[aprssig] What is APRS, really?

Nick VA3NNW tapr at noseynick.com
Sat Oct 24 00:01:44 EDT 2020

Ev Tupis via aprssig wrote:
> APRS is the IoT of amateur radio

I've love that argument, and have used it before too! I contracted for a 
while with a bleeding-edge IoT company, who thought everything they were 
doing was brand new. I told them "pffffft, radio hams have been doing 
most of this for well over a quarter-century, they call it APRS, let me 
show you"... And APART FROM needing a ham license instead of cell 
coverage, I managed to show them examples of ALMOST(*) all of their 
target markets - vehicle/item/person tracking, collecting weather / 
other instrumentation data, SMS-like short message traffic, people 
connecting up all sorts of crazy stuff like door bells and water wheels, 
and central archives that can be queried for history and even plotting 
pretty graphs of the weather data and stuff.   :-D

(*) ... and when I say ALMOST - I bet AT LEAST one of you somewhere is 
sending back more than vehicle location+speed, but a bunch of other 
vehicle metrics like voltages, pressures, fluid levels, or something... 
am I right?

And I KNOW some of you are sending things like 
solar/battery/water/septic level monitoring from their remote off-grid 
cottages   :-)

> ... general hobbyists to transport small data packets of all types 
> (let your imagination run) from geographically separated 
> locations...many without Internet service.

Like many others, my club has launched and tracked a near-space balloon. 
This is something you specifically CAN'T do with cellular phone tech due 
to all sorts of "line of sight" issues from high altitude, almost the 
opposite of a coverage problem - you break their network by being 
visible to FAR TOO MANY base stations. APRS collects but de-dupes this 
beautifully, or of course tracking vehicles can receive direct without 
needing a network in between.

> ...public service and emergency communication groups like RACES and 
> ARES to add situational awareness data to first responders of all types;

Yup. my club has also used some APRS tracking of vehicles, volunteers 
and supplies, and also "adding extra items to the map" for a local 
marathon (the route, water stations, first aid locations, first/last 
runners). The resulting maps were of course useful EVEN TO UNLICENSED 

> ...and even more.  Think about all of the services that the public 
> "Internet of Things" and texting provide.  Now, know that amateur 
> radio and APRS has been doing it since before the Internet existed and 
> can continue to provide those services when disaster takes the 
> Internet offline even on a local basis.

Yup, or indeed things like the high altitude problem above. :-)

There are many times and places where cellular tech isn't appropriate or 
reliable or even available. Sat phone is SOMETIMES a very expensive 
alternative (equipment, subscription, data charges, not to mention 
batteries and power).

We'll see how Elon's sky-cluttering project changes this, my best guess 
is you're NOT going to get the same performance for a few tens of 
milliwatts for low-bandwidth metrics / position tracking, but if you can 
afford battery and equipment and antenna weight, obviously you'll have 
loads more bandwidth to play with.

R Kirk said:

> Really, it is just location tracking despite the many other uses that 
> Bob has thought of that aren't really used
My city+area certainly has quite a few extra things "put on the map" 
that aren't "tracking" as such - local repeaters are an obvious one, but 
days/times of nets, locations of club meetings and hamfests (well, not 
in 2020, but, y'know), hospitals, etc, plus of course the marathon route 
and other info mentioned above.

> I loved it [...]
Some of us still love it   :-)
> [...] but its time has passed. Look at the traffic volume trend on 
> this group, for instance.
Well... sure... Or how about you look at ACTUAL USAGE of the protocol, 
as recorded on the APRS-IS backbone (bytes AFTER xz compression, 12 mo 
per year):

2016: 990876  950440  1074916  1082188  1158920  1070900 1107124  
1106744  1101384  1117568  1100308  1133752
2017: 1135448  1099604  1244516  1297956  1323328  1258668 1296148  
1317384  1280776  1358960  1308428  1357144
2018: 1371440  1272112  1429884  1496916  1508972  1461172 1517968  
1599108  1556256  1644676  1592424  1682396
2019: 1749404  1613256  1850576  1799320  1896356  1842444 1889712  
1897260  1851056  1956880  1803724  1929232
2020: 2004992  1923664  2059592  2069212  2243348  2157612 2300872  
2298624  2339300  2360517(*)
(*) 2020-10 estimated based on 1751352 bytes(.xz) for 23/31 days of data

Looks like that has steadily climbed, month after month, year after 
year, and seems to be showing no sign of slowing down, not even 
particularly impacted by COVID. "time has passed" you say? :-D


"Nosey" Nick Waterman, VA3NNW/G7RZQ, K2 #5209.
use Std::Disclaimer;    sig at noseynick.net
Earth was interesting, and worth the money I paid for it.

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