Low-Power GPS Tracker Targets Global Shipping

Article By : Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio

A thin tracking device unveiled during CES 2022 uses geolocation technology augmented by low power consumption to extend battery life.

Nestwave is collaborating with Samea Innovation to create ThinTrack, a thin, reusable logistics tracker with a multi-year battery life. Unveiled at CES 2022, ThinTrack uses Nestwave’s geolocation technology to reduce power consumption and extend battery life. Nestwave received development support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program.

In an interview, Nestwave CEO Ambroise Popper stressed that cost, battery life and the need for dedicated hardware remain market limitations for conventional positioning platforms. Nestwave’s goal is to provide positioning solutions for Internet of Things nodes. Compared to conventional hardware-based designs, Nestwave’s seeks to reduce component count, thereby reducing bill-of-materials costs while extending battery life. Nestwave’s proprietary technology is also billed as expanding geolocation to more applications. Reduced power consumption via fewer components also contributes to environmental sustainability and a reduced carbon footprint. Popper said.

Positioning is often provided by a modem chip used for cellular network access, a GPS chip for high accuracy in outdoor settings and a Wi-Fi chip for inside location in smartphones and watches. However, components such as GPS ICs are power-hungry. Unlike rechargeable consumer devices, that approach does not work for IoT devices intended to function for extended periods without a battery charge or swap out.

Nestwave’s platform adds positioning functionality to existing cellular IoT chipsets by implementing a GPS receiver as software IP. NestCore IP allows a very short time-to-first-fix, enabling much lower power consumption without compromising sensitivity or accuracy. The IP uses the modem chip’s existing radio and computing capabilities, eliminating the need for an external GPS/GNSS chipset, and the software is compatible with existing devices, meaning implementation requires no system redesign.

Ambroise Popper

The embedded IP uses local device resources to extract timing and distance information from satellites, 4G/5G base stations and Wi-Fi access points. Unlike traditional device approaches, there is no need to download large databases. The processed information is then sent to the cloud as a very short message. Nestwave’s NestCloud combines this information with assistance data to determine actual location.

The ThinTrack GPS tracker combines an LTE-M/NB-IoT modem, antenna, battery, SIM, sensors, and other electronics into a device that measures 82 by 35 by 3 mm and weighs 15 g. Applications include monitoring shipments and messages, where precise location was previously impossible. The tracker does not require a separate GPS chipset since Nestwave GPS information is implemented in software rather than hardware. Reduced parts count and resulting low-power operation provides multi-year operation from a single small battery, the company claims.

Nestwave’s NestCore IP has been combined with Samea’s expertise in integrating radio functions into space-constrained designs. Once the tracker is activated, the unique identity of each item is read using a secure NFC smartphone app. “Imagine DHL packages, FedEx, you just need this little 15g device inside the envelope, or attach it, and thus offer tracking capability, Popper said. “We believe this can open up a lot of new business possibilities with these companies.”


Nestwave’s architecture (Source: Nestwave)


ThinTrack (Source: Nestwave)

“The battery takes up most of the size of the design,” he added. “We chose a super-flat and compact battery.” The reason was “we wanted to be able to fit into the FedEx-type envelope. That’s why we decided on a very slim form factor. For other applications, like monitoring, maybe we could have something much smaller in terms of height.”

Hence, ThinTrack is being targeted at the global logistics industry. Inserting the thin, waterproof device into envelopes or plastic bags used for shipping documentation makes it possible to accurately track individual packages and letters. Another potential application is preventing the theft of luggage and industrial tool shipments.

This article was originally published on EE Times.

Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio holds a Ph.D. in Physics and is a telecommunication engineer and journalist. He has worked on various international projects in the field of gravitational wave research. He collaborates with research institutions to design data acquisition and control systems for space applications. He is the author of several books published by Springer, as well as numerous scientific and technical publications on electronics design.


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