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GPS module streamlines portable designs

Posted: 23 Mar 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Copernicus? GPS? global positioning system? Trimble Navigation? Janine Love?

Some time ago, when the design team at Trimble Navigation Ltd looked into the future, they saw GPS going portable. Long-time experts in GPS for automotive applications, the team hit the drawing board to deliver a module optimized for size, cost and performance that would streamline the addition of GPS functionality to portable battery-powered designs.

When we started this product development, our major concern was to deliver the highest performing product we could in the smallest package, said Joel Avey, director of marketing for Trimble's component technologies division.

If you are looking for a GPS module for on-the-go functionality, one of the key specs of interest is acquisition time. Copernicus offers 2s reacquisition time and 9s hot start acquisition time. Tracking sensitivity is specified at -152dBm while acquisition sensitivity is -142dBm.

During the design and development phase of Copernicus, the team reports that its major design challenges were footprint and performance. "We went through several iterations of product design in order to achieve the size we desired," shared Avey. "The final size really gives the users of this product an advantage." The module measures 19-by-19mm and is 2.43mm high. It weighs 1.7g, including a shield. In order to achieve this size, they had to make trade-off decisions in terms of memory and clock functionality, and they chose to go without additional memory and only use the internal RAM memory on the baseband chip.

Size wasn't the team's only focus, though, they wanted to build a module that could be surface-mounted, machine placed and provides reliable solderability. So, they chose edge castellations as the most reliable solder joints. "Our experience in the automotive industry taught us that solderability is a key design consideration to achieve good reliability," Avey said.

Power is always a big concern for portable designs, and the Copernicus typically draws 30.7mA at 2.7Vdc or 31.3mA at 3Vdc.

Finally, the team focused on ease-of-use, and the Copernicus takes advantage of the company's TrimCore software, that grew out of the company's years of development in GPS technology. "We knew that many integrators were not prepared to take on the task of designing a GPS receiver using a chipset," explains Avey, "Chipsets typically come with a reference design, but OEMs still need to implement that reference design and are then they are effectively responsible for GPS manufacturing and product test. For portable applications where volumes aren't high, it is often easier to purchase a tiny module that can be machine-placed in high volume, but is already factory tested and ready to go."

If you are ready to go and add GPS capability to a portable design, you might be pleased to know that the Copernicus will begin sampling in Q2 2006 and reference design materials are available now. Volume production is scheduled to begin in 3Q 2006. In low volumes the Copernicus is priced in the mid $20 range.

- Janine Love

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