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The future of wildlife telemetry.

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

From the manufacturing end of things wildlife telemetry has certainly gotten more interesting in the last few years.  When I started in this industry in 1979 it was just a question of how big your transmitter was going to be.  Then in the 80’s along came GPS.  Our friends in The Great White North broke that market open and slowly during the 90’s others jumped on that bandwagon.  Telemetry Solutions jumped on in 2006 with our own GPS wildlife tracking design. That was interesting for us but in 2007 it really started to get interesting when we developed a GPS unit that only weighed 15 grams.  But that’s just the electronic weight, with the battery it was over 25 grams.  Still exciting though, at least in 2007.

Then in 2008 a wildlife biologist from The U.S. Forest Service presented himself in our office asking for even smaller GPS collars.  I’ve told this story here before.  He asked to take a unit back to The Sierras to prove to his boss that the technology would work and he also asked us to reduce the product size and weight and add remote download.  He left, we exchanged a few emails and yada, yada, yada we came up with a product that would work for him.   So the answer to the question “Where is this all headed?” is this, -Wherever you tell us to head it!  You, the customers, are in the driver’s seat.

A few months later we got a call asking for GPS for quail.  The young guy on the phone asked his question and before I could answer he said, “I know, it’s going to be 3 more years right?”  I replied, “No, actually we can do that now.”  But I didn’t just pull one off the shelf, we had to put some effort into it.  Last week a bird biologist told me that our 5.9 gram GPS was “too heavy.”  Hello Betty!  I think I’ve blogged about this before too, I heard it at a conference once.  “Ok, what will it take?” I asked.  His reply – 4 grams!  This includes battery weight friends.

After we hung up, I waited for everyone to leave the office and sat here with the electronics on my desk, just staring at it wondering how we can reduce the weight.  It’s mostly battery, the GPS board only weighs 2.4 grams.  I used to ride motorcycles with a guy who would buy expensive carbon fiber parts to cut a few ounces off his Ducati.  He needed to lose 15 pounds himself but that would be too easy, so he bought carbon fiber instead.  But it’s that motorcycle racing mentality that I needed to be in so I sat down at a work bench and started in.  In 5 minutes I had cut .2 grams.  Not bad eh?  Then I cut another .3, that took a little longer.  Our engineers worked on it some more the next day and we’re at 4.2 grams right now so there’s only .2 left to go to get to that magical 4 gram number.

Bird GPS under 7 grams with automatic data download to your PC exists now because someone emailed me and asked for it.

I have a friend with a masters degree in psychology who likes to tell his friends that certain feelings, thoughts, behaviors, etc are “on them.”  Well now I’m telling you that whatever direction that wildlife telemetry is headed is on you.  So take 5 minutes and write an email, better yet, pick up the phone and tell us where you want this to go.

And check us out on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/TelemetrySolutions

Quintin

New technology

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Over the holidays we installed a new and improved phone system in the office.  We anticipated that there would be some glitches so we set it up during that dead time between Christmas and New Years.  On the first day with the new system the phones basically did not work at all.    On the second day the phones worked but incoming calls all went straight to voice mail.  It has turned out to be a great system but it was frustrating getting it to work.  Then it occurred to me that this is how our customers  may feel sometimes.  There is a period of setting up all the software and hardware to work together and occasionally it requires the patience of Job.

However, in the past year we have made improvements to reduce these frustrations.  We have revised and improved the user manuals, started a FAQ section on the website, removed the password requirement from the software and manual download section of the website, improved the GPS antenna on the collars, improved and enhanced all product testing prior to shipping and made great improvements in our order forms for customized equipment.  There are several more things we did to make your life with our products easier but you get the picture.  Then, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, we have introduced a new activity data feature and the smart GPS feature.  Get your dialing finger ready boys and girls.  The difference between our experience with the phones and your experience with our products is that if you have a problem you can call (or Skype or email) and we help you right away………including weekends.

Quintin

Powerful benefit for you, new activity sensor added to our smallest GPS

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Not only will you know if the animal moved, you can set a threshold below which movement data is not recorded so that you are in complete control over what types of movement are logged into the GPS collars’ memory.  You will also know the intensity of the movement.  You may set the sampling rate from 4 times per second to one time every four seconds.   The activity programming is in your hands and is very flexible.

Interpreting the activity data output is made easy for you in 2 ways.  First, pre or post deployment you can connect your Quantum 4000 Enhanced GPS collar to your PC or laptop by USB cable and make various movements with the collar.  This allows you to observe, in real time, how the activity sensor indicates different movements.  Second, when connected by USB cable checking movement data in real time you will not only see the numerical output but you will also see the activity displayed in a graphical format.  Again, these are strictly to facilitate your understanding of how the outputs relate to the movements being made.

But you can also request x,y and z outputs and if you so desire we can tie the activity feature into the GPS functionality so that the GPS will not turn off is no movement is detected for some period of time before a scheduled GPS location.  For small collars with limited GPS battery life this is a great way to increase the lifetime (and therefore the data) that you can expect from a small GPS collar.

Image left, no activity....image right, intense activity

No activity vs. activity

Small GPS for birds

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

I recently had an opportunity to travel to a bird research station located on an island in the western USA.  After inquiring about our Quantum 4000 Feather-Lite GPS units for birds, the biologists involved were kind enough to extend an invitation to their field site.  Keeping the GPS at or below 13 grams is the goal for the project.  We will use a solar panel to charge the power source for the GPS unit.

It was certainly refreshing to get out of the office for a change.  More information about these small GPS units will be available in September.  Quintin

Approaching the island Residents

Better antenna, better remote downloads

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Matt recently made a trip to Sequoia National Forest where he range tested various antennas for our wireless GPS remote data download system.  The results were impressive and we now offer an antenna for downloads that should increase the maximum data download range from your Quantum 4000 Enhanced GPS collars.   And it’s smaller too!  Here he is outside of our office using the new antenna.

Small data download antenna increases download range.