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The beauty of advancing technology – reducing your cost for micro GPS trackers

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

Making custom GPS tracking devices for wildlife and industrial applications keeps us busy and interested.  2014 has already been very busy and full of new technologies. We added a new micro GPS device to our product line this year and while this isn’t really new for us, we had one 4 years ago, this one has more features including remote data download and it only weighs 0.4 grams without the battery.  We designed this using new technologies and it allowed us to offer it at a much lower than normal cost.

But there is another technology we added this year that is helping us to cut costs and we are passing that on to our customers.  It’s not exactly a new technology but until recently we didn’t think it was practical for us.  I’m talking about 3D printing.  I have been considering purchasing a 3D printer for about the last 3 years but couldn’t pull the trigger because they were a bit too cumbersome, using strange materials and requiring a lot of cleaning after each job.

But in December while shopping with Naho and finding myself just a touch bored I wandered into a Microsoft store.  This wasn’t much more interesting than the fancy kitchen / cooking store I had been in but at least there was a possibility of finding something interesting.  I shuffled in and was greeted by a kid who looked about 15. He was probably 25.  He quickly realized that I didn’t want to look at phones, computers or tablets and said to me, “Come look at this.”  He showed me to a 3D printer they had on display.  It is not a Microsoft product but they are allowing them to be displayed in their stores.  The machine is made in Brooklyn, New York.  I got very excited very quickly and started firing questions at him.  For those of you who don’t know what a 3D printer is, it is a machine that accepts a CAD file and then lays material down on a platform, layer by layer, building up the “thing” represented in the file.  Basically it prints a part.  When I saw how clean it was, how good the resolution was and how many different plastic materials it can build from I knew it was time to finally get my 3D printer.  I asked pimple face to wait while I ran to get my wife.  Naho is the head of finance here at Telemetry Solutions and I figured there would be no better way to get that department’s approval for the purchase than to show her.

In a few minutes she was standing with me watching this machine work.  Purchase approved!  It is really great to have the machine because it has seriously increased the output of one employee.  Recently I needed a housing for a test of an Iridium product for a customer in New Zealand.  It was just for a test in the forest, no need for a real housing that could withstand abuse so we printed one up real quick and Bob’s your uncle, out it went.

For our new micro GPS product we have 2 related devices that need housings.  One is the charger and the other is the base station.  Instead of spending thousands of dollars stocking housings for an entire year’s production, now we can design the housing and just print them out as needed, this greatly reduces our cash outlay and we are passing that savings along.  If you want to see a part being printed click the link and watch this video.

Printer building parts

 

A day in the life of a wildlife tracking manufacturer

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

For me, coming to work in the morning is a pleasure. It starts in the parking lot. I usually arrive just after we open and entering the parking lot I scan the cars to see if anyone is missing. No one ever is but this is a bad habit that I have developed. I know that the day at work will get pretty intense so after I turn off the car I usually just sit and watch people arrive at work across the street from us. This will be the last peace and quiet I get until I leave work at the end of the day. So I enjoy it. When I get out of my car I can usually smell the salt air and hear seagulls overhead. This really is the most serene part of the day for me.

Due to the nature of the work there is no question that each day will be interesting and filled with challenges. Manufacturing GPS wildlife tracking equipment, the goal is always to get quality equipment into the hands of our customers in a timely manner. We always have both new orders and service work going on and the orders are all in various stages of completion. Just today, for example we have new and service orders for swamp wallaby, feral cats, pygmy rabbits (2 of these), bobcat, various birds including skua and emu, wolverine, grizzly, bighorn sheep, fox and feral pigs.

On top of this we have development projects to be overseen and I’ll have meetings with the sales department, engineering department, production department and customer support. Toss in a few questions from vendors, accountants, bankers and lawyers. Sometimes it is enough to make you want to just sit down and blog about it.

After 16 years as the founder and president of Telemetry Solutions this year I had to remove myself from the front lines so that I can orchestrate this madness effectively. I was anxious about turning over the reigns in the sales department but my fears were unfounded. The much younger sales person that heads up that department has digitized everything that used to reside in my head. And his cohort has it all up in the cloud to be accessed quickly and easily regardless of where one is. I should have turned over the reigns sooner maybe.

In the afternoon production ends their day and they filter out. The next to go is engineering followed by customer support and finally the sales team. Then it is just me and lots and lots of GPS equipment. I could stay all night, just move a cot in. But eventually I realize that work has to end for the day. I go out to an empty parking lot and always wonder, “Where the hell is everybody?” I load up the car with several GPS units that will have an overnight test before shipping out, push the on button in the Prius and head home. For sure tomorrow will be another good day. I cannot wait.

Advancing your wildlife biologist career but at what cost?

Friday, May 25th, 2012

I have been in this wildlife tracking industry for over 30 years and I have watched as our customers have advanced their careers in wildlife biology.  Without exception I have heard them tell me how much they enjoy the field work but that with their advances they have to spend more and more time in the office and less time doing that they love to do.  It’s a conundrum.  I now find myself in a similar position.

I started Telemetry Solutions  in 1996.  At that time I was an army of one making VHF transmitters by myself. Here we are, 16 years later, we have a full line of GPS tracking equipment and I cannot keep up with all of the duties that I have retained over the years.  The result is that even though we have many employees and team members in 3 different countries I work 70 hours per week and never miss a day in the office.  My one vacation in the last 6 years was a week long and included meetings with 3 different groups of biologists. One may even say that it didn’t count as a vacation?   I never had kids.  Telemetry Solutions is my kid.  But it is time for the kid to demand a bit less of my time.  My goal is that over this summer I will pass many of my duties to my capable team and endeavor to work 40 hours per week.  I will use the new found time to learn to fly.  My buddy Fred Anderka of Holohil is a pilot and I enjoy talking with him about flying every time I see him at a conference.  Fred has encouraged me to undertake this new project.

The downside of my plan is that, moving forward I will not have much contact with my customers.  For me, the contact with my customers is what field work is to you.  I will be in the office every day just as I have for the last 16 years but my focus will shift to one more of long term planning than day to day operations.   I think it can be a positive for me and I will make sure that it results in positive experiences for all of you too when you have occasion to work with Telemetry Solutions.

Quintin

Last minute prep for Hawaii

Saturday, November 5th, 2011

Looking forward to seeing many existing customers in Hawaii as well as trying to connect with folks who are in the market for new telemetry gear. Please stop by our booth for some honest tips about how to make your next project as successful as possible from a GPS telemetry point of view.

Updates on GPS satellite collars for bears in Mongolia.

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

In May 2011, I blogged about our first Iridium collars for bears shipped to Mongolia for field tests. The test ended in June and the performance of the collars was excellent as we saw the data online using our website page. In addition to the repeat order from the customer who participated in the field test, now we have the Mongolian government placing an order after having trouble with their Argos GPS made by another company. If you would like to learn more about our satellite collars, please visit http://telemetrysolutions.com/track-wildlife/satellite-communication.php