Testing GPS trackers: How many experiments does it take to ensure the highest hardware quality?

Most GPS trackers’ users usually have no idea how long the process takes until the hardware device gets installed in the vehicle. Various complex activities are essential in order to manufacture Ruptela’s GPS tracking devices and ensure a 99.9% quality rate which we currently have. It is measured by the international parts per million (PPM) quality performance method. Such a high indicator ranks our GPS trackers among the most reliable and long-lasting products in the market. Numerous people get involved in the development process, making sure that each device meets the highest quality standard. In particular, the crucial role is played by the Research and Development team, which tests new products and use their observations for the further development of the product.

 

Have you ever wondered how does the testing of GPS trackers look like at Ruptela?

 

 

  • Do we drive around for endless hours?
  • Do we put manufactured devices into the thermal chamber?
  • Do we get to crash cars sometimes?

 

Surely, we do! Depending on the specific telematics solution and the region this solution is tailored for, Ruptela’s R&D team runs various tests to ensure the endurance and applicability of the product.

Main Stages testing a GPS Tracker

Having clients in more than 127 countries and maintaining close relationships with them gives us a chance to involve them in the product development process. Typically, before any of Ruptela’s products are presented to the market, they are tested by our clients under real-life conditions guaranteeing that we receive the feedback from people who use transport telematics solutions in their daily operations. Still, before the device reaches the client, it must go through several technical tests.

First of all, the hardware device goes to the Radio-frequency anechoic chamber, which creates a controlled electromagnetic environment and allows us to perform highly sensitive testing without any distortion. Retrieved data indicates the capacity of the new device to catch GPS signal, transform this signal to coordinates, and provides more valuable information that is used in the further development of the device.

Radio-Frequency Chamber Ruptela

Radio-Frequency Anechoic Chamber at Ruptela

Later, given that GPS trackers contain many electronic components (e.g., batteries), it is essential to run tests in the thermal chamber to check the durability and performance of the device. Once it is placed inside the thermal chamber, the temperature there fluctuates from -40°C to +80°C by adding 5 degrees Celsius the whole day. Depending on the case, a test like this can last from one day to one week or even longer, and as soon as it is over, the report points out the logged issues that the team can react to.

Thermal Chamber Ruptela

Thermal Chamber at Ruptela

Likewise, when we said that we crash cars to test our devices, we didn’t joke about it. Various road traffic accidents happen every day, and fleet owners must get information about the events to see specific data from the accelerometer, for example, shock duration, intensity, and more.  For that reason, Ruptela’s GPS trackers, which are tailored for the light commercial vehicles, have a crash detection functionality detecting traffic collisions and reporting on them (it sends notifications to the user). To be sure that the device recognizes correct incidents, the sensitivity of it has to be very accurate. That’s why we run a test in real-life which includes long preparation process of buying a car, registering the vehicle, finding a safe area for the collisions, taking care of driver’s safety, crashing a car into another one from different angles, analyzing data and gathering insights for improvement. This test provides actual data of an accident, which helps to understand when the accident happened and when it was only a false trigger.

In addition to various tests run by our R&D team at the laboratory, one of the last stages is to install a tracker in the vehicle and drive with it for a few weeks. By this point, it’s crucial to gather and analyze a tremendous amount of data to understand the overall performance of the tracker. Commonly, team members are eager to test trackers with their private cars driving around the country, making a considerable contribution to the product development. However, in some instances, it’s not enough to run test-drives on European roads and our team has to travel miles away to do this in specific regions. This was the case when our Trace5 GPS tracker specifically tailored to the U.S. market was ready for testing in real-life conditions.

Testing LTE CAT M1 (4G) connectivity and GPS performance in the U.S.

Some regions differ from others due to technical characteristics and require extra attention during the testing. For instance, North America differs from other markets in terms of the LTE CAT M1 (4G) connectivity used for IoT devices. For this reason, once the Trace5 tracker was ready for the examination, a more comprehensive investigation was necessary, and our team traveled across the ocean to run multiple tests themselves.

Altogether, our team spent two weeks working on gathering as many insights and information as possible to improve product quality and give the green light to release the product. They started their testing in San Francisco installing a tracking device to the car rented from one of our partners SIXT. States of California, Nevada, Arizona seemed to have perfect conditions to test GNS and GPS performance as there are plenty of objects like skyscrapers, underground parking lots, mountains, and deserts where the connectivity is usually weak.

The first few days were quite challenging as the team had to face unexpected circumstances. Still, after productive communication with SIM card companies, module provider “Quectel” and colleagues at the back office, the team accelerated their pace. Traveling through such locations where the connectivity is weak, revealed that even when there are some network difficulties,  Trace5 doesn‘t let any of the collected data to be lost. The device collects and saves coordinates instantly, and once the signal is back, it sends the data directly to the server. For the sake of reliability and validity of such findings, the team ran tests using multiple SIM card providers and found out that the tracking device tailored for the North American market works perfectly with either of them.

Navigating through underground parking lots, highest skyscrapers, tunnels, traffic jams, mountain roads, or even deserts didn‘t cause any difficulty – the R&D team came back with the thrilling news that the device is ready to be presented to the market. The trip of 3000 km was more than a test of a device – it was also a memorable inscription to the company‘s history.

IMG_20200227_174839
image-20200319-150720

Laboratory setting and real-life setting tests are needed to ensure that every component of a device is operating as it should and that everything is performing exactly in accordance with the specific requirements. Different tests are valuable at different stages and each test is a vital part of the hardware development process. The synergy between tests of R&D team and client feedback creates the greatest quality GPS trackers in the market.