Storage ZCAIM and SD1

Storage ZCAIM and SD1 Contents

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The CF Storage ZCAIM is a device which takes a frequency divided audio signal from a suitable bat-detector, detects the zero-crossings in the signal and and stores these on a compact flash card for later downloading into a PC. The net result is  a low power, compact unit which replaces much of the functionality of a laptop and standard ZCAIM for passive detection purposes. The CF Storage ZCAIM also has other uses, such as storing GPS trackpoints. It is also useful for mobile transects, and can be used as a serial ZCAIM to interface to either a PDA or laptop computer for generation of realtime displays of bat calls.

The SD1 is a combined bat detector and storage ZCAIM all in the same box. The SD1 can be used with a PDA to make a unit which can be carried in one hand and display realtime graphs. With an SD1 and a PDA, you do not need a laptop to see calls in the field for active monitoring.

Technical Notes

GPS trackpoint storage

One useful function of the storage ZCAIM is its ability to store trackpoints from a GPS unit. It can download data from a GPS continuously, even while simultaneously recording bat calls. The result is a separate text file of trackpoints which can be used by other software to develop a map of wherever the ZCAIM went.

If the GPS sends trackpoints to the ZCAIM every 2 seconds, a whole 24 hours would take up just 5.5 Megabytes on the card, making the storage ZCAIM a useful device for this purpose alone.

The GPS unit is connected to the storage ZCAIM via a serial cable, the same as is used to connect the GPS to a PC. The GPS must be set up to output NMEA sentences. Provided the GPS unit is capable of outputting NMEA sentences, it should work with the Storage ZCAIM.

By connecting the GPS unit to the CF Storage ZCAIM and starting the ZCAIM into RECORD MODE, any valid GPS data will be stored into the CF card for later retrieval by the CFCread software. The STANDBY LED will flash every time a position fix is downloaded. The CFCread software will output a text file of trackpoints suitable for immediate import into a number of programs which could be used to plot the stored data. One example of software suitable for this purpose is the GPS Utility Software package available from Alan Murphy at


It is also feasible to simultaneously use the ZCAIM to record bat calls. In most cases, there should be no loss of data, though if there is very intense bat activity, you may find that some GPS fixes are missed.

Checking / Setting the ZCAIM time

  1. Remove any Compact Flash card from the Storage ZCAIM
  2. Connect the Storage ZCAIM to the computer using a NULL MODEM serial cable
  3. Turn on the Storage ZCAIM. After a short time, the ERROR and STATUS LEDs should light
  4. Run CFCread on the computer. Click the OPEN button after selecting the Serial Port
  5. The CFCread software will indicate "Comm port ready" if the selected port is found. Otherwise an error message will be displayed which includes the text "CreateFile failed". If more than one serial port exists on the computer, the "Comm port ready" message may be displayed but the selected port might not be the port connected to the ZCAIM.
  6. Click the Get ID button. If communication is established with the Storage ZCAIM, the STATUS field will immediately show the 16 character ID code of the Storage ZCAIM, followed by its 8 character Alias code. If the message "Sent I command" remains in the Status field, it means that communication has not been established. This could result from the ZCAIM not being connected or not being turned on, or from the wrong serial port being selected. If the wrong port was selected, select another port then click the Open button again. If clicking the Get ID button results in a message including the text "port not initialised", that would indicate that the Open button wasn't clicked first.
  7. Once communication has been established, click the CHECK button to check the Storage ZCAIM internal time. A message will be displayed in the Status field which indicates how the Storage ZCAIM internal time compares to the computer's internal clock time.
  8. If you desire to set the time in the Storage ZCAIM, click the SET button, and after a short delay the time will be set. The reference time used for this process is always the computer's internal clock, so it would be wise to set the computer's clock to the correct time before using it to set the time in the ZCAIM.
  9. When the whole process is complete, click the CLOSE button, This will close the serial port so it can then be used by other software, for example, to upload firmware (see below).

Uploading firmware

The storage ZCAIM (including that inside the SD1) contains an internal microprocessor (called a PIC) which runs a program stored in its internal memory. This program is called the FIRMWARE. When new firmware becomes available, you should upgrade the firmware in your Storage ZCAIM or SD1 because new firmware will contain bug fixes and other improvements. However, unless you are having problems with your Storage ZCAIM, this isn't a matter of any urgency - there is no need to pull working units out of the field just to upgrade the firmware. But if you are having any problems, one of the first tasks you should try is to upgrade the firmware to the latest version. This might even fix your problem!

Storage ZCAIMs have used two different PIC models. Earlier ZCAIMs used a 16F877 PIC and require the SZ2 firmware. Later Storage ZCAIMs use the 18F452 PIC and require the SZ3 firmware. You can tell which chip you have by checking the Version with CFCread. The SZ2 firmware has a version number which starts with '2' and ends in 'g3'. The SZ3 firmware has a version number which starts with '3' and ends in 'g'.

The SD1 Storage Detector also uses the 18F452 chip, but requires the SD1 firmware. Its version number will be reported as starting in '4' and ending in 'g'. 

You cannot put the wrong firmware in the wrong device, because the PICLOAD software will not let you, provided you are using the latest, version 3 PICLOAD. It is ESSENTIAL to use the correct version of PICLOAD to upload the firmware! All current versions of firmware MUST be uploaded with PICLOAD version 3. Using the older version 1 PICLOAD with newer firmware could render your device unuseable (it will not be damaged, but would require the upload to be done again using the correct version of PICLOAD).

To upload new firmware, you use the program PICLOAD which can be downloaded from this site.

  1. Remove any Compact Flash card from the Storage ZCAIM
  2. Connect the Storage ZCAIM to the computer using a NULL MODEM serial cable
  3. Make sure the ZCAIM is turned off at this point
  4. Run the PICLOAD program
  5. Select the correct Serial Port in PICLOAD (Use the procedure to Check ZCAIM Time, above, if unsure which port)
  6. Click LOAD HEX FILE to select the HEX file you want to upload (must have extension .HEX)
  7. Click RUN and the PICLOAD program will indicate it is "Waiting for Query from PIC". If instead the message "Couldn't open Com Port" is displayed, this would indicate that the wrong Serial port has been selected. To select a different port, click on the small arrows to the right of the port number. If the RUN button is deactivated, select the HEX file again using the LOAD HEX FILE button.
  8. Power on the Storage ZCAIM and PICLOAD will show the lines of data it is uploading
  9. When the upload is complete, PICLOAD will tell you so. Now Power OFF the ZCAIM
  10. Close PICLOAD.
  11. Run CFCread
  12. Select the correct serial port and click on OPEN
  13. Click the VERSION button and you should see the new firmware version listed
  14. To abort an upload, click the STOP button - but this will render your device unuseable until a successful upload is achieved.
  15. If you want to program more than one unit of the same device, you can use the RELOAD HEX button to load the same firmware.

Very rarely, it may be possible for a glitch to occur while uploading the new firmware, so even though the firmware appears to have uploaded correctly, it might contain an error which prevents it from functioning correctly. If you are having problems with your Storage ZCAIM, where a normal part of its operation appears not to be functioning correctly, then try uploading the firmware again. However, this should not be something which happens often or repeatedly. Nearly all  uploads should run perfectly, and uploads using the later PIC chips use a different, more reliable algorithm which is less likely to produce an incorrect upload.

Latest firmware notes

Click here for notes describing new features of the latest firmware. Firmware version 2 has a significantly different user interface from previous versions.

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