Byonics TinyTrak3

Byonics is a company of Byon Garrabrant that makes APRS products like tracker kits as the or TinyTrak3Plus of TinyTrak4. A tracker is a device that couples a gps receiver to a transceiver via the APRS protocol to send out position information. A tracker can not handle received APRS data. Trackers are mainly intended to follow a car or motorbike on the APRS network. The transceiver of the tracker does need tot receive though to prevent sending out data while somebody else is transmitting. The tracker controller "can't understand" the received signal, but is does recognise that there is a signal received and that the desired data to send out has to wait untill the band is free from other transmissions.

The microcontroller of the Tinytrak receives the serial NMEA data from the gps receiver. The personal settings of the user like the callsign, unproto path, desired symbol, beacon interval, TX delay are stored in the same microcontroller. The microcontroller "shapes" the information into an APRS data string. The controller modem modulates the data in the 1200 and 2200 Hz audio tones and can be sent out to the transceiver after sending an transmission signal to the transceiver. The transmitted audio contains the AX.25 APRS information for sending out the location, speed, heading, timestamp and a status report for the user.

The TinyTrak3Plus is available as a kit and as a SMD pre assembled an tested version. So if you don't like to solder, the SMD version coult be convenient. The TinyTrak3Plus kit is $5 cheaper and I like to assemble the kit, I only used the TinyTrak3Plus kits.

 previous versions
Before the TinyTrak3Plus, there was the TinyTrak1 and TinyTrak2. The first two can be considered obsolete. De differences between the TinyTrak3 and TinyTrak3Plus are rather small and can be considered the current model. The TinyTrak3Plus is still available.

 the hardware
The (kit) hardware is very nice! The circuit board quality is very nice and the kit comes with a nice plastic box. Assembling the kit is rather easy and fun. There are a couple of hardware options like to send 5V regulated to the GPS receiver or te supply voltage, the leds can be switches on or of using jumpers, there's an alternative power input connection and there's the option of switching between the primary and secondary bank. Therefore it's possible so switch from settings primary "recipe" to secondary "recipe". For example the call sign can be different, the Smart Beaconing can be changed to the other bank with a fixed transmission interval or the secondary bank can be used for "EMERGENCY" transmissions. There's also a voltage 5VDC regulator for supplying the controller and the external gps receiver. There are two variable resistors for setting the audio volume of the transmitted audio and for setting the carrier detect level for detecting other transmissions.

 the gps receiver
There's an external gps receiver needed for determining the position and date/time. The gps receiver should send out 4800 baud serial NMEA-0183 data like the $GPRMC or $GPGGA data string. Usually every NMEA gps receiver does this... In the early day's the gps receiver was rather expensive. Nowadays an "Arduino" module like the uBlox gps receiver is very cheap and small! The gps receiver (with antenne mounted) is smaller than the TinyTrak3Plus kit. Both modules can be fitted in a rather small box.

 the configuration software
The parameters of the TinyTrak3Plus should be set using the free software with a serial data connection. The software is rather simple and works great, also on the newest Windows versions. Basic information like the call sign, unproto path, beacon text and so on can be set easily. It's possible to send out data at a specific time interval like 2 of 5 minutes, but smart beaconing is also integrated. (Smart beaconing determines the transmission interval on the movement. When the device is not moving, the transmission interval is large. As the speed increases, the number of transmissions are more. Also directly after a turn, the TinyTrak3Plus will transmit. The result of Smart Beaconing is that the number of transmissions, and therefore network load, is low and the resolution/quality is high. For normal road use is Smart Beaconing adviced.) It's also possible to send out a signal to "wake up" the transceiver. To reduce power draw by the transceiver, the TinyTrak3Plus can send out a 5 Volt signal to activate the transceiver in time. The time before power up and transmit can be set in seconds. The software is simple, but very effective. It's also possible to send out a calibration signal for setting the right audio levels for transmission.

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 where to buy
The products of Byonics from Byon Garrabrant can be bought at his website: It's likely the products of Byonics are also available at your local/national hamradio supplyer.

 my experiences
After "discovering" APRS, I started using the TinyTrak3 tracker. It's rather cheap and a very nice device for first experiences with APRS. Every ham radio operator has, or should have, an simple VHF transceiver. The gps receiver can be bought nowadays for a couple of Dollars/Euro's and that's all you need to start using APRS as a tracker. I've got still three TinyTrak3Plus (and two TinyTrak4's) in use and I'm very happy with them. Don't blow up the controller chip like I did someday, a replacement (programmed) controller chip costs $20. If you want to start with APRS and not spend a lot of money, the TinyTrak3Plus is the device to buy!

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On the image above is by simple programming/engineering setup. Also the gps receiver module is shown for size comparison.

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On the image above is by "collection" of Byonics products. The kit and SMD TinyTrak4 is shown. The TinyTrak4 is a tracker and also a KISS TNC! My standard TinyTrak3Plus (with case) is shown and one of my projects with a built in TinyTrak3Plus and Rockwell Jupiter gps receiver from the "old days".

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