Camazotz is a low power autonomous tracking device that promises to revolutionise long-term tracking of mobile assets, from wildlife such as flying foxes to livestock and public bicycle fleets. It consists of a low power System-on-a-chip with processing and short-range radio communication, multimodal sensors including a GPS module, inertial unit, temperature, pressure, and audio, and solar panels for long-term energy replenishment. Once the device is placed on any mobile asset, it autonomously captures position and condition data from the mobile asset near-perpetually thanks to its ability to harvest solar power. With the use of proprietary software, the device learns historical movement trends and energy availability for strategic setting of appropriate GPS sampling periods, and uses low power sensors to tactically capture events of interest. Camazotz can operate in delay-tolerant mode, not requiring proximity to any radio base station. Once it establishes contact with a radio base station, Camazotz offloads all its gathered data using its wireless radio. Camazotz’s ability to operate sustainably without any human involvement or continuous backhaul connection renders it suitable for most outdoor tracking applications of small mobile assets (i.e. parcels, wildlife, livestock, bicycle, pets…). The system can be reconfigured or fully re-tasked remotely through the base stations to meet the needs of different applications or contexts. The entire process of tracking and sending the data back to base is fully automated – not requiring any human input. The device has been used successfully and extensively in long-term and continental scale tracking of flying foxes throughout Australia.
What’s the Value Add?
Camazotz has been in operation within the National Flying Fox Monitoring Program for nearly 2 years. Dozens of Camazotz platforms have been placed on flying fox collars and have successfully delivered high quality tracking information that is unprecedented for any animals of this size and weight. The deployment is planned to expand to up to 1000 devices. The tracking information is highly valuable to vector ecologists who use it to predict Hendra disease and crop damage risk across Australia, and to understand the species role in the ecosystem as seed dispersal agents.
From extensive analysis of the long-term tracking market, we have identified a clear need for such an invention. Long-term tracking of small assets is a very active area of technology, and there is an increasing worldwide demand for location-based services and continuous tracking of valuable mobile assets. As a result of improvements in embedded technology (hardware and software) there has been a great deal of developments in tracking solutions in leading companies, such as Microsoft. As mentioned, Camazotz is able to operate sustainably while maximising tracking information accuracy, a feature that none of its competitors have.
It is important to consider that the availability of a sustainable and versatile tracking platform means that long-term tracking could start to uncover previously unavailable movement patterns of species that are vital to ecosystems and pose threats to human health. For instance, flying foxes in West Africa are known to be responsible for Ebola outbreaks, the most recent of which has led to the deaths of hundreds of people. The technology breakthrough that Camazotz provides could deliver enormous value in understanding and predicting disease spread risk, which guides effective management actions to contain these outbreaks more proactively. Other promising applications include traceability of goods, sensor-based logistics, and asset tracking.
What’s Special About It?
Autonomy: As a fully autonomous tracking device, Camazotz can track mobile assets near-perpetually with no human intervention. Its solar panels enable it to harvest energy opportunistically when it is exposed to the sun, and its software is designed to gracefully degrade performance as less energy is available due to cloudy conditions or occlusion from the sun. The software effectively reduces the sampling frequency of GPS positions with reduced battery state-of-charge and resumes high sampling rates when energy becomes available again. Unlike commercial trackers that enforce fixed sampling strategies, Camazotz’s energy awareness enables it to effectively live within its energy means and still deliver the highest possible position information to users. This feature is particularly useful for wildlife tracking where there is virtually no physical access to devices once deployed.
Configurability: Camazotz’s software design supports full reconfiguration through remote wireless commands. All tracking parameters on Camazotz, from its target GPS or accelerometer sampling frequency to whether GPS sampling is periodic or triggered by inertial sensors, can be reconfigured whenever the tracking device is within the vicinity of one of the wireless base stations. A key feature that can be remotely configured is contact logging, where Camazotz tracking devices can be set to exchange information with other Camazotz devices. This enables data muling from remote Camazotz devices that may not return to a base node for a long time.
Sustainability: Camazotz provides near-perpetual tracking for small highly mobile assets. It operates on a tiny 300mAh battery, but thanks to its dual solar panels, it harvests energy daily from the sun to replenish its energy supplies. Because the daily solar energy availability varies, as does the need for tracking depending on the degree of movement, Camazotz tailors its energy expenditure to its energy availability, mainly by selecting the most appropriate GPS sampling strategy. For instance, Camazotz can switch from periodic high frequency sampling of GPS positions to accelerometer triggered sampling in response to depletion in its energy supply. Furthermore, it can autonomously lower its sensitivity in capturing motion events with the accelerometer in order to reduce its likelihood of sampling GPS.
R. Jurdak, B. Kusy, P. Sommer, N. Kottege, C. Crossman, A. McKeown, D. Westcott, “Camazotz: Multimodal Activity-based GPS Sampling,” In proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Information Processing in Sensor Networks (IPSN), Philadelphia, USA, April, 2013.
P. Sommer, B. Kusy, A. McKeown, and R. Jurdak, “The Big Night Out: Experiences from Tracking Flying Foxes with Delay Tolerant Wireless Networking,” In proceedings of the Fifth Workshop on Real-World Wireless Sensor Networks (RealWSN), Como Lake, Italy, September 2013.
P. Sommer, B. Kusy, and R. Jurdak,”Energy Estimation for Long-term Tracking Applications,”, In proceedings of the First International Workshop on Energy-Neutral Sensing Systems (EnSys), co-located with Sensys, Rome, Italy, November, 2013.
Camazotz wins Merit at 2014 QLD iAward