Tracking another Christchurch technology cluster home run
Christchurch’s web of new tech venturers continues to sharpen the region’s edge in world-class innovation. Among recent examples is a wildlife tracking receiver – a technological quantum leap ahead of units previously imported from North America. It was developed for the CRI subsidiary Sirtrack by South Pacific Electronic Design Associates working closely with Ian Crawley Design, Enztech and Airform International.
Nearly ﬁve years of planning, budget crises, trials and errors are about to pay off. Between them the four companies spawned more than high performance, low cost, robust and user friendly tracking technology. They created a heap of new know-how, applicable to diverse project management, manufacturing and design processes
The story of Sirtrack’s DPS II epitomises two things: Christchurch’s unique technology cluster culture that so neatly suits New Zealand’s strength in global niche-market slots. And the value of timely research funding.
The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology kept the Sirtrack DSP II research and development alive with a $39,000 Technology New Zealand scheme grant. It was a transfusion which Sirtrack general manager Dave Ward said had saved the project from early demise: ”We had used up all the money available to us.”
FRST spokesman Tony Hadﬁeld says the research was interesting because not only was it developing an innovative product, but was also a platform for further technological growth for the company.
Keeping track with technology
Electronic research, development and design company SPEDA has just completed the prototype phase of the synthesised tracking receiver that keeps tabs on wildlife from big game to bugs.
SPEDA’s Engineering Manager, Andrew Hunter, said an existing system Sirtrack used had been imported from the Unites States. Units had to go back to the US lab whenever they needed modification to track different animals on different frequencies. SPEDA’s development can be set up on demand by a PC to track 200 channels, or 200 different animals, with one unit.
“The beauty of this product is the very wide band of frequencies that it covers, the ﬂexibility it gives users to configure their receivers without any hardware modifications, and the ability to track and scan by group and provide an alert on the fieldworker’s receiver, when one of the identified animals is in range, ” says Hunter.
Other improvements are a longer battery life (20 hours on two 1.5V AA cells – up from eight hours on a 9volt) and better receiver performance. It’s a technological leap that Hunter says will be a boon to field-workers around the globe.
SPEDA has a history of strong research and development.
”As well as providing hardware and software design consultancy services, we are making a real effort to move forward and develop products, like this wildlife tracking receiver, in partnership with our customers,” Hunter says.
”The technology behind the system was a big step forward for us and has increased our corporate intellectual property. We’ve also since looked at ways to use it elsewhere in other receiver designs.”
Hunter feels the clever technology will excite conservationists and he believes it to be the first move away from the conventional tracking receiver systems.
Photo caption – SPEDA’s Darryl Harrison at Orana Park