What do cell phones, TV remotes, and GPS tracking devices have in common? Lots, actually…

 

How annoying is it when your cell phone beeps in your ear, you look at the screen, and it says BATTERY LOW 15% at only 1:15 PM? We all have a love-hate relationship with our battery-operated devices. Because we depend on them so much, somewhere in the back of our mind we feel personally disappointed if we believe they let us down.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a car battery, cell phone battery, or TV remote battery. Those battery-operated devices are valuable to us because they allow our devices to be portable and untethered to power. After all, would you want to go back to a corded wall phone or actually WALK to the TV to change the channel?

Given the many benefits, we accept the limitations of battery-operated devices. The same is true for battery-operated asset tracking devices or GPS trackers we attach to our field equipment to monitor usage, location, status, and other operationally important things. We get especially disappointed when they stop working because they are generally a long way from us in the middle of the ocean, middle of a vast field, or literally in the middle of nowhere. Replacing batteries is an expensive and time-consuming task.

There is one significant difference between our cell phones and asset tracking devices – we get to charge our cell phones nightly whereas these asset tracking devices must operate for years in the field without being “plugged in” to charge.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of disinformation about asset tracking devices and battery life circulating in the market. Some companies advertise an “up-to” number, such as “Our tracker lasts up to eight years”. But what they are really saying is after eight years some of them will still be working. And who wants only some of their mission-critical assets to be trackable?

Geoforce “thinks different”

With regards to battery life, Geoforce has taken a different approach with our GT series products like the GT1 Global Asset Tracker and the GT0 Compact Asset Tracker. Instead of an impractical and generally meaningless “up to” number, we choose to promote a range of service life that informs users what can actually be expected in the field.

The battery range of service we show is mostly driven by operating condition variability (i.e. time spent indoors, time spent in various low connectivity areas, environmental conditions, etc.) that affect GPS search time.

The current generation GT1 and GT0 were released over three years ago and was originally promoted with a three to six year battery life with twice a day reporting. This means that after three years nearly all deployed devices still have battery life and many will still be working at six years. Geoforce has always chosen to “under promise and over deliver” and provide a more conservative representation of battery service. Our customers deserve the best information possible and nobody likes it when their batteries die prematurely.

We have good news…

When the GT1 and GT0 were first released, our engineers were extremely conservative with the projected battery life to ensure they overperformed for our customers. Three years later, after many years of field deployments and loads of data to crunch, we can definitively say that those originally published numbers were low. Very low in fact.

As a result, Geoforce is updating and restating the battery service life range for our GT series products to better reflect estimated service life based on real-world-data, not just engineering estimates.

Configuration               Estimated Range

1 transmit per day          8 to 10 years

2 transmits per day        5 to 8 years

4 transmits per day        2.5 to 4.5 years

6 transmits per day        2 to 3 years

12 transmits per day      1.5 to 2 years

24 transmits per day      1 to 1.5 years

Using the twice a day reporting data point referenced earlier, the service life range is now almost 50% higher than what was originally provided – increasing from three to six years to now five to eight years.

With over three years of harsh environmental deployments globally and over 80,000 GT series devices operating, Geoforce can say with confidence that the GT1 and GT0 are unparalleled in battery service value. That said, we won’t ever stop raising the bar for service, value, and utility for our customers. Eventually, the batteries will wear out. When they do it will be long after they delivered the value promised. So changing batteries in your tracking devices will be a distant after-thought, just like manually changing TV channels!

Based in our R&D office in Bozeman, Montana, Gary Naden has served as Geoforce’s Chief Technology Officer since 2012.