Last summer, Fuel Ghoul did some copywriting for an exciting mobile tech start-up that was sitting on a scientific breakthrough. The guys at Transparent Inc had just started making Fish Hunter, a cool fishing app connected to a sonar fishfinder device that speaks bluetooth to smart phone displays.
I wrote this about it, "FishHunter, the company is born today in the primordial marsh between fishing and science. It was conceived in the possibility of sharing a small but powerful sonar transducer connected to a robust yet easy-to-use fishing app. Powered by real people that love fishing, the company embraces the business challenge of sharing their sonar innovation around the world."
Fast forward to yesterday, January 15th 2014 - the FishHunter sonar device is ready to ship, and the fishing app is free to download.
What's the Story Behind FishHunter?
It all started when some smart folks in the Maritime University in Seoul, South Korea figured out how to make a personal sonar attachment that could float and connect via bluetooth to smart phones. Businessmen here in Toronto set about marketing it online for North American, European and Australian fishermen. They called it FishHunter and the rest is history.
That article featured this sneak peek inside the board room where you can see all the players meeting with developers. As I said in that piece, Alpha Team has gathered here to discuss their latest project. The guy in the far corner is John Kent who specializes in making wire frames and system architecture.Here at offices on Liberty St in the King Dufferin corridor in Tornto we studied the emerging science of developing a free fishing app that we could be proud of in this competitive space. You see we had to have some sort of software to talk to the sonar and so making a fishing app was logical, but the bar is very high in this genre on and we had to make something we could stand behind with distinction in this very competitive space. The app is necessary to run the device and so we wanted to make it intuitive, and effective; it had to be easy to use and fun to be as good as the apps already out there.
My favourite photo of my own May 2013 collection is 'Office Manager with Schedule', taken over Andrew Dick's right shoulder as he ponders the itinerary and considers again the many challenges ahead.
Critical pieces of architecture needed to be tested in advance before being implemented into the code.
And on the other side of the world, there must have been similar technological dramas unfolding as the Korean sonar designers and engineers grappled with their own delivery dates.
an Overview of FishHunter's Schematics
These technicians ordered and developed their own ultra small components and shrunk some very complicated electronics into FishHunter's tiny 3 inch wide polycarbonate and silicone body. A state-of-the-art piezoelectric ceramic chip faces down, and emits a sonar frequency approx 381kHz as a continuous wave pulse. The signal is quite strong and will penetrate 100 feet of freshwater and give accurate results at those depths! The Bluetooth communication system is also quite strong, and can be read 20 to 40 meters away depending on atmospheric conditions and interference.
FishHunter's tiny body weighs only 117.5 grams and even more remarkably, it floats. The battery inside can be charged for 6-9 hours of use depending on the day. The power supply is 3.6 VDC 600 mAh battery which consumes 0.1 mAh while waiting (or sleeping) and 60 mAh while in use. If the communication distance is long, it can go up to 150 mAh instantaneously to make the connection.
The term transducer generally means the use of a sensor or a detector of some kind, but any system which changes energy from one form into another is considered transductive.
Many different types of energy can be converted by transducers into other forms of energy including electromagnetic, photovoltaic, electrical, mechanical, chemical energy, and acoustic and thermal energy.
In the case of FishHunter's sonar (and all other sonar), the transducer is a single mineral crystal lattice that converts electricity into high frequency sound by vibrating the crystal lattice.
WHO MAKES THE BEST CRYSTALS?
The world's best consumer electronics have extremely high quality transducers made of cultured piezoelectric ceramics which are more compact crystal lattices than are found in nature, but just like the crystals found in nature these ceramics are grown in a lab. Anomalies in the mineral composition could and probably will cause the associated electronic device to work improperly at some level, and so lots of care is taken when growing the crystals to achive a consistent uniformity. The science of creating these semiprecious gemstones is a well-funded field of study. Much like Star Trek Voyager episode where the search for dilithium crystals takes the crew to strange new worlds, our own search for the best piezoelectric crystals on Earth is equally intense.
Theophrastus is generally regarded as the first human to record the active effects of a transducer - in the year 321 BC. He had the ancient world's top 'lapidiary', which is a fancy word for rocks and minerals collection, and he wrote about the various specimans on his shelves, testingtheir hardness and subjecting them to heat, light, water and salt looking for changes. He found amber and a gem called tourmaline acted strangely when heated - the minerals attracted bits of straw and ash when hot. Pyroelectricity (from the Greek pyr, fire, and electricity) is the ability of certain materials to generate a temporary voltage when heated or cooled - the physical action of the crystal lattice shrinking or expanding causes pronounced electrical activity.
Fishfinders shrink as sonar evolves
After World War II, the Japanese discovered a new class of synthetic materials, called ferroelectrics, which exhibit piezoelectric constants many times higher than natural materials. This led to intense research to develop barium titanate and later lead zirconate titanate materials with specific properties for particular applications, including echo location devices and sonar fish finders. Thats when the trade in that particular technology moved overseas and it stayed there due to complicated US patent law issues which also stiffled development and capitalization to some extent until recently.
Today you have piezo electric technology all over your home and automobile.
Did you know that sugar crystals are piezoelectric? Although relatively easy to find, in that of the 32 different crystal structures, 20 exhibit piezoelectric properties, the piezo crystals we have and can make ourselves are not very efficient.
How would MacGuyver make a sonar fishfinder?
MacGyver would grow Rochelle Salt Crystals. It would take about 10 – 14 days, and perfect conditions, but he would grow the salt crystals from three drug store ingredients: cream of tartar, sodium carbonate (soda ash) and distilled water. Rochelle Salt crystals are white and look like rock salt and are piezoelectric. With crystals in his hand, MacGyver would then smash apart a ‘quartz’ clock radio and use the guts to charge the rocks and send out his first PING. Then he has to build another rig to listen for the return, which might somehow feed into his iPhone or android device to make a digital readout, or any TV tube or flat screen – the writers would gloss over the six weeks of machine programming it would take to create even the most basic display, because he is MacGyver.
What are Fishermen saying about Fish Hunter?
Some media has already appeared in fishing discussion forums,
Ontario Outdoors asks about the portable fish finders with colour pictures of Fish Hunter and Deeper side by each and the poster asking folks if they know anything about the devices?
And last there's a pic of Fish Hunter sonar on Fishing Saskatchewan forum.
Here is a video of the fishing app that shows off all its many features.
And here's the salesy video extraordinaire,
Let me know what you think in the comments. 'Ping' me hah. Post by Robert Campbell on Jan 17, 2014