What is Smart?

Before the turn of the last century, ‘smart’ used to be an adjective used describe an intellectual person. These days however, we hear the word ‘smart’ being thrown in front of almost everything in our everyday lives (smart-phone, smart-watch, smart-TV, smart-home, smart-office, and so on). And ironically, it’s now used less about describing people! But is this trend just a new age fad, or is this a paradigm shift for technology of the early 21st century? Let’s find out!

Often times, when we describe something as being ‘smart’ it typically means that ‘thing’ has additional functionality from its main intended purpose. Just take the same example of smart-phone, smart-watch, and smart-TV and you can see what I mean. But is this enough to define ‘smart’? Let’s look at the world’s first smart device; it was the ECHO IV home computer. The device was made by  engineer Jim Sutherland in 1966, pre-dating even the ancestors of our personal computers.

ECHO2e

It was an antique computer system used to control many aspects of his home such as computing shopping lists, controlling the temperature of the house and turning appliances on and off; half a century before another similarly named device would also popularise home automation (more on that later). This was the first concept of a home with added features, the Smart-home.

Now-a-days when we talk about smart devices, the first thing that may come to mind are smartphones no doubt. The term smartphone was popularized around the mid 2000’s about the time of the Nokia Communicator, first blackberries and palm smartphones. By this time, phones were already being given ‘additional features’ such as cameras, SMS text messaging capability, and basic applications (such as games, calendar, clock etc.). However, what really made these devices worthy of being called ‘smartphones’ was their ability to incorporate internet based features such as email and web on a mobile device. These phones were generally used by the elite business class. Later-on, due to advances in computer technology and falling prices, Apple’s IOS and Google’s Android operating systems (OS) further revolutionized smartphones for a general audience and made them truly mainstream. In addition, software features on these devices made them even more connected with the user. The key driving force of this smart revolution is as a result of computer networking and automation. Computer networks allows for the collaboration of separate electronic systems to communicate with each other and the processor or AI takes that information operates everything seamlessly as one system greater than the sum of it parts.

Taking all we’ve discussed so far into consideration, we can probably define ‘smart’ as being the ability to incorporate additional features other than the main usage, the ability to operate interactively with a user, and most notably the ability to communicate with other smart systems through networking. As you can imagine this definition opens the door for almost any inanimate object to be ‘smartified’ by just apply the aforementioned features to its design.

This phenomenon we refer today as the Internet of things (IoT), and it is seen in businesses and the home. Many of the larger well know tech companies have taken up this design philosophy and paved the way for the technology of 2018 and beyond. Companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google Samsung are the leaders of smart home consumer electronics. Similarly in the business/industrial space, Building management systems (BMS), Distributed Control Systems (DCS), and  SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) are all examples of smart systems used to improve business efficiency and quality through automation.

 

-Dave 2018

 

 

References:

http://www.iotevolutionworld.com/m2m/articles/376816-history-smart-homes.htm

https://web.archive.org/web/20100215073514/http://thehammersmithgroup.com/images/reports/networked_objects.pdf

Continue reading “What is Smart?”

Tips to be more productive and successful in life

The following tips are things that I have learnt over time, and personally use for myself. This is not just some cliché listing you might see on the internet, but things you can actually try for yourself and see actually results. Enjoy.

 

1. Start with something small

Task-Management

We all know the feeling when the whole world feels like it’s on your shoulders weighing you down with the gamut of things to do. Make your bed, wash the dishes, whatever small task that you can start with, just do something. Completing that one task will motivate you to do even more. Repeat, and in no time you would have taken care of everything on your plate.

 

2. Create an environment for productivity

Home Office

Don’t live in a pigsty. This will demotivate you, and just make you feel more like a bum for not doing anything. You’ll be surprised how a clean well-kept environment will boost your mood for productivity. And it’s not just proper housekeeping, but also having certain things in place that will foster productivity. This may mean moving your workstation in your bedroom or wherever you are most comfortable, removing distractions like television, hanging up a vision board in your room, or even straight up moving to a new place. Whatever works for you, make your space ergonomic to you.

 

3. Quit time-wasting habits for more productive ones

bad-habit

Checking up on your Facebook, every 2 minutes or sliding into your Instagram crush’s DM might be fun but unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg it’s not putting money in your pocket. If its not making dollars it don’t make sense. But quitting habits are easier said than done. The most effective way to break a bad habit is to simply replace it for a good one. For example, instead of binge watching Black Mirror on Netflix, go read a motivational book; instead of scrolling through Instagram evening time staking girls, go for a jog with friends; instead of destroying your brain cells Youtubing Pewdiepie videos, feed your mind with some audiobooks that will teach you something meaningful.

 

4. Hang out with productive people

productive people

You are the sum of the people closest to you in your life. I’m not saying to be judgmental and dump your friends, but rather take a look at the person’s you are close to and really evaluate what value they add to your life. There are sometimes toxic people who we call friends, perhaps because you are trying to fit in because they are popular, or because you’ve known them for years. If they add no positive value to you, move on and make space for persons who will add value. When you do find them (or if you already have them) compete with each other and challenge each other to be better.

 

5. Avoid multitasking

multitasking.jpg

Multitasking should be left to computers, humans were not designed for that. It has been proven time and time again that multitasking leads to more mistakes, and tasks usually end up taking longer to complete. Instead, do one task at a time with quality than to do a crappy job. Some people who think they are masters of multitasking aren’t really multitasking, but rather switching between tasks quickly. This might work for a few, but for most people this will lead to mistakes and unnecessary failure most times.

 

6. Develop a strong Will

strong will

The strength of your Will will determine how well you will commit to any goal you set for yourself. Your Will is a part of your character and personality, it’s not something you can just develop instantly, but manifests itself overtime. You can train yourself to develop a strong will however, by first and foremost by truly wanting to achieve your goal no matter what. You don’t concern yourself with anyone else that may be better than you or those who have tried and failed, because you know your goal is achievable and you see yourself attaining it. This character trait will guide you through your most desperate times and bring out the winner in you.

 

7. Create a plan and stick to it

planning

A great way to boost your productivity is to create a plan or a to-do-list. This can be done daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. In fact a combination of all is recommended for best results. For example, at the start of the year, your new years resolution(s) would be your yearly plan, then to achieve that plan you set routines monthly, and that can be further broken down to action items per month, and each day you create a list of objectives in order of priority, you need to accomplish to achieve that weekly goal, which feeds in the bigger goal. If you do this, create realist targets, and stick to it, you’ll be guaranteed to meet your end goal.

 

8. Just do it!

just do it

Sometimes we get so caught up in planning and organizing tasks properly we end up wasting time and not getting anything done. If you have a goal to accomplish, just start something and do it. If you’re feeling lazy or complacent, remember your goals, count to 3 and just get to doing it. Sometimes its best not to over think every little detail. Just get up and do it.

 

9. Re-evaluate yourself every regularly

pick yourself up

At the end of the day, no matter how well you plan, you will fall off schedule. You may even get complacent every now and then. This is natural as we are only human. However, what will set you apart from mediocrity is to re-evaluate yourself whenever you falter on your plans. This is why many people who make new years resolutions never achieve their goal. They falter and never get back up. You don’t need to wait till the end of the year to pick yourself back up. Set resolutions every month or even every week. This will keep you focused and in check. This will also strengthen your Will and discipline at the same time. Falling is natural but staying down and never getting up is true failure.

 

10. Don’t make the opinions of others distract you from your goal

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In life there will always be doubters and naysayers telling you how you will behave based on what they think of you. Pay no mind to them, they only serve as distractions to your goal. You know yourself better than anyone else, and as an adult the opinions of others should not influence you. Ignoring detractors comes naturally with a strong will. Whether it’s a random stranger you’ve never met, your best friend or even your own family, do not let them tell you who you are and what you are capable of.

 

Moto Z Play Review

My current phone as of this writing is the Moto Z Play from Lenovo. This makes my third consecutive motorola ‘smartphone’ in recent times and fourth motorola ‘phone’ of all time; these being (in reverse chronological order) the Moto Z Play, Moto X Pure, Moto X Play, and Motorola Razr v3. This pattern is not because I’m necessarily a big Motorola fan perse’ but because I’m a fan of great value. As much as I consider myself a ‘techy’, I’m not willing to fork out upwards of USD$600+ on a phone that will lose 20% of its value the second I take it out of the box. At the same time it makes no sense in buying a cheap phone incapable of fulfilling my needs and wants in at least a year. Enter, the mid range phone category, which I particularly love. Some of the companies who produce the best mid rangers IMO are Oneplus, Motorola, HTC, and once upon a time Google.

Me owning this device was because my previous phone (the Moto X Pure) stopped working after just 10 months, and was sent to Motorola for repairs. Sending it from Jamaica was particularly challenging since the free FedEX airway bill I received was only valid in USA. But after some logistical gymnastics I finally got it to them. To my amazement I received an email telling me they would send me a replacement phone, however they no longer manufactured that model anymore, so instead they would send me the next equivalent in their line up of phones, the Moto Z Play. And here we are today.

The fact I have this shows how today’s mid range smartphone is on par or better than yesteryear’s flagship.  Let us step back in time to ancient 2016, and review it in the context of its time.

 

SPECS

Looking at the specs, this phone checks all the boxes for a typical mid range 2016 phone:

Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 625

OS: Android 6.0.1 (Marshmallow), upgradable to Android 8.0 (Oreo)

RAM: 3GB

Display: 5.5″ 1080p, Super AMOLED 403ppi

Main Camera: 16MP autofocus & dual-LED dual-tone flash

Front Cam: 5MP wide-angle with flash

Storage: 32GB, with expandable microSD

Battery: Non-removable 3510mAh battery

Extras: Front Fingerprint sensor

Dimensions: 6.99mm, 165g

Compared to its flagship predecessor (Moto X Pure/Style), it takes a drop in resolution from 1440p to 1080p, the screen size changed from 5.7″ to 5.5″, camera resolution dropped from 21MP to 16MP. This actually works out to be a good thing though, because the reduction in screen size and resolution reduces the overall power consumption. This coupled with an AMOLED screen, highly efficient Snapdragon 625 processor and a staggering 3510mAh battery makes this phone a juggernaut energy efficiency that would impress even the Energizer Bunny. For heavy usage you can easily get through a day with charge to spare, with moderate usage you can easily get 2 full days worth of usage.

The Moto Z with its aforementioned Snapdragon 625 processor is not a powerhouse like the Samsung Galaxy S7 or Iphone 6S of its time, but it’s more than cable of getting through typical everyday usage. It will even be able to play most games on the Play Store without a hitch. However when too much apps are open, there are few times when some apps will crash or slow down to a halt. The 3GB of RAM this phone offers seems to be the bare minimum RAM for a capable phone in 2016. 4GB would have been better, but 3GB gets the job done.

The main camera takes respectable quality pictures, but nothing to get excited over. With natural sunlight and proper focus you can get some really vibrant pictures, but this quickly goes downhill in low light. This won’t matter much however for the average consumer since the pictures will lose its original quality after going through Instagram and Facebook’s compression. The front camera is not really noteworthy, but it can capture your selfies, with the added bonus of night pictures with its front flash.

 

DESIGN

This phone is beautiful with its all glass design, but quite thick and heavy for a phone these days. And with the glass body design you will probably have to use a case which definitely gives it noticeable thickness. This is however is due to the beefy battery; so it’s a trade-off. But nonetheless a trade off I can live with. The glass is quite soft too. I found that even when having a 2 part case on, it still picked up small dirt particles which left microscratches on the glass, so there seems to be no avoiding it. The Corning Gorilla Glass 3 on the front however does an excellent job with keeping of scratches though. But it’s still advised to have tempered glass on it, because glass on a phone, no matter how strong, can’t withstand a 5 foot drop.

 

MOTO MODS

This generation of Motorolas also introduced the Moto Mod concept which adds extra functionality to the base phone. Some mods include a 10x Optical zoom camera,  battery pack, speaker, and many more. Motorola even has the Moto Mod dev kit for sale for designers who want to create their own personal mod for the market. Think Play store for hardware.

 

CONCLUTION

This phone is great phone for the price and more than gets the job done. Motorola adds their take on the modular phone concept with their Moto Mods. Time will tell if it catches on however. The main draw backs of this phone are that it is quite bulky, there is no 4GB RAM or 64GB storage options available, and there is no IP67/8 water resistance.

 

 

10 Things you Need to Know as a Starting Engineer

As a graduate engineer of 5 years as of this writing, I find it necessary to share some things I’ve learnt on my journey as well as things that I wish I knew when I just started. If you are not an engineer, don’t worry, some of these may still be applicable to you. So without further ado, here are the 10 things you need to know as a starting engineer.

1.People will want you to fix everything
dog giphy
One thing I have noticed time and time again is that whenever someone knows you’re an engineer at some point in time they WILL ask you to fix their fan, fridge, TV, you name it! With family in particular, you won’t be a ‘real’ engineer in their eyes until you fix something around the house for them. And although in most cases we can fix it, it is a little degrading to think that after years of studying the most advanced sciences and mathematics, people only see you as a ‘handyman’. What I try to do however is look on it as compliment and in some cases use it to my advantage to make some side money.

 

2. Your profession will be looked at in awe

reasons-why-i-want-to-become-an-engineer

Like medicine, law, and accounting, engineering is one of the traditional professions parents typical want for their children, because those jobs are usually in demand and most times pay well. In social settings, where you are asked what you study in school or where you work, and you tell them that you are an engineer, the “wows” and nods you get in response is truly a gratifying experience.

 

3. Google is your best friend

google

We live in an era where the world’s knowledge is just a click away; use it to your advantage! Whether if it’s for things you know already or don’t know, don’t waste the opportunity to verify with other sources online. In addition, traditional books, though credible, are outdated at times, compared to its contemporary online counterpart. There will be times where you are required to do things you haven’t the slightest clue about, but as the ‘expert’ you can’t look like you don’t know what to do. So it’s always best to pay for data service on your phone each month as knowledge protection for yourself.

 

4. You actually know less than you think

coolest-electrical-engineer-meme-electrical-engineer-meme-memes-electrical-engineer-meme-35bhf9ap9sb0j7hnk3h6ve

Just because you have your degree in engineering now doesn’t mean you’ll know what to do in the working world. Often times what you learn in the textbook is not how it goes in reality. Some things just come with experience. So don’t be discouraged if what you learn at school isn’t applied at your job, and be sure to stay close to your peers and learn from them.

 

5. Be open to learning

open-mindedness

Learning is your most important virtue as a starting engineer. As stated before you will not know everything you need to know even if it’s in your field. It might be tempting to try to impress the boss by taking on tasks solo, but the worst thing you can do is trying to be a ‘know-it-all’ and to not accept guidance from others more experienced. All that will happen is that you will make many unnecessary mistakes and waste a lot of time. This is why HR put a great emphasis on teamwork when hiring.

 

6. Don’t sweat the small details

small details

As engineers we pride ourselves on accuracy. So much so to our detriment sometimes. It stems from the fact that in school we were taught all these mathematical techniques to solve engineering problems to great degrees of accuracy. In other words, to solve by first principles. The problem with this is that it usually takes a considerable amount of time. Conversely, an estimate most times can get you ‘accurate-enough’ results. In the ‘real world’ wasted time is wasted money, so unless you work in research & development (R&D) with time at your disposal, its best you learn techniques to estimate accurately.

 

7. There is not much math at work

math

Unfortunately (or fortunately) in many engineering jobs there is not much math, and when there is math involved, it’s usually arithmetic or simple algebraic mathematics. Calculus is practically non-existent. This goes back to the previous point that doing those types of calculations are simply just too time consuming. So instead estimation techniques are used or in some cases software is incorporated to help generate engineering models. So if you’re a math enthusiast you may be in for a surprise if you choose an engineering job. At the end of the day math is just a tool engineers use to solve real world problems. If we can utilise computers to handle those tools for us it will make the engineering process quicker and flow smoother.

 

 

 

8. Keep up with the latest technology

tech improvement

Technology is advancing at its fastest rate ever and is accelerating at an exponential rate. Many of the baby boomers, and the generation X peers you have at work will not be able to keep up because they have gotten used to a static way of working. As a starting engineer you can use this to your advantage by using technology to make business much more efficient. Learn from your peers yes, but if you see where you could improve through technology speak up and you will rank up in your career. Just remember the only constant in life is change, and those who can’t keep up in this age will perish, however the ones who embrace change will prosper.

 

 

9. Salaries vary

wage-diff-cover

Like most other jobs, a starting engineer’s salary isn’t all that relatively speaking. But of course the salary will vary on a myriad of reasons, e.g. the branch of engineering, which company, which country, etc. That said, engineering jobs do generally pay better that the average job even at a starting salary.

 

10. Hone your skills and market your skills early

Artificial intelligence with human brain shape and gears

Lastly, if you have a passion for your engineering field, use this opportunity to continuously learn as much as possible quickly, so that eventually you can become a master of your trade. Education is something no-one can ever take from you. It will make you more marketable in the long run, and you can eventually branch off to start your own private practice. The end goal shouldn’t be ‘good enough’ to make a salary at some job, but to be the best at what you do so companies need you more than you need them.

 

 

 

-Dave 2018

 

Continue reading “10 Things you Need to Know as a Starting Engineer”

10 Ways to Maximize your Living Space

Many of us who live in small confined rooms know the struggles of finding space to put our stuff. For the people looking to tidy up their house, the students in dorms, the studio apartment owners, and persons who are forced to keep everything in one room, Dave’s Projects is here to help. In no particular order, here are 10 ways to maximize your living space (with amazon links).

1. Wall Mount Shelves

Wall mountable shelves are a great cost-effective way to maximize your living space. Particularly because it frees up floor space for other things. One re-occurring theme you will notice in this post is increasing floor real estate by mounting. Wall mountable shelves come in a wide variety of designs and can be as cheap or expensive as you want. But for the added real estate you’re getting in return it is more than worth it.

Amazon:

2. Surface Mounting Cables

cable clutter before and after

Cable clutter from all your electronics is not only unsighly but wastes precious floor space. Overtime this mess is generated by running various internet cables, chargers, phone lines, etc. along the floor. A great way this can be remedied is by surface mounting these cables along the wall. See my first blog post to learn how to do this yourself.

3. Door Hanging Hooks

excellent-hanging-wall-hooks-perfect-ideas

The design simplicity and effectiveness of the door hanging hooks are second only to a bicycle. All it requires is a door to support it and it can significantly increase your wardrobe space without a actually getting a wardrobe.

Amazon:

4. Storage Crates

amazing-of-plastic-storage-crates-storage-containers-plastic-storage-containers-storage-bins

If you’re the type of person with a whole ton of junk but you can’t throw them out because they hold some sentimental value or otherwise, storage crates may be the solution for you. They typically have a fair amount of storage space and best of all they are stackable, meaning more floor real estate again.

Amazon:

5. Sofa bed

sofa bed

Here’s a timeless classic in the efficient furniture world. The name speaks for itself. A couch for guests in the day and a bed by night. The definition of killing two birds with one stone.

Amazon:

6. Bed/Dresser

bed dresser2

Continuing the bed designs, here we have another hybrid type bed that does as the name suggests. This one you probably won’t see at your nearest furniture store however, if you know a skilled carpenter you might have a shot at building one.

7. Inflatable Mattress

air bed

Imagine you have a two bed room apartment. One room dedicated for your bedroom, but then the next room you want as a storage room but you also need a room when family or friends decide to stay the night. Why not do both then! The inflatable mattress is the perfect solution for obvious reasons. When not in use it can be stored in a corner somewhere, then when your guest is over just air that sucker up and boom you’re good to go!

Amazon:

8. Hanging Shoes Bag

shoes hanger

This is similar to the aforementioned door hanging hooks (#3); except instead of hanging up clothes this is for hanging up shoes. The same theory applies to this.

Amazon:

9. Vacuum Storage Bags

vacuum storage 2

This is the traveller’s best friend. With this you can pack your suitcase as efficiently as a Jamaican parent coming back from ‘farin’ bringing back goodies. Just know the increase space afforded means more weight when when you finish packing.

 

Amazon:

 

 

10. Under Staircase Storage

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Think back to where Harry Potter used to reside before going to Hogwarts. His awful foster parents locked him up in a little room below their staircase. As in-humane as this was to lock up a human in such a confined space, its an excellent space saving design for a house.

-Dave 2018

Continue reading “10 Ways to Maximize your Living Space”

How to build a Mobile Acoustic Vocal booth on a budget

If you are a small time producer or composer on a budget, or just a budding sound enthusiast, this post is for you. We will guide you on how to set up your very own sound booth on a budget.

Acoustic vocal booths are used for live recordings and studio sessions. The materials in its design makes it such that there is minimal reverberations, reflections and echoing. This is because it constructed with thick sound blocking materials to isolate sound. This way post sound recordings sound more natural.

A typical professional booth can easily cost upwards of $1000 USD

sound booth prices

But as you know Dave’s Projects believe when the price is too high you build it yourself. Total budget for this build was <$130USD.

 

Step 1. Create Your design

 

WhatsApp Image 2018-03-03 at 9.34.17 AM

For this project, a 3x3x7 ft design was chosen. Just large enough to hold a single person. The enclosure would be made similar to a homemade tent (with pvc pipes). Thick car seat upholstery was used as the acoustic curtain material.

 

Step 2. Go Shopping

Material List

  • 30ft x Chrome rods
  • 20ft x 1/2″ PVC pressure pipe
  • 8 x 1/2″ PVC Tee
  • 8 x PVC 1/2″ 90 degree elbow
  • 15’x8′ 1/4″ thick car seat upholstery
  • 1 reel velcro
  • assorted buttons

 

 

 

 

Step 3. The Build

The top and bottom frame was made by cutting the pvc pipe into 8 x 2.5ft lengths and creating 2 rectangles by joining them with the pvc fittings

IMG_20180325_132829539

WhatsApp Image 2018-03-05 at 10.16.22 PM

The chrome rods were cut into 4 x 7ft lengths and used as the vertical support.

Next the car seat- I mean acoustic curtain was hung over the frame.

 

Buttons were stitched on the curtain to hold it up on the frame.

Finally velcro was taped on to seal the enclosure entrance.

IMG_20180325_125929695_BURST000_COVER_TOP

When recording is done, just roll up the curtain and dismantle for storage.

 

See the time-lapse of the build below

 

 

 

 

Final Product

IMG_20180325_131426798_BURST000_COVER

 

Spread the word if you enjoyed. For any other project ideas feel free to leave it in the comment section below and we may make a post on it.

 

-Dave 2018

 

Continue reading “How to build a Mobile Acoustic Vocal booth on a budget”

How to install a GSM/GPS Tracking Module for your car yourself

If you’re ready to put a tracker in your vehicle but maybe you do not have the $20K+ to fork out initially, or do not want to add a new bill for yourself to pay each month; then you have come to the right place. This post will show you how to install the device yourself professionally.

The device we will use is the TK103A/B GSM/GPS Tracker. Accessories included in the box:

  • GPS Antennae
  • GPRS/GSM Antennae
  • 12V/40A Automotive Relay
  • Remote Controller
  • Cable Harness
  • Microphone
  • Manual

 

Other materials/tools used:

  • 5-20Ft 18AWG 2 core cable
  • Electrical Tape
  • Cable ties
  • Socket Wrench
  • Wire stripper
  • DC Voltage Circuit Tester
  • Digital Multimeter
  • GSM SIM Card

 

Step 1: Buy a SIM card

sim-cards-banner-image.png

Buying a SIM card (uncut) for this device is the first step because after the device is installed in the car, it’s not so easily accessible. Also, if using Digicel its important to set up the SIM with the MyDigicel App; and if using Flow install the My Flow Self Care App. This is to enable you to monitor the SIM balance as well as top up when necessary.

 

Step 2: Choose a hidden location for the device

Location is everything. If a criminal can find your tracker in your car easily and remove it, all the features of this device will all be for naught. Most automotive electronics are installed within the dashboard area of the vehicle. However criminals also know this because it is common practice and will be the first place they will look. Ideally you want to find a place that is hard to access, unconventional, and is near a 12V supply you can tap off and ground (metal chassis).

Cars typically have two 12v supplies:

  1. Permanently ON
  2. Accessory only (ACC) – ON with Ignition switch

If you want your device powered when the vehicle is off you can tap from a permanent 12V supply (recommended).

However if you are concerned about the current draw on the car’s battery (especially if the car is inactive for long periods), you could either install a switch in series or connect power to ACC 12V (Turns off when ignition key out).

The current draw is relatively low, from my measurements, the current draw is roughly 60mA. If you use your car everyday this shouldn’t be a big concern since the alternator will recharge the car battery.

You could also run a circuit from the car’s fuse box, but the last thing you want is to have a long wire between your device and car’s fuse box revealing the tracker’s location.

 

Step 3: Installation and Setup

TK103 wiring diagram
Car GPS Tracker – TK103 wiring diagram

 

The above shows the wiring diagram for the device. For simplicity I will only be using the device for tracking and remote engine shutoff (immobilizer). So the only cables I’m interested in are the red (12V), black (ground), and yellow (to relay). This post will focus primarily on set up of the location monitoring. The other features I will not use because I don’t need them and it will force me to install at the dashboard.

For first time setup, insert the SIM card, using something fine to insert into the SIM card popup switch.

tk103 front 1

 

Connect the positive (red) and negative (black) to your vehicle’s 12v and ground respectively and wait 1 minute before turning on the backup battery switch.

tk103 front 2

Note the indicator light colours

GSM/GPS LED Indicator

  • Red LED indicator ON: No GSM network signals.
  • Red LED indicator flashes fast (one time each second): GSM Network
    signal is normally, and tracker works under GSM mode.
  • Red LED indicator flashes slowly (one time each three second): Tracker
    works under GPRS mode.
  • Green LED indicator on: GPS signal is normal.
  • Green LED indicator off: No GPS signals.

Note that if the GPS and GSM antennas ideally require line-of-sight with the sky to operate. It can still function concealed beneath thin materials (metal or plastic).

If your device is stuck on red after several minutes it may mean that the antennas are not getting a clear signal and may have to be relocated.

 

Step 4: Configuring device settings

To utilize the features of the tracker, commands are sent to it via SMS. The manual lists all the available commands but I’ll highlight some important ones.

Initialize:

Using your main cellphone, send SMS “begin+password” to the unit, it will reply “begin ok” and initialize all the settings to default factory settings.(default password: 123456)
For example: send SMS “begin123456”, it will reply “begin ok”. (No
quotation marks“” when sending all the SMS)

 

To Change Password:

Send SMS “ password+old password+space+new password” to the unit to change the password.
For example: send SMS “password123456 888888” to the unit. If succesful, “password ok” will reply to your cell phone from the device tracker.
Authorization:
Send SMS “admin+password+space+cell phone number”
to set up an authorized number, the other authorized numbers should be set
by the first authorized number, if the number is successfully authorized, the
unit will reply“ admin OK” by SMS.

 

To get location:

Dial the tracker device from the authorized number, it will hang up
your calling and respond to a real-time latitude and longitude information
as following:

Screenshot_20180222-215544

Now you can rest easy knowing you have a means to monitor the whereabouts of your vehicle anywhere.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series where we install the immobilizer system and make it wireless.

-Dave 2018

 

 

Continue reading “How to install a GSM/GPS Tracking Module for your car yourself”

How to track your car in Jamaica

For many people, their car is their second most valuable possession next to their homes. Whether you are the enthusiast who will spend several hundreds of thousands of dollars (JMD) into vehicle modifications, or the teenager who got their first car, or mom’s ‘grocery getter’, your vehicle is an expensive asset. As such protecting your asset from unscrupulous eyes is something all car owners have to consider.

Most cars now-a-days are designed with some amount of anti-theft systems stock, like automatic car locks, vibration/shock sensor alarm, and Transponder car key. However, thieves are very crafty and can overcome most of these systems car manufacturers put in place. Even third-party kill switch systems are not without its limitations. I recently spoke to a young lady who recalled a few years ago that while she was home, a criminal came into her yard and stole one of her relative’s vehicle without her knowing. Even though it was equipped with a shock sensor so sensitive that if you cough too hard it would set it off; she heard nothing at the time. Having a means to track your vehicle after the theft to report to the police would surely be the next step in reinforcing your security. Below I will discuss three ways you can monitor your car.

Electronic Security Companies

HawkeyeLogo

king alarm

At the time of writing, the two major electronic security companies in Jamaica who provide vehicle tracking and recovery services are King Alarm Systems and Hawkeye. Both companies install and offer live fleet management and vehicle tracking recovery services via app for android and IOS. Both King Alarm and Hawkeye charge a fee monthly for their service.

King Alarm uses the Fleet Mobi app which is free to download however a paid subscription to Fleetilla’s Vehicle Tracking Solutions is required which is done through King Alarm.

Hawkeye utilizes the app Syrus Mobile.

What makes this offer even better is that you can not only monitor your fleet, but also their security personnel are at your beck and call if you are ever in danger or if you are ever robbed.

On a side note it is advised to not paste the King Alarm or Hawkeye stickers on your vehicle because this will immediately tell criminals that there is a tracker installed and they will try to search the car for it before stealing.

The costs at the time of writing are summarized as follows:

King Alarm

Device+Installation: $15,000 + GCT  (Wireless panic button additional S4,200 incl. gct) one time cost

Monthly Fee (Billed Quarterly): $2,500+gct monthly ($7500+gct per quarter)

Hawkeye

Device+Installation: $24,000+gct one time fee

Monthly Fee: $2,750+gct

Pros

  • Live real-time fleet monitoring.
  • Vehicle recovery from armed security forces if stolen.
  • Other benefits such as a panic button, vehicle immobilizer, and discounts on most comprehensive vehicle insurance policies.

Cons

  • Relatively expensive monthly fee.

Amber connect

amberlogo_ora2x

According to their website “Amber Connect is a Kingston-based software company that specializes in the development of Internet of Things (IoT) applications.” Amber Connect’s SMART VEHICLE SECURITY product is claimed to be a user-friendly vehicle tracking system that’s the first in the industry to employ artificial intelligence. It provides real-time GPS location data, anti-theft alerts, and can remotely shut down the engine in case of unauthorized use. This PDF goes in-depth on the details of all their hardware features. Similar to King Alarm and Hawkeye, it operates through a device physically installed in your vehicle and is managed via app on Android and IOS. Vehicle recovery services are offered through a partnership with Quest.

The costs at the time of writing are summarized as follows:

Installation:

$3000+ GCT

Device Fee:

  • AMB 365 Device which cost $ 19,799.18 {includes GCT with the device installation cost}.
  • AMB 363 Device which cost $ 22,129.18 {includes GCT with the device installation cost}. Installation take 2-3 hours

Yearly Fee (No Monthly Fees):

  • AMB 365 Device =  $ US 85
  • AMB 363 Device = $ US 95

Panic and Vehicle Recovery (Optional):

  • Recovery Only {AMB 365 Devices}= $8,388.00 {includes GCT}
  • Panic with Recovery Only {AMB 363 Devices} = $13,980.00 {includes GCT}

Note: Prices depends on the ex-change rate within the next year when the device is due to be renewed.

If you call directly you may e able to get a discount.

The overall package is less expensive than the latter and the interface might be more appealing to persons.

Pros

  • Live real-time fleet monitoring of location, speed, and fuel consumed, with expense manager, trip history log, and the ability to schedule reminders.
  • Easy to use interface.
  • Cheaper rates than first party security companies.
  • Third party Vehicle Recovery offered

Cons

  • Relatively new service compared to traditional electronic first party security companies

GSM/GPS Tracking Modules

gps tracker

Another way you can monitor your vehicle is by buying a third-party GSM/GPS tracking module and having them installed or doing it yourself. Some of these modules, like the GPS Tracker 103B

offer a wide range of features that you would expect from a subscribed service. These include live location/speed/oil level/ fuel monitoring, trip history log, remote immobilizer, Geo fencing, panic button, and more. What is even better is that after the initial cost of buying the device and installation, the only other associated costs would be from the cellular network used since its GSM SIM card based. This device is managed via app on Android and IOS, and it can also be managed through SMS (if you don’t want to use mobile data). This makes it by far the most flexible and cheapest solution when considering installation and the total cost of ownership.

Pros

  • Live fleet monitoring of location/speed/oil level/ fuel monitoring, trip history log, remote immobilizer, Geo fencing, panic button, and more.
  • Custom installation.
  • Very inexpensive total cost of ownership.

Cons

  • Requires a more involved setup before it can be used.
  • Interface may not be the most attractive
  • No vehicle recovery service.

Conclusion

There may not be a ‘best’ monitoring solution since each has their pros and cons. It all depends on what you need most or what is best for you. If you are a business owner with a large fleet, or if you are the average working class citizen who just want a simple way to monitor your asset, or even if you are the type that likes to tinker and find the most economical solution there is and to fine tune it to your liking there is a solution for you here.

For whichever solution you choose bear in mind its effectiveness is limited by how well its installed. As stated before criminals are crafty and with enough time can deactivate almost any security measure put in. the key is to be ahead of the game in technology always.

In the next part I will explain how to install a GSM/GPS Tracking Module yourself.

Bonus Anti-theft System

stick shift

-Dave 2018

Continue reading “How to track your car in Jamaica”

Protecting Your Devices with UPS Power

Prelude

Imagine finally paying your light bill on-time after years of paying late fees and then BOOM lightning flash and mash-up your smart TV and Desktop PC. Or, you finally made some progress in that assignment you’ve been postponing until last-minute and then BOOM the power gone. An unlucky scenario for sure especially since the power company isn’t gonna reimburse your precious electronics.

crying its not fair

But fear not! This could have been avoided with a UPS battery backup. For the less informed, UPS stands for uninterruptible power supply. As the name suggests it acts as a power source when power is gone and typically lasts for a few minutes before dying. One might wonder what the difference between a UPS and a standby generator is since they both supply backup power when there is power loss. In fact, the generator typically lasts for much longer, and is cheaper per Kilowatt! The key difference lies in the load it is powering. While it’s no major problem when simple linear loads lose power, eg. lights, speakers, heaters, and motors to name a few; many electronic devices are more sensitive to the power feeding them, and often times require a shutdown process to protect the information from corruption. As such, an active power back up solution is required so there is no noticeable switchover time when there is a power failure.

The UPS operates by taking AC utility power, conditioning it, and switching over to battery backup when there is a loss of the source power. Like most things, there are many different types and size of power supplies, but the taxonomy of UPS systems can be broken down as:

  • Standby
  • Line interactive
  • Online/ Double Conversion

There are other classifications, but these represent the majority of UPS system topologies. Just think of the classifications as a ranking of their quality and cost, with the Standby variant being the cheapest and Online being for the most mission-critical applications. The most basic UPS (standby UPS) allows utility power to pass through to the connected loads and switches over to battery inverted power when there is power loss. The line interactive UPS is similar to the standby with the difference being that the incoming power is ‘conditioned’ before being supplied to the connected loads. Conditioning power refers to the process of filtering and smoothing an electric signal to bring the signal close as possible to an ideal form. The Online/ Double Conversion variant operates by transforming incoming AC power to DC, and then back to AC to power connected loads. This design makes it so that there is zero switch-over time during a loss of source power since power is constantly being generated from the batteries, while the source power constantly charges back the batteries. The UPS has 3 key components that accomplish this; the batteries (DC power), Rectifier (converts AC to DC power), and the Inverter (converts DC to AC power). For most home appliances, the standby and line interactive variants are more than good enough, while most businesses with server room equipment would use the online variant.

Project

Now that we got the intro and theory out-of-the-way let’s work on a project. The objective is to supply UPS power to a TV, 2 desktops, monitor, speakers, camera system and wireless router, all located in 3 different rooms.

Disclaimer: This project will involve working with mains electrical power and as such safety precaution should be made to follow all relevant electrical standards. Only a certified electrician should perform electrical installations within your home.

Tools Used

Tools needed for this project are from the How to cable your home or office for power, audio, or video post. Other tools include :

The first step in doing this project is evaluating the total power of all the connected loads. This is done by finding each equipment’s power rating or current draw. Note that Electrical Power =  Voltage used x Current consumed. Most times these are shown on a label on the device. If that’s not accessible you could also get an estimate from this List of the Power Consumption of Typical Household Appliances. For a more accurate estimate you could measure the current draw from the particular device with a clamp meter then multiply by the utility voltage (typically 110-120Vac).

For the scientists and engineers reading, yes there are two types of AC power with units of W(Watts) and VA (Volt Amps) which represents the real power consumed and apparent power. However for the scope of this project we will assume they are equal for ease of calculation. The mathematics will be discussed in a separate post.

Appliance Max Power(W)
Desktop Computer 500
All-in-one PC 60
Monitor 150
CRT Colour TV 150
Camera System 48
Speakers 48
Total  956

As we can see the maximum theoretical power usage is about 956W but in actuality only a fraction of this will ever be used at any one time. This fraction will vary but a reasonable estimate would be about 60% of the total load = 573.6W. The Tripp Lite 1500VA 900W UPS  was chosen for this project as it can supply my power needs with room for future growth.

The next step is choosing where you will lay the UPS and where to route the electrical cables. The post on How to professionally cable your home or office for power, audio, or video goes in further depth on how to run cabling in your home. The size electrical cable you choose depends on how much current is being transferred, the voltage, and the distance. Since I’m running power to two 15Amp power strips I need a minimum 1.5mm2 cable (cross-section) or 16AWG. See SAE & Metric Wire Size vs. Amps. This simply tells you your minimum size cable you can use safely; larger sizes are of course acceptable.

Material List

  • 5 lengths 16x16mm PVC Trunking
  • 70 ft 3-core flexible 2.5mm2 cable
  • 3 x PVC handy box
  • 2 x NEMA 5-15 (US) receptacle
  • 6 bonding nipples
  • Electrical tape
  • 5 x Wire Nuts
  • 3/4″ concrete/drywall nails

Results:

For ideas on any other future projects you’d like to see me cover please comment below.

References:

Technical Comparison of On-line vs. Line-interactive UPS designs

Different Types of UPS Systems

Calculating Total Power Requirements for Data Centers

List of the Power Consumption of Typical Household Appliances

SAE & Metric Wire Size vs. Amps

Continue reading “Protecting Your Devices with UPS Power”