Tripod Data Systems

Article excerpt

Public safety agencies that deploy search and rescue teams or conduct operations in wilderness areas have to insure that the people that are supposed to be doing the rescuing don't get lost and need to be rescued themselves.

GPS navigation devices have made land navigation less challenging, but many of them aren't rugged enough for public safety use. The TDS Recon is designed to take the punishment that is common in field operations. TDS is an abbreviation for the manufacturer, Tripod Data Systems.

The TDS Recon is a Pocket PC-based device with a housing that is both shock and water-resistant. The device meets MIL-STD-810F requirements for shock, vibration, and environmental temperature extremes, and the manufacturer warrants that it will function for at least 30 minutes while immersed in a meter of water. The housing makes it somewhat larger than a standard Pocket PC (6.5'' × 3.75'' × 1.75''), and it weighs about 20 ounces with the GPS receiver and protective boot mounted.

The GPS receiver for the Recon is a CompactFlash (CF) module that ships as an accessory. It mounts on the top of the device in the CF slot, which can also accommodate memory cards, cameras, WiFi and Bluetooth devices, and anything else that uses the common CF interface. The receiver draws its power from the Recon power supply, so battery life with the receiver activated may be reduced.

TDS claims a 15-hour battery life with the rechargeable "PowerBoot Module," which also carries the recharging, USB and serial port connectors. An alternative choice is the AA PowerBoot Module, which uses AA batteries and is rated for eight to 16 hours of operation, depending on the type of battery used.

In testing, the sample provided ran only for about 2.5 hours on the rechargeable module, with the GPS receiver running during the entire time. This test was conducted on a day when the outside air temperature was about +15° F, which would stress the battery further, but would not be an unusual operating environment in real practice. When the device went dark and refused to boot up again, I took it home to be recharged from the wall charger.

After a couple of days on the charger (the manufacturer says that the Recon will recharge completely in 12 hours, and doesn't recommend leaving it in the charger for more than a day), the device still wouldn't boot. A call to technical support cleared up the problem. Temperature extremes, such as the battery warming during the charge cycle (a normal occurrence), can cause the PowerBoot Module to pull away from its battery contacts. …