Spot Trace - Install & Thoughts

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it all started with the scorpio ride. i discovered it some months ago, and really wanted it. i just had trouble justifying the price to my self. recently i got the bug again, and started looking in to making the purchase. last minute before i pulled the trigger i stumbled upon the Spot Trace.

Spot is a company that makes GPS devices for adventurers. they have 2 main devices that are more of the life saving sort. one is a global gps phone, and the other is a gps device that lets you press a button to alert for help. well this new device, the trace, is similar to the scorpio ride. it documents where your bike goes, and alerts you if your bike starts moving.

the spot trace was over  $100 less then the scorpio ride, and they both have a similar monthly fee of $10 a month. the deciding factor was that i found a huge rebate for the spot trace, effectively making the hardware free, but i would still need to pay for a year of service up front. at the end, i paid $100 for a year of service but got the device free.

I’m going to compare the trace to the ride a bit, even though i don’t have the ride, and have never used one. this is based on my experience with the spot trace vs what I’ve read about the scorpio ride.

the trace was super easy to install if you just go with battery power, which i did. i read that the batteries could last up to 6 months at a time. I’m ok with pulling it out every 6 months or so to swap the batteries. if it were every 2-3 months i would consider hard wiring it to the power, but if i could avoid splicing wires i will. the trace comes with a mounting clip, double side tape, double stick velcro, mounting screws among others. i ended up using my own 3M dual lock tape as its much stronger then what they provide. i initially placed it under my seat, but i found the reception to be unreliable there. it would only pick up half the time. i moved the trace to my fake tank area, not far from the handle bars, and so far its reading much much better.

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from what I’ve read about the scorpio ride, it requires hard wiring, but does have some sort of battery capacity. i think the battery is for short term power in between rides. it also has a main unit, and an outboard gps receiver. a more complicated install, thats for sure, but looks like a solid device that was well thought out. i should also note that the ride is more expandable, allowing you to add an alarm system, key fob to disarm, and tire sensor monitors.

setting up the trace was easy too, you go online, create an account, enter in the hardware ID, and answer a few questions about how you want it setup. then you download the mac or pc software, and upload the settings to the trace. that part was quick and easy.

i set it up so i get an email every night telling me the system is working, and to text me every time the bike starts moving again. i also set it to upload every 5 minutes via gps while the bike is moving.

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they both have apps, the ride app looks a lot more polished from the photos but i can’t tell since I’m only looking at the photos. the trace app is good, but could be tremendously better.

the ride app shows you the route you took for the day, with a nice path drawn on a map. it lets you add photos and notes to trips. you get notifications if your bikes moves outside of a specific area, or if your bike senses movement at all.

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the trace app lets you set how often the trace communicates to the cloud, ranging from 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and so on. the 1 minute interval costs double per year, where the 5 minutes and up are all part of the standard plan. so i have it communicating at 5 minutes. what i thought was that the trace would upload info every 5 mintutes, but thats not the case, it only sends its current location to the cloud every 5 minutes. it does not send any history with it, there is no offline data being stored and sent up. so looking at a map after a day of riding, you have a bunch of dots on a map showing your general path. you can make out where you went, but its not as full featured as the scorpio ride.

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the good:

  • i know where my bike is at all times
  • i get an email every night at 6:00pm telling me the trace is working, and telling me where my bike is
  • it was a low cost solution
  • really easy to install, just some dual lock tape

the bad:

  • i wish it uploaded offline info to the servers every 5 minutes, giving me a full TRACE of my journey
  • i wish it were more journey oriented, and less GPS location oriented. show me my trips and adventures instead of just showing gps location points on a map.
  • the app could really benefit from push notifications instead of relying on text messages and emails
  • the text messages it sends come from a different phone number every time i start riding, which makes my messages app a mess. it would be easier if they all came from the same number. EDIT: I changed this to email me when there is movement instead of text. It just got too annoying.

there a few more features that the scorpio ride has that i wish the trace had, some not even mentioned here. the bottom line though, for the price, even without rebate, its hard to complain. its more expensive then a disc lock, but it does way more. if my bike gets stolen, i have a great chance of recovering it quickly. i also get a good overview of my rides. I’m hoping future firmware updates and software updates make this device better. it is a relatively new device, so lets give it some time. as of now, I’m happy, but hoping for more. Update 1: batteries ran out after about 2.5 months on the 5 minute setting. Bottom line this device is to track an asset only. It is not to enjoy or enhance your adventures. In terms of tracking I wish it had a real motion sensor that woke it up and instantly sent out a notification. 5 minutes is too long if it's getting stolen.

Update 2: I spoke to spot at the NYC Moto Show ('14), and they told me they do not plan to add any features to this product. They are "not a software company" and they are spending their time upgrading satellites and coming out with new products. So take this product as it is, just a way to add some monitoring to your bike, without any of the fun.

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