SensorStation: Bringing Open Source Hardware to the Motus network

One of the most exciting advances in wildlife telemetry has not only been the continued reduction of the size and weight of tags, but how scientists collaborate with one another around the world. For example, a bird with a tag can be released in one part of the world. As the bird migrates north or south, each "ping" is recorded by a receiving station, which are operated by many different researchers and organizations. This data is then uploaded and ultimately made available to the original researcher. The Motus system, and SensorGnome software, has made this happen. 

For years, a SensorGnome consisted of a collection of pieced together consumer hardware and created a functional prototype for collecting data in the field. While these hardware installations served as the Motus workhorse for years, they were also bulky, expensive, power hungry, and complicated to construct.

Last year, Cellular Tracking Technologies took on an ambitious project to construct a dedicated piece of electronics for SensorGnome: The SensorStation.

SensorStation not only combines the traditional SensorGnome hardware onto one circuit board, such as GPS, real time clock, and an integrated high power USB hub for FunCubes, but it also adds an increased feature set:

  • Raspberry Pi compute module with quad core processor
  • Cellular connectivity for automatic uploads, avoiding trips in the field
  • 5 additional channels to receive LifeTags and PowerTags
  • Support for CTT Nodes, which allow further localization of tags within a nearby study area, providing up to GPS-level accuracy
  • eInk outdoor readable display support with navigation controls
  • "One touch" downloads to a USB stick without worrying about SD cards
  • A platform for additional sensors and accessories, such as pressure sensors, weather stations, and tamper detection
  • Health monitoring for real time status, alerts and alarms
  • Optional satellite connectivity for monitoring your SensorStation in remote areas

SensorStation is also Open Source Hardware. This means that schematics, CAD and CAM (Gerber) files will be made available to the public on GitHub. Not only will it help tech savvy software developers to create new features and accessories, anyone is free to build their own SensorStation.

SensorStation will work in conjunction with existing SensorGnome software, so other than some "under the hood" improvements, it will look and work as you expect a SensorGnome to operate.

Our featured image shows some of the first PCB circuit boards from our manufacturer, with bright white solder mask and tuxedo black silkscreen. They are now off to assembly where the components will be placed. 

I will be regularly posting updates as this exciting project progresses!

- Casey