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Archive for the 'Technical' Category

GPS collars are like racing motorcyles.

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

My motorcycle racing career was extremely brief.  One race.  I didn’t care for the ruling body and they didn’t care for me either.  So I relegated myself to becoming the pit crew for a friend who raced.   Before a race we would get everything ready, everything double and triple checked.  Then he would go out for a few practice laps.  Inevitably he would come back to the pits and start futzing around with the motorcycle.  I would get frustrated with him and remark, “Leave it alone, it’s ok, it’s ready to go.”  He would reply that he needed to adjust one thing or another.  We argued like this on and on.  Finally I just told him, “Less brake, more gas.”  But he still fiddled around with it every chance he got. 

GPS technology is similar in that you can keep tweaking and tweaking it forever.   Our products incorporate cutting edge components.  We test them and finally offer them for sale.  Then it seems like the next day something new comes down the pike.  A case in point is GPS antennas.  This week our engineering department released into manufacturing an upgraded GPS antenna.  The previous one was good, the new one is better.  It’s smaller and works better in heavy cover. 

Let’s see what next week brings in the world of GPS technology.  And by the way, I was right about my friend.  He never did win a race and I attribute it to too much brake, not enough gas.

Quintin

It looks like the technology that you used to be told was years away is here.

Friday, February 6th, 2009

GPS for lizards, snakes and all manner of animals that have never been tracked using GPS before is now an everyday occurence.  GPS for quail are shipping this month. After 3 years making GPS collars we have settled on two designs that lend themselves to applications for a very wide range of species.  The GPS pod that clients bolt onto their own VHF collars took off in a direction other than I intended.  I thought, “Finally, a standard, off the shelf product.”  No such luck.  After the first two sales of that product requests came in for slight variations.  Those turned into much bigger variations and now we have 4 different GPS pods available with more on their way.  The pods are a great way to add a GPS data component to projects with limited budgets and either existing VHF collars or plans for new VHF collars.  Presently the lightest pod is 156 grams.  We have several new configurations waiting in the queue, all of them lighter than existing GPS pod designs.  They come to you with everything you need to attach them to your collars, a hole punch, rivets and a riveting tool. 

Implanting GPS is now possible too.  This is fairly new idea and there is a thin antenna that must be outside the body.  Other limitations exist with this technology but at least it’s moving in the right direction.  We are offering some GPS units with rechargeable batteries and while this may not apply in 99% of the cases it is invaluable in that narrow 1%.  An “always on” mode is available for those of you who need a line on a map rather than a bunch of dots.  Remote data download is available with the addition of 1.3 grams weight, not much of a limitation any longer.  And we just increased the download range for the third time this year.   With the word of all this new technology spreading fast in the wildlife community we have customers from the four corners of the earth.  We support these customers with only a 6 hour gap in our customer service system, we need a little bit of sleep.  You should not have to wait for a response just because everyone in California left the office. 

We have a new video coming to the website in February and we think you’ll like it.  Please check back around Valentine’s Day.

Quintin

Concept cars, why not concept GPS collars?

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

There is one person in particular here at Telemetry Solutions that can never be found at his desk.  “Has anyone seen Aaron” is a commonly heard phase.  We find him by calling his cell phone.  “Aaron, where are you,” we say.  “Oh, I had to go out to get some carbon fiber.”  Sure, that makes sense…..carbon fiber.  Apparently no one told Aaron that we don’t build race cars.  But it does appear that we build concept GPS collars.  Carbon fiber is stronger than steel and when you have a rigid collar made from it the comfort factor is surprising.  And it’s very light.  It’s a bit expensive and very labor intensive but apparently we are setting aside a section of the shop for fiberglass and carbon fiber housing production.  At this stage it is experimental but I’m willing to bet we have it in field tests by The New Year.  Next comes flexible solar panels incorporated directly into the collar and ultra capacitors replacing the big GPS batteries. 

Quintin

Another perfectly good weekend.

Friday, September 26th, 2008

The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV defines Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in part as, “…recurrent obsessions or compulsions…that are severe enough to be time consuming (i.e., they take more than 1 hour a day) or cause marked distress or significant impairment….”  I had to look it up to find out that I don’t exactly qualify.  But it seems that evaluation of our GPS collar performance never ends.  A few weeks ago I blogged about a test that I would do over the weekend.  I was testing from Friday evening until Sunday evening, constantly downloading GPS data, sorting it out, evaluating the results and then uploading new schedules into the collars.  My wife had absolutely no interest in the results but I had no one else to share the fascinating information with.   

We did get some excellent information from that test.  First, it only takes a few seconds (in many cases only 1 second) for our Q4000 series to acquire satellites and it does not matter much if the position interval is 5 minutes or 2 hours, they work about the same.  But more interesting than that is our GPS Additional Time feature that I keep harping about.  Forcing the collar to remain on for x number of seconds more after it acquires satellites results in <2.5 meter accuracy.  The overall amount of time required to get this accuracy is under 60 seconds.  The tests were always performed with the GPS right on the ground.  There was foliage around but it wasn’t a forest by any stretch of the imagination.

Last month we sent a Quantum 4000 collar to a biologist in San Diego California.  He was on his way to the jungles of Peru.  He and a colleague wanted to determine if the collars would work in the jungle where they do their field work.  Initial results from that test are that they do indeed work there and they work well enough that we have already received interest from others working in Peru.  Word of mouth is a wonderful thing.  These tests are being performed in an area with no roads other than the river.  The tests in Peru continue.  As soon as we have the newest results they will be posted on our website.  Now I think I better go wash my hands, it’s been 30 minutes since I did it last. 🙂

Quintin

A perfect September weekend.

Friday, September 5th, 2008

Autumn, the best season of the year….unless you live in California.  The leaves are green and it’s 105 degrees outside.  As Johnny Carson used to say, “But it’s a dry heat.”  However it is perfect for testing several aspects of our new Quantum 4000 Enhanced GPS collars.  This weekend we are looking at the effect of programming GPS location attempts at different intervals to find out what the difference really is in terms of time to a decent fix.  There are all kinds of calculations and specifications that can be used as guidelines, but there’s nothing like a real life test.  We’ll run 5 collars at the same time, each taking fixes at different intervals.  Theoretically the collars taking fixes at shorter intervals will take less time to acquire satellites.  But at what point does that interval really start to affect ability to quickly acquire satellites?  It’s important because with this information you may be able to program location attempts at closer intervals without having an overall negative effect on battery life.  In addition to these tests we will also determine at what point the GPS Additional Time is wasting battery.  GPS Additional Time is a user setting that forces the GPS to remain on refining its position before that position is written to memory.  It’s completely up to the user to set this but wouldn’t it be nice to have a guideline from us?  But there is a flaw in this test.  Since the GPS units in this test are programmed to turn on at different intervals several variables will have changed.  But that’s out of our control.  We’re looking forward to the results and will have them posted on our website next week.

Quintin