Case Study: ModiCam

Improved power consumption, software architecture for ModiCam helps it take on global markets.

The ModiCam has been designed to provide a ruggedised outdoor power supply, SSD data storage and cellular Internet gateway for the worlds leading IP camera systems.

The ModiCam is compact, lightweight and takes just minutes to install. Working off a variety of power sources including grid power, alternative energy or an intermittent power supply, the ModiCam is suitable wherever critical or remote CCTV capabilities are required.

The Challenge

After working on a series of prototypes for the ModiCam system, Mike Hulbert, Founder of ModiCam, engaged Genesys Electronics Design to help him refine the system and take it to the next level.

"I was happy with the progress I had made so far, and had started getting traction with customers both in Australia and overseas. However, with new competitors coming into the market I wanted to make the product more sophisticated to ensure it stayed ahead of the curve," explained Mike.

"I engaged Genesys Electronics Design to help with this challenge, specifically to improve power consumption, software architecture, and refinement of the overall system housing."

Tackling the Power Consumption Challenge

Solving the challenges around power consumption included several factors:

  • Minimising weight was critical to ensure the system could be easily deployed in remote environments by one person;
  • The battery needed to be reliable and capable of charging by multiple sources; and
  • The power consumption of the ModiCam system needed to be minimised to preserve battery life.

Sean Connor, Electronics Design Engineer at Genesys Electronics Design worked closely with Mike to tackle the power consumption challenge.

"We reviewed a number of options, but ended up developing a battery pack incorporating industrystandard 18650 LiFePO4 cells that are small, lightweight, safe, and easy to source."

"We then developed a standard platform that can below plugged into a variety of power sources including solar panels, wind generators, external batteries and street lights," said Sean. "We wanted the system to be as flexible as possible, so designed it to support multiple battery chemistries and have a diverse input voltage range of 10 – 48 volts."

ModiCam is unique in that it includes a smart battery monitoring system, meaning it monitors its power consumption and will alert the administrator when battery state-of-charge drops below pre-defined thresholds.

"We have built a failsafe into the system," explained Sean, "so in case a power source is unavailable, the system will gracefully shut down when the battery gets too low, to prevent any corruption of data and protect the battery sources from over-discharge."

ModiCam power consumption is minimised by using powerful yet low-power consumption microprocessors. A dedicated low-power battery management processor monitors the availability of the power source and battery state-of-charge, and controls connectivity of the battery power path. Modular design allows users to switch off system features that are not required.

Reflecting on the importance of system power consumption, Sean says, "Minimising system power consumption allows the use of lighter batteries and longer system up-time if the battery is not able to be recharged. In some solar applications, there is a limitation on the size of the solar panel that can be used, to limit the effect of wind on the installation. As such the ModiCam's suitability for these applications is directly related to minimising its power consumption."

Improving Software and Firmware Architecture

The original camera system ran into memory limitations that limited feature development and affected system stability. Genesys improved the ModiCam's software and firmware architecture, leveraging extensive experience, previous intellectual property, and strict development processes to provide a trackable, modular, and expandable system capability.

Battery management, platform system processing and network processing are taken care of by individual processors that have been chosen with power saving in mind.

For the network processor we selected a plug-in ARM module that will allow the ModiCam to keep pace with a range of ever evolving chipsets, enabling remote 'edge computing' platforms to analyse and pre-process data in the field.

Refining the Packaging

"In reviewing the system housing, there were several factors to consider," said Mike. "It needed to be rugged, weather proof and easily installed by one person."

The solution was to develop a sleek fibreglass impregnated PBT plastic and aluminium extrusion case that is vandal resistant and designed to an IP67 weatherproof rating.

Out of the box there is a bracket and lock for simple and secure deployment. To further simplify deployment, the system has no on/off switch; when it is mounted to the bracket it will automatically start, and stops when removed.

Results

"I am now taking a much more refined and reliable product to market," said Mike, "and the feedback so far has been great."

"One of the things that has really helped throughout this process was Genesys' dedication to continually improving the product. During time abroad I am always in touch with the Genesys team who are able to evolve the product based on real-time customer feedback."

"I am also looking to the future, and have designed ModiCam to provide a remote power source for any low powered, connected device. It could also act as a gateway for other devices in an IoT deployment."

Sean added "using the Genesys Modular Stack platform, we’ve designed Modicam to be scalable and flexible. The platform will enable Mike to grow the product without having to re-design the base components or housing."

This modular design allows for future system capability such as 6LoWPAN sensor integration, and new features such as automatic number plate recognition.