ElephantEdge tracker: Designing the firmware and first prototype solution

Development update

ElephantEdge tracker development is now shifting from background development of the system into implementing user features and extensively testing them. There are four key components to get a successful solution:

  1. Mechanics
  2. Electronics
  3. Firmware
  4. Smartphone Application

Mechanics

Robustness is an understatement of a requirement when a unit of hardware is exposed to the force of an elephant in the wild. The electronics and antenna systems are safely mounted into a custom milled hard-plastic enclosure. This enclosure is closed with aluminum mounting parts and not to miss, a synthetic BioThane belt setup. As animal welfare is the primary concern, ergonomic design is applied to prevent abrasions and damage to the animal, while at the same time remaining sufficiently simple to install. The last feature is important for reducing the time needed in the field to collar an animal.

Electronics

The ElephantEdge electronics is now in the second board revision. In the first compact form-factor design, we have put together all the major components to enable firmware integration and feature testing. While testing and developing a number of improvement opportunities have been discovered and these have now been implemented in the second design revision — which is a fully-featured and compact board design for power-efficient tracking and machine learning.

Firmware

Although devices such as trackers usually have one simple function, a lot is happening in the firmware heart. Signals from the GPS system need to be acquired correctly, so the battery life can be as long as possible, users need to be able to easily access the data and configure the device remotely and locally, machine learning systems need to process data, and wireless communications need to be supported. All these tasks need to run at the same time to provide flawless operation. To achieve all of these tasks with a clean and reliable implementation, we have chosen Zephyr RTOS. Zephyr RTOS is supported by Nordic Semiconductor as the vendor of the BLE component and combined with several communication drives developed at IRNAS.

Smartphone application

The final piece of the puzzle in offering a great user experience is the (smartphone) application, enabling convenient management of the trackers in the field, automatic provisioning and configuration of large batches of devices and straightforward integration of machine learning data collection process.

We are getting there

Now that you know how far we have come with getting to the most advanced Elephant tracker ever made, please keep a close eye on the next update and maybe spend some time looking at the great contributions made in the ElephantEdge campaign. We will get back to you in the next weeks!

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