GPS tracking is usually pricy, with recurring expenses. The i.AM crowdfunding project hopes to change that.
Tracking the position of an item isn't anything particularly new in itself. Automotive fleets are tracked, people are tracked, and sometimes even packages are tracked. Generally speaking, these services have monthly fees associated with them like a subscription service. The people running the indiegogo campaign to bring i.AM, or Intelligent Asset Management, to market are hoping to change things a bit.
The i.AM system tracks whatever you want and delivers updates via SMS. This is a preferred method because SMS is available in much more diverse areas than any other cellular communication method. Not only that, but the power required to wake up the system and send an SMS is tiny compared to establishing other connections and transmitting data. They don't force you to use a specific provider, either. You simply put in the SIM card of your choice and use whatever service you wish.
Their interface looks fairly intuitive and allows for some nice features such as tracking multiple units at the same time, setting up "geo fences" or geographical areas of importance, charting changes in direction, and even clicking down to the street view of any tracked point via google maps. You can also graph data based on changes in speed or distance.
The features of the i.AM are listed as:
Quad-band GSM/GPRS engine
GPS receiver with SiRFstar III chip set
Standard microUSB charger port
Power consumption ~5mA or less in STANDBY mode, translating into two to three weeks standby with 2450 mA battery
In POWER OFF mode, using e.g., a motion sensor to activate the device, power consumption is 10uA for the main system and 140uA for the sensor (both worst case, plus some leakage). This translates into a battery life between one to two years
expansion ports for adding motion sensors or external logging equipment
Another interesting aspect of this campaign is that they are donating some of these tracking units to a charity. For every unit purchased at the 89£ (US$118) level, they are donating one unit to the Technology For Change project. That is quite a nice gesture if you ask me!
Hi - This is just the kind of device I'm interested in for a project I'd like to get going in Manchester, UK. What kind of funding would you need to manufacture 8,000 of these, i.e. initial machining cost and ppu?
We actually tried Kickstarter before, but didn't manage to reach the funding goal. We re-launched on Indiegogo with some changes (but no compromises on functionality or quality). Crowdfunding is interesting, but I think the reason we're having trouble getting the funding is because it's a product that is too realistic. If we had a project developing rocket boots, we'd have millions :-)
With regard to the tracker, we expect to be able to get the cost down significantly once we have some decent quantity. Right now, small production quantity for our existing customers is not an issue since the cost of the hardware is much less than the cost of integrating the tracker with whatever systems our customers have. For 'consumer' levels, we need to make a bit more, which is what we are trying, in part, through crowdfunding.
The tracker has gone through rigourous testing both hardware and software wise. We've done HALT tests, EMC testing, etc. I don't have the MTBF or other data in front of me at this time, but we exceed general consumer electronics by a very large margin. It was designed for rough use from the start due to applications in desert environments and high temp fluctuations. The design is kept deliberately very simple with only the minimum components required; additional features can be added through an extension port so if they are not needed by the customer, they don't contribute to possible failure.
The firmware is written according to MISRA C and has gone through a lot of field testing and is currently used in production already. The project itself was started already in 2009, so it's not something that just popped up.
Power is supplied by a standard Lithium battery (similar to a phone). Charging is done through standard USB. In car snap on adaptors for use with OBD-II are currently in development as well. You can also connect to whatever outside power supply you may have - this is a customisation we do for customers (together with full firmware/hardware/software customization).
The cell modem on the other end can be a standard USB consumer modem such as an MF626, E353, E173, TP-Link MA180, etc. Not all USB modems work due to some having missing functionality, but we have a list of modems that work and provide them ourselves. For some customers we also provide our own modem, which comes in a rugged version to use with e.g. a Toughbook.
Hope this answers some of your questions. Let me know if you want more info, or if something isn't clear.
Kickstarter has a massive user base, but indiegogo has some features that many people need. One big issue is the money. On indiegogo you can choose to open a flexible campaign that allows you to keep the money even if you don't meet your goals.
I didn't know about Indiegogo. So is same as Kickstarter right?
Perhaps if you go through Kickstarter you can get more. Like me many people don't know about Indiegogo as it seems based in the UK.
The project sounds good. Actually it seems to address a system which I have been thinking of for quite sometime now and it seems to become quite feasible with this product. The cost is decent and the size very convenient.
What kind of testing has it gone through? What would be the MTBF for these little gizmos? Do they work on a coin cell only what about if they are embedded in a car, do they include another set of pins for connecting a power supply?
What kind of Cell modem would you recommend for the computer at the other end? Can you provide an URL link?
@PurpleAlien, this looks like a good cause. "For every unit purchased..they are donating one unit to the Technology For Change project." (Wow. The second I tweeted this, I got an email for a GPS tracker from a company in China. Did they read my tweet?)
Thanks to PurpleAlien from Embedded.com. He who contributes how-to tips on Embedded.com for colleagues around the world.