The Abeeway Micro Tracker is a pocket sized geolocation device that supports multiple location technologies. It is a small battery powered unit that can either be put in your pocket, attached to a key-ring or put inside something else.
It has an internal rechargeable battery which gives a couple of weeks of life depending on how you are using it. It is recharged by connecting a micro-USB cable. It has a single button on the front of it which is used to switch the device into different modes or trigger a geolocation event.
It supports multiple geolocation technologies:
- GPS. Just the same technology as your sat-nav in your car or your smart phone uses. It relies on receiving signals from multiple satellites in orbit around the planet. Location accuracy can be as good as a couple of metres but this is dependant on getting signal from a lot of satellites, 10m accuracy is common. Even though GPS is a “receive only” system, it is quite power hungry because it takes a long time (minutes rather than seconds or even milliseconds) to lock on to multiple satellites. It’s free to use and there is global coverage. However you really need to be outside, if you are inside a building it sometimes works near a window.
- LP-GPS (aka Low-Power GPS). This is a proprietary technology and requires the use of Abeeway’s own software platform. The idea is that most of the location processing is done on a server instead of the device itself so time, CPU usage and therefore battery power is saved. I can’t comment on the operation of this at the moment as I am yet to give it a try.
- Wifi Sniffing. I find this technology really interesting and yet a bit scary at the same time. Because there are wifi networks literally all over the place these days, you are usually within range of several of them anywhere except remote or rural areas. Companies such as Google or Apple collect the IDs and locations of wifi networks and store them anonymously. Your smart phone makes use of this data to determine it’s own location quicker than waiting for a GPS lock, your smart phone also collects this data and sends it back to the databases of the likes of Apple and Google. The Abeeway tracker makes use of this technology as a way of getting a pretty accurate location by simply sniffing for wifi networks in range. The tracker simply sends the IDs of nearby wifi networks to the LoRaWAN Network Server. It is then up to you to convert this into a normal location (latitude & longitude) on your own application. The raw data looks like this:
That’s a list of wifi bssids and rssis my tracker has sniffed. It doesn’t connect to any wifi network, it simply scans for their IDs. Any wifi network broadcasts these ID numbers (along with the SSID you more commonly see in a list of networks to connect to on your computer). The rssi numbers are the signal strengths for each network which can optionally be used to get a more accurate location .
To do something useful with this information you need to convert that raw data into a location. Google provide an API to their mapping system called GeoLocate, it does many things but one of them is converting these wifi networks into a real location just like you’d get from GPS – a latitude and longitude.