Monthly Archives: July 2014

Hooked On Options: retaining customers with options

This is not the way that anything (that I know of) currently works, but it is worth a thought. (That means this is a hypothetical example, and let me just say upfront that ‘Bozo Navigation’ is not based on any real company. Other than the clowns, of course.)

Pretend that three years ago you purchased a Bozo MapWiz 200 for $3,200. You purchased these options for your new device:

  • GLONASS $1,000
  • L2 Tracking $1,990
  • Network RTK Rover $695
  • Bozo Field Software $1,000

That is $4,685 worth of software and firmware options making the total price $7,885. The receiver has worked great and you have used it two or three days every week and have few complaints.

But last week, Bozo Navigation released a new model, the MapWiz 220. It tracks Galileo, Compass, L2C and L5; plus the processor is faster and the screen is easier to read in sunlight. The MapWiz 220 is the same price as the MapWiz 200, but your firmware and software will still add up to $7,885.

You would love to upgrade, but that is a lot of money and while you are checking out the new ‘Bozo Navigation’ device you see that their Chinese competitor ‘HighClown GNSS’ has a very similar device for $6,120 that includes everything.

If you purchase the HighClown device, then you can keep your existing  MapWiz device for a backup while upgrading to the newest tracking technology. Obviously, the HighClown receiver is the way to go.

However, what if BZN (Bozo Navigation) allowed you to return your MapWiz 200 and then transfer your existing options to a new MapWiz 220? Then the 220 would be the way to go. You would be “trapped” into staying with Bozo Navigation forever because your options were transferable. And $3,200 every three years would be a small price (indeed) to always have the latest GPS technology.

You heard it here first!

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Options Create a Complex Equipment Value Proposition

When you purchase a GPS receiver, you expect it to do what the data sheet says it does. However, your expectation needs to be tempered by OPTIONS.

The ‘Bozo Navigation’ Case Study

Consider the latest RTK receiver made by ‘Bozo Navigation’. The web site and brochures state that the receiver has these capabilities:

tracks 321 channels with advanced multi-path DSP driven rejection,
tracks GLONASS, tracks L2C, tracks L5
tracks COMPASS/BeiDou, tracks GALILEO, tracks QZSS
accepts CMR+ corrections, accepts RTCM3 corrections, does L2
can be used as a RTK rover,  can be used as a RTK base, stores raw data for post processing

You purchase a pair of BZN-1000 receivers for $9,000 and a data collector with collection software for $1,750 (that would be $10,750 for a complete RTK pair with a collector and collection software!) but then find out:

  • Advanced DSP Multipath Rejection is +$800 option
  • GLONASS activation is $1,000
  • L2 tracking is $1,995
  • L2C is $500
  • L5 is $500
  • COMPASS/BeiDou is $1,000
  • GALILEO is $500 (however, the receiver can not track BeiDou and GALILEO simultaneously)
  • QZSS is $500
  • Advanced correction support (CMR+ & RTCM3) costs $1,200
  • Big distance RTK (longer than 2.5 KM baseline) costs $1,500
  • RTK rover costs $1,995 and RTK base costs $500
  • Raw data storage is $1,000 + $500 per gigabyte

Perhaps that was not such a good deal after all, ehh? (Oh, you want a tailgate with that truck AND air in the tires?)

How about a subscription model, where you only rent the options on a yearly basis? You can get all these options ($11,500 per receiver) on a 12-months subscription for the low price of $1,150 per year per receiver! (Actually this would be a killer deal and is not that bad of an idea, I will write about it in a future entry.)

Options are SOP (Standard Operating Procedure)

This is the way that most GPS companies work. That some companies do it, makes other companies have to follow suit because they have to compete.

I will give you an example:

Consider you are purchasing a reference station to use in a real-time-network. You could care less about most of these options. All you want is GPS, GLONASS, L2 and base output. And and by they way, you are going to purchase 1,200 base receivers in 2014 alone.

Guess what? You are going to pay about $4,200 per receiver for each network base. And it may be reasonable that you don’t have the rest of the options. Totally reasonable. You are purchasing BASE receivers and don’t care about RTK rover capabilities and enhancements.

The SP80 Standard Option List

It is against this backdrop of optional-options that I offer up a case study in real RTK GPS value. (Disclosure… I am a SP dealer so take this with a grain of self promoting salt.)

Here is the option list for a standard SP80 GPS receiver:


If there are any additional options, I don’t know what they are because I can’t purchase them.

The SP80 is available with and without a internal UHF radio module in the USA. That’s it. There are NO software options. None. Everything is enabled out of the box and ready to go.

Let’s hope this is a growing trend. I think it is good for the purchaser.

Good surveying and mapping to you!



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Code Signing the Survey Industry

Please Note: the following is going to upset equipment manufacturers and I am going to take heat for having said it. If you are a manufacturer and you don’t like what I am going to say, let me disclose that if you complain to me, I will put your complaint (written or verbal) as an addendum to this post, exposing you (personally) and your company as the third-rate hacks that you will have proven to be.

When you download a software tool or a firmware update for your Total Station, Data Collector or GPS from the internet how do you know that it

  • Is from the manufacturer?
  • Is complete?
  • Is uncompromised?

The best way (and I will argue the only way) is if the software tool is ‘Code Signed’. Code signing computes a complex numerical key for the software and appends the key to the code. Through a series of public/public keys, you can be reasonably assured that the code was created by the device manufacturer.

You can read all about code signing and implementation details at Wikipedia [ here ].

No doubt you are already very familiar this process. Here is an example. When you download the X9 GPS download tool from our (iGage) website and run it, a message like this:

A Valid Code Signed File

A Valid Code Signed File

Is displayed. If you click on the ‘Show Details’ you can inspect the certificate, however in general you don’t need to because your computer won’t display the ‘Verified pulisher’ when there is something wrong with the file. If I make a single 1-bit change to a random location within the file when I run the file I see:

An Invalid or Unsigned File

An Invalid or Unsigned File

you should NEVER, EVER run a downloaded file that does not have a verified publisher. Ever.

Now, why is this important and why am I sounding this alarm?

  1. The file may have been compromised on the fileserver where it was downloaded. (As shown above.)
  2. The file may have been compromised during the download process.
  3. If you have a virus on your computer, the virus may modify the file when it is saved to your drive.
  4. The file may be completely bogus or a partial download.

If the code is properly signed, then you can be sure that it has not been modified since the developer (the signer) made it. If the code is not signed, then you can not be positive that the download is what you think it is. You SHOULD NOT INSTALL OR RUN IT.

Often, when software is installed, it will generate a positive hit with an anti-virus solution. The question always occurs “Is this the EXACT same file that the manufacturer distributed, or has the file been modified by an existing virus on the user’s computer.” Code signing solves this problem.

How Does a Manufacturer Code Sign?

It is pretty simple (which is why it is inexcusable that most manufacturers don’t do it):

1. Manufacturer purchases a certificate for approximately $170 per year. (Here is where iGage get’s our certificate.)

2. Developer applies the certificate to code (it takes a few seconds) and enters the secret password to ‘sign’ the executable. A special secret key must be installed on the computer where the code is signed.

A manufacturer can purchase a certificate and use the same certificate to install software from multiple machines (I have four machines that I routinely sign code on.) You only need the private, public keys and the password.

What are the risks of a manufacturer not signing code?

The big risk is the file is compromised (perhaps after you download it to your computer) and you install a virus on your computer or pass on the virus to a friend or office mate. A lessor risk is the file is incomplete or damaged and won’t work.

What excuse could a manufacturer make to not code sign?

There is no excuse (period).

If a manufacture does not sign updates and installations, then they are either

  • too small to afford a $170 certificate
  • too stupid to understand how important it is

Either way, you should purchase your survey equipment elsewhere. The lack of consistent code-signing from a software developer is the sign of a software process that is out of control, run by idiots and supervised by hacks. That big companies proffer software tools and updates without code signing is a sure sign that you DO NOT WANT TO DO BUSINESS WITH THEM.

Safe surveying and computing to you, Mark

ps: if you are a manufacturer and need help implementing code signing I will help you. It will make the world a better place, I am all for that. Just don’t argue that it is un-needed or not irresponsible.

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