The Argos System is a constellation of weather observation satellites, on polar orbits, that are able to cover the globe. It uses a robust data transmission system that is able to pick up the weakest signals in the harshest of environments. Argos is extremely useful in remote environments or over oceans, where terrestrial networks are unavailable. CTT offers products that use Argos, or as a supplemental technology, to provide frequent updates while the tracking device is out of the GSM coverage area.
Yes, our larger transmitter styles have a LifeTag receiver option. Since Vultures and Eagles fly at very high altitudes, their receiving range is very substantial, and can exceed the range of fixed Base Stations! Data is stored on the GSM device and transmitted along with other telemetry data, with priority given to the GSM transmitter data.
You have a variety of options, depending on budget and requirements. SensorStation data can be retrieved using a laptop computer or transmitted over cellular, when purchased with a CTT data plan. In remote areas, satellite connectivity can be used to provide summary data on how many tags were detected, storage capacity, battery life, and base station health.
GPS stands for Global Positioning System, and is operated by the United States Air Force. GNSS stands for Global Navigation Satellite System and encompasses GPS as well as 4 other navigation systems: GLONASS, Galileo, Beidou, and QZSS.
All Cellular Tracking Technologies devices make use of all 5 systems and are fully GNSS capable. In addition, we support all SBAS position correction systems.
Using more than one navigation system improves coverage, accuracy, performance and reduces power consumption. The time to first fix, the major consumer of energy on a wildlife telemetry device, is much lower when you use multiple systems.
If one system were to become unavailable or fail, the others can contribute to a position solution. Also, some systems, such as GLONASS, work better in the polar regions than GPS.
Our line of wildlife telemetry products collect an intensive amount of data from a variety of sensors, including global positioning (GNSS), acceleration, activity, temperature, as well as a variety of optional sensors. Unlike traditional satellite networks, the GSM network is able to transmit large amounts of data to the cloud. Our technology is able to select the best available network (2G, 3G, or 4G) to reliability transmit data. If coverage is unavailable, data is stored until networks are available. For example, our transmitters can easily transmit entire 6 month data sets from species returning from polar regions. Our GSM technology can even work in conjunction with satellite service, providing frequent summary check ins while out of the coverage area.
While Argos provides global coverage, it can be costly. This is why our transmitters are intelligent about the use of Argos.
CTT’s trackers with Argos can be programmed to transmit only when out of GSM coverage areas, cutting Argos costs in half or more. Argos can also be configured to transmit on a weekly or monthly basis, further dropping Argos data fees.
SmartVHF is a VHF pinger that can intelligently turn on when certain conditions are met. They can be configured for any VHF frequency, and the frequency can even be changed after deployment. SmartVHF works with all existing VHF receivers, requiring no new investments. Some examples of SmartVHF:
> Ping at a set interval continuously
> Ping when mortality, injury or sickness is detected
> Ping when requested by the website (Similar to “Find My Phone”)
ULR, or Ultra Long Range, makes use of a new spread spectrum technology and protocol stack. This means that signals which would normally go unheard can now be reliability transmitted.
The ULR system works at both 868MHz and 915MHz bands, allowing for operation worldwide. These frequencies allow unlicensed transmission at substantially high power than other VHF and UHF telemetry systems. Finally, antennas are also much shorter than other VHF and UHF systems, reducing weight and size.
Ranges can easily be several 1-5 kilometers in heavily obstructed environments at ground level, and over 20 kilometers when the transmitter is line-of-sight. Avian species will enjoy the longest ranges, as line of sight increases as the altitude increases.
The LifeTag is a solar-powered radio transmitter (https://celltracktech.com/products/tag-system/lifetag/) and the PowerTag is simply the same chip, but with battery power instead of solar (https://celltracktech.com/products/tag-system/powertag/). They can be as light as 0.4g; heavier as battery size increases, or as you add coatings for protection from salt water or bird-beak-abuse.
Because the tags are so light, and simply beep out a digital signal every two or more seconds (programmable), the rest of the work has to be done by the receivers.
This is a full-fledged base station board ready for any custom deployment. To detect our tags you will need 434MHz antennas (one or more). The SensorStation board is much cheaper than any other Motus system available, but like any Motus station, the rest of the components are still required. You can build a fully equipped Motus station with our board for ~$2,000US. If you have dedicated power on site, it could be a little less, if you need solar it will be a little more.
A CTT Node is a self contained, localized receiver for CTT LifeTag and CTT PowerTag. Nodes have a single omni-directional 434MHz antenna. These, as the name implies, can be put out as sensor nodes in any formation you like- but typically our users put them out in a grid formation akin to a study plot. By doing so, birds tagged near the plot will be localized when on the plot, using the signal strength of the tag transmission as picked up by multiple nodes. Put another way, it’s like GPS- where the nodes are like satellites, each picking up the tag at a different strength, and together “shrinking” the area where the tag might be until we get a localization. From this node data you can create Kernel Density Estimates to determine things such as home range size and habitat usage.
This is our handheld unit that is reminiscent of the old VHF handhelds of the old days, but it’s much better. A small computer in the Locator can pick up and identify CTT tags in the field, while recording your direction and angle, and recording the GPS position from your smartphone, effectively making you a mobile base station. Because CTT tags operate on a single frequency, all tags detected are shown on your smart phone. All of the detections are logged and downloadable to your computer immediately. This started as a tool for our users to test their tags before deployment, and to do some limited tracking of individuals, and has grown into a must-have for all of our small animal research partners.
With 434 we increase our total number of possible tag combinations into the billions, whereas on 166 we’re limited to thousand. This begins to fall apart when you consider tags lasting longer and longer as the technology progresses, or in the case of our LifeTags- already lasting the life of the animal. 434 is easier to use in most countries, too. New Motus station deployments are going dual-mode (both 434 and 166) or 434-only. Old stations are being upgraded with 434 additions to make them dual-mode, so the future is 434. 434 data from your SensorStations is not coded, so it doesn’t need to be decoded (unlike the 166 data), so you can simply download it from your station and use it right away. There is a protocol for uploading your data to Motus if you desire (and we recommend it) which ensures that any other tags that get picked up on your station can get to their owner as well, furthering the spirit of Motus. We work very closely with the Motus folks at Bird Studies Canada to ensure that this new data stream flows seamlessly into the Motus database.
There are three important differences in pricing:
1. Iridium provides its Short Burst Data via Value Added Resellers (VARs). The Iridium VAR typically charges an activation fee which is usually around $35-40 per ID. You can deactivate IDs, but it’s another $35-40 to reactivate them. So, if a customer buys 50 Iridium tags, they will have to also pay 50 x $35-40 to activate their tags on the network.
Argos operates directly with the end customer. There is no activation fee with Argos.
2. The Iridium VAR charges a monthly fee regardless if the tag transmits at all, so that $13/month that they reference is billing regardless of the situation.
There is no minimum monthly fee with Argos.
3. Argos doesn’t charge based on kilobits of data meaning that while the comparison of these satellite data services isn’t necessarily apples to apples.
For example, you can transmit every day, all day with Argos and your bill would be substantially less (maxed at $63) than if you tried to do that with Iridium ($$$). Most Iridium manufacturers limit the volume of data their tags transmit.
Iridium only pipes the data to the customer, and the customer has to figure out how to deal with it.
Argo provides an online user interface for customers who want to interact with their Argos data including a database. CTT’s Data Portal incorporates Argos data, so customers get one place for all their wildlife telemetry data.