SeeedStudio Grove GPS IteadStudio Shield Comparison

I use the SeeedStudio Grove system for prototyping and teaching. One of the modules is a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit based on the u-blox 5 engine. To get this unit to work you just plug it into the UART socket on the base shield and load the necessary software onto an Arduino (or compatible) board. My day job is working on Microsoft .Net applications so I use a Netduino Plus or a Netduino plus 2.

SeeedStudio GPS unit

SeeedStudio base shield and GPS unit

The Seeedstudio 4 wire connector system has some advantages but for a couple of projects I was looking at I needed to be able to run on a different serial port and access the one pulse per second output. I had a look at several other vendors and the iteadstudio GPS Shield + Active Antenna which is based on the u-blox 6 engine looked like a reasonable alternative.

IteadStudio GPS

IteadStudio GPS shield and Antenna

After some testing I found that the Iteadstudio GPS shield appears to have a shorter time to first fix after a power cycle, I averaged 10 sets of readings for each device and found that in my backyard it took on average 46sec for the Iteadstudio shield and 55sec for the SeeedStudio device.

Both devices output National Marine Electronics Association (NMEA) 0183 sentences and I use the NetMF Toolbox NMEA code to process the data streams. I have modified the NetMF toolbox code with an additional event handler which empties the serial input buffer if there is an error and one of the validation checks needed to be tweaked as it was possible to get an exception due to an empty string.

Around line 45

this._Uart = newSerialPort(SerialPort, BaudRate);
this._Uart.ErrorReceived += newSerialErrorReceivedEventHandler(_Uart_ErrorReceived);
this._Uart.DataReceived += newSerialDataReceivedEventHandler(_Uart_DataReceived);


void _Uart_ErrorReceived(object sender, SerialErrorReceivedEventArgs e)
{
if (_Uart.IsOpen)
{
_Uart.Flush();
}
}

Around line 323

// Have we received a full line of data?
int Pos = this._Buffer.IndexOf("\r\n");
if (Pos >= 1)
{

With these modifications my Netduino Plus 2 can runs for days at a time without buffer overflows or other issues, you just need to be careful to make your event handlers block for as little time as possible.

I have been looking at building an NetMF NMEA driver which runs on a background thread and doesn’t use any string manipulation methods e.g. string.splt so the garbage collector has less to do, but this will be a topic for a future post.

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