Case Study: High Precision Augmented GNSS GPS Mobile Integrated Receiver

ship tracking via gps

Summary

Customer: DDK Positioning.

Overview

DDK Positioning is a leader in innovative positioning technology and provides resilient and precise GNSS positioning solutions with global coverage (pole to pole) by utilizing the Iridium’s satellite constellation for augmentation data. The DDK solution allows for sub <5cm accuracy worldwide. Many industries, such as marine, offshore survey, agriculture, automotive, aviation, construction and IoT have assets and processes that require precision tracking and positioning. By utilizing the Iridium Satellite network for data connection, no expensive reference stations or GNSS infrastructure are required. Additionally, the assets position can be sent to the cloud over the satellite network as well.

 

 

Challenge / Problem

Many industrial applications require the precise tracking and positioning of their assets. This ranges from agriculture machinery to shipping containers. As simple as this sounds, a reliable and robust solution is needed to withstand the demands of industrial environments. The following challenges need to be solved.

world gps coverage

Accuracy

Most positioning systems only provide accuracy to 5 meters. This may be sufficient for many operations, but a higher level of accuracy (100x) is often needed for sophisticated asset tracking. For example, certain geo-fenced zones may induce hefty fines if breached, thus the assurance of high accuracy is needed. Precise mapping, mining and construction applications also require more precision as well.

Communication

In today's connected world, no solution is complete without a connection to the cloud. The cloud contains invaluable data that is needed. The cloud also can provide storage and access to data across the globe. A simple wired ethernet or wireless WiFi signal isn't sufficient enough for an asset in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Equipment Value

Many industrial sectors have extremely costly assets, including tractors, ships, cargo, vehicles and heavy equipment. With such a large amount of money invested, it is crucial to know the exact location of these assets at all times.

Location

These assets, such as ships, can travel all over the world, including remote areas such as the northern and southern polar regions. These regions are often outside the normal scope of civilian positioning services.

Safety

The marine sector has large ships and tankers that travel globally with highly sensitive and costly cargo. Security can be compromised through spoofing of the ships location on the global Automatic Identification System (AIS). Additionally, if a ship is hijacked by pirates, it can further be tracked for the authorities to retake.

Environment

These industrial assets are often outdoors in extreme weather, including frigid snow and scorching heat. Equipment that can withstand these temperature variations is important to ensure consistent uptimes.

Outages

Signal outages can disrupt normal operations. Each minute of an outage means an increased safety and monetary risk.

Project Requirements

DDK Positioning built a mobile precision GNSS receiver for a rugged environment. The following items were crucial in making a decision in which platform to choose:

  • Iridium Satellite Communication Interface:  An Iridium satellite connection was a crucial requirement to ensure internet communication throughout the planet. The satellite link needed to remain low profile and have an external antenna connection for different cabling and antenna options.
  • Precision GNSS/GPS Chipset: To provide a precise location, a high quality positioning chipset is required. This isn't an application about the lowest cost receiver, but rather being able to use the highest quality and most accurate receiver.
  • Compact and Flexible Computing Platform: A computing platform is required to process the location data from the GNSS receiver, and then apply any augmentation data from the Iridium Satellite link. Once this is complete, the data can then be stored or sent back to the cloud. Trying to find a single board computer that offered flexible communication options was very important. Finding a flexible expansion interface like Mini-PCIe slots allows for a wide variety of wireless radios and the option to upgrade to other technologies in the future. A SBC with different IO interfaces such as RS232, SPI, I2C and DIO was important as well to interface with other external modules and sensors.
  • Flexible Software: DDK was looking for a solution that offered open source software that they could control, adjust and improve as they needed. Utilizing a proven known OS like Linux was crucial to avoid costly engineering time by starting from the ground up. Linux is ideal for headless solutions with data processing and networking.
  • Industrial Temperature: Marine and desert environments demanded industrial temperature ratings from -40 to +85C.
  • Quality: Given the value of the assets this device would be monitoring, DDK needed a quality product to ensure the best performance and reliability possible. Using a product manufactured in the USA under strict ISO 9001 standards provides confidence in the quality.
  • Long Life Availability: Selecting a platform with long life availability was important for due to the complexity of the solution. Valuable engineering time wouldn't be wasted in the future for updating to a new platform and certifications wouldn't have to be reacquired. Industrial customers also like to have long life proven products so they can upgrade and replace units when needed.
  • Excellent Technical Support: Since DDK was designing their own solution, it was crucial to partner with a reputable company that could quickly answer questions to ensure the fastest time to market.
  • IP67 Outdoor Rugged Enclosure: The solution is often deployed on a large ship or agricultural piece of equipment. These locations can be wet and dusty. An outer casing that can protect the internal SBC and sensors was required. Antenna ports and interface connectors are exposed on the front panel along with a status LED.

Solution

DDK Positioning created a high performance rugged and industrial mobile high precision augmented GNSS/GPS receiver that works worldwide over the Iridium satellite network.

Hardware

DDK selected a rugged and industrial single board computer from Gateworks, the GW6300. The GW6300 is compact at only 105x100mm while still being loaded with features. At the center, is a powerful dual core, 64-bit ARM network processor running at 800MHz along with plenty of storage with 8GB eMMC. The SBC features two Gigabit Ethernet ports that have been replaced with locking headers rather than standard metal RJ45 jacks. The Gateworks System Controller (GSC) provides crucial system health information such as system voltages and temperature along with a real time clock. Three Mini-PCIe slot allowed for different wireless radios. A GW16130 Iridium Satellite Short Burst Data Radio is used in the first slot. This enables communication of the augmented GNSS data anywhere in the world. It also allows for the calculated position to be pushed back up to the cloud. The remaining two slots can be used for a Bluetooth BLE, GSM Cellular radio or the GW16143 u-blox ZED-F9P high precision GPS. Different GPS modules are used depending on the accuracy requirement.  Everything is housed in a sturdy metal IP67 rated enclosure with several connectors for the wireless antennas as well as GPS data output with a status LED. All of the hardware is rated for industrial temperatures from -40C in frigid marine environments to 85C in the hot desert sun.

ddk-unit
top view ddk
An inside look of the DDK-X1 device. Multiple Mini-PCIe cards can be seen on a GW6300 SBC.

"Gateworks was recommended to us by Iridium. We were very pleased to find they offered a powerful single board computer with plenty of computational horsepower as well as I/O interfaces. Their Mini-PCIe sites allowed us to insert our own custom mix of Iridium satellite modems, GPS modules and cellular modems. Their thorough online documentation and technical support allowed us to bring the DDK X1 Integrated Mobile Receiver to market quickly."

- David Mackay
DDK Positioning Chief Information Officer

Software

The base operating system is a distribution of Linux called Ubuntu. Ubuntu is one of the most common Linux distributions and is widely supported, both in terms of security and extra packages. Ubuntu offers Long Term Support (LTS) releases and the 20.04 version was chosen for longevity. DDK was able to leverage several open source libraries and packages to process incoming and outgoing data as needed. Software drivers were already built into the OS offering a very quick path to completion. This open source Linux platform will continue to provide flexibility for new features that can be added in the years to come. Whether is be cloud control or advanced wireless features, anything can be added or upgraded as needed.

The main function of the DDK software is to process and store highly precise location data. The software takes an incoming GPS signal from the attached GPS module. These coordinates are then adjusted with augmentation data pulled down from the Iridium satellite connection. Once the location is precisely narrowed down, the final position can be either stored, outputted locally to other onboard systems, or sent back to the cloud. Having this precise location is very valuable in many scenarios. DDK is able to offer a location to within 5cm of accuracy.

In the event of an outage, an advanced feature of the DDK solution can maintain a position for up to 10 minutes, providing crucial location data when it may matter most.

Having a dedicated location solution allows ships to provide accurate and secure position data. Unfortunately, criminals often spoof a ships location on the global Automatic Identification System (AIS). This has rendered the AIS system sometimes inaccurate, requiring the actual positioning data to be transmitted back to the cloud to a private proprietary server that can be trusted. Avoiding spoofing provides better tracking and safety for ships in the open ocean.

 

marine gps tracking

Results: A High Precision Augmented Positioning Solution

corrected high precision gps data

DDK Positioning found a need in the market for a highly precise location device that could operate worldwide. Previous devices that used the Inmarsat network weren't able to entirely communicate across the globe. The DDK solution uses the global reaching Iridium Satellite Network. Paired with the satellite communication link is a a multi-frequency (L1,L2,L5) multi-constellation (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou) receiver that provides the highest quality measurements for Precise Point Positioning (PPP) and Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) solutions throughout the world. This receiver with the augmentation data from the satellite link is providing less than 5cm of accuracy, which is an amazing achievement compared to previous solutions. The satellite communication link also enables the location data to be pushed back to the cloud for better tracking and safety. The DDK solution is unique in that it is able to continue providing positioning for up to 10 minutes by using a special proprietary algorithm. For applications near cellular service towers, a cellular modem is able to connect for a more efficient communication link compared to the satellite connection. All this is possible due to a very flexible computing platform from Gateworks. The GW6300 SBC offers a variety of IO interfaces and 3 Mini-PCIe slots for modems, GPS and radios. This ensures this platform will have the ability to easy swap out the Mini-PCIe cards as technologies improve in the communication and location sectors.

DDK's solution has enabled shipping companies to better monitor and track their ships and assets around the world. They now have a more precise position than they ever had. The safety and security of their assets is greatly improved due to the reduction in spoofing. Other sectors are also using and realizing the potential of such a precise and robust augmented positioning device that has cloud connectivity.

Resources

For more information about DDK Positioning, please visit their website at https://www.ddkpositioning.com/

Below is a list of equipment used in this solution:

Gateworks Embedded Products

Looking for a powerful ARM-based computer board that can withstand harsh environments? We offer single board computers, mini-PCI express expansion cards, and enclosures designed for rugged, industrial applications.

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