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Caravan Pilot App and Android 11

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    Josef KonradParticipant

    My Samsung phone wants to upgrade itself to Android 11.

    Will the CP app still work if I  do this upgrade?

    If not what must I do?

    I’m asking on behalf of our group so you only have to answer once for all of us. Thanks.

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    Fyko on


    Hi Josef,

    The short answer is: No problem.

    The longer answer:

    Our caravan control app evolved in 3 major steps: CM.APK, CM_.APK and CPX.APK.

    CPX.APK currently at V3.0 is the comprehensive Caravan Pilot app that provides:

    1. Basic (ewiks-type) mover control i.e. direct control over ewiks motor relays.
    2. Comprehensive mover control using our own mover switchgear which includes SoftStart, ComboTurns, Current Limiting, Temperature Limiting etc.
    3. Vansecure alarm annunciation by SMS of LPG gas alarms, and 4 intruder alarm zones,
    4. Dual water tank monitoring and reporting.

    It supersedes and replaces all previous versions of the CPX.APK as well as all versions of CM.APK and CM_2.APK.  It runs on all versions of Android from V5.1 to V11 but can only make use of Android features that exist on the version it runs on. Currently I think the only Android 5.1 device in use is the one I test on.

    Therefore you can install CPX.APK V3.0 on any Android device from V5.1 upwards and it will work, and make full use of the features offered by the Android version running on the host.

    If you are running an older version of the app (CM.APK or CM_2.APK) you probably have a remote control unit that can only control the basic ewiks slam-on, slam-off switchgear. You will probably not recognise the first screen, which now combines all controller functions under one roof. Hence it’s new name Caravan Pilot instead of Caravan Mover.

    We can quickly switch between 2 control units should there be more than one trailer.

    Enable Leveling requires additional control hardware which can add, as well as motors on the steadies. The leveller contol can also drive basic movers.

    Enable Buttons takes you to a screen that you’re familiar with.

    Enable Sliders takes you to a screen where you can supply variable power selectively to the movers. It requires our mover electronics, but works on any motor up to 30A,

    The 4-zone alarm panel (when available) can be remotely armed and disarmed from outside the caravan. The VanSecure unit monitors 2 LPG gas detectors, 4 intruder alarm zones, and an ultrasound device. It cannot control movers internally but can connect to an extension module that does control 2 movers via umbilical cable. Legacy ewkis mover remote controllers can be modified become such an extension module at minimal cost.

    The status of 2 water tanks is reported. Flow sensors must be connected into tank outlet hoses. (The flow sensors can be added to any version of the Controller but requires a free firmware upgrade)

    So you see that the new app (CPX) will operate the old Controllers, the old apps (CM-2 and CM) will run on the new Android version, and CPX will run on older Android versions.

    Should any problem unexpectedly arise it can be remedied by a firmware upgrade, I do this free of charge in all cases.

    PEP Stores have started a courier service named PAXI which works well and costs less than PostNet. Often these shops are closer to hand than a PostNet branch.

    If anything is unclear please consult the website at

    next. Each unit in the family its own page and each page has a drawing showing its connections and available extensions

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    Josef Konrad
    Josef Konrad on

    One of our friends installed the upgrade and he says it works fine but there’s 3 buttons he’s not seen before.

    Inch Mode which doesn’t seem to do anything

    Combo Turns also does nothing.

    A red button in the bottom left corner that say only ‘V’

    Other than that it works fine. Like before.

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    Fyko on

    These are all enhancements that have been added of the years in response to user demand.

    The initial iteration of the Caravan Mover app sought only to provide remote control functionality to ewiks caravan movers which hitherto could only be controlled by a handheld switch panel connected to the caravan by trailing cable.

    The ewiks switchgear was at the time (and may still be) rather basic in that the motor power was switched directly by heavy duty relays. This created a slam-on, slam-off situation where the motor was either under full power or no power.

    More sophisticated (and highly touted) remote controls from abroad used semiconductor switchgear that could dribble power into the motors to make them turn very slowly as well as for very short intervals. That these devices fail with distressing regularity was not often mentioned. And there were a few naysayers in the caravan fitment business that used this perceived shortcoming of ewiks movers to promote their own vastly more expensive imports.

    With any remote control an important question to ask is: ‘What happens if the remote control fails or goes out of range while the motors are under power? How do you stop this runaway condition?’ Our answer to this question was not to turn the power to any motor on continuously or semi-continuously but to send a series of short but overlapping pulses. As long as the pulses keep coming the motor stays powered, but as soon as they stop coming so does the motor.

    Because a mobile phone is a multi-tasking computer that may be servicing other requirements as well as our own the pulses sent cannot be much shorter than 350mS before breaks in the overlap start to appear. So if the mobile phone goes out of range or fail in some other way the motor will stop within at most 350mS, and in 350mS the caravan cannot mover more than 28mm. And the shortest practicable button push would advance the caravan in multiples of 28mm. If you tapped a very short tap you would either move 28mm of 56mm. (This assumes the caravan can move with no resistance).

    The purists, who all seem to claim they own Ferraris or Porches, felt that there was too much chance of pranging their caravan into their car, though I don’t know who would drive a caravan towbar to within 50mm of any car. To satisfy them we introduced the Inch Mode button which, when held down, causes a single extra-short power pulse to be sent to the motor. A pulse shorter than this would not even guarantee that the motor relay would close at all. The maximum distance the caravan can move per Inch Mode pulse is about 20mm. A bit less than an inch.

    Your friend’s Controller’s firmware needs to be updated so it recognises this command to generate an extra-short power pulse. No charge for that.

    In response to demand we subsequently started making comprehensive motor control devices that use pulse width technology to ramp motor currents up and down, and to produce partial –power current to the motor on the inner radius of a turn. The current ramping is called SoftStart and is built into the MotorPac controller, it ramps up the motor current from zero to Max over the first 2 seconds of the move.

    If you want to make a graceful turn,  and especially if you have a twin-axle caravan, you hold down the ComboTurn button and press the motor direction button for the outer-radius motor. The inner motor will ramp up to 50% power and the outer motor will ramp up to 100% power in the first 2 seconds of the move. Pressing the button has no effect if no MotorPac is installed.

    The red button at bottom left shows the battery voltage at the input to the controller. The button turns green when the battery voltage rises above 12V. It requires the installation of a component network and a firmware upgrade. Both gratis. There is a very simple calibration procedure to make this voltage readout totally accurate.


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    Josef Konrad
    Josef Konrad on

    There’s only 10 digits for the sms destination number.

    Two of us are going to Namibia in December.  How will we receive sms alarm messages?

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    Fyko on

    Every VanSecure unit delivered in SA comes with its own RICA’ed South African SIM card. Generally from MTN.

    You then enter a 10-digit SMS destination number for the target phone, which is assumed to be also a South African number, and the phone transfers this number to the control unit where it resides until you change it on the phone.

    Changing the VanSecure SIM card is not difficult (you will have to change it if you let it expire with 3 months of no network action), but neither is it particularly convenient. And then you’d have to change it back again on your return, which doubles the chance of upsetting something inside the control unit.

    It’s a lot easier just to set the card up for roaming with the network. You can do this very easily with the MTN app. Sending a roaming SMS from Namibia to an SA number cost R1,50 as opposed to 30 cents, but it’s something you hope you won’t need to use, and it’ll be cheap at the price if you do. You’ll need to put some airtime on the card to buy the SMS’s in Nam since a bundle won’t work there.

    Most people when they cross the border keep at least one phone on the SA SIM card so as to receive urgent messages and calls from South Africa. Receiving SMS messages in Namibia costs nothing regardless of where those messages originate from. Inserting a local SIM card for outgoing calls and messages in a second phone means you’ll be paying local rates using that device there, also not cheap in Nam but less than the roaming rate.

    To summarise:

    1. You’ll enable roaming on the VanSecure’s SIM card and give it a bit of airtime to send messages with.
    2. You’ll keep the destination phone with its SA SIM card for all incoming calls and messages from SA, including those from VanSecure.
    3. You’ll optionally buy a local SIM card for a second phone for outgoing calls and messages.

    BTW if you leave the VanSecure SIM card idle for more than 3 months MTN will cancel it and it will never work again. A SIM card is very inexpensive to buy but needs to be RICA’ed before it can be used. You can RICA the card yourself very easily using the MTN online app, and a camera-equipped phone to take your pic as well as that of your ID. Inserting the card in the GSM unit inside the Vansecure box is not difficult but requires a bit of patience and a good pair of tweezers; a good reason to send a test SMS from the unit at least once in every 3 months.

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    Josef Konrad
    Josef Konrad on

    One of the Friends says that you have to mount the SMS box high up in the caravan because the network signal will be too weak to function if it’s placed low down by the battery.

    Is this true?

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    Fyko on

    It is quite likely that the network signal reception will be a bit weaker lower down in the caravan compared to what is available at roof level, but it probably won’t compromise performance.

    The weakest signal that will be of practical use to a mobile phone will measure about -100dBm, which will be one 10,000th of the strongest signal you’re likely to find at -60dBm, this being a logarithmic scale.

    In real terms this means that if your signal strength is -60dBm under the roof, and this signal loses half of its strength when you move the antenna to floor level the measured strength will drop by just 3 dBm to -63dBm, not something that anyone would notice. However if your signal is a lot weaker at say -90dBm and you halved it by moving the antenna to floor level it would now measure -93dBm, which could be the difference between working and not working.

    You can observe the measured signal strength at the GSM receiver by tapping the battery voltage button at bottom left of the screen. The button will then display the signal strength at the antenna of the SMS module for a few seconds before reverting to voltage readout. You can then move the control unit to another position and measure the strength again. Let the unit stabilise for at least a minute after you have moved it for best accuracy.

    If the signal strength is in the critically weak area – say -90dBm and weaker when the control unit is placed at floor level – we can extend the antenna up to roof level with a correctly terminated coaxial cable.  This will provide the same improvement as moving the whole unit up and may be just enough to get it working, but don’t expect miracles because you’ll be in a very bad network area with such a weak signal.

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    Josef Konrad
    Josef Konrad on

    Thank you for such detailed answers.

    Looking through other threads one of our group came across some incomplete discussion between members about pressure sensitive floor mats.

    Can you tell us where we can get such a thing?

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    Fyko on

    Pressure mats are just one of the 3 practical devices to detect intruders in the side tent. The other 2 are PIRs and ultrasound scanners.

    To be useful a detection device must be:

    1. Effective,
    2. Difficult to Evade,
    3. Reliable,
    4. Easily deployed,
    5. False alarm resistant,
    6. Cost effective.

    A pressure mat will detect any weight placed upon it from a small animal (pets as well as monkeys) to a large man, so it’s definitely effective, though its area of protection is quite small.

    If cleverly placed and hidden it is difficult to evade.

    It has no moving parts and is hard to damage so it must be reliable.

    It is hidden under some other covering and its cable plugged into a single receptacle, so it is easily deployed.

    It is unaffected by heat or wind, so it is false alarm resistant.

    But the pressure sensitive element at the heart of the system that costs about R120 in the US (its only source being the 3M Company) but, freight charges from the US being what they are, that goes up to nearly R400 landed here. Add connections, encapsulation, cable etc and it goes up to about R600, which makes it not cost effective in SA, (though it is reasonably popular with our users in the UK, where it is relatively less expensive).


    By contrast, a PIR, which was at one time thought unsuitable for a side tent because the canvas wall flapping in the wind made it vulnerable to false alarms, is very effective in the vertical down-looking configuration, is very difficult to evade, is extremely reliable, is deployed in seconds, is false alarm resistant if aimed correctly, and costs R280 inclusive of all connectors.

    An ultrasonic scanner can also be made hard to evade though it is slightly less convenient since it requires a reflective plastic curtain to echo the sound pulse against, but it is permanently deployed and costs a mere R200 all inclusive.

    So, until the imported cost of the pressure mat sensor material comes down by a considerable margin it will not feature strongly as an intruder detection device in this country.


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    Josef Konrad
    Josef Konrad on

    One of the ‘pals’ says these gas detectors are a useless false security because they wear out and stop detecting. He says his nose is good enough for him.

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    Fyko on

    Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is a mixture of several gases, principally propane (C3H8) and butane (C4H10). In any cylinder that contains both propane and butane the propane will tend to come out first since it has a lower boiling temperature, and hence higher vapour pressure, than butane. Propane and butane have similar, and overlapping, but not identical characteristics.

    Propane is a colourless as well as odourless gas – if not mixed with ethyl mercaptan, which is a chemical compound added to make it stink the way it does, you could be overcome by propane without even knowing it.  Butane does have a recognisable though not very strong smell, but it comes out of the cylinder in increasing quantity as the cylinder is emptied, after the propane pressure starts to drop.

    When mixed with air in a certain range of ratios both propane and butane will explode when ignited. For butane that range is 19,000ppm (1,9%) to 86,000ppm (8,6%) and for propane 24,000ppm (2,4%) to 96,000ppm (9,6%). At the site of any gas leak the concentration of gas will obviously be 100%, and this will gradually decrease to 0% at some distance from the leak. It follows that somewhere in the vicinity of each and every leak there will be a shell area where the concentration falls into the critical 1,9% to 9,6% bracket where the gas/air mixture is ready to explode with the first ignition source. Therefore it is safe to say that each and every gas leak has the potential for a devastating explosion somewhere in its vicinity.

    Butane and propane are both denser than air and so, in the absence of vertical air currents, will settle near the floor. Therefore the best place for a gas detector is near the bottom of whatever containment area the gas could leak into. All gas detectors have a small heater inside to warm the semiconductor sensor, but this heater will never attain anywhere near the temperature (450°C) needed to auto-ignite the gas. After 5 years of continuous operation (at 52 weeks per year, not 2 weeks per year), the manufacturers recommend the sensor element be replaced.

    The sensor element starts to detect the presence of gas from about 200ppm upwards, but the manufacturers recommend that 1000ppm be the level that detection is fully stable and reliable. The IDLH level (Immediately Dangerous for Life or Health) for propane is 2100ppm and butane 1600ppm, so the detector does more than just protect against fire and explosions it protects your health when the gas concentration is very low as well.

    For me the most important and valuable feature of the system is that it sends you an SMS when it has something to report – you get the message wherever you are as long as your phone has signal.


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    Josef Konrad
    Josef Konrad on

    Why isn’t the ultrasonic good enough protection for the side tent?

    It works for the inside of my car. Any time I move when the alarm is armed it set’s it off.

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    Fyko on

    It is not unsuitable for the side tent, but maybe it shouldn’t be your only protection.

    An ultrasonic scanner emits a short hypersonic (40KHz) sound pulse on command from its control unit, and then waits for an echo of that pulse to be returned by some hard surface that is in range.

    Sound travels at roughly a metre in every 3 milliseconds, and the same speed on the way back, so if nothing is heard back in 30mS then there is either no hard surface to reflect the sound within 5 metres (the effective range of the device), or there was something with a soft surface to absorb the sound pulse without reflecting it.

    Getting an echo within the defined waiting time may be a cause for alarm, or it may be the opposite, depending on what the system targets. The event of an echo may signal the presence of a hard-shelled intruder, or the absence of an echo may indicate a soft-covered intruder absorbing the sound pulse and preventing its reflection from a hard surface further back.

    Experience has taught us that we are far more likely to encounter intruders that absorb sound pulses than those that reflect them; the only apparel likely to generate a detectable echo is a leather jacket or a plastic raincoat. That’s why we hang a plastic curtain from the tent roof at a distance of 2 metres from the scanner and perpendicular to the sensor unit (the shorter range makes for increased operational reliability while still giving generous coverage) and expect to receive an echo with 12mS of every sound pulse emission. If the echo fails to return within the designated time we send a few follow-up pulses to reduce the chances of a false alarm, and then, by Bluetooth and SMS sent to the assigned mobile phone, signal the event as an intrusion.

    The sensor is easily disarmed by a switch on the control unit as well as being subject to the master arming control from the mobile phone.

    Measured against the usual criteria:

    1.      Effective,

    2.      Difficult to Evade,

    3.      Reliable,

    4.      Easily deployed,

    5.      False alarm resistant,

    6.      Cost effective.

    Deployment is super-easy since the device is attached to the outside caravan wall and is permanently wired – all you do is hang the curtain, and tape the sensor over when on the road. It is also about the cheapest to implement after magnetic switches.

    There is an increased possibility of false alarms because of the reliance on a plastic curtain for sonic echoes, and the curtain may move in the wind. It is also easier to evade by crawling below to sonic trajectory, assuming the intruder sees the device and knows to do this.

    Another low-cost arrow in your quiver, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you rely on.

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