One of the most significant projects we worked on in 2019 and 2020 was Telenor, Norway’s largest telecommunication, data, and media communication services, provider. With operations across different markets, they are one of the world’s largest mobile telecommunications companies.
The idea came from a few Telenor’s Consumer IoT team members who love dogs and realized there was a gap in the market. There are 600 000 dogs in Norway alone and almost 88 million across the EU. And while dogs are becoming more and more popular every day, there is not much out there that assuages a dog owner’s greatest fear – their beloved pet tearing off after a stray cat or terrified by fireworks and not coming back.
In Norway, this problem is somewhat mitigated by the obligatory microchipping, but even with this technology in place, a large number of runaway dogs are never found since the microchip in essence serves more to track the owner of the lost pet, rather than the other way around. Not only that but the microchip can only be read by specialized technology as they transmit on a special NFC carrier frequency which complicates the localization process even further.
Working closely with the Telenor team, an innovative solution to this growing problem was developed to help keep everyone’s pets safe. As part of our IoT experience, we created a mobile application that connects to GPS trackers located on dog collars, thus enabling the owners to check where their pets are at all times. Our team at SolveQ created the infrastructure and programmed the trackers to communicate with the application and send real-time information about the tracker’s location.
We had to put together a team for this project on very short notice, which required strategic planning of our available resources and restructuring our ongoing projects, but we’re nothing if not flexible. Once we had the team in place, we were able to take on the challenge!
Eventually, we completed the project, resulting in an innovative pet tracker that was wireless, durable, waterproof, and seamlessly integrated with the GPS tracking system. The trackers communicate using LTE-M network which allows for rapid data transfer as well as Bluetooth for certain operations. Based on nrf52 SoC, it provides access to the developers to a LTE-M/4G combo modem (U-blox SARA R410), GPS (U-blox SARA M8Q) accelerometer, and Qi charging.
Backend and Infrastructure:
In order to be able to expand the platform to other use-cases and devices later, we built a structure that enables various trackers (even not of the specific type created for this project) to use the platform and to be tracked. Infrastructure-as-code improvements were put in place to help streamline the development and deployment of the platform.
The mobile app is built using the ReactNative framework in TypeScript language. It communicates with the backend mainly via WebSockets to ensure that users view the data in real-time. Additionally, it communicates directly with the tracker devices over BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) protocol if the device is in phone range. The trackers can be shared across users, as implemented through Firebase Dynamic Links.
Besides the app’s main feature (being able to locate your dog), users can register the route of the walk and later browse walk statistics.
Ultimately we were able to devise and implement a low-power communication protocol so devices did not need to persistently communicate with the backend; also, implementing buffering & batching on the tracker side ensured that the trackers could sustain a long disconnect from the mobile network while losing no data. We completed multiple battery-saving optimizations so that trackers would last longer – the battery life was extended from 6 hours of use to 12+ hours. We improved the processes allowing the companion app to check the state of the tracker and implemented direct feedback mechanisms so the application could trigger a mode change in the tracker without requiring backend input.