Case Study - Huaxun Technology Co. Ltd

Posted in Customer Profiles

Huaxun tech logoHuaxun Technology Company is a GNSS chipset and device manufacturer based in the large city of Xi’an, the capital of the Shaanxi Province in north-western China. They design, develop, and assemble a range of products for GNSS applications as well as their own navigation and transport recording systems. They have been at the forefront of GNSS receiver production in China for many years.

A GNSS simulator is a vital element in their test and development programmes, and Huaxun have two double-constellation record and replay LabSat 3s which they use within several key areas.


FPGA Testing

Huaxun tech product applicationsEngineer Liang Rong Zhou explains how LabSat has brought about significant time savings:

“Before we can complete chip tapeout (the signoff for a new circuit board) we need to test hardware logic and software systems on the FPGA and we do this in two ways: in the lab, and live.

LabSat is exceptionally useful for doing live signal testing. Compared to traditional testing methods, we find that by using LabSat we are three to five times more time efficient. This is thanks to a number of reasons, principally:

  • Simplification: LabSat is very easy to connect to what is normally a very complicated hardware setup for the FPGA.
  • The ability to carry out testing as if we were driving out on the open road – in Xi’an we normally have to plan our testing around the rush hour traffic and can waste valuable hours. With LabSat we just play the ‘live’ scenario into the device and don’t waste any time at all. We no longer take a whole morning to conduct two hours of testing – it now takes… two hours!
  • The consistency we get by replaying a scenario many times allows us to analyse and pinpoint any issues present within a device’s hardware and firmware.”


Pilot Testing

This is the testing of small batches of products. The engineers at HuaXun use LabSat in place of a signal generator for sensitivity testing as it’s more realistic; and this realism is extended because scenarios from every part of the globe can be used, rather than just from the local live-sky signals.

LabSat3 on Hand 280According to Liang Rong:

“The variety of scenarios give us a complete solution. We don’t have to travel half way round the world to be able to test there, just like we don’t have to actually use a sports car (with the added cost for both car and fuel) to do pilot testing with high dynamics - it only needs recording once and then we can use it as often as we like.

Further convenience comes from LabSat’s small form factor and standard connectors – this makes building a test environment much simpler than before.”

Batch Testing

HuaXun carry out fully automated batch testing to sample and screen defective products, which Lian Rong explains is highly cost effective and efficient:

“Again we have replaced our signal generator with LabSat as it is far superior terms of cost, and it can be also be used to complete lab projects. It can also complete outdoor live signal tests, unlike the signal generator.”


Research and Technical Support

The LabSats in use at HuaXun are not only used in a laboratory or production line setting – they are also employed on the other side of the business:

“Finally” Lain Rong continues,“the fact that LabSat scenarios can be shared has proven invaluable to our field application engineers when solving problems for customers.”

Case Study - Swedish Space Corporation

Posted in Customer Profiles

rocket launchThe last couple of decades has seen growth in the commercial sector of companies providing services and hardware to the space industry – no longer the sole preserve of government departments. One such enterprise is the Swedish Space Corporation, which heads up a group of companies around the world specialising in satellite missions and space operations.

SSC logoSSC Group cater for a wide variety of clients and their space programmes, and frequently launch sounding rockets and balloons from the Esrange facility just outside Kiruna in Northern Sweden. This is ideally situated in the middle of a large and unpopulated landmass, enabling easy recovery with little to no possibility of a rocket landing in the sea.

The technological challenges are many, as you would expect, and launching a balloon or sounding rocket (itself worth vast sums of money, let alone its payload) out of the Earth’s atmosphere requires absolutely meticulous preparation. Naturally a part of this lies in the craft’s GNSS guidance capabilities, which require the installation of a ‘space qualified’ receiver.

The sale and export of GNSS receivers falls under the limitations imposed by the Wassenaar Arrangement, controlled by forty-one countries who determine and maintain a list of technologies that require licensing and export controls. Founded in the 1940s as the Cold War was beginning, it was originally named CoCom (Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls) and was designed to control the export of weaponry from each member state.

The definitions of what should fall under CoCom became broader as new technologies came into existence – such that it was no longer a restriction solely on munitions and defence, but also on “dual-use goods and technologies.” In other words: devices, software, or the training and assistance to use them, that were being employed in everyday life but which could also find a place within an ordnance system.

CoCom was disbanded in the early nineties and replaced with the Wassenaar Arrangement in 1994. GNSS receivers were already included by this time, to ensure that they could not be used to guide ballistic missiles. Their functionality was restricted to a maximum speed of 1000 knots (approx. 1850kmh) and an operating altitude no higher than 18,000m. Anyone who needed this capability would have to apply for the relevant government licensing; once acquired they are then able to put them to use beyond the proscribed limits.

SSC case studyThe balloons that SSC send up - primarily for atmospheric research, astronomy, and weather monitoring – don’t ascend particularly quickly or have a very fast course-over-ground speed; but they can reach 45km altitude so the receiver must be space qualified even if it doesn’t need high-dynamic capabilities. The rockets are a different matter, managing to travel at up to 12,600kmh and 800km altitude, so the receivers used in these craft are some of the very best available.

However, given that in space exploration and mission planning, nothing at all can be left to chance, SSC have a requirement to test how the receiver will cope with the launch and trajectory profiles of their rockets and balloons, and that the Wassenaar restrictions are not present. They now use a LabSat simulator to conduct these tests.

One issue they have encountered in the past is that after receiver firmware changes – for constellation updates, for instance, or to deal with the leap second – faults or bugs can be introduced. Gunnar Andersson, Senior Technical Advisor from SSC explains:

“We sometimes will make a request to a receiver manufacturer for changes to be made in their firmware, and sometimes they will issue new code simply because they are updating older chipsets. However we must always test to ensure that the latest firmware is space-enabled – because if a rocket gets up to 18,000m and suddenly loses its position, we have a fundamental problem and probably a mission failure. We also make small changes to our systems and these too need to be verified prior to launch. LabSat is ideal for this.”

Until relatively recently, Gunnar and his colleagues had been making use of a simulator located in Munich.

“This was OK,” he says “but access to it was difficult and it was a long way away so it was inconvenient. We really needed something at base. Using the LabSat on a trial was ideal and allowed us to ensure that it was the right equipment.”

LabSat3Some issues needed to be overcome, however, before SSC were able to make full use of the LabSat’s capabilities. Whilst it was possible to create scenarios using the SatGen simulation software for a launch and orbit, further development was required so that the flight path could include a descent – something that had not been required in the past. Julian Thomas, Racelogic MD:

“We already have customers who use LabSat and SatGen for space applications – scenarios including launch and planetary orbit. However SSC found that the software wasn’t capable of creating a scenario that included their launch and descent pattern, along with their projected G-force and jerk rates, and the general high dynamics of their rockets.

“Once we understood the requirement we were able to make the necessary changes and within a week they were successfully testing.”

SSC satgen scenario

Gunnar verifies:

“Our rockets achieve altitudes of between 100km and 800km, with a launch acceleration of up to 20g and occasional jerk rates of up to 50g – very dynamic. The SatGen software couldn’t create this initially but we found the Racelogic support to be very good and they solved the problems quickly.

“Next we want to use our LabSat on a rig to test our antenna system. Most of our rockets spin during ascent for stability reasons, but this can cause a problem with the GPS signal as it introduces an extra phase shift. Our intention is to fit the antenna and LabSat to a turntable and record the signal which we can replay, in order to optimise our antenna and receiver settings.”

Case Study - Memoto's Narrative Clip wearable camera

Posted in Customer Profiles

Narrative-LogoThe Narrative Clip is a typically innovative wearable, and one of the new wave of 'lifelogging' devices now finding their way into mass production. It is a tiny (36mm x 36mm x 9mm) five megapixel camera with enough memory to store four thousand images and battery power for two days of use. Designed and manufactured by a Swedish company originally called Memoto, who sourced crowdfunding to get the project off the ground, the Narrative Clip is small and non-intrusive to the point that it can be easily worn on one's clothes.

It is such a neat design that it has no buttons at all, only requiring to be put face down to enter standby mode. One of the standout features of the device is that the miniature enclosure includes a custom GPS engine and antenna, allowing for every image it takes to be geotagged. Future development of the cloud-based storage of these images will allow for searching by location.

Narrative clip

Bjorn Wesen, one of the developers on the project, explains how they got started:

"Because GPS does not work well indoors, at first we simply needed a way to test reception inside our office. Since we're not based in California, we can't just move the office outdoors! We started with a simple GPS-repeater, that is, an antenna mounted outside and an amplifier and re-transmitter indoors. This worked fine for some of the engineering tasks, but is not sufficient to reproduce testing scenarios or comparing sensitivity between different antenna-solutions, so we started looking at GPS record/replay products and that's when I contacted Racelogic."

This is a problem often faced by anyone developing a product that will include GPS: whilst it is entirely possible to walk outside and check that a signal is obtained, as Bjorn points out, it doesn't go far enough. The satellite almanac is constantly shifting, as are the signals themselves as they are 'bent' travelling through the ionosphere. Consistency is therefore hard to maintain, so a LabSat is the perfect solution.

Narrative-ClipMartin Källström, CEO and co-founder, in an interview with Slashgear.com in October 2013, gave an insight into the kind of issues they encountered:

"In the first integration, we were planning to use a small GPS antenna that was 2 x 3 mm and actually uses the PCB as the real antenna, but that didn't work at all. So we worked with antenna experts in Sweden on a wire antenna, that goes along the top of the camera...And that antenna worked excellently inside, in the lab. Even inside the camera, with the PCB, it was excellent. And then, when we disconnected it from the lab equipment and put it inside the camera, and turned it on, it didn't work at all. There was no signal coming out of the GPS antenna.

So we wired the antenna not into the PCB but into the lab equipment, and we could see that when the electronics of the camera was shut off, the antenna worked perfectly; when the camera was turned on, the antenna didn't work at all. There was a signal there, but it was completely drowned out with noise. The casing was a perfect echo chamber for the electronic waves, so we had a completely abstract process trying to remedy it by moving the components around the PCB."

(Read the full interview here)

Now that the hardware development is complete, LabSat is still an integral part in the Clip's manufacture. Bjorn:

"For consistent production testing in our factory, we again needed the reproducibility of a recorded GPS signal, so for that it was an obvious fit. Currently the factory has two LabSat 3 Replay units for testing in two production pipeline stages."

LabSat-Recording-live-GPS-data-for-testing

LabSat 3 gives the user the ability to record real-world satellite signals so that on-the-bench testing can be totally realistic. Whilst Narrative don't currently develop GPS positioning algorithms themselves, Bjorn can see that before long this will come into play:

"We don't currently use the feature where we could go around the world and record complicated scenarios to use in GPS-development. But we might need to do parts of this for independent, consistent qualification of GPS-solutions, so it's definitely something we see a use for."

As the world of wearables continues to grow, the need for consistent signal testing will become greater, and LabSat will fulfil this requirement.

The Narrative Clip website.

 

Case Study: Road Angel

Posted in Customer Profiles

RoadAngel vantageLabSat GPS record and replay technology saves 6,000 hrs of testing for market leader in speed camera locators

Engineers involved in developing devices using satellite technology face a constant challenge: verifying that their products are operating as intended in all conditions and locations. For Road Angel, the market leader in GPS safety camera and black spot locators based in Silverstone, UK, it is vital that their products work 100% of the time – or risk complaints from customers who claim that their device failed to warn them of speed cameras.

Previously, Road Angel's technicians had to individually test units by driving past known speed camera locations and identifying the units which failed to activate, indicating a malfunction in the GPS system. Because this method required a vehicle and driver, it was time consuming, expensive, and only provided subjective reporting of errors.

What if there was a way to test devices in live sky conditions, without having to manually test them in the field? This was an ability claimed by Racelogic, designers of LabSat - the first device capable of recording GNSS signals and replaying them into a product under test. To see if it lived up to the claims, Road Angel borrowed a LabSat for two weeks.

Richard Meechan, Road Angel's Development Director, went out and recorded a live route with LabSat, incorporating several speed camera types and locations. He could then replay the recording into the systems under test as many times as necessary.

Meechan explained: "We had LabSat running 24/7 in our lab for over two weeks, replaying a thirty minute test drive into twenty test units at a time." He continued: "Each block of units had a different version of firmware installed. LabSat was used to evaluate how well each version detected the various speed camera systems recorded, including new types of cameras introduced since the original firmware was released."

So did it work? Meechan said: "During the two week loan period, the LabSat saved us over six thousand hours of testing of our new Vantage GPRS connected speed camera locator. We can now bring products and features to market far sooner than before, backed up with the confidence of objective test results, whilst hardly needing to leave the office!"

Satisfied with the results, Road Angel has now purchased a Replay only LabSat system, and a copy of Racelogic's GPS simulation software, SatGen.

Simulating a scenario with the SatGen software means that Road Angel can test the operation of their devices anywhere in the world. They have found it ideal in instances where customers claim that their product failed to indicate a camera, or where the device indicated a camera where there was none. Testing engineers can use SatGen in conjunction with Google Earth to recreate a test drive past the area where the device was claimed to malfunction, to see what went wrong and repair it.

 

Case Study: How MSL Circuits test 20,000 Eco-Tax navigation devices a month

Posted in Customer Profiles

MSL circuitsMore and more manufacturers are now using record and replay technology to test GNSS applications. Our mini case study series offers an insight into the experience of how companies are using LabSat to test their GPS products.

This case study features a unique application from French manufacturer MSL Circuits, who produce the Eco-Tax navigation device integrating GPS, GSM and DSRC technology.

What was the requirement for MSL Circuits?

Having developed electronic systems for the automotive industry for over 20 years from their location in the Loire Valley, MSL Circuits needed a simple but reliable production test for every Eco-Tax GPS device. With 20,000 units a month, the testing method needed to be quick and effective.

Cyril Parrot, Test Engineer, said: "To ensure the correct operation of each device we wanted to simulate a GPS signal from a single satellite. The challenge was in playing exactly the same signal for every single product to ensure consistency."

The testing solution

"When we searched the internet we found some products which could carry out these tests but they were all too expensive and complex," Parrot explained. "When we found the LabSat system we saw it could do everything we required at a better price."

"The radio frequency (RF) tests are completed using an RF chamber to avoid external noise, while the LabSat is securely integrated within a semi-automatic tester to ensure accurate tests are carried out as quickly as possible."

He added, "LabSat allows us to consistently replay the same test scenario over and over again in order to provide our customers with reliable products. The tests are done using both an internal product antenna and an external antenna in conductive mode to ensure the Eco-Tax devices are tested to the highest levels."

 

Case Study: DGE order 10 LabSats for Vehicle Telematics Simulation

Posted in Customer Profiles

dce-case-studyDGE are experts in developing electronic control modules, telematics integration and validation services. When they were commissioned by a major automotive manufacturer to develop a tool to enable vehicle telematics to be tested without needing to physically perform tests on the road, they needed a GPS Simulator they could trust.

The Michigan USA based company required a GPS simulation device that could integrate with their system tester to evaluate telematics control units in a controlled environment. Previously using more expensive systems, DGE chose LabSat devices to record and replay GPS and CAN signal data.

Impressed by LabSat's ability to drastically reduce testing time, DGE have now placed orders for ten LabSat devices.

Chris Shamoun, Program Manager for DGE, said: "We look forward to using our new LabSats to develop our system performance. They'll also be key in allowing for future flexibility and automation of our Telematics System Testers (TST)."

Jim Lau, Technical Director at LabSat distributor VBOX USA, said "DGE's investment in ten LabSat units shows they believe in our technology and recognize it is a great solution to testing their in-car telematics systems.

"We demonstrated the LabSat to them over a year ago but I am delighted to see that they chose us for their current project. We look forward to continuing to supply and support DGE in their testing needs."