With free data roaming in Europe (hopefully this will continue) this is now a genuine viable alternative to expensive Satellite tracking device contracts. Using an App called Bubbler for Android phones or SWConnect for Apple, combined with the Spotwalla website along with your phone provides a low battery drain option for simple tracking.
With cheap no contract SIMS from the likes of GiffGaff and most supermarkets it’s even very possible to use an old phone running as a separate tracking device away from your main phone.
First register and set up a free personal account at Spotwalla, https://spotwalla.com/login.php
- Log into your SpotWalla account and click your username in the upper right corner of the window and choose Devices from the menu. This will take you to your devices page.
- You will be creating a device (your phone), click the New Device button and select Bubbler GPS or SWConnec IOS from the Device drop down list dependent on your phone type.
- Enter a description for this device. This text will appear in your device list as well as any other place where a device description is displayed. if you intend to use this on a group tracking page in future it would be more useful if it identified you in a way you would like to appear on a public list/map. I.E your name or nickname
- Select your timezone generally UK/Europe
Unless you have a Spot tracker as well it’s very likely you want this device to be the default device, click the control until Yes is displayed
Click the Update button.
The screen now shows you your devices set up list
- Click your device description to bring up a drop down list, and choose Web API from the menu. This will display the Web API Settings and Statistics page.
Click the Enabled/Disable Web API Access folder to display its content
As a new device it will not be enabled for Web API Access, you’ll see an red area that states as much and an Enable button underneath. select this and the device is enabled. (if you ever wish it to be turned off in future , here is where you do it)
- You should now see a long code: The API key in bold red.
- The rest of the setup is accomplished in the phone App; there are many other Spotwalla setup options to explore in future.
Phone App download and setup
- Apple IOS devices: Download the SWConnect App
- Android devices: Download the Bubbler App (Lite or Pro)
link to a help page to set up a bubbler device. https://spotwalla.com/help/devices.php#update-bubbler
- If this is your first time opening Bubbler GPS, or SWConnect you will automatically be sent to the Settings Dashboard where you will see a mixture of Red, Green and Grey lights. You must resolve any Red lights to be able to communicate with SpotWalla.com.
Any other time select Spotwall Login, on Bubbler the 3 dots is the menu access.
- Enter exactly your Spotwalla Account information; Email address and Spotwalla password. Hit SAVE.
- Back to the settings menu and select Spotwalla Device, the second line.
The app now pulls down a list of devices set up in your spotwalla account, as a first timer you should see your phone device name as previously set up. Select this and it should then have a green Light to indicate it is selected and has taken the API code.
- Wait a few moments while your device information is verified by SpotWalla.com, then click the “back” button on your phone to return to the Settings Dashboard. If no red lights appear: you should have at least two green lights for Login and device. Select the “back” button on your phone again to return to the Bubbler home page.
- You now are ready to go. Make sure the GPS on your phone is enabled, and go for a walk or cycle and Bubbler will begin to track your location. The App will report to SpotWalla.com at the set interval but this is not an exact science.
- You must move at least 100 meters from your last track point, for a new track point to be created at the next cycle. In practice it seems good practice to start your days tracking by ensuring you have a GPS signal and selecting the UPDATE NOW button. You can confirm you are good to go by checking the date and time of the last upload shown on screen.
- Note: the App keeps location point data in its memory if you don’t have a data connection, it will upload when one is available. The Bubbler lite only retains 5 data points but for £8 the pro version gives unlimited memory and other functions.
- The App runs in the background and barely uses any extra battery power, if you leave your data connection on at all times. Many long distance travellers turn off their phone data while travelling to extend battery life. In that case the App will collect your location points as normal allowing you to upload then by re-enabling data at any time or if you connect to Wi-fi during a cafe stop.
Joining a Group Location Page
The group Location page organiser will send you a joining link and the password required. Log into your Spotwalla account and follow the link.
- Chose your device to use, which will be your phone as set up above.
- Add a Location ID which is limited to 3 characters, so use your initials.
- Leave the message types enabled as standard (greyed out)
- Hit the JOIN button and you are setup
Note: The tracking page will show a map and the route for the event. Riders tracking Icons will appear with the 3 letter ID initials. When a viewer mouses over your icon they will see whatever you called your device description, so you might want to make that more viewer friendly, “My phone” will just look naff.
NOTE: On the spotwalla main home page there is a dropdown list marked – Active and future location pages, they are in alphabetical order. This list can be useful if you forget the link for setup or to view the page or direct friends. It also is useful to check how you will appear on the display.
Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments, and if you have SWconnect why not add setup details, as I do not have an Iphone to check this.
You will be logged in and there is a link to a help page to set up a bubbler device. https://spotwalla.com/help/devices.php#update-bubbler
Spotwalla personal use tracking pages
If you have come here to set up your phone for an event page you will want to know how Spotwalla can be used for your year round private use.
Spotwalla displays your collected location points on web pages called Trips. This allows you to split up your information so you can show the world your trip for one weekend, but keep other trips private.
- Login back into spotwalla and click your username for the drop down menu and select Trips. handily as a new user there will be a pop up help display with a link to Trip manager, the same link.
- You will have no active trips. Select + New
- Give your trip a name and description, in future you might have many trips a good description is useful. they are stored in year folders for future reference.
- The start and end dates are important, as information received outside these dates will not be shown. For first time testing why not make it 6 months or a year.
- Secure zones should be activated, they are setup elsewhere in Spotwalla. Leave all the settings as default for your first attempt and you will be OK.
- Select your preferred Icon for the map, the default one is motorcyclist. Don’t worry about other stuff until you have become more experienced, you can return and edit a trip at any time.
- Hit the CREATE button at the button to finish the job.
- Your now back on the Trips page.(your name-drop down menu) You now need the link for the public to check out your page. Select your trip and another drop down menu appears.
- Select TripLinks and you will have the required URL links to share, don’t forget to note this for yourself. Send a link to your phone to put on your screen to check your tracking is working during your ride. The top link will show only the past days location points, the lower link is better as it shows viewers every location for the whole trip.
- You can also select view trip this will show you the page the public will see, (except they wont have your admin links displayed) originally it will have no data on. It will automatically zoom in when there is data. You can check your tracking here anytime in future and modify things.
- Now go and ride to generate some data points to check it all out.
Adding a Track graphic to your Trip page
To add some Colour to your Trip page you can add a Track overlay. this can show viewers where you intend to ride and points of interest with information can also be configured. To do this you need a google KML file but dont panic there is a way to convert the more normally used GPX format to KML.
- Create your GPX track using the tool of your choice, add any points of interest as waypoints.
- Convert the GPX track to a KML file using the following free tool. https://gpx2kml.com/
- Log in to Spotwalla and click on your name and choose Tracks from the list
- Click the create a track or +new button
- Add a name and description which may help you in future and then Next
- KML files are the default type, click Next
- Choose file and browse to your file location, the hit FINISH and your track should be uploaded. Note there may be a problem with very large files and it might be necessary to filter the amount of points down to a smaller value, or split it into sections and load them that way. When successful you will get a green link button to My tracks
- Now your track can be added to a new or existing Trip page. Go to your Trips setup area, select the Trip and click Update. At the bottom of the page there is a section Track Overlays. Here you can select any or multiple of your tracks to show on a trip page. Update to complete
- Not sure what your track is, or just want to view it; select the Track and from the drop down list hit On a map
Advanced Track graphic Help
It is possible to set up a Track graphic to show multiple routes, or sections of one route in different colours, and to add points of interest for locations. One way to do this is to use GPXEditor.
- Instructions to follow
Phone Battery and Data Usage Stats
Above are two phone screenshots after using my phone to track two days of riding for 300 miles (480Km). Bubbler GPS Lite was running and connected full time tracking me for 18.5 hours. During this time it only used 3% of the battery and needed 1MB of data to update the tracking page.
The tracking provided on my personal Trip page is shown below. the orange dots are the position updates, the logos are custom update markers which can be used to show food, sleep stops, etc. The Red box is just a personal note involved with this lark.
A friend involved with the Dales divide race wrote this handy info which might help IPhone users set up their phone. View here