You’ve made the plans and prepped your bike for a cross-country adventure. What can you do to ensure your bike is safe and loved ones know where you are? A technology company from Gainesville, Florida, has a solution.

Scout GPS tracker
Paired with a smartphone, the Scout GPS tracker is a handy travel tool for riders.Henri Boulanger

Scout is the first location tracker to offer Bluetooth, GPS, cellular, vibration sensing with an integrated accelerometer and magnetometer for speed and impact detection in a small (2.5 x 1.7 x 0.55 inches), lightweight (1.23 ounces) device. Scout also has embedded Bluetooth Low Energy that features proximity sensing for “virtual tethering.” Loved ones can see where you are in real time. Riders can create and save custom alert zones to specify areas where you want (or do not want) your Scout to be. You can also receive immediate notifications if your Scout leaves a set zone.

Scout transmits to your smartphone or tablet via an embedded cellular radio connected to a nationwide network, using cell towers and server-generated data to estimate position and ensure fast start-up when a GPS signal is weak or inaccessible. Desktop and laptop users can track the route.

The simple Scout platform allows the rider to set safe zones, alert zones, speed limits, and battery alerts; by adjusting the reporting rate, the battery can last from three days in constant reporting mode to three weeks in standby mode. Scout is charged via a USB connection to a computer, or using the included wall charger. Another option is to hardwire the unit to the vehicle’s battery.

There’s no cost for downloading the Scout app, which is compatible with smartphones iOS 7 or higher and Android 4.0 or higher, and is also ad-free. Our stealth black motorcycle Scout tracker cost $99, with a monthly subscription of $14.99.

Scout GPS tracker
The Scout GPS tracker is ideal for long-distance adventures.Courtesy of Scout

On the first day of our Westward Ho! adventure, I spoke with Scout co-founder and CMO James Davis about the company, its people, and its technology.

Tell me about the genesis for Scout, and the journey you've taken to bring it to market.

It's actually been a pretty long road. Our CTO, Glenn Zelniker, worked with our CEO, Richard Allen, years ago at a company called Sabine here in Gainesville. Anyone who's been playing guitar for any amount of time knows the name Sabine for their world-class guitar tuners. Glenn was the fresh out of college, a Ph.D. wunderkind designing those tuners, and Richard was the CFO. This was 30 years ago.

They eventually parted ways but ran into each other about four years ago. Glenn had been running his own boutique electronic design shop where he built everything from sound mixing boards for just about every big name in music to doing custom prototype work for Ford and Toyota. During this time he had been paying close attention to emerging technologies and saw the potential for high-powered personal GPS trackers as technology was becoming more advanced, smaller, and affordable. Glenn pitched the idea to Richard—who coincidentally had since started three companies and taken them public—so he's an experienced entrepreneur.

They decided to raise a little money and make a go of it. Richard and I had worked together at one of my startups several years ago where I was the CMO and he was board chairman. We ran into each other one morning at the gym where he filled me in on what he and Glenn were working on. He said, “We should have it ready to go in about six months and we could use your expertise to get it to market.”

We stayed in regular contact but the team who now consisted of Glenn, Richard, and now Mark Tanner realized the easy part was designing and building the device. The trick was getting it to work. Each component on the board has its own firmware to which we had to write our own firmware to make all the components cooperate and do their jobs in symphony.

Long story short, the product we launched at Daytona Bike Week 2017 took more than three years and about $2 million in R&D to develop. Once we had the first version out, improvements have been constantly added at a dizzying speed and we're now on our fifth revision of the circuit board and now have an operating system that is rock solid and can be updated over the air anytime just like your cellphone.

How big is your team?

We're a pretty lean company. Glenn closed his company last year and brought his whole team officially to Scout. He and his engineers have been working together at Glenn's company for more than 15 years so we don't need a bunch of engineers; these guys are smart and super experienced to boot. That said, we have a team of 12 here in-house and have a few app developers who work remotely.

We do everything in-house and source all of our components here in the US. We have our own engineers, developers, database architect, sales people, customer service reps, etc., all under one roof. We get our circuit boards manufactured just south of us in Orlando, get our housings manufactured in Ohio, and get our packaging from a supplier in Tampa; Scout is truly made in the US.

What are the Scout's benefits for motorcyclists? Explain its custom alert zone feature.

The benefits vary depending on how you use it. My bike has a Scout on it and it's sitting in my garage with the vibration alert turned on and a “geofence” around my house. If I get a movement alert, it's usually the cat or one of the kiddos getting something off a shelf next to it. However, if I get a movement alert and then a zone exit alert, we have a problem. It's never happened, but if it did, I could pull out my phone and track the bike in real time literally anywhere in the world.

Scout's universal design means it can be used with any type of motorcycle or ATV, so it's great for trips where your bike is going to be parked outside a roadside motel overnight or for the family dirt bike outing where you need to be able to find anyone who gets separated from the group.

How can travelers like Henri and me benefit most from using Scout on our cross-country trip?

As I mentioned earlier, it's great for travelers who have to leave their bike overnight outside the hotel, in a parking garage, or in a random parking lot. You can arm the Scout and draw a custom “geofence” around the parking area all from your smartphone. If anyone tampers with your bike, you'll get an alert within three seconds. You can either catch the crooks in the act or track your stolen bike anywhere they might take it.

Another thing to consider is peace of mind for the person back at home who wants to make sure you're okay. You can give anyone who wants to follow your trip access to your account. They can watch you as you cross the country right from their smartphone or desktop browser.

How does Scout do what it does?

Magic! At least that's how it seems sometimes. Scout uses a combination of the latest cell technology, GPS, an accelerometer, a vibration sensor, and Bluetooth. All of these systems work in unison to help Scout give precise location and tracking anywhere in the world. In a nutshell, Scout locates itself through the GPS satellite system and then relays that location through the nearest cell tower (any cell tower regardless of provider) which in turn sends the data to our servers so we can push it through to the apps.

Track our Westward Ho! adventure progress here.

  • Bluetooth, GPS, cellular, vibration sensing with an integrated accelerometer and magnetometer for speed and impact detection
  • Rechargeable with USB and wall charger (included) or hardwired to bike
  • Compatible with iOS 7 or higher and Android 4.0 or higher
  • Monthly subscription rate is $14.99; no contract or hidden fees
  • 2.5 x 1.7 x 0.55 in.
  • 1.23 oz.