Skip to main content
Loading ...

Your Country

Your Country

Change your address
Search

You are here

A super‑efficient GPS module could become a game changer for fitness trackers

September 11, 2017

Ever since the Nike+ FuelBand came out in 2012, proving the appeal of wrist‑based activity tracking, the category has exploded. Nowadays, a whole industry has emerged around this market, led by brands like Fitbit and Xiaomi.

Whereas early fitness trackers could get by on simple activity monitoring using a basic accelerometer, nowadays the market is much more competitive. Besides activity tracking, these days sleep monitoring and heart‑rate monitoring are expected, along with rugged yet fashionable designs.

How do device makers stand out in today’s wearable market? A look at the top fitness trackers on the market today points to onboard GPS. But the scarcity of products out there today shows: integrating an autonomous GPS into a fitness tracker without watering down its primary value proposition – its size, price, and relatively long battery life – has been much easier said than done.

Outdoor activity tracking
Fitness trackers today can count your calories burnt, measure your heartbeat, and can even be your personal coach, but without GPS functionality, they’re incomplete. For runners, hikers, cyclers, and other outdoor athletes, having the ability to track their workout or their journey with positioning technology is much more useful than simply counting steps.

Using Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) positioning, runners and cyclists can pace themselves, track distances, and monitor performance. Hikers can log their journeys, or even route themselves back to their starting position if they get lost.

Today some of these outdoor athletes are opting for GPS sports watches – full‑featured, smartwatch‑like devices that do everything they need and more. But not everyone wants a bulky, clunky, expensive watch.

Fitness trackers are the perfect solution for consumers who aren’t interested in the whole shebang and simply want a sleek, lightweight, and affordable device – one that can keep track of their activities both indoors and outside.

The missing piece of the puzzle
Tracking outdoor activities using GNSS positioning has been an obvious design goal for fitness trackers since day one, but technical challenges have stood in the way. While accelerometers, heart rate monitors, and other sensors have shrunk in size, cost, and power consumption, GNSS technology has remained a major energy hog.

That’s why adding GNSS to a wearable’s feature list has always been tied to a significant drop in battery life. On top of that, a much larger battery, needed to make up for increased power demand, has typically made it difficult to maintain the slim form factors important to this category of device and driven prices up.

With its ZOE‑M8B GNSS System‑in‑Package (SiP), announced this week, u‑blox has an ideal solution for wearable designers seeking to save every last square millimeter in their devices. Measuring just 4.5 x 4.5 x 1.0 mm, the ZOE‑M8B will fit easily on any PCB. And designed from the ground up for energy efficiency, the module uses only one‑third the power of current‑generation GNSS receivers.  

This dramatic reduction in power consumption opens up the possibility of adding GNSS positioning to many more devices, including fitness trackers that previously lacked the power budget for it, without sacrificing the slim form factors that consumers have come to expect.

For fitness trackers, GPS capability is the missing piece of the puzzle. By incorporating low‑power consumption GNSS using the ZOE‑M8B positioning SiP, these slim, elegant, and lightweight devices can finally serve their users from the gym to the trail.

For more information on ZOE‑M8B, come and see us at the u‑blox booth N.352 (M2M Zone) at MWC Americas, held on 12‑14 September in San Francisco. And for more blog posts on wearables, see our post on a great solution for GPS sports watches!

Florian Bousquet
Market Development Manager, Product Center Positioning, u-blox

New

by Patrick Mannion

The Security Manifesto and accompanying Digital Social Contract are an industry‑wide call to action from Arm’s CEO at the recent Arm TechCon, but developers have to act now, using available tools and pushing back to ge

November 17, 2017
Galileo Satellite Constellation by Lukas Rohr: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Galileo_sat_constallation.gif

New

by Clemens Buergi

Two decades after it was first conceived, the Galileo global navigation satellite system is raining down its signals across the globe.

November 14, 2017
Connecting cars for over 12 years

New

by Thomas Nigg

The automotive industry found u‑blox sometime around 2005. It was neither anticipated nor planned, but looking back, it’s been a fantastic adventure. Since, we’ve sold dozens of millions of positioning and communication devices to automotive Tier Ones and OEMs.

November 07, 2017
dog tracker

New

by Florian Bousquet

GPS trackers – small, wearable devices used to track people, pets and animals – have made life easier for parents, pet owners, wildlife researchers, farmers, and businesses alike.

November 02, 2017
Arm TechCon

There’s a lot that goes into making IoT applications run smoothly and securely. From designing the hardware to ensuring robust connectivity, security, privacy, and data collection, the success of a prototype or of an end product hinges on cleanly clearing all of these hurdles. Sound daunting?

October 25, 2017

New

by Florian Bousquet

From the Apple Watch, to the Samsung Gear and Huawei 2, more and more smartwatches are popping up every day on people’s wrists. What started as a luxurious fashion accessory is becoming increasingly respected as a useful wearable.

October 18, 2017

u‑blox is demoing the long range connectivity of its newly launched, full‑featured Bluetooth 5 wireless MCU (microcontroller unit) module, NINA‑B3, at booth #1G44 of the

October 04, 2017
Prototype shooting jacket that gives feedback on position and stability of the participant’s arm

CSR

by Paul Gough

Electronics and sportswear are not a natural combination. The materials are quite different; you have hard, rigid and fragile electronics compared to the soft, flexible, robust and washable textiles.

September 27, 2017
Home security

New

by Diego Grassi

The residential security and hybrid home automation market is currently in a state of transformation, as conventional anti‑intrusion technologies are giving way to a new generation of advanced smart home ecosystems.

September 19, 2017