29 Apr 2024

SpotNow: Why “spotty” tracking could actually be your company’s advantage

With u-blox’s simplified low-energy occasional asset tracking solution, SpotNow, businesses benefit from high capability and reduced costs, energy savings, and improved sustainability. 

u-blox's SpotNow tracking solution

The buzz around “real-time” solutions has led many to adopt continuous tracking solutions to keep up with technological advancements. Yet, for many asset tracking use cases, real-time tracking is an unnecessary cost to businesses and Earth’s precious energy. Those who have stuck with older models of occasional tracking devices continue to benefit from low costs but sacrifice capability. With u-blox’s simplified low-energy occasional asset tracking solution, SpotNow, businesses benefit from high capability and reduced costs, energy savings, and improved sustainability. From industrial asset tracking to smart devices, this modern feature inside the u-blox UBX-R52 cellular chip offers a win-win solution for countless IoT-based products. (6 min. read)


  • The enduring advantage of occasional tracking with SpotNow
  • SpotNow at a glance
  • Applications of SpotNow’s occasional tracking
  • Harnessing SpotNow in industrial supply chains
  • How to activate SpotNow

The enduring advantage of occasional tracking with SpotNow

Thanks to global coverage of roaming agreements, GNSS, and long-range cellular communication technology, tracking technology is now harnessed within many products integral to our everyday lives, and developers have a range of possibilities to enhance their products' efficiency and capabilities. Among these choices is the decision between real-time and occasional tracking, with occasional tracking intermittently identifying the position of supply chain assets and real-time tracking providing near-continuous information about the location of goods. Though neither is better than the other and, in reality, the individual use case is the deciding factor, 24/7 is the golden number developers and product marketers often chase. Yet, in certain use cases, spotty, intermittent tracking could be your competitive edge, and with the release of SpotNow, that advantage is now even more pronounced.

While the ability to track in real-time has received much excitement among developers in recent times, occasional tracking persists as a valuable tracking solution for particular use cases. From tracking the location of recycling containers to integrating low-energy location positioning into commercial pet trackers or personal smart devices, occasional asset tracking embraces a broad spectrum of applications.

In real-time monitoring configurations of cellular technology, GNSS and cellular connectivity remain “on” most of the time. In occasional tracking systems, devices rely almost entirely on the battery, sometimes for most of their service life, since the system carefully manages both connectivity and positioning to ensure that the battery survives until the next recharge. Maximizing the battery lifespan forces the battery-powered asset-tracking devices to conserve energy and use both communication and tracking features occasionally or at a low rate.

Though many cases mandate the use of real-time tracking (such as monitoring the transportation of precious goods or ensuring that road-tolling software is continually retrieving vehicle locations), there are also innumerable instances in which the energy and cost of continuous monitoring become wasteful to the manufacturer, end user, and, ultimately, the planet. Opting for occasional tracking solutions enables product developers and companies to meet myriad goals, from adhering to connectivity policies to improving the battery lifespan. 

For products to truly stand the test of time and for developers to achieve that perfect balance of cost to capability, u-blox has taken occasional tracking solutions a step further, providing an additional advantage unavailable in other solutions on the market. SpotNow offers a unique occasional tracking option, providing the advantage of GPS-like accuracy, speedy connection times, and high receiver sensitivity, all at the same price as a standard chipset for low-power, wide-area (LPWA) connectivity. The secret to this advantage? The lack of dedicated GNSS hardware.

SpotNow at a glance

SpotNow is a positioning feature that identifies an asset’s position at preset intervals. Available in the SARA-R52 and LEXI-R52 series, SpotNow is a software assisted-GPS receiver tailored explicitly for occasional tracking use cases. Using the SpotNow Assistance Service and GPS signals, SpotNow computes the location of an asset within a matter of seconds. By pairing the advantages of a single-chip approach with the high accuracy and negligible power consumption of the assisted GNSS in modern-style integrated circuits, SpotNow offers a cost-effective alternative to other complex tracking devices. Instead of optimizing for a high periodic tracking fix rate, SpotNow is intentionally designed to save energy with fixes spaced more than 10 seconds apart. In addition, as SpotNow is embedded into the UBX-R52 cellular chip, it does not require any additional hardware except a GPS antenna, reducing its overall complexity and weight.

SpotNow’s features enable companies to:

  • Save energy. When compared with a hosted GNSS solution, SpotNow saved ~80% over 24 hours.
  • Cut costs. Setting up SpotNow costs around 30% less than the implementation cost of standard solutions.
  • Collect asset locations quickly. SpotNow’s reduced acquisition phase allows for position retrieval within seconds.
  • Maintain or improve positioning accuracy. SpotNow’s assisted GNSS ensures precise positioning.
  • Benefit from an easy set-up with SpotNow’s simple design. SpotNow only requires a simple external GPS antenna and no additional add-ons.

Applications of SpotNow's occasional tracking 

  • Recycling dumpster. SpotNow enables the conservation of resources within a system already working to do just that—our recycling systems. Usually stationed at particular locations for months or longer, recycling dumpsters are only occasionally moved to be taken to recycling plants. Recycling systems, therefore, often use battery-powered spot tracking to keep track of the dumpsters’ whereabouts. With SpotNow, developers can minimize the power consumption of these trackers' batteries.
  • Stolen vehicle recovery systems (SVRs). Why should SVRs consume energy when they aren’t needed? SpotNow can replace the classic, “always-on” GNSS model by only consuming power when needed (which, we all hope, is extremely rare).
  • Simple supply chain routes. When monitoring goods moving across simple routes, location data only needs to be retrieved intermittently. In such cases, SpotNow enables maximum energy savings at no additional cost.
  • Smart devices. Sometimes, fast and precise positioning that does not reduce the product’s service life is everything. From pet trackers to trackers for the elderly, many smart devices require the balance between positioning accuracy and energy efficiency to be spot on. SpotNow provides an ultra-fast position fix with 5-10m accuracy and negligible power consumption.

Harnessing SpotNow in industrial supply chains

Consider a company that transports low-cost goods and wants to alert its staff about the arrival of goods at particular checkpoints. They are deciding between a hosted GNSS tracking system and a cellular chip system with SpotNow.

If they opted for SpotNow, they would save around 500 uWh every 24 hours. With SpotNow in the UBX-R52 chip, it takes just a few seconds to estimate a position fix. The hosted GNSS, on the other hand, would need 30-45 seconds for the same task.

SpotNow vs hosted GNSS energy consumption

The combination of SpotNow’s short positioning time (its Time to First Fix (TTFF) is just 2 seconds on average) and high accuracy (its median first fix accuracy is 5m typ) would provide the company with exactly what it needs at a much lower cost. To achieve this speed and capability, SpotNow requires only a GPS antenna.

The location retrieval process

 Through this intentionally designed location retrieval process, the company could alert staff of the arrival of goods at each checkpoint with the optimal balance of accuracy and sustainability, both for the planet and its bottom line.

While the classic GNSS-assisted devices will remain the preferred solution in many cases, SpotNow is the ideal choice for those who require positioning data with a fix rate of over 10 seconds and need to save on energy and cost without compromising accuracy.

In sum, for industrial supply chains transporting goods that require simple tracking at spaced, predefined points in a journey, SpotNow's unique host-less design could increase energy savings by up to six times and cost savings of up to 30%.

How to activate SpotNow

SpotNow is available on all R52 platforms, such as SARA-R52 and LEXI-R52. To activate SpotNow, follow these steps:

Step 1: Subscribe for SpotNow access in the u-blox ThingStream platform. Subscription and data access are free (with a cap), but enabling the R52 series is required to access SpotNow Assistance Service.

Step 2: Once the device is enabled to connect and download SpotNow’s Assistance Service data, set the fix rate based on your company’s requirements. The amount of downloaded data is negligible (less than 1KB).

Note: To access the SpotNow Assistance Service, subscribe to the Thingstream platform. Subscriptions to Thingstream and SpotNow are free.

To discuss how the SpotNow solution may benefit your company, get in touch.