Thursday, November 15, 2007

Location, proximity, mapping... for dogs

Its interesting from a conceptual point of view, though in specific its built for a very niche market. The Garmin Astro is a system: a GPS-60 with an extra antenna, and a big orange box that straps onto your dog. Its designed for hunters with dogs, i.e. bird hunting. I guess the dogs can range relatively far afield, and always have shock collars, so if they ignore that, you can just go get them with the GPS tattletale. The unit on the dog (or dogs, up to 10) is a GPS itself. Since dogs don't have thumbs, there is no readout. The giant antennas link the devices over MURS mostly around 151mhz in VHF. MURS is specifically authorized for data transmission, so that makes it easy, though sadly any retrans is specifically forbidden so I presume its pure simplex, with CTCSS or something to ID the units (and reduce audible data streams). I'd love a swarm mentality, with multiple dog-side transceivers working in tandem to relay the data, like if one is out of range of the base unit. Myself, I'd like to see something like this without the cumbersomeness, and expense, of the custom radio link. Our dog likes to run away, but practically everywhere I am has some mobile coverage, so a cheap GPS and cellular link would be enough for me. And in general this is the sort of out of box thinking that I like to see. Gives me new hope for exciting location services in mobiles, hopefully soon. Edit: And I thought I had discovered this neat product in a corner. Two hours after I post this, the wife points out an article on Garmin in the latest Newsweek that specifically mentions the Astro. At least, if the mythology is true, I like the genesis of the product; an exec around a campfire while his buddies say "couldn't your company fix this?"

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