The Pipeline

More than meets the eye; Boldly go where no GPS has gone before

More than meets the eye
Sure, it looks like it’s just a little box with rubber bumpers, but the SwitchBack PC from Black Diamond Advanced Technology can transform itself into all kinds of devices, and it packs a lot of features into a small package.

Designed for military use, the SwitchBack is a rugged ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) measuring just 7.5 inches by 5.5 inches by 2 inches.

“This device is revolutionary because of its size,” said Justin Dyster, president of Black Diamond. “It’s the world’s first rugged UMPC.”

This little portable PC was designed for versatility so soldiers in the field wouldn’t have to carry multiple devices.

The unit uses patent-pending Modular Technology, which allows users to add various hardware modules or connector interfaces.

“There is flexibility in the design that is unmatched by anything else out there,” Dyster said. Examples of available modules include Global Positioning System capability with a Selective Availability/Anti-Spoofing Module, a radio system, and an authentication module that contains a biometric fingerprint reader, digital camera and magnetic stripe identification reader.

Users can also add a controller module that lets them control devices ranging from a weapon station to an unmanned vehicle; an electrical interface module that connects to military equipment or to custom interfaces that control the equipment; or a module that combines radio frequency identification, a bar code scanner and a secure communications radio.

The SwitchBack is encased in a magnesium housing and reinforced with rubber isolators and shockmounted electronics.

It’s designed to meet or exceed military specifications for shock, vibration, humidity and extreme temperatures.

The SwitchBack can run dual operating systems simultaneously. For example, users can run Microsoft Windows XP and Windows CE, performing complex tasks with XP and simpler ones with CE. Other features military users will appreciate include the removable hard drive and hot-swappable battery.

Boldly go where no GPS has gone before
GPS devices are great for tracking the locations of objects and people, but they have one major limitation: Their signals can’t penetrate indoor environments and even some outdoor environments, such as urban canyons.

To help solve that problem, Rosum announced technology last year that supplements GPS signals with TV signals. That allows devices to seamlessly operate from outdoors to indoors and back again. Now Rosum has introduced a new product that combines that technology with an Assisted GPS (A-GPS) chip from Global Locate.

The new Rosum TV-GPS Hybrid Positioning Module (HPM) delivers 3-D positioning in indoor, outdoor, urban canyon and rural environments. The 3-D positioning adds altitude information to traditional GPS latitude and longitude readings.

Traditional GPS systems use only a satellite to determine a receiver’s location, but A-GPS technology throws in an assistance server to give the receiver a boost when it’s located in obstructed environments such as indoors, in cities or under heavy tree cover. The assistance server contains more processing power than a GPS receiver and can access a reference network.

Rosum’s HPM can use any combination of three or more TV towers and GPS satellites for positioning. It also enhances the performance of the A-GPS engine by providing time and frequency information.

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