GPS Tracking

We wanted to track some semi trailers that we work with and never seem to know the location of.  We looked at existing asset tracking systems, but they were all rather expensive, usually around $30 per tracked asset per month.  Not terrible, but we thought we might be able to do better. If you’re not familiar with these systems, essentially the unit gets GPS data and sends it to a central server using the cellular network.

To cut to the chase, our setup allows us to track assets for just the cost of the cellular provider’s data plan, which is about $10/month/asset if you use AT&T’s pay as you go plan or $10 every two months per asset if you use a discount provider like ptel.  The cost of the equipment is very similar to what we found from other providers: about $200 for the tracking equipment.

We found an existing open source hardware project called the GeogramONE, which was perfect.  A tiny board that has everything built in to do the tracking while conserving battery life.  The only thing that was missing was a website that would plot the data on a map so we could visualize the data.  So we built gps.protovoltaics.com, which allows you to see where your assets are and where they have been.  To be honest you could use other websites for visualizing where your assets are, but ours allows you to get some information that isn’t available in other systems: like the GeogramONE’s battery gauge level.  It also allows you to group your assets in a hierarchy so you can filter them into various categories.

To go along with this we made a case for the GeogramONE, which is available in our store now.  It’s waterproof and can be connected directly to a semi trailer’s wiring for the turn signals.  So, when the trailer is connected to a tractor the battery will start charging automatically.

If you want to set up a GeogramONE to use our system check out the details at the GeogramONE forum.

Projects Update

We’ve been silent for a while.  We’ve been working on a number of projects and had no time left over to update the blog.  I know, no excuses, we should keep up with the blog.

Since our last update we’ve installed one of our power meters in a power plant in Baha California Sur, Mexico.  The plant delivers electrical power to locations in the southern tip of the Baha peninsula.  The plant delivers about 38MW to the national grid.

We’ve also been developing an asset tracking system.  We found existing systems that would work, but all of them were rather expensive: charging around $30 per asset per month.  We used open source hardware and developed a platform that you can use and only pay the data fees from your cellular service provider.  See the separate GPS Tracking post for more info.

Most of our time has been going to developing a sensor interface system that can read various sensors, log data, and actuate electromagnetic pumps, solenoids, and relays.  This can operate as a stand alone system or be driven by an Arduino, BeagleBone, or Raspberry Pi.  It’s contained in a rugged, waterproof enclosure and should be available soon.  The various subsystems in this design will be broken apart to make various shields as well.