Project Update February 2017

This is a short technical update but we hope that it is nevertheless understandable for everyone.

Since we last updated you, the electronics for the receivers (HomeStation) have been fully manufactured and put into operation with the new firmware. There were no major problems as expected. Currently the cases are being fabricated in our 3D printer. All we need is a little time since we have already done all the preparatory work. How a 3D printer works and what it looks like  is shown in our video published in the May 2016 update: http://gpskatzenhalsband.com/2016/0 6/projektupdate-mai-2016. We are still fascinated by this innovation and if you have not seen it yet, you should definitely check out the video.

We ran into some complications with regards to the collar productions. But they are now solved. Originally the Flex-Print could not be produced in time. But after a successful search for an alternative flex-print-producer we managed it. Now we have two suppliers and this will certainly have a positive effect on our future production.

Everything is now ready for the PCB assembly. Unfortunately we have an unusually long delay for one single component. This is annoying because it was ordered early in January with a delivery time of 3-4 days. There is currently a “bottleneck” and the delivery date has been shifted 3 times already. We now hope that the delivery, as promised, will take place this week. If this is the case we can proceed with the production and have the collar electronics ready this week. We can then fit the prints into the case and test thoroughly.

Such production delays are not unusual but they are, of course, very annoying. We will publish another update as soon as we are in possession of the new sets. On the other hand, it is a great relief that we now have a reliable manufacturer, who is able to carry out productions of greater quantities (mass production). And one who now possesses fully implemented production processes which work. A lot of production know-how has been elaborated together and we are glad to undertake future productions with a competent partner. The focus now lies on increasing the efficiency even further.

As our firmware programmer has done his work so far (and exceptionally good), we gladly allowed him a week of skiing holidays.

He definitely earned it. Take a look at this fantastic mountain (the Matterhorn Zermatt) and view. Just beautiful!

Kind regards,
Alan & Claudio

Project Update January 2017

Good Start into the Year 2017

We hope you all started well into 2017. We had a great start! We would also like to thank you all for the many Christmas and New Year’s wishes, they were appreciated.

Just before Christmas the contract with our manufacturer was negotiated and the new GPS cat collars were ordered. They are being produced as we write this newsletter. At the same time our manufacturer gets the opportunity to prepare everything for the upcoming pilot series.

Upon completion of the production a manufacturing analysis will be carried out in order to negotiate the final terms and conditions. At the same time, the tooling for the final case material will begin. This is by the way a very exciting step and a kind of “work of art” in itself. A good tooling builder can create a lot of efficiency in the production process and it is very interesting to follow his work. The construction itself however, is a time-intensive step, which will take at least 8 weeks. We therefore want to tackle this step as quickly as possible. The CAD and design work from our side¬†work on the GPS cat collar and homestation has been completed. The “Go ahead” will be given as soon as we have received and tested the prototypes (in March).

Many questions have been asked, one of them whether the petTracer GPS cat collar will be available in spring. This would, of course, be our greatest wish too. Spring is the time when our beloved cats have an increased urge to go outside and into nature.

If we continue with our good progress, then it seems to be realistic to manufacture the Indiegogo collars in the end of the first half of the year and then deliver them. We are very pleased that the long waiting period will soon come to an end. For all non Indiegogo backers, we are sorry to say, that you will need to wait a little bit longer until we can communicate a realistic delivery date. But we will do our best to inform as soon as possible.

Kind regards,
Alan & Claudio

Project Update December 2016

 pettracer_christmastreeAn event-full year comes to an end. To summarize, this was the year of challenges.

With our small team we answered thousands of inquiries, optimized the entire electronics, made countless CAD designs and adjustments, programmed the firmware, secured the finances of the company, implemented the production processes in close cooperation with our manufacturer, defined use cases, programmed the prototype web portal and carried out various tests, including the field test. The procurement of the materials has been secured, legal clarifications have been made, knowledge has been obtained with regard to standardization and certification and a lot of general administrative work has been done.

pettracer_topolinoBut what is our current standing? Our manufacturer will put the final touches  on the print layout between Christmas and New Year and then produce the prints. The aim is that our manufacturer produces a small number of prototypes from beginning to end, including the purchase of materials. This test run allows our manufacturer to review all production processes. Once this is done, we will be able to define production and delivery deadlines.

pettracer_topolino_gpscatcollarIt has¬†now¬†become¬†very¬†cold, although we have no snow in the lowlands¬†of Switzerland.¬†Topolino¬†has been making himself comfortable in the office for some time now and¬†is keeping up an¬†active refusal to work, meaning he has zero interest¬†in going outside¬†into the cold¬†with¬†his collar. Fortunately, we have already completed our tests. ūüôā

We wish you a very merry Christmas and only the best for the new year.
Kind regards
Alan & Claudio

Project Update November 2016

pettracer_topolino_am_streckenTechnical Update

This update is of a more technical nature. After the completed field test we invested the past month to carrying out all corrections and optimization work.

Print Layout

The print layout (layout of the electronic components such as the GPS module, microprocessor etc.) was subjected to another redesign. Most importantly we had to remove the pressure points caused by the case on sensitive parts (to prevent them from getting damaged). We now also use much smaller components where possible which gives us a margin to play with.

Glue tests

The case material used for the prototypes proved to pettracer_setsbe a weak point (we were aware of this but we had hoped for a bit more durability). In addition, the case was not waterproof which was certainly a disadvantage in the rainy summer days. However, we have now successfully implemented the gluing process using the final case material. The difficulty was to find a suitable glue and to develop a glue process which is financially affordable in the main production. When gluing, the two parts must be pressed together but since we cannot create a “counterpressure” in the inside of the collar, this turned out to be difficult.

Tooling design

Since all “innovation processes” are now developed, we were able to continue with the design of the tools. In close cooperation with the manufacturer we have created the necessary CAD-Files (Computer Aided Design) and defined the requirements in order to manufacture them shortly. This also includes the molding parts for the HomeStation case. It is very important not to make any mistakes at this point as these tools are very expensive and will be used for the next few thousand petTracer sets.

pettracer_weihnachtskranz

Christmas Outlook

With the new print design we can now produce improved quality prints and use them as prototypes. These prototypes will be subject to final tests (stress and reliability tests). This is necessary since we have made a complete redesign. We do not want to risk any further unpleasant surprises in the future.

The bad news is that after completing these tests we are expecting to do some additional changes (in real life something always comes up which had been overlooked in theory). Therefore, we will not be able to produce the collars before the end of this year.

The good news is that after having completed these tests, more or less everything is set up to manufacture the pilot-series and to deliver the collars to our Indiegogo backers.

Kind regards,
Alan & Claudio

Project Update September

petTracer GPS cat collar TopolinoTests completed

All in all, our testing activities have been a great success. Some petTracer test sets have lasted surprisingly long. It was possible for us to analyze and test all information transmissions and protocols as well as our server infrastructure. We obtained a very good idea of the cat owner and cat behavior in order to improve/verify our Use Cases accordingly (first steps, firmware updates etc.). We have received many valuable inputs from our testers and we can still implement most of them.

Safety buckle

On 25.09.2016, 21:47:07 Wiggle (one of our test cats) lost his collar. He tried to squeeze through a hole in a chain-link fence and got stuck. The security buckle of the collar opened (correctly) and we recovered the collar the next day thanks to the accurate GPS position.

pettracer gps cat collar safety buckleIn this case the safety buckle worked correctly. The collar came to no harm and Wiggle is safe and sound.

petTracer GPS cat collar WiggleTest Statistics

The first position was sent to the (new) prototype web portal on 8 July 2016 on 12:33.

Since then (status 22.09.2016, 14:45) a total of 968’438 messages were recorded from the petTracer receivers and collars. 87’652 were GPS positions sent from a total of 42 different collars.

“The test winner”, collar number 53 sent a total of 5’347 positions within approximately 38 days to our web portal, which corresponds to an average of 140 positions per day.

Of all the GPS positions recorded from collars which had already implemented quality validation filters (filters for accuracy):

  • 10’323 GPS positions had the top grade
  • 7’817 GPS positions were of average quality and
  • 1’475 provided at least three valid measurements

Note: The remaining 68’037 GPS positions where transmitted without quality validation filters, as this feature was only implemented towards the end of the testing phase.

Stress Test

In March we informed you about our stress test. The aim was to test the robustness of the electronic components under the most adverse circumstances. The first test with the mounted flex-print was very successful. Even after several thousand twists the electronics were still fully functional.

Since the first test went well, we had decided to integrate further stress tests in the field test itself.

Stresstest pettracer GPSKatzenhalsbandDuring the field test, we had an unpleasant surprise, after having analyzed some of the defective hardware. The prototype case used had a negative impact on the electronics over time. Instead of protecting delicate parts, it shifted pressure points onto the sensitive areas (including towards the GPS module) and injured them. However, we did managed to “save” most of the collars for the time being through expensive and time consuming repair work.

Instead of spending more time with this hardware, we decided on undertaking the final hardware iteration and optimization for the market product. For this we will now order the necessary tools and use the final case material which will be more robust and waterproof. The entire production for the next step is done in close cooperation with our (new and final) hardware manufacturer. So this is good news.

Kaddz in liquidation

Some time ago we received unpleasant news from the company “Kaddz”.¬† They have declared bankruptcy. Although being a direct competitor of us, we still regret this as we knew one of the founders personally. Moreover, it is always a shame when a startup or a company, in general,¬† goes bankrupt. Usually such people always put a lot of passion and commitment into their companies. petTracer gps cat collar cat

What we have learned from this is that we definitely made the correct decision. We made the decision to bring a valuable, workable product onto the market. This includes a very carefully planned long term test. The quality and reliability is and will remain the most important factor for a GPS cat collar.

Inquiries

Meanwhile inquiries for our petTracer GPS cat collar are increasing again but nevertheless we always try to respond in time.

We wish you all a good week.

Kind regards,
Alan & Claudio

Project Update August 2016

petTracer holidaysIn Switzerland the summer holidays have ended in most cantons and many are back to work. We had some holiday absences ourselves but all in all we have been working intensively on the petTracer GPS Cat collar. What have we done exactly?

Testing, Testing, Testing

We have tested, tested and tested even more. And by testing we have learned a tremendous amount, which allowed us to implement even further improvements. This ended in a highly reliable, robust and excellent firmware. We can now claim, with a clear conscience, that we have designed and successfully implemented our new communication protocols. Furthermore, we have updated our prototype web portal, tested it and gained sufficient experience. Due to this not too much further effort is needed to program a software suitable for the market. petTracer GPS Cat Collar Sets

We are now able to deliver different metrical data and carry out evaluations so cat owners know  exactly where their cat is and what it is doing. We can now easily display the following information:

  • GPS quality
  • Wireless signal strength
  • Battery charge level
  • Various filters
  • Search Mode
  • a variety of display options including a Heatmap and much more

Accuracy of petTracer

We would like to describe how precise our petTracer GPS cat collar is/can be. As we have already explained in a previous newsletter, there are many factors influencing a GPS signal, thus having (potentially) considerable impact on its accuracy. Despite all these factors, we often receive an astonishingly precise position; especially when we set the collar in search mode. This allows the collar to locate itself and send a GPS position every 15 seconds. To illustrate this we have made some pictures and print screens. This position was measured and documented on 11.08.2016. Tester was our cat Topolino.

petTracer GPS Cat Collar Topolino Garden far awayImage 1: Topolino in the garden and almost invisible. He is hiding behind the tree.

petTracer GPS Cat Collar Topolino Garden close upImage 2: Here is a closer shot, which shows Topolino better.

Topolino Overview Map bigImage 3: In the middle of the picture, the two houses of image 1 can be seen. On the map, the garden is on the right hand side (where the red dots / circles are).

Topolino Overview Map smallImage 4: And finally, if you look closely, you can see that the position was pinpointed accurately to a few inches! That is incredible!

A big thank you goes to our testers

We have a number of test cats and people and we would like to thank them very much! You and your darlings are doing a great job. Here are some impressions of our dedicated testers. ūüôā

August Tester ImpressiumThis week we will increase the number of testers again in order to create an even greater diversity.

What next?

We have now all the hardware components in operation, with one exception: the motion detector. In¬† the 4 hour mode our battery lasts about one month. But interval modes are not necessarily what we want to prioritize or deem as “optimum”. We want a system which is smart enough to know what the cat is up to and only obtain a GPS position when it makes sense. Therefore, we will implement this final piece of firmware in the coming week and test it together with the motion sensor. Should the entire interaction of hardware and firmware prove effective, we will finally have made it and we can give the “GO” for production.

We would like to thank all our supporters for their incredible patience. Thank you very, very much!

Greetings and see you soon
Alan & Claudio

Project Update Mai 2016

The interest in our petTracer GPS Cat Collar remains very high. Since our previous newsletter several hundred new people have expressed an interest in our project; and this without any advertising on our side. It is exciting to know that a lot of our enquiries come from abroad.

Current situation

We have taken another major step with¬†regard¬†to¬†the¬†collar production¬†process. It requires a high degree of innovation and close cooperation with our suppliers in order to develop an appropriate solution. The challenge is to¬†close the collar¬†and make it¬†waterproof (specifically the case in which the electronics¬†are¬†located).¬†A¬†suitable way¬†and design had to be found¬†by¬†which it is possible to build up sufficient pressure¬†to fit together¬†the¬†flexible components.¬†Not¬†a¬†very easy¬†task,¬†as¬†it is¬†nearly¬†impossible to create counter-pressure “inside”¬†the collar. And if this wasn’t¬†difficult enough¬†already, the¬†process also had to be cost-effective and suitable¬†for¬†automated¬†manufacturing.

3D Print

We are constantly working on improving and harmonizing the design of our¬†HomeStation¬†(charger¬†and¬†receiver).¬†This is where a¬†3D printer¬†comes in very handy. We have asked our prototype partner if he could provide us with a short video of the¬†creation¬†of¬†a¬†HomeStation. As a¬†somewhat funny side note, his comment was, that if they need additional tools for their 3D printer, they could easily create the parts… with their own 3D printer. Usefull! :).

Energy Efficiency

Detailed overall tests have shown that we achieve good energy efficiency values but there is still great potential for improvement. In other words, we are not yet satisfied. Therefore we were forced to review fundamental transmission protocols again. Unfortunately the original protocols used were too large and complex, consuming too much energy. Now we are on the right track and everything has been worked out very cleanly and professionally. In the future it will be much easier to implement additional features and enhancements.

Availability

With several thousand interested cat owners on our waiting list, the pressure on the delivery of the product continues to increase. We have also received several requests from large and reputable companies expressing an interest in an alternative application or add-on. This of course is flattering to us but we must not lose sight of our main objective, namely to bring the first GPS collar for cats on the market, which can be used safely and effectively. And finally, to deliver a petTracer set to our loyal Indiegogo backers.

We wish you all a great day!

Kind regards
Alan & Claudio

Project Upate March 2016

The temperature is rising, spring is knocking on the door and the clocks are soon to be set forward to summer time. Many cats are increasing their activity levels and cat lovers are concerned about the whereabouts of their pets. In recent weeks we have again received many letters from cat owners who found petTracer on the internet. Thank you all for the good ideas to improve and enhance the GPS cat collar. We are considering all of these options but for the first generation of collars we will focus on the implementation of the main functions.

Stress test

Another stress test is currently underway with the GPS Cat Collar. The aim is to test the robustness of the electronic components and flex print under the most adverse circumstances. The first test with the mounted flex-print was very successful. Even after several thousand twists the electronics were still fully functional.

Stresstest pettracer GPSKatzenhalsband

Different test scenarios (for both the¬†flex print as well as the¬†collar case, in cold, heat, humidity, …) will follow in the coming days and weeks. For once we can¬†profit from the current delays we are experiencing as the longer a test scenario runs, the¬†better¬†the¬†end¬†product.

Test cat

Topolino office sleeping

Our test cat¬†Topolino has recovered nicely in the meantime and is pleased with his regained freedom and being allowed to go outside again. He is very happy to¬†have got rid of the annoying cat ruff collar he had to wear a while ago. When he’s not on tour, he¬†gives¬†us¬†his full¬†“support” in the office. As best¬†as he can. ūüėČ

Topolino wearing pettracer GPS KatzenhalsbandTopolino_GPS_Katzenhalsband_Field

Production

petTracer homeStation LogoLast week we met with our production partner again. We both managed to clarify important issues such as the gluing of plastic parts, engineering work on the safety buckle, labelling ideas and the sealing of the home station case. A lot of work has also been done towards the production processes and optimizing them. Even for such a successful and competent manufacturing partner as we have now, it is still a big challenge, since a considerable portion of innovation is needed to produce such a collar. We are currently experimenting with various design options, especially on how to include our logo. One idea is to integrate the petTracer logo directly into the plastic. Here we made a rudimentary Design using a 3D printer.

Forecast

We have made a lot of progress and we will soon be able to fix the final production date. This much we already know. The production will definitely be done in batches and the very first batch is exclusively reserved for our loyal Indiegogo-Backers!

We wish you all a happy Easter and will update you again in April.

Kind regards
Alan & Claudio

 

Project Update January 2016

We started into the new year with a lot of momentum and have made good progress in many different areas. And it was worth it too!

Accuracy of the track

We’ve managed to increase the accuracy of the GPS track again, and to be honest, we are very impressed!

Spur_petTracer_28.1.2016Due to special filters we can compensate the inaccuracy of the GPS and also analyse the quality of the signal. Now it should be very easy to find your cat.

Test Cat

Unfortunately, we do not only have positive news. Our test cat Topolino was bitten and we had to bring him to the vet after his swelling and fever increased.

Topolino3

Luckily we were in the middle of the testing phase and we found him in time. After having his head shaved, receiving a drainage and taking antibiotics, he is now on the way to recover again. At the moment he is not allowed to leave the house, which he is not happy about at all but it’s his best.

Optimizing Production Costs

This month we have taken further measures to optimize the production costs of the petTracer set. There is also a small downside when using the most advanced and reliable components on the market: it comes with a price. But nevertheless we are moving in the right direction.

Contacts for Charging

In order to improve the battery charging cycle (faster charging) we are testing different kinds of metals and alloys. Gold contacts are obviously very interesting but the most expensive option.

Firmware Updates

We are currently testing a new software update function for the collar. This means that we could do updates on collars which are already in use. Through this enhancement additional features can be added in the future (like increased power management and accuracy) without much effort.

Power Management

We are now ready to undertake another assessment for oBatteryur power management. The aim is to analyse the behaviour of cats through our software. This will allow us to gain further insight to set the parameters more accurately.

Hopefully in the next update we can tell you more about the potential delivery date.

Kind regards,
Alan & Claudio

Project Update November 2015

Last month we put the emphasis on the firmware, the production process development and testing.

Topolino_m√ľde

Firmware

Through a variety of tests we were able to elicit the configuration parameters which are needed to adjust our power-conserving algorithm. For this we have developed an software which “learns” about cat behaviour and converts the information digitally for further use. This is an ongoing process and the software will continue to improve itself over the coming months.

Production Process Development

After we found out a few months ago that our potential production partner is not able to manufacture our petTracer GPS Cat Collar as requested, we were on the lookout for new manufacturers. Due to the high degree of innovation of the product, many manufacturers are not able to produce our prototype collar (serial production) without significant additional costs. We therefore began to take care of the development of the production process ourselves and acquired the necessary knowledge. In cooperation with other partners we were able to develop several serious quotes and are now in the final phase of evaluation.

Tests

We decided to extended our field test throughout January due to having made significant design changes as well as neglecting our web portal a little too much. We will of course test all three main modules (firmware, hardware, web portal) as well as the overall system before we give the “GO” for the pilot series.

Katze

Outlook

By the end of the year we will do a firmware “freeze”. This means no further “major releases”, only minor firmware improvements will be made. No new or further developments.

This week we will prepare special tests. On the one hand, the battery life is elicited in a long-term test (as opposed to extrapolation). This means that we will have a collar permanently in operation for several weeks to solely verify the power consumption. In addition, a “flex test” will be done. A collar will be bent several hundred / thousand times back and forth in order to check it for its sturdiness.

In the new year we will bring our web portal up to date. Additionally, all long-lead items have to be purchased and we need to construct the necessary tools for plastics processing as fast as possible.

We still have lots to do, so let’s tackle it. ūüôā

May you all have a beautiful Christmas season.

Kind regards,
Alan & Claudio