- GPS trackers use satellites to determine their location and send it via a server to an end device, for example an app on a smartphone.
- The transmission between tracker and app works with WWAN standards, transmission technologies that are optimised for IoT applications. The type of technology is crucial for how the tracker works. Only 2G and LTE-M enable real-time tracking.
- Real-time tracking for e-bikes, as offered by the BikeTrax GPS tracker from PowUnity, is valuable for theft protection and fleet management. In this context, criteria such as battery life and the quality of the associated app play an important role.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is ubiquitous. Bicycles and e-bikes can also be connected to other objects via the Internet to exchange information. In addition to bike computers, GPS trackers stand out in this context. In conjunction with satellites and modern apps or platforms, they make it possible to track the location of bikes in real-time. This is revolutionizing e-bike protection and fleet management.
How does a GPS tracking device work on e-bikes?
GPS is nothing new. The technology was developed back in the late 1950s for military purposes. However, it was not fully released for civilian use until 2000. Since then, and with the success of the Internet of Things, GPS navigation and tracking systems have steadily gained in importance.
Today, it is impossible to imagine our lives without those technologies. Best example: navigation systems or online map services, starting with Google Maps. Navigation systems made road atlas that used to be in every glove compartment just as redundant as the folding maps for city trips or bike tours. A GPS tracker has overtaken such features.
The functionality of an IoT GPS tracking device at a glance
- Satellites 6 are used to determine the position of your bike: Real GPS tracking works based on NAVSTAR GPS satellites. The exact location of a moving object is detected by at least three of these GPS satellites.
- The information is transmitted to a server via a wireless radio standard: The satellite broadcasts its position and time using coded radio signals. A GPS tracker 2 uses this information to calculate its position and passes it on to a server 4 via radio 3.
- The server caches the data it receives and sends it to an app on your phone 5.
- Voilá. Voilá. Now you know precisely where your e-bike (or another object) 1 is at that moment.
Important: Real GPS (NAVSTAR GPS) is fundamentally different from so-called “crowd GPS”, which is sometimes misleadingly called GPS tracking. Crowd GPS technology, on the other hand, works with Bluetooth location chips. In this case, the location of search objects is determined via the smartphone of other people. However, on this smartphone, the app from the same manufacturer must be installed- provided it is in immediate proximity and has GPS and Bluetooth switched on. Unlike a real GPS tracker, they are not equipped with a SIM card for data transmission to a smartphone, nor do at least three satellites determine the bike’s location.
LTE-M, NB-IoT, LoRa & Co.: IoT communication via wireless network technologies
To send the location of your e-bike from the GPS tracker to your app, so-called WWAN standards are used (WWAN stands for “Wireless Wide Area Network”). These are transmission technologies that are specifically designed for IoT applications and combine a long-range with low energy requirements.
WWAN technologies are not comparable with technologies such as WLAN, Bluetooth, or EnOcean which are excellent for use in the smart home. These technologies have no long-range as in some cases they reach their limits at distances of 30 meters or less. LTE-M, NB-IoT, SigFox, and LoRa belong toLPWA, the low power wide area networks:
- Narrowband IoT: Narrowband IoT or NB-IoT is characterized by low energy consumption, long battery life, and high building penetration. The relatively new technology is used in many areas, ranging from smart metering to tracking mobile objects. One downside is that there are latencies in data transmission. Therefore, NB-IoT does not enable real-time tracking.
- LTE-M: LTE-M is a new IoT communication standard and is mainly used in the Machine2Machine area. Unlike NB-IoT, LTE-M supports voice transmission and live tracking.
- SigFox & LoRa: SigFox and LoRa are fundamentally different from the technologies mentioned so far, as these standards use free frequency bands for which no fees are charged. While SigFox cooperates on a broad basis with local network operators and has a correspondingly good network coverage, LoRa users have to set up their infrastructure (a LoRaWan network) themselves in many cases.
Both LTE-M, NB-IoT, and SigFox can be considered for GPS tracker deployment. However, only LTE-M enables live tracking. In addition, network coverage is not (yet) as seamless with any of the mentioned technologies as with 2G technology.
PowUnity currently relies on 2G cellular technology and on LTE-M in the future. The 2G standard is powered by the oldest and most stable network and offers seamless data transmission at home and abroad, in the city and the countryside. Optimal for tracking applications of e-bikes. The next BikeTrax GPS tracker generation will be built on the seminal LTE-M technology, the only one besides 2G that makes real-time tracking possible.
Real-time transmission: Areas of application for GPS tracking devices
Now we discuss the question, “Why do I need real-time tracking?”
Why is it worthwhile to purchase an IoT GPS tracker for an e-bike in the first place, and what are the benefits of live location transmission for you as the owner? How do private users benefit from trackers, and how do companies that manage e-bike fleets?
Anti-theft protection for e-bikes
The main asset of GPS trackers for e-bikes is theft protection. After all, pedelecs are expensive and popular among bike thieves. However, a bicycle lock, no matter how high-quality, offers only limited protection. In case of doubt, professional thieves will hijack your bike together with 10 others in a truck and pick the lock later at their leisure. Insurance companies will reimburse the purchase price of stolen bikes – at least if all conditions are met – but you won’t get your bike back.
In contrast, a GPS tracker, specifically PowUnity’s BikeTrax IoT tracking device, has the following key assets:
A GPS tracker provides you with the real-time location of your bike and transmits it to your smartphone app. The app notifies you immediately if any bike movement without permission has been recognized. This way, you can prevent theft in the first place or locate your e-bike if it has been stolen. With the help of precise GPS data, the police can track your bike and save it.
Erfahrungen belegen es: Experience proves it: GPS trackers are the new security standard for e-bikes (and for motorcycles, too, by the way). No matter where your bike is taken, with a smart device, you have the best chance to save your pedelec and get it back. It is best to combine the tracker with several high-quality locks and a component lock.
In addition, depending on the tracker, you benefit from additional key features in the app:
Route diary: Route diaries automatically record bike tours in the app – without you having to carry a smartphone with you and remember to press start and stop.This is especially useful if you want to retrace routes you have already taken. Additionally, a route diary gives you an overview of what you have accomplished. With the BikeTrax GPS tracking device, you can export routes to apps such as Komoot or Strava.
Bike passport: In a bike passport, you can save relevant data about your e-bike, from manufacturer and model to frame number and purchase price. You can even store photos. This information is helpful at the latest if your bike is actually stolen and you have to fill in a theft report for the police.
Theft report: Ideally, you have the mode of sending the digital data from your bike passport plus information on the last location and time as well as the live location of your bike directly from the app of your tracker. This saves valuable time in an emergency.
Get PowUnity’s BikeTrax GPS tracker with the free PowUnity app – with high precision GPS communication, route diary, bike passport, movement detection, customer support section, and a newsfeed area with exciting facts about e-bike protection or success stories on stolen vehicles.
Fleet management for e-bikes
GPS trackers are used by private individuals and by companies that own or use e-bike fleets. These include, for example:
- E-bike leasing and rental companies
- E-bike sharing companies
- Mobility platform providers
- Delivery services
Here, high-quality trackers provide various possibilities for the smart, digital management of an e-bike fleet:
- Theft protection: If you have many expensive e-bikes that are on the road every day and parked in a wide variety of locations, functioning e-bike protection is especially important.
- Fake bookings: Bookings that are not bookings? With an installed tracker, you can recognize such fraud attempts immediately.
- Management and optimization: With a fleet management platform (see next point), you can keep track of bikes and routes – an ideal prerequisite for improving your services, optimizing processes step by step, and saving costs.
To benefit from all these assets, the IoT GPS tracker must have some key functions and settings.
Smart fleet management with an IoT GPS tracker from PowUnity
What individual e-bikers want, from theft protection to seamless route recording, is also essential for companies specializing in e-bike fleet offerings, starting with protection.However, the following additional features are key for e-bike fleets.
- Depending on your own needs and requirements, the tracking software must provide an overview of up to 100 or even 1000 e-bikes, even across national borders.
- The system should integrate seamlessly with your own existing systems and workflows, preferably in such a way that you can view and manage all information in one place. That way, you have one control center and do not have to jump back and forth between different programs.
- If your company has its own app, including branding, you will probably want to continue using that app in conjunction with the IoT GPS tracker. Integration of the tracking system should be possible to leave you independent.
The highlight of PowUnity’s BikeTrax tracking system is that the software can be customized for fleet operators and is suitable for any type of fleet management.
Additionally, BikeTrax’s software offers three ways to use it:
Like private users, e-bike fleets can register and store multiple e-bikes using the PowUnity app. This option is well suited for small fleets, for example, hotels that rent out few e-bikes. In this case, the app can be used both on the smartphone and via the desktop (on multiple devices, by multiple users).
Do you want all the BikeTrax features in one app with your own design? In this case, we offer you a co-branded app.
For larger rental services, the PowUnity platform is suitable for fleet management. Here, you have an overview of all your bikes. You can see at a glance which bike is currently activated or deactivated using different colors, and you can track all routes in real-time.In addition, two types of reports can be exported as Excel files:
- Trip report for individual e-bikes:: Contains start and end time, coordinates of start and end-point, duration, length, maximum speed, average speed, and odometer.
- Summary report for all e-bikes: Contains distance, maximum speed, average speed, and odometer.
Finally, fleet operators have the option to connect our trackers to their own systems via an API. This way, you can integrate the tracking into your existing digital booking system, for example, and combine an overview of your bookings with an accurate route record – ideal for avoiding fake bookings and perfecting your digital management.
Find out how the Austria-wide e-bike rental company eBike-Box used the PowUnity platform for a theft recovery of a remarkably clever vacation thief in this success story.
Which option is the ideal solution – app, platform, or interface depends on various factors, for example, the number of vehiclss in the fleet, the business model, or workflows.
IoT systems for e-bikes and fleets – what to consider when it comes to a GPS tracking device
Do you want to benefit from the many key assets of a GPS tracker as a private person or with a company? Pay particular attention to the following features when making your selection:
- Good network coverage: whether LoRaWan or NB-IoT, many low power wide area networks are not available nationwide. But that is precisely what is critical when asset tracking e-bikes. Depending on where you or your customers are traveling, you should not lose connectivity in rural areas in your own country or abroad. The best network coverage is currently provided by the 2G wireless network and in the future LTE-M.
- Real-time tracking: Make sure that real-time monitoring is possible. Only then monitoring your bike’s movement will be possible. And, only then will the police be able to arrange a theft recovery and locate bike thieves who are transporting your e-bike with a vehicle. This detection feature requires either 2G or LTE-M and a transmission interval of 10 seconds.
- Hidden attachment to the bike: To prevent thieves from discovering and removing your tracking equipment at first glance, it must be well hidden on or in the bike.
- Self-assembly: Ideally, you can assemble the device yourself without taking it to a repair shop.
- Long battery life: Accelerometer sensors automatically put trackers’ batteries into standby mode when a bike is not moving. High battery life can be achieved through such sensors. Thanks to an additional built-in battery, good trackers also continue to function if thieves have removed the battery from your e-bike. Also, the additional lithium battery shows its battery status in the smartphone app.
- Modern app: Sending location data via SMS was yesterday’s news. With modern, smart trackers, you can have them displayed via an app. Ideally, the app allows additional functions such as a bike passport and a theft report.
- For companies – API and platform: Companies that use GPS trackers for fleet management benefit from a platform designed for this purpose and/or an API that allows them to easily integrate the IoT GPS tracker into existing systems.
Tip: With or without SIM card? It is best to choose a GPS device with a SIM card ex-works. This way, you avoid unexpected roaming costs. In addition, with ex-works SIM cards, you benefit in most cases from a high precision GPS and good transmission quality and do not need a slot in the device.
You can find more information and tips on choosing a GPS tracker in our article “GPS Tracker Bike: Test 2021 – how to find the best device for you”. Here you can also learn why you can not trust many online tests and how you can recognize a serious comparison of different devices.
Conclusion – the possible applications of an IoT GPS tracker are diverse
The combination of IoT and GPS in modern e-bike trackers brings excellent potential. First and foremost, this starts with effective bike security and theft recovery. But IoT GPS trackers are more than e-bike protection. E-bike fleet operators can use GPS trackers to digitize and optimize their processes, avoiding fake bookings, for example, and viewing all of their e-bikes’ routes at once.
Whether within a city, nationwide, global, or across Europe, you can keep track of your one and only private bike or e-bike fleet at any time with the right GPS system.
The prerequisite for this is that trackers come with the right equipment, from using suitable wireless wide area networks for seamless data transmission without delays to company software solutions for fleet management and an API for smooth integration into existing software.