Altium interviewed SODAQ's lead hardware engineer Gregory Knauff on how SODAQ harness' solar power and Altium software to create unique PCB boards.
“We used to only be able to show clients flat board designs. With Altium 365 via a simple web link, we can show our clients 3D models, which is much easier for our clients to visualize.”
As the world becomes increasingly concerned with environmental stewardship, multiple industries have embraced greener, more eco-friendly technologies. SODAQ, based in Hilversum, The Netherlands, have been focusing on ways to make PCBs greener for over seven years, designing hardware and software for everything from smart desks to bikes that measure air quality on the go.
These unique devices measure and track a wealth of data while communicating with integrated networks.
SODAQ’s first product, a solar-powered weather station, helped establish the firm as a green technology pioneer.
The company partners with major communications carriers like Vodafone and T-Mobile, electronics giants like Philips, the municipality of Utrecht and police—to develop custom tracking sensors. They also manufacture and sell development packs for use in a wealth of machine applications, each featuring a PCB board, batteries and antennas.
What makes SODAQ’s designs truly different is their inherently green design. Most of SODAQ’s PCBs feature integrated solar panels, allowing devices that use their hardware to enjoy unlimited charging capabilities—even in places that don’t necessarily get a lot of direct sunlight. As SODAQ’s designs become increasingly more powerful and complex, integrating GPS tracking as well as solar power, they’ve turned to Altium to help design some of their most essential and ambitious projects to date.
Designing complex PCBs with integrated solar panels requires professional design tools. Even SODAQ’s non-solar designs like office desks that can track occupancy down to designated users, feature custom applications that surpass the limitations of most PCB design software tools.
“With our old eCAD software, managing components and design libraries was very challenging. Now, we can move from schematics to prototypes much easier,” explains Gregory Knauff, SODAQ’s Lead Hardware Engineer.
Collaboration between mechanical engineers and PCB designers also became easier. “With hardware and mechanical components, we needed a way to design special servers requiring multiple parts.
With Altium Designer and Concord Pro on the cloud-based Altium 365 platform, our mechanical engineers can comment, view projects and the Bill of Materials in real-time with our electrical engineers,” adds Knauff.
More robust technology has been equally beneficial to SODAQ’s clients. “We used to only be able to show clients flat board designs. With Altium 365 via a simple web link, we can show our clients 3D models, which is much easier for our clients to visualize.”
“We’re working on some exciting new technology tracking animals and vehicles as well as localizing information for warehouses, and Altium will be helping us every step of the way.”
With Altium Designer, Concord Pro and Altium 365, SODAQ have been able to refine the designs essential for many of their clients.
“We’ve been designing custom PCBs for all of our designs using Altium Designer,” Knauff explains, “These servers communicate with private and government networks, sending a wealth of data from our custom tracker applications.”
Two recent projects harnessing SODAQ’s hardware and servers include sensor technology for sniffer bikes—smart bikes that measure air quality along the rider’s travel route—and solar-powered ear tags used by farmers in Australia to track cattle migration across thousand-plus mile open spaces.
“With hardware and embedded software designs, we needed a way to design special servers requiring multiple component parts. With Altium Designer and Concord Pro on the cloud-based Altium 365 platform, our mechanical engineers can comment, view projects and the Bill of Materials in real-time with our electrical engineers.”
In the Netherlands, biking is a common form of transportation. Bikes enabled with sniffer technology, give riders the ability to find the best possible air quality on their most frequently traveled routes. The bikes are one of SODAQ’s biggest undertakings, developed with the municipality of Utrecht to capture detailed information on current levels of particulate matter. The technology harnesses low-powered Internet of Things applications, measuring the air every ten seconds. New data is sent to SODAQ’s EMS servers every minute.
The current sniffer bike design features a small sensor and GPS tracking device that can be clamped onto bike frames. Knauff and his team are currently working on an advanced design that integrates the sniffer device inside the bike frame itself— using Altium software.
As increased awareness of environmental issues pave the way for new technologies, Knauff is confident that SODAQ will remain at the forefront. “We’re working on some exciting new technology tracking animals and vehicles as well as localizing information for warehouses, and Altium will be helping us every step of the way,” he concludes.
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