Introducing the new Particle Tracking System (plus other major improvements announced at Spectra 2020)

Originally published at: https://blog.particle.io/introducing-particle-tracking-system/

At Particle, our goal is to make it easier for you to connect the unconnected, no matter what you are building. Whether you’re deploying light electric vehicles for micromobility, monitoring protected lands for illegal forestry, or tracking the locations of important machines, vehicles, and other assets, we’re here to provide the infrastructure to power your IoT product.

Today, we took a step in a new direction: going beyond the infrastructure layer of IoT by launching the Particle Tracking System. We want to tackle more of the challenges of locating mobile assets, which is one of the most common use cases for Particle and IoT more broadly.

Since we launched the Electron, our first cellular connectivity product back in 2015, “asset tracking” has been the #1 reason that our customers have used Particle. In some ways, this surprised us; asset tracking is a well-worn industry with quite a number of off-the-shelf products that are readily available. But what we’ve learned is that most of our customers were looking for a degree of customization that an off-the-shelf asset tracker doesn’t offer. Whether you’re tracking ambulances and fire trucks, rental equipment, or electric scooters – an off-the-shelf “GPS in a box” product won’t cut it. The Particle Tracking System is a new suite of products (both software services and associated hardware) that are designed to make it easier to deploy a customized asset tracking solution as quickly and easily as possible.

Alongside the Particle Tracking system, we were also proud to announce other new products and platform improvements to help simplify IoT development at Spectra, our annual conference for developers and IoT product creators. Specifically, we announced:

The Particle Tracking System — Track mission-critical assets anywhere

Particle Asset Tracking System — Geolocation interface

The Particle Tracking System is an all-new set of platform capabilities designed to help you deploy and scale enterprise-grade asset tracking applications. This integrated tracking system includes everything you need to fine tune the behavior of your tracker products, from location services, to static fleet configuration, and key fleet management integrations.

The Tracking System is powered by our Tracking Services, a software suite purpose-built for asset tracking applications. Our Tracking Services also power our Tracker SoM and Tracker One, two new hardware products that come equipped with industry-leading capabilities like GNSS dead reckoning, CAN, wake/alert-on-movement, and on-board power management / data storage capabilities:

  • Tracking Services is a suite of software purpose-built for asset tracking applications that extends Particle’s platform with geolocation services (mapping and geodatabase) and a configuration service for defining fleet-wide behaviors such as reporting interval on-the-fly. Tracker Services also includes an open firmware application framework for devices that integrates with off-the-shelf IoT sensors and can be deeply customized to support sophisticated tracker applications.
  • Tracker SoM is a powerful, configurable, and extensible IoT System-on-Module (SoM) that provides a powerful MCU, GNSS, and advanced peripherals in a compact form factor. Tracker SoM serves as an accelerated starting point to organizations that require a tailored tracking solution for sophisticated applications as well as a fully-certified foundation for original equipment manufacturers developing commercial products.

Particle’s first field-ready open reference product: Tracker One

The Tracker One

Tracker One is a field-ready asset tracking solution that utilizes the Particle Tracking Services and Tracker SoM to provide customers with an out-of-the-box product that incorporates edge hardware, edge software, cellular connectivity, and software capabilities. Tracker One is fully certified, immediately deployable, and requires no additional development on the behalf of users for a true off-the-shelf solution.

If you are interested in learning more about the Tracker One, you can visit our website here.

Introducing the B523 SoM: A LTE-Cat 1 module

The B523 SoM: A LTE-Cat 1 module

The B523 SoM is an all-new LTE-ready SoM to support global cellular IoT deployments around the world. The B523 is built on LTE-CAT 1, a globally available and mature LTE technology designed specifically for IoT devices with 50% the power consumption of 3G.

In addition to LTE-CAT 1, the B523 also comes equipped with Bluetooth 5.0 and full 2G/3G fallback, making it an ideal solution for navigating increasingly disruptive 2G/3G network sunset initiatives. The B523 features the same M.2 form factor as the rest of Particle’s B Series SoMs (like the B402) and comes with a full set of regulatory and industry certifications to dramatically accelerate time to market.

B523 SoM is immediately available for purchase on Particle’s retail store. The B523 also has GA support for Europe today with support for additional international geographies coming later this year.

Key platform improvements — Intelligent OTA and Long Term Support (LTS) releases for Device OS

We are constantly looking to improve upon our IoT platform, which is why we were proud to announce new additional guarantees of reliability and support for our enterprise customers and mission-critical IoT applications:

  • Intelligent OTA, which we released in beta since last year, is now generally available to all enterprise customers. Intelligent OTA is built on top of Particle’s industry-leading OTA foundation and enables dramatically faster OTA uptake and provides additional controls to manage the timing of fleet-wide OTA updates for IoT deployments. If you are interested, you can learn more about our Intelligent OTA offering here.
  • We also announced plans to deliver long term support (LTS) releases for Device OS, providing higher levels of reliability and support for enterprise customers deploying mission-critical applications. Our first LTS release, Device OS 2.0, will be released in beta in June and will be made generally available to all Particle customers at no additional cost in August.

What’s next?

Spectra 2020 is still happening right now. You can click here to join the live stream. This year we have over 2000 IoT innovators gathering online to share their IoT insights.

Your feedback on Particle software, hardware, and ongoing conversations with the Particle team have helped us shape our product with the right tools to support your success. We’re excited to hear what you think and what problem you’ll solve next.

3 Likes

This looks very interesting!

We were using the previous tracker to track gliders while flying. However switched to cheap Chinese car trackers for the following reasons:

  • Half the cost
  • Separate antennas for GPS and cellular mean easier positioning that doesn’t interfere with avionics
  • Full 4G, 3G and 2G support, while the asset tracker only supported 3G and 2G
  • Full frequency support in New Zealand. Both versions of the asset tracker didn’t work with all NZ frequencies, which meant only 1 NZ cell network was supported. In some areas the other main cell network provides much better reception. The Chinese one supports all NZ frequencies.

The only downside is we can’t programme the device for example it is useful to put the last 5 seconds change of altitude into each message.

I’m assuming this device doesn’t have a SIM card slot? That means we’re probably not able to use it, as we need to be able to load in a cheap local cellular network card. And most networks in NZ don’t support ESims yet.

Anyway, interesting stuff!

1 Like

Hey Zach, whilst the B523 SoM is available on the Particle Store, the M.2 evaluation board isn’t!

For users outside the US, Particle Store isn’t very commercially viable due to the astronomical international shipping charges and the inco terms - could you confirm when all hardware will be available with a distributor such as Digikey or Mouser. Thanks

@zach @will Is the tracking portal that is shown in the announcement avaliable to us who want to use it with our current GPS + Boron devices?

Can’t wait to play around with this B523 SOM. Huge fan of adding LTE-CAT 1 with 3g fallback. It will allow us to combine 2 SKU’s into 1.

With the added bandwidth of LTE-CAT 1 is Particle considering adding any higher bandwidth use cases like sending images?

1 Like

Very interesting! Any ETA on North American (Canadian, specifically) connectivity for the B523? The fallback would be extremely valuable to us.

1 Like

You are correct – B523 SoMs are shipping immediately but the M.2 evaluation boards are on backorder. Because we have limited initial quantity of the B523 units we are allowing customers to check out with a B523 + evaluation board order with delayed delivery in late May.

It will take a handful of months for new SKUs to be made available through distributors, so the retail store is the best place to get your hands on the new B523 hardware for now. Sorry for that delay in availability!

@RWB not right away. Right now we’re focused on building out the Tracking System platform first with compatible tracking hardware – Tracker SoM and Tracker One – before extending those features more broadly on the platform.

That being said, we do see that many of our existing use cases that have been built with our cellular connectivity hardware would benefit from location awareness, so long term that is our intention.

Good question @dustout – we definitely see demand for higher bandwidth, data “streaming” applications, but don’t have a delivery date identified yet. While CAT 1 would likely perform best among our cellular technologies it’s a feature we’d roll out for the whole platform, not just CAT 1 :+1:

Good question @psherk – we’ve targeted LTE M1 for North America because of the relative network maturity of M1 here vs. Europe and because of the lower cost/power consumption of M1 vs. CAT 1.

On top of that most 2G/3G networks will be gone in the US and Canada by the end of 2022, so we feel that M1 is the better long term technology fit for this market at the moment. Have you run into situations where 2G/3G is available but LTE is not?

Very excited to hear that! If possible I would love to be part of the Beta for that feature. We have a use case that would greatly benefit from sending pictures.

1 Like

There’s plenty of rural applications out there with non-mainstream carriers that 4G LTE won’t accomodate, but that 2G/3G will. We have to take a gamble on which modem SKU will work in a given territory and run with that hoping that it’ll work. If we don’t get this judgement right, then it’s an expensive service call to get it swapped out. It’s for rural electric utilities. We’d LOvE to have fallback to 2G/3G. 4G is not everywhere, sadly.

Thanks, M

What is your Tracker One reference design battery life target? I hope its at least a year with a battery in that small form factor at 1 message per day for static objects.

I experimented with the Tracker2 but never could get sleep/wake/etc dialed in enough for long life…I’ve switched to DigitalMatter LTE-Cat1 devices for my hobby tracker solution and I’d love to switch back to particle to track remote static assets. The DM hardware works great but it isn’t very hobbiest friendly. (Their sales model is services/resellers, they reluctantly sold me a couple of LTE devices and seem to tolerate me hanging off of their reporting network with my hexagon sims as long as I don’t bother their tech support too much.)

What providers do you have 2G/3G coverage but not LTE with? I ask because I know that AT&T and T-Mobile both have plans to shut down their 3G networks in the next ~12-18 months, so that fallback support will only be useful for a narrow window, I’d guess.

Hey there @xiondavis – we still completing battery characterization but the short answer is that it entirely depends on how you configure the sleep modes and reporting intervals. Time awake and online = depletion of battery. We can share our “max performance” specifications when they become available.

We’d be happy to see you switch your solution to Particle! Let us know how we can help :+1:

There are times where AT&T won’t work, there are times where T-Mobile won’t work, and there’s no hint of 4G being available. There’s over 100 rural and regional carriers (members of the Competitive Carriers Association) across the US that provide coverage where the big boys don’t, and they provide roaming capabilities that allow people’s phones to still work.

2G and 3G is still important to us serving our customers, as a large part of our business is with rural electric cooperative utilities. CCA carriers that provide roaming provide the coverage necessary for us to sell to these rural customers.

Can we buy a Tracker One yet?

Tracker One won’t be available until July, but you can learn more about the product and specifications here:

Hello,

Just to be sure about it, will the tracker one works only with the MFF2 Sim?
No chance to use 3rd party sim card?
Thanks,

That is correct. None of the Tracker line (Tracker SoM, Tracker Evaluation Board, or Tracker One) can be used with a 3rd-party SIM card.

Thanks @rickkas7, you rockk