• Blog:

  • Home
  • Ably News
  • Ably Engineering
  • Developers
  • Industry Trends
  • Hardest Aspects of Realtime Engineering
  • Introducing Ably Asset Tracking - public beta now available

    By: Kieran Kilbride-Singh 4 min read
    Ably Asset Tracking - public beta now available

    Over the past 18 months, as we’ve sheltered at home, the demand for global and last mile logistics, food delivery applications, and urban mobility services has skyrocketed. Realtime location data underpins much of the core value these applications and services provide. It enables delightful user experiences that make hungry end-users happy. Or it can drive back-end optimizations that make logistics operations more efficient and effective - for example, by improving vehicle utilization rate or minimizing time between pickups and deliveries. But it isn’t easy to pull off.

    To help these fast-moving companies focus on what they do best rather than complex cloud infrastructure and mapping specialisms, Ably is launching an asset tracking product in partnership with Mapbox. Ably Asset Tracking is simply the best and fastest way to build delivery apps and logistics services that rely on realtime location data to track any asset.

    The problems with asset tracking today

    Today, to provide a globally-available application underpinned by realtime location data is a complicated affair. It requires building complex distributed systems across multiple cloud services and then testing, managing, and scaling that infrastructure so that it performs to expected standards. This is resource-heavy, time consuming, and downright difficult.

    The difficulties begin right from the get go when collecting location data on an end-user device to send back to the cloud for processing:

    • Raw device location data is noisy and quality can be low. This requires additional processing for location data to be truly useful. You’ll need to build additional logic that sits within your cloud infrastructure that does mapmatching on location data from the device sensor. When the data is matched it can be animated smoothly along the map - with no jumping, skipping, or spinning.
    • Realtime location data requires a persistent connection between device and cloud for low latency, which can negatively impact battery life. A persistent connection is battery-intensive at the best of times. For a driver out on the road for upwards of 8 hours a day battery life is a precious commodity, so your solution needs to be battery-efficient. Unreliable mobile network conditions make this particularly difficult to engineer for.
    • Synchronizing and managing application and device state adds additional engineering complexity. Device location data - or the application state - needs to be persisted in realtime to the cloud and then any changes synchronized to subscribed devices. This introduces various engineering complexities including handling state during reconnections and managing state conflict across clients and regions.
    A typical cloud architecture using AWS services that achieves realtime asset tracking
    A typical cloud architecture using AWS services that achieves realtime asset tracking

    How Ably Asset Tracking helps

    Ably Asset Tracking solves all of the problems outlined above by providing a serverless service that is optimized for asset tracking across last mile logistics, food delivery applications, and urban mobility services.

    Ably Asset Tracking simplifies cloud architecture so Dev & Ops teams can refocus on their core product engineering
    Ably Asset Tracking simplifies cloud architecture so Dev & Ops teams can refocus on their core product engineering

    Location data is cleaned right on the sensor device using the latest technology from Mapbox, with no additional processing required. All realtime networking, connection, and cloud infrastructure problems are handled by Ably’s battle-tested realtime communication platform. There’s no infrastructure to provision or manage - just simple yet powerful and versatile SDKs that let you quickly add realtime asset tracking with a few lines of code.

    On the mapping side of things, Mapbox’s Enhanced Location Engine provides high position accuracy, with low latency, so that the driver’s location on the map stays in sync with the vehicle’s actual location. It does so by continually filtering and processing GPS signals and even extrapolates a driver’s current location when GPS signals are unavailable using dead reckoning algorithms, to avoid data interruptions.

    For all realtime networking, out-of-the-box you benefit from Ably’s massively scalable global edge network, unique data ordering and delivery guarantees that ensure seamless end-user experiences, legitimate 99.999% uptime SLAs thanks to our fault tolerant infrastructure, and integrations and plugins that make it easy to connect Ably Asset Tracking to any existing infrastructure or systems you’re already building with.

    If you’re interested in learning more about why we’ve built Ably Asset Tracking and partnered with Mapbox to do so, check out Mapbox’s asset tracking blog post.

    Get started with Ably Asset Tracking

    As of today we’re releasing Ably Asset Tracking in a public beta. Right now we have SDKs targeting Android, iOS, and web. To get started sign up for your free Ably account and head over to GitHub:

    If you want to learn more about Ably Asset Tracking or have any questions, read the docs or get in touch with us.

    Kieran Kilbride-Singh

    Kieran Kilbride-Singh

    Product Marketer with enough technical knowledge to be dangerous in a GitHub repo. I've been in tech my entire professional life, first flexing my fingers on topics like IoT device interoperability.

    Read More of Ably News