In my latest product trial, I tested the Timex Ironman Global Trainer, a product designed for endurance sport training. I thought it would be a good tool for search and rescue, and I was right. In fact, it turned out to be an outstanding general law enforcement product. I hardly use superlatives, but this was one of the best wrist computers I have ever used. I should know; I am an experienced equipment destroyer.
A watch for rescue and beyond
The Timex Global Trainer is a durable wrist computer which calculates speed, distance, time lapse and time. It easily interfaces with mapping and recording portals, allowing the user to see where they’ve been. It is a wristwatch, on a slightly larger scale. It is 2.5 inches wide and about the same weight as my stainless steel chronograph.
The purpose of this type of product is to make data collection for endurance athletes simple. It has a very readable display with easily accessed operational buttons and high contrast numbers. It was designed to accurately record a workout on a map, along with other data like pace, cadence and heart rate. It collects the non-GPS data using external devices, which connect wirelessly using ANT technology.
When GPS devices first became “portable” in the military, we were using the Precision Lightweight GPS Receiver (PLGR), which we called the “plugger”. It was the “bag phone” version of the GPS, slightly smaller than a breadbox. It took a while to start up and even longer to locate our position. I cannot describe to the reader trying to hold the thing steady while bouncing along in an M113 and trying to read the display. Thanks to the advanced technology, I now have a dozen more features and can run circles around that old brick. The Global Trainer has a 20-workout memory and a hands-free data capture. It uses SiRFstarIII GPS technology, a chipset that has an improved startup and fringe reception. It can store 50 routes and 100 waypoints.
Other features include simple button functions and menu prompts, appropriate for those who dive in without reading the manual. One can do the setup on the watch or on the computer. I used both and they were both easily navigated. This wrist computer has a “compass” function, which I found to be easily read, even when pounding off-road on my mountain bike. This will be especially handy for wilderness searchers who need to maintain an axis of travel.
One of the things that the SiRFstarIII GPS chipset does is maintain a memory of recent triangulations. To put it simply, if the Timex Global Trainer is in approximately the same zip code on startup as it was during shutdown, it will “find itself” faster. It will even ask if the user wants a GPS reset if it takes more time than usual to find itself. This is a “warm start” for a GPS, and this product does it well. I did a couple of “cold starts” indoors and the time to location averaged 70 seconds. My two other GPS devices won’t even work in the same test location.
Against several other GPS devices, the Timex Global Trainer was the obvious winner in gaining and maintaining signals. This is paramount for the search and rescue team member. Granted, it is a very simple “I am here” and “Go to LAT/LON” system, but for the user given a map and a mission, it is perfect. It does have a simple graphic map screen, but it looks like a firmware update will load a map onto this screen.
After turning the device on, the navigation screen can be accessed with a single button push. Using the “Mode” button, the user selects the “navigation mode”. The display will provide a simple LAT/LON and altitude interface. Waypoints can be dropped on the fly. However, waypoint dropping is a three button process. This is the only feature of this wrist computer that I believe should be streamlined.