, Current Pace, Peak Pace, Current Elevation, Total Calories, Calories per Hour and Battery Status.  The trigger for these audio updates can be Time, Distance or Goal.  With these trigger and audio updates you can customize the audio for your workout.  The ADEO can have 3 different configurations stored that are selectable during a workout.


The MotionTrak Software

This gives you a basic feel of what the ADEO is and what it can do for you during a workout.  But I think the best feature of the ADEO is seen once the workout is complete.  You connect your ADEO to your PC and select “get workouts” from the workout page of the MotionTrak software.  This downloads the data from the ADEO and stores it locally in the MotionTrak tool.  This data is then displayed in graph format (speed/elevation/pace over time) and in summary format with Distance, Duration, Avg Speed, Peak Pace and Calories.  The days a workout has been completed will show up on the calendar in bold.  When a bolded day is selected, the Summary and Graph data reflect your workout on that day.  This allows you to perform some data analysis of your workout routines and even capture the raw data from the GPS device.


The MyMotionTrack Online Community

So far the features of this product seem good but MotionLingo seemed dedicated to providing an even better online solution as well as a local application.  This online solution is called mymotiontrak and is available at http://www.motionlingo.com .  You can upload your locally collected ADEO data to the online site via the “map it” button, available on the MotionTrak workout page.  When you perform this action and you have an account at motionlingo (it’s free so anyone can try it), you will be taken to a page displaying your ADEO_MyMotion.jpgworkout data and a map of your route using Google Maps.  You can also download the GPS data to KML (Google Earth) or GPX (GPS Exchange Format) files.  This online software can be used to display any ADEO workout that you performed and then have it “mapped” to the online community. 


The motiontrak community also keeps track of the top ten individuals in each activity by distance, duration, calories and pace.  This way you can see how you compare to others across the country/world.  This online community has developed significantly since I started reviewing this product. You can now let others view your workout data and contact them via the website.  You can upload pictures and make detailed comments about your workout or personal life.  This also includes the ability to upload photos and make an “avatar” icon that others will see displayed when they view your shared data.  Again, this site keeps evolving. If you see a missing feature please suggest it to them via the feedback forum.


Now let us get back to the open water swimming review or should I start with skiing…


ADEO Testing While Skiing 

I used the ADEO while I was skiing because I was not able to get the ADEO unit working in 2006.  There were a couple of problems that seem to have been addressed by a software update called the ADEO Optimizer.  This update allows for faster satellite acquisition times and better data accuracy.  I was also unable to find a water proof case in 2006 that I could swim with that would keep the ADEO antenna above the water and pointed to the sky.  I tried to make a couple but gave up due to cost and time. Now onto my skiing story…
As I am a USMS Masters Swim Coach all year round and a PSIA Ski Instructor in the winter, I thought I would give this unit a try out on the slopes.  I tried to figure out how to mount in out of the way but with the best antenna position.  I came up with a very easy solution; just put the ADEO under the goggle strap on my helmet.  I then ran the cord from my MP3 player (iPod Shuffle) in my coat pocket to the ADEO and the headphone cord from the ADEO to my helmet.  I set the MP3 sound level so I could hear people talking to me and increased the volume of the ADEO so I could hear it better.
A feature of the ADEO is that it will pause the data collector (1 sample per second) when no motion is detected.  This works well at skiing (other than the slow chair lift rides, still count as workout data) but not as good in the open water (where the constant movement to stay afloat still looks like motion). I first field tested this unit for 2 days at our local ski resort, Ski Liberty (www.skiliberty.com), on March 10th and 11th, 2007.  I collected ADEO_chart.jpgADEO workout data for over 4 hours over this period.  I skied a little more than this butADEO_chart.jpg I also had to teach lessons where I am not allowed to use an MP3 player (so I did not record that data). As can be seen from the data to the right - a distance, duration and pace is displayed for each “workout”.  I did one “workout” in the morning and then one in the afternoon.  I tried to ski all the slopes on the mountain over the course of the weekend.  I then exported the data to Google Earth via the KML download option on the website.  I color coded each of the four data samples a different color and overlaid them on the picture of the mountain.  Below is the picture results of the workout data collected at Ski Liberty.



The base lodge is to the top left and the back side of the mountain is on the bottom right.  There is one lift that takes you from the base lodge to the back side (intermediate/expert areas).  This is the GPS data that you see with all four colors in a long line.  I noticed that this data appears to be shifted each time I used the lift.  At one point you can even see it go into the woods (which I’m pretty sure I did not do).  Reviewing the data, I see that the blue data sample seems not to be as accurate as the other 3 samples.  There are clear areas where it is shown not on a slope or even ski-able terrain. You can see the ADEO does not seem to match up perfectly with the ski trails or lifts but it does show you where you have skied.  Areas of improvement here could be with a more accurate GPS chipset in the ADEO or the ability to remove bad data sets collected and identified.


Two weekends later, I went to visit Elk Mountain (www.elkskier.com) to ski with family friends.  Since I would not have to teach, I thought I would get a lot of ADEO testing done. Unfortunately, the previous weekend I tore my ACL and now have to ski “carefully” with a brace on my right knee.  This said, I avoided most of the blacks (expert) trails and skied mainly the blues and greens.  I did 3 workouts, separate ski sessions, my first day and only ADEO_chart2.jpgone my second day due to the family games that were held later that day.  This again was for about 4 hours worth of data collection on the mountain.  I then exported this data to Google Earth and looked at this compared with what I knew I skied and the Ski Liberty Data (see picture below).  Once while riding up the main ski lift from the lodge the ADEO “lost” track on the satellites and I think it was at this time the one really bad data point was acquired.  Also there is no current way to edit out this bad data segment in your workout.  This would be a nice feature to have available if the accuracy of the GPS is not improved. 

The base lodge at Elk Mountain is on the middle right and the main lift goes from there to the bottom middle of the page.  You can not really tell it from the Google Earth image but this ski resort is much bigger than Liberty Mountain which means I could not do as many runs.  It can be seen that the GPS data does a better job of matching up to the skied trails and lifts.  There appears to be 2 bad data segments; one in the blue workout group and one in the green workout group.  Other than that I was extremely happy with the performance of the unit and even enjoyed the “back seat driver” voice in my ear the whole day ;-)


ADEO Testing While Open Water Swimming

At this point I had 8 separate workouts so was even ranked in the top 10 skiers (there are currently only 4 of using the ADEO – hopefully more after reading this review).  So I started back to my plan of how to use this in an open water swim.  I started by reviewing all the different waterproof cases on the market for MP3 players.  I wanted a case that would be waterproof but allow headphone to be connected without exposing the unit to the water.  I was also hoping to find waterproof headphones that work under water and that can be used for competitive swimming.
After looking at all the cases/headphones, I found what seemed to be a perfect fit from a company in the UK called AquaPac (www.aquapac.net).  They have for $75 a small MP3 ADEO_case.jpgwaterproof bag/case and waterproof headphones. I requested a sample of these for this review from Andrea Opoku, who works in their Marketing Department.  I was thrilled when she agreed and sent me the case and headphones to evaluate.  I received the samples in a couple of days and started testing them, first by taking the case and headphones in the water at the local YMCA pool.  At first, I tested the case empty, then with an iPod and finally with the iPod and the ADEO in the same case.  I found that with the ADEO and iPod Shuffle, this was a tight fit.  I also needed to use a different cable between the iPod and the ADEO as the one that came with the ADEO was too short (I need the iPod at the bottom of the case).  I found the headphones work fine at first but the sound performance degraded if any water got in the ear openings.  Also while swimming at competitive speeds, they had a tendency to fall out or the cord would get tangled (it was about 3 ft long).  I could fix some of this by wearing a swim camp and tucking the headphones under the cap (along with the extra cord).  This was uncomfortable and I was not able to locate another waterproof headphone that would work while I swam in the water (if you have one you want me to try please contact me). 
At this point I gave up on the idea of immediate feedback from the ADEO while I swam and planned to use it just to collect data from our open water swim practices that are held every Monday morning in the Spring along the Severn River (part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed).  I normally take out a group of 10 to 20 swimmers and we do between 1 and 3 miles depending on their ability level and who shows up for the swim. For more information on these open water swims go to http://openwater.cmym.us and note that they are only open to the swim host and CMYM members. I tested the ADEO on this open water swim route because I have done it many times in the past and the Google Earth map is very detailed.  We can even see the channel markers that we use as waypoints.


ADEO_goggle.jpgI found in my experimenting with mounting the ADEO, that the best location to keep the ADEO antenna pointing at the sky and above the water line was by attaching the AquaPac to my goggle straps behind my head.  This worked great and did not bother me too much when swimming.  I found that with the unit mounted to my arm that my stroke became unbalanced and in a long swim this could lead to sore shoulders and hips.  I also found that if I dragged it via a buoy system the unit would get in the way of my front quadrant glide and rotation (big words for saying I lean too much on my side to make this work correctly).  So using the goggle (not Google) method, I proceeded to test out the ADEO in the open water.  I swam once with the ADEO and then the following week I used the ADEO Plus (more on this update unit later).


The only problem that I was having with the AquaPac MP3 case was that there was condensation building up during the swim. This had not yet caused a problem with the electronics, but I figured that I needed to stop it before we had a ground short (hey I’m an EE, so I’m allowed a little geek speak).  I found some small desiccant bags for electronics in my home collection of parts (don’t ask about it or my wife will make me get rid of my spare “parts”).  So, for the final testing of the ADEO in an open water swim, I used the AquaPac MP3 case, MotionLingo ADEO, one small desiccant bag and my existing goggles.  I used this setup for the two swims which are shown on the Google Earth map located on the next page.  The blue data is from 5/14 and the red data is from 5/21. 
ADEO_swim.jpgThe blue data was collected with the original ADEO. Notice that this data appears very bumpy.  I promise you that I swim a lot straighter than that line, even with my torn ACL (I just tend to drift more to one side now).  This bumpiness is more noticeable when the picture is blown up in Google Earth. 
Looking at the first graph below you can see that the elevation (green line) looks bad while we are at one of our waypoints (waiting on the slower members of the group).  While swimming this data looks good and goes towards 0 ft elevation (which it should).  But at the waypoints is gets as high a 30ft.  I think therefore this data is questionable and since I don’t care about elevation for open water swimming, I will ignore it for the rest of this review.
The speed, as shown on the graph below, is in mph and displayed on the blue line.  I think one feature enhancement I would suggest for swimming is to make the speed be in different selectable units (meters/sec or yards/sec) as most swimmers don’t think in mph.  As can been seen in this data, there are 5 legs of this swim.  The first is to the pier (~0.5miles), the second is to the channel marker on the far side of the island (~0.7 miles), the third is to the next channel marker (~0.4 miles), the fourth is to the far boat dock (~.6 miles) and the fifth is back to the shore avoiding the shallow areas (~0.3 miles).   I really liked the speed data as it seems to average out with my calculated times.  It looks like the first section of the swim was 2.8mph which equals 1.369yps which means that I was at a 1:13s per 100 yard pace.  This is about what I average in a wetsuit training, so I think we can trust the speed data.


ADEO Plus Testing

When I talked to Jeff Lovejoy about the data I was getting from the ADEO, he asked if I ADEO_plus.jpgwanted to test out their new unit which is in preproduction testing.  This unit is called the ADEO Plus and looks very similar to the regular ADEO on the outside except for the word Plus.  The primary difference in the Plus unit is the time to lock time and accuracy.  So the first test (after updating all the software for this new unit; USB driver and the MotionTrak software) was to check out the lock time.  It took about 30 seconds for the unit to find the satellites and be ready to start a workout for the first time.  This is much faster than the ADEO (sometimes more than 2 minutes) especially considering that the last place the Plus unit had a lock was Arizona (the algorithm for satellite lock takes into account your last location).  The next time the Plus was started it got a lock and was ready for a workout in 10 seconds.  This is awesome since the last thing you want to do before a workout is to wait for your equipment to get ready.  With the original ADEO I have been left waiting to start my workout because the ADEO is not ready.
As for the accuracy part of this unit, the first section of the swim was 2.5mph which equal 1.222yps which means that I was at a 1:21s per 100 yard pace.  This is about what I average without a wetsuit in an open water swim, so again I think we can trust the speed data.  Finally, comparing this map data plotted with Google Earth (data shown in red), it’s much smoother (especially at higher resolutions) and is generally straighter than the blue (non Plus) ADEO.  I think that these improvements make this a great product for skiing and, with the AquaPac, for open water swimming, too.



I was very happy that I got to test these products; the water proof case and the ADEO worked very well.  Both seem to have issues which I listed above and provide a product summary on the next page.  This combination did a fantastic job at monitoring my speed and course.  Next time I will try to find some headphones that work while swimming so I can listen to the audio updates in the water. 

Most reviews use scales or grades to rate the product. I believe in a more real-life rating system.  This system is called would I keep using this product.  The MotionLingo ADEO and the AquaPac MP3 waterproof case are a good fit for me.  The AquaPac waterproof headphones are not ready for heavy duty swimming.  As for the MotionTrak software that comes with the ADEO, I wish it was not part of the needed tool box but sometime we have to do things we don’t like to get the results we want.  I hope that a new improved version is in the works or that MotionLingo releases a developer’s tool kit to allow others to develop a better product.  Finally, the online community that MotionLingo has started is amazing!  In the couple of months since I have been using it; I have been very impressed by its design and development.  I think this one of the best online tools for sharing workouts and activities.  That said I think it designed too much around the running community.  You can select the gear you used for your workout but all of it is running gear.  They have no skiing, snowboarding or swimming gear listed.  Also the gear selection does not change by sport selected and there is no way to add gear that is not on the predefined list (like a bike model or tires for biking).  They are always making improvements to the website and my hope is that the next time I log on, these updates have occurred (I will keep my fingers crossed).


Products Summaries

MotionLingo ADEO ($149)

  • The Good – Low cost, Programmable audio updates, easy to use, small size
  • The Bad – Slow to get satellite locks (2+ minutes), Hard to remember button functions (no words only funny symbols), No display for external battery or status


MotionTrak ADEO (included w/ADEO)

  • The Good – Easy to display captured data, Checks for SW Updates
  • The Bad – Poor interface that uses to much real estate, Resizing the screen or using on small displays cause problem, Hard to use “configuration” screen, Does not upload data if proxy server is needed

MyMotionTrak ADEO (included w/ADEO)

  • The Good – Online community of ADEO users, Ability to share data, Download GPX/KML, Compare/Search/View other users workouts in the community
  • The Bad – Still developing, Sometime it is unreachable, Additional data analysis tools needed, targeted to running gear

AquaPac MP3 Case ($79)

  • The Good – Small, Inexpensive for a waterproof case ($80 include headphone), has stereo through cable
  • The Bad – Hard edges (rough on wet skin), needs to be about 1 inch short, condensate problem

AquaPac Waterproof Headphones (included w/MP3 case)

  • The Good – Work great if ears and phones are dry, Inexpensive, Recreation
  • The Bad – Falls out if swimming fast, cord is to long, sound degrades if water is in phones or ear canal