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Outdoor Positioning Systems

We have all become very used to the idea that a phone or car can know where it is using GPS or one of the equivalent satellite based positioning systems. And it gets better all the time. Modern chips can get you down to centimeters under ideal conditions.

But have also all had the experience when we go indoors and the position information disappears.

So is there a solution for that?

Indoor Positioning Systems

It turns out there is. Or at least, there a quite a few. They all have their drawbacks and most require you to add technology to the indoor area to get it working. Lets do a quick survey to see what Indoor Positioning Systems are out there.

GPS Repeaters

GPS Repeater

GPS Repeater

The first one is using GPS indoors. If you have a high enough roof you can put a GPS repeater on it and project the satellite reception into the building and suddenly GPS works inside the building. We use exactly this technique when needing to test a GPS device inside our building. See GPS Repeaters for one example product.

Radio Beacons

This covers a very wide range of technologies, of which Bluetooth Beacons are the current industry trend. And they can work either way. You can wear the beacon and the receiver track you and use your RSSI to calculate your position, or you have the receiver and monitor the beacons to achieve the same result.

Bluetooth Smart Beacon

Bluetooth Beacon

Increasingly these systems are being used for applications like tracking patients in hospitals and residents in retirement villages.

WPS WiFi Positioning System

You have a WiFi network, so you can use the network as a WiFi Positioning System or WPS. This is similar to the Radio Beacon system and uses the RSSI from your device to the WiFi Access Points.

Dead Reckoning

This uses Inertial Navigation components to keep track of your distance and direction from a known point. It is usually used in conjunction with another system such as GPS outdoors and Dead Reckoning in tunnels to keep an accurate estimate of a vehicles position on a map. And low cost MEMs based devices are now available to provide Inertial Navigation readings.

MEMS Accelerometer

MEMS Accelerometer

The weakness is the double integration of the signals leads to noise accumulation and the accuracy of the position estimate decreases over time.

IR Techniques

These vary a lot. From a sea of emitters overhead to give a location grid to emitters firing down row and aisles in warehouses and even corner emitters firing angle encoded signals picked up and decoded using sine rule mathematics.

IR Angle Emitter

IR Angle Emitter

The image above is a system we design in 2006 to do angle based IR location detection in GPS blind spots for container handling equipment. This was capable of locating equipment to within 0.5m.

Time of Flight

This allows you to more accurately work out the distance from the emitter to the receiver but requires very precise timing in both.

Magnet Field Monitoring

This is an obvious one, but most modern smart phones have a compass in them. The usually aren’t a very good compassand that can make this option not viable. However if you do have a good enough compass, you can use local disortions on the magnetic field due to steel structures in a building to estimate your location.

Indoor Position Conclusion

And of course, you can use a combination of the above to meet the specific requirement you have. As usual, the classic trade offs apply. These are:

  • accuracy
  • cost
  • size
  • battery life

For some addition insights check out 10 things you need to know about Indoor Positioning.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2016 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

GPS History

GPS started with Sputnik. This was covered really well by Steven Johnson in his book on “Where Good Ideas Come From“. Here is a summary.

The basic plot is easy to understand. Smart people work out how to use existing stuff to do extraordinary things with it. While he starts with English coffee houses, he also shows how trying to work out where Sputnik is leads to working out how a GPS system can be made to work.

The initial motivation is quite dark. How can I accurately drop bombs on Russian cities? But we have come through that to find GPS really useful. Like “how can I get from where I am to my next appointment”.

Improving GPS accuracy

So some new work has looked at how we can make GPS even more accurate. Modern GPS receivers can get us to within 1.5m of our current location most of the time. With commercial correction services (accounting for satellite actual positions) we can get to 0.5m of the actual position 95% of the time.

That has been OK for a while now.

Some recent advances allow the accuracy to be improved to 10cm. A recent IEEE article on Centimeter Level GPS shows how.

And the upside? Your car can now use your GPS to navigate and stay within its lane.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2016 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Wearables started when?

The buzz technology of the past 18 months has been Wearables which is short for Wearable Technology. So when exactly did Wearable Technology begin? Like most overnight successes, it started a long time ago. Below is an infographic from http://www.visualcapitalist.com/the-history-of-wearable-technology/ that is an excellent overview of the topic, with some notable exceptions I will address after you peruse it. I selected it because it covers right up to this moment.

Wearable Tech History Infographic

Wearable Tech History Infographic

They got eyeglasses right but missed the other most successful wearable device of all time, the wristwatch. The first true wristwatch was made for the Queen of Naples in 1810 although arm watches date back to 1571. Neither were widely used because the mechanisms were prone to jamming and sensitive to ingress and so needed to be protected. So pocket watches and pendant watches dominated the scene. It wasn’t until the 1880s that artillery officers found it awkward to hold the watch and do their aiming and started strapping them to their wrists. This gave them visibility of the time when they needed without occupying one of their hands. The trend took off and by the early 1900s watch designs were modified to suit attachment to the wrist via a strap using lugs on the case. The age of the wristwatch was upon us.

So by this period, eye glasses if you needed them, and wristwatches or pocket watches, were widely adopted.

Wearable Computing Devices

So when were the first Wearable Computing devices? If you paid careful attention to the infographic, you might have noticed the Abacus Ring. Dated in the early 1600s this was definitely a computing device, just not an electronic one. It was a great aid to merchants of the day.

Abacus Ring - 1600s

Abacus Ring – 1600s

The first wearable electronics computing device to be widely sold was the Casio Calculator Watch which was released in the mid-1970s. Take up of portable music players and headsets were a bigger trend kicked off by the Sony Walkman at the end of that same decade.

It wasn’t until Bluetooth headsets emerged in the early 2000s that we had another mass adoption of Wearable Technology followed by the explosion of MP3 players and Apple’s massively successful iPod range.

Sports trackers start emerging from 2006 but it isn’t until Fitbit finally got their product into production that they really take off from 2009 onward. Fitbit almost didn’t make it commercially because the technology was really hard to make work and even harder to make. Today they have 70% of the activity tracker market but there are a plenty of new players now they have proven the market potential.

And wearable computers got a huge lift with the Google Glass project kicking off in 2012. It raised a plethora of issues, not the least of which was privacy. Although the product was discontinued by Google in January 2015, it took the debate on augmented reality and its issues forward.

Google Glass Tear Down

Google Glass Tear Down

The Year of the Wearable

Which brings us to 2014: declared the “Year of the Wearable”. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear wrist communications device from late 2013 had finally eclipsed Dick Tracey and the wrist communicator of the 1930s cartoon series. The explosion of product offerings has continued into 2015 with the much anticipated Apple Watch now released. And a whole new host of communications support accessories. Another growth area is pet management. As the technology gets more accessible to smaller companies we can expect this to continue covering the full range of possible options including:

  • Augmented reality
  • Medical monitoring and health support
  • Activity and lifestyle management
  • Pet management
  • Home automation
  • Communications and communications support
  • Computing devices of all types

There really isn’t an end to where this can go. It is up to companies to deliver real value to end users in order to define the bounds of what makes commercial sense. The technology is still hard to do but as more products get to market, more companies learn the techniques needed to be successful at super low power worn devices and the whole application area continues to progress.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2016 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Data and Analytics

Today, data is available for nearly everything you can think of. Or if it isn’t, then it isn’t hard to add new data sources, both internal and external to a business. But data alone isn’t the answer. It is what you do with it, learn from it and decide based on it that really makes the difference.

Data Analytics

Data Analytics

So how do you know what everyone else is doing?

Or how you compare?

aiia , the Australian Information Industry Association, are doing a survey on Data and Analytics in Australia and sharing the results with anyone who contributes. So I’m writing this to encourage you to contribute. I did.

To find out why, you can check out this post by Roger Kermode on Leading and Lagging at Data Analytics.

Or just go straight to the survey on [[[ Australian Data and Analytics ]]].  The link to the survey is at both the top and bottom of the page and some of the data in between might also interest you.

Australian Information Industry Association

Australian Information Industry Association

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2016 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Programming languages

It is 2016 and we are a long way from the 1970s. So of course the world has moved on. Today’s programming has advanced significantly and we have super low powered systems of extraordinary capacity and easy to program securely. Surely!

Or should that be surely?

So here are the IEEE top programming languages for 2016.

Top Programming Languages 2016

Top Programming Languages 2016

This isn’t the first time we have done this. If you go back to Top Programming Languages 2015 you will see that C was second and Java was first. This year, C is first. A 1970s language is back to being first for all programming in 2016. Why?

It is called the Internet of Things or IoT.

So is this a step backward?

In 2016 devices shipped in the product category known as the Internet of Things exceeded all other mainstream electronics device categories. Take all mobile phones, tablet computers and iPads, desktop computers, netbooks, laptops, servers and general computing devices combined, and this is less than the value of products shipped in the category of the Internet of Things.

And this is what is driving the use of the C programming Language. For these small, low powered, low cost, essential to our future devices, have to be programmed in something that lets you get close to the hardware so you can manage it, and also operate in a high level language. My hat goes off to Dennis Richie and KenTompson who developed this language in the early 1970s and gifted it to us all. Their vision has carried an entire civilisation forward.

Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie

Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie

So more than 40 years later, I am still very grateful for their foresight, vision and competence in creating the most used computing language on earth today.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2016 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

CEDA Manufacturing Symposium 2016

The Casey Cardinia Region was a major sponsor of this particular symposium, also know as the Manufacturing and Future Industries Forum,  and so this meeting included some region specific statistics. So here they are:

  • Casey Cardinia Region is headed for 650,000 people over the next 20 years
  • Manufacturing accounts for more than 50% of GDP in Melbourne’s south East
  • 100 families a week move into the Casey Cardinia Region
  • 135 babies a week a born – hence Monash health referring to it as nappy valley 🙂
  • 70% of resident workers have to travel outside the region for work
Casey Cardinia Region

Casey Cardinia Region

Australian Manufacturing History

Committee for Economic Development of Australia

Committee for Economic Development of Australia

Manufacturing GDP in Australia has halved since then 1980s. This is offset by the rise in finance, mining and health. Looking at recent history it grew slightly from 2000 to 2008 then slowly dropped back to the same level today and for the past 10 months has grown each month.

Manufacturings declining percentage of GDP is due to holding its output level while GDP grows.

Employment has been the biggest reduction at 18% decline or 200,000 jobs; mostly in Victoria and South Australia.

Food and beverage is the biggest category followed by machinery and equipment which includes automotive. Construction and building materials has held its own in the light of recent Senate enquiries into sub-standard and non-conforming product being imported. This has led to an advantage in quality confidence for local products showing it isn’t just about price. This has also been assisted by the rise in residential construction on the eastern and South eastern sea board.

Major issues and roadblocks

The listed issues for Australian manufacturers are:

  • Access to finance
  • Australia is a difficult place to do business
  • Tax and regulation
  • Australia ranks 21st for global manufacturing competitiveness
  • Similar to other business rankings for Australia
Julie Toth

Julie Toth AIG

Industry Policy

The Victorian Government has identified 5 sectors for policy support:

  • Food and agribusiness
  • Mining
  • Oil, Gas and Energy
  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Medical and diagnostic devices

Discussion on Australia’s Future industries and employment options

The panel consisted of:

  • Dr Cathy Foley, CSIRO, Clunies Ross award recipient 2015 (Australia’s Nobel prize)
  • Michael Green, Victorian DEDJTR
  • Julie Tooth, chief economist AIG
  • Jennifer Conley, moderator
Dr Cathy Foley

Dr Cathy Foley – CSIRO

Michael Green made the point that Advanced Manufacturing meant the value add must go beyond the quality and cost story to the customer. So not getting the attention of the chief purchasing office, but instead of the new product or strategic technology alliance executive.

Dr Cathy Foley explained that we underestimate the value of thinking globally. CSIRO has a national remit but recognises it needs to help businesses achieve international competitiveness. And now they can help sole traders get to a breakthrough technology and not just focus on big players. In one project Cathy used their superconducting technology to create a new magnetic field detector to improve exploration efficiency.

CSIRO

CSIRO

Julie Tooth was asked if we had squandered our energy advantage? She explained that we used to have a cost advantage but that has now gone. Renewable investment has also been unreliable due to frequent changes in policy at both federal and state levels. Other policy and trade agreement activity has also muddied rather than clarified future direction.

AIG

AIG – Australian Industry Group

Dr Cathy Foley explained that the exit of girls from STEM needs to be seriously addressed. And where there is take-up, what we aren’t seeing is progressing into leadership and management roles. With our growing Asian background and proximity to Asia not being taken advantage of. We need to be wary of creating a social divide between higher socio-economic areas where you get access to coding and technology skills and those living in lower income areas or rural and remote communities do not.

Can we make high technology devices here?

Michael Green stated that this needs investment in the infrastructure.

Dr Cathy Foley noted that researchers stop short of delivering a full solution – traditionally this has been the case but it is increasingly becoming obvious that that path from fundamental research to applied research to full manufacturing capability including process technology improvement.

Michael Green explained that new manufactured products will have digital products and artefacts alongside it.

Improving collaboration?

It isn’t just a case of university to business collaboration. A business needs to collaborate with a broad range of other businesses including their own customers. So it isn’t a simple issue. A supply chain needs multiple entities and it isn’t just a case of dealing directly with the end customer but also supporting all the intermediates so the whole ecosystem end to end.

The CSIRO lean start-up program is focusing researchers on creating product product opportunities and engaging with potential customers and making sure they really need it.

And although I can’t yet give you details yet, we are involved in the development of one of the lean start-up products.

Grow Magazine

The most recent edition of Grow Magazine, an initiative between the Start News Group and the City of Casey, covered the event as well. You can read about it in Successful Endeavours – Grow Magazine 20160705.

GROW Magazine

GROW Magazine

You can also read the entire magazine online at Rising to the Global Challenge.

CEDA - Rising To The Global Challenge

CEDA – Rising To The Global Challenge

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2016 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd

National Manufacturing Week 2016

This year we are back in Sydney at Sydney Olympic Park for National Manufacturing Week 2016.

National Manufacturing Week

National Manufacturing Week

And again we are supporting the Casey Cardinia Region. This year we are in stand 2216 which is a lot more central that 2 years ago.

Casey Cardinia Region

Casey Cardinia Region

You can also check out the directory entry for Successful Endeavours though if you are familiar with us there will be no surprises there.

So if you are thinking of dropping in to the exhibition then please come and say hello. Melbourne might be the manufacturing capital of Australia, but there are still a large number of significant manufacturers in Sydney including a growing biomedical device manufacturing cluster. And we have clients in Sydney and so are hoping to catch up with some of them.

We are also 3D Printing in house now and so I’m personally interested in what is happening with 3D Printing and will be checking out that part of the exhibition.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2016 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd

Invisibility Cloak

The Invisibility Cloak has been an area of interest for a long time and is a common future technology explored in Science Fiction movies and series as well as fantasy series like Harry Potter. There has been some recent progress. Watch the video below to see.

 This is obviously cumbersome to take with you in order to stay invisible. So a recent nanotechnology example is worth looking at to show how well a conformal coated Invisibility Cloak could work.

 It will be interesting to see how well this works when it is scaled up.

 Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2015 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

3D Printing

3D Printing has been a big topic for some time. It works in a number of different ways and you can print in metals, plastic or paper. For this post, I will focus on FDM or Fused Deposition Modelling. It is also a method within the general area of Additive Manufacturing.

We work with a wide range of Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design companies and I had expected them to all be right into 3D Printing. But I was wrong. So we decided to do it ourselves. Here is what we were looking for:

  • cost under $5K
  • more than 1 filament material type
  • readily available filament (overnight delivery preferred)
  • 0.1mm resolution
  • fully enclosed
  • can run stand alone (you don’t need to have it permanently connected to a computer)
  • automatic material detection
  • upgradable nozzles and software 

 What we ended up selecting did all of the above but the price point was under $2K! The unit is an Automaker from Robox

CEL-Robox Automaker

CEL-Robox Automaker

3D Printer Application

So after making a few of the sample models that came with the unit, it was time to start using it in a real project. One set of negatives about 3D Printing is that it is slow and noisy. So even though we selected a fully enclosed unit, it was still too noisy to sit in the middle of the office. So we relocated it to the workroom where we do the more mechanical tasks. We also had to decide how we would create 3D Models. So lets go through the whole process.

For the project, we needed a custom spacer for a 4-20mA current output voltage sensor. We were redesigning a product that had gone obsolete. Our client only needed 50 of them to replace failed units in the field and for spares over time. Having designed the Printed Circuit Board we now needed a spacer that would allow us to use an insulated case TO220 NPN transistor in place of a TO3 NPN Transistor.

3D Model Creation

The first step is to create a 3D Model of the shape we needed. This turned out to be much easier than we expected. We don’t do mechanical CAD in house so we elected to try an online tool. The tool we selected is TinkerCAD. It works in your browser and you can download an STL file which is the format most 3D Printers can use.

TinkerCAD online 3D Design

TinkerCAD online 3D Design

The software works by letting you add shapes together to make an object. You can also turn any shape into a hole. And you can set the height and location of any object including its elevation. This was more than enough to handle this project. Above is a screenshot of the completed model. We then downloaded it and fed it into the CEL-Robox 3D Printer.

3D Printing in Action

This is a small part and only took 12 minutes to print. 

3D Printed Spacer

3D Printed Spacer

So now we have our Custom Electronics Spacer. And at a small fraction of the time and cost of getting it drawn up mechanically and made by someone else.

Electronics Prototype

Time to assemble the PCB and make sure everything is OK.

3D Printed Spacer Fitted

3D Printed Spacer Fitted

This is perfect. Now we can get to testing the new design and hand it over to our client for them to evaluate and approve. 

3D Printing Creates New Opportunities

Having done this one exercise, I can see enormous possibilities for this technology a Successful Endeavours. Not only can it save time and cost like it did for this project, but it allows us to do new things we might not have tried before. For lower volume products, you can afford the tooling for custom injection moulded parts, but now we don’t need to.

This is really going to be much better than I thought.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2015 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

PACE Zenith Awards

The PACE Zenith Awards 2015 celebrate the process control and automation industry’s many and diverse successes. The PACE Zenith Awards bring together some of the biggest names in Process Control, Instrumentation and Automation to celebrate, recognise and award companies and individuals for their key contribution to Australian industry. 

The awards winners were announced at the PACE Zenith Awards dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel Sydney on June 11th 2015.

This year we were finalists in 4 categories with the Power and Energy Management category having 2 projects selected as finalists.

Successful Endeavours Finalists PACE ZENITH 2015

Successful Endeavours Finalists PACE ZENITH 2015

The categories we were finalists in were:

  • Water and Wastewater – for our IoT Monitoring Platform + Telemetry Host
  • Best Fieldbus Implementation – for our IoT Monitoring PlatformTelemetry Host
  • Power and Energy Management – for our IoT Monitoring Platform  + Telemetry Host and the ABB CQ930
  • Transport Power and Infrastructure – for the ABB CQ930
PACE Zenith Awards - 5 Finalist Certificates - Successful Endeavours 2015

PACE Zenith Awards – 5 Finalist Certificates – Successful Endeavours 2015

 

PACE Zenith Awards 2015 Winners

So we didn’t win a category, but it was a great night and I always enjoy being part of celebrating what is good in Australian Manufacturing. The winners on the night were:

  • BEST FIELDBUS IMPLEMENTATION = Sigma NSW
  • FOOD AND BEVERAGE = B.-d.Farm Paris Creek
  • MACHINE BUILDER  = H.I.Fraser
  • MANUFACTURING = ANCA
  • MINING AND MINERALS PROCESSING = Sigma NSW
  • OIL AND GAS = H.I.Fraser
  • POWER AND ENERGY MANAGEMENT = Mescada
  • TRANSPORT, POWER AND INFRASTRUCTURE = Sage Automation
  • WATER AND WASTEWATER = Sage Automation
  • YOUNG ACHIEVER AWARD = Aaron Deal, Honeywell Process Solutions
  • PROJECT OF THE YEAR = H.I.Fraser

 

PACE Zenith Awards 2015

This was our first time at these awards so we learnt a lot about the process and hope to be back next year.

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2015 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

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