I’ve been asked to look into a tracking and dispatch system for a customer. Now those of you that know me/my company know that we’ve done this on a number of ocasions, the most recent version being Touchdown’s Mesopod system.
All of these units have used dedicated functional units to do each step, a GPRS Modem , A Firewall/router (The pod combines these), and a client device. Now for this one we are going to try something different…..Its all going in one unit.
The design breif we have pulls in a lot of old tech for us, GPS, 3/4G networking, Sensor systems, Chassis electrical interfaces, message passing and databse applications, in that lot there is no scary new ground. Its the client.
A typical system like the Mesopod uses a BSD/Linux based Firewall system. Off the shelf, free and pretty simple. We’ve not bothered ourselves too much with this, it’ll also look after the VPN back to base and in the past its almost always been an Atom based unit of some kind. The Client? Win XPe, the only version of XP tht we can still use. But it all works. We have a huge toolbox of apps for sharing GPS units, grabbing data from our boards, providing multiple serial streams and so much more. Theres only one big problem…We are going ARM on this one.
This means we have a problem, in fact, a very large probelem. SO what software in our toolbox to we have to use here…erm, stuff all. Thats right girls and boys we have NOTHING and worse, theres pretty much nothing off the shelf we can use either.
This isnt as bad as it seems to start off with. You see the first step is we will be using Debian Linux. Right off the bad I can talk to the display, anything I need to hang off of I2c, databases, the GPRS modem, touchscreens, GPS modules, ethernet etc so thats a HUGE swathe of work done. As a comparison the last time we used ARM we programmed it in assembler/C and just getting the touchscreen up took a few days. Here I had the target system up and browsing the net in 30 mins. So the first part of this adventure is wiring everything up and making it all talk, I can do that, I am good at that…
Now the trick is going to be more scheduling and priority, learning how to break other peoples code and ah yes, I do need to write a little of our own for the client too. I’ll be using Chassi s interface boards I already designed to find out whats going on with the veichle and to turn things on and off. I will need to write drivers for this and I’ll need to find another serial port as I’m going to be using the ones I have already, in fact I already have a board of FT232’s in my minds eye.
Its going to be a bit of a challange. The idea is to end up with a nice small box and a 7/10″ touchscreen that chatters away to the head office and can talk to GPSGate server niceley too and just tie up all the bits niceley. Its also going to be our first project with any amount of Linux coding involved so that will be fun too 🙂