All Case Studies

SpotOn: Hardware and Software Collaboration


  • Technical Architecture

  • UI/UX Design

  • Development

  • Product Strategy


  • React Native

  • Ruby on Rails

  • Bluetooth

  • Cellular and Websockets

Groundbreaking technology, in need of the right software

Founded by experts in virtual fence technology for the military, SpotOn’s collar allows dog owners to create wireless GPS fences over large property areas with ground-breaking accuracy. When the company launched in 2019, they quickly gained attention and praise, winning innovation awards in 2020 from SXSW, CES, Forbes and others.

Customers loved the collar and its powerful fence capabilities. However, SpotOn’s companion mobile app received low marks from users. As SpotOn set out to build the next generation of the collar, they knew that in order to provide the user experience they wanted, they'd also need to rebuild the app and backend platform from the ground up.

SpotOn went in search of the right software partner to do just that. Later that year, we began working with them to design and build a new React Native app powered by a robust Ruby on Rails backend.

A true agile partnership

While SpotOn built out the new collar and firmware, we partnered with them in an agile cross-team methodology to build the app and the backend architecture simultaneously.

Notably, in the new collar, SpotOn sought to move most of the physical controls from the collar into the app, giving users (and their dogs) a more independent and rewarding experience. However, this choice set the bar even higher for seamless communication between the app, backend, and collar. Meanwhile, the hardware prototypes would not be ready for many months.

To overcome this, our engineering team built a powerful emulator that simulated the behaviors of the collar. That way, we could collectively test and develop the major Bluetooth interactions before the first physical prototypes of the collar were produced. Key to the whole process was the close work between Product, UX, and engineering to make heavy and complex tasks like quickly rendering 1,000 acres fences work in a quick and performant way.

Picking the right partner makes all the difference. In our partnership with Whitespectre, each team's expertise perfectly complement the other. The linkages between SpotOn and Whitespectre teams are so strong that I feel we're in the same company, and I don't say that lightly.

What's especially impressive is how everyone is highly engaged and interested in doing the right thing - their intellectual curiosity makes them care about how each thing works and constantly ask themselves why. Why are we doing things this way? What's the context? What are the consumers’ insights? This all results in a customer-focused mindset throughout the team that leads us to make the right choices in product, design, and engineering. It's an excellent relationship, and I'm really happy with it.”

Ken BazydolaHead of Product, SpotOn

Ensuring connectivity when it’s most challenging

The collar was conceived to be used on vast land extensions where cellular coverage is unreliable and under thick forests where satellite reception can be minimal. These two factors, added to the low-range constraints of Bluetooth technology, drove our team to guarantee a stable connection at all times.

The constant flow of data interaction between the collar, the backend, and the app goes unnoticed by the users, thanks to a performant keep-alive process across the three channels and sharp UX flows.

In this way, if the connection is lost on either Bluetooth, the collar’s WebSocket, or the REST API, the other channels keep providing updates while re-connnection mechanisms are constantly triggered.

Mastering unique UI/UX and product challenges

The SpotOn user experience requires a number of complex data interactions that need to be reflected back to the user in a way that’s clear, engaging, and simple.

These include features like enabling the user to see the fence being built on the app as they walk a perimeter, maps with dynamic zooming and live breadcrumbs, and real-time tracking features.

These challenges all required deep design thinking, close collaboration and comprehensive user testing and iteration. Whitespectre and SpotOn moved in fast iteration cycles, with SpotOn funneling back the results of live field testing (literally dogs on a field) to the team who then optimized the UI/UX and did troubleshooting on technical issues that could impact it. Together, we created a first-class experience for SpotOn’s next generation users.

Collaborative success beyond the app

In parallel to the app and platform work, the Whitespectre team worked with SpotOn to redesign key pages of their e-commerce site and significantly improve the value prop marketing and subscription purchase experience - both through UI/UX and integration with backend platform. Fixing this previous disconnect resulted in a successful pre-sale campaign with dramatic improvements for subscription conversions.

The results: High ratings, happy pets, and hassle-free owners

As the second generation of the collar began shipping out to customers in the spring of 2022, the SpotOn app was launched to great reviews - receiving a 4.9-star rating on the Apple App Store and a 4.5-star rating on the Google Play Store, with one user review saying, “... You guys did yourselves out with this new app. Much more user friendly and very reliable. I love the look and feel of how it works. Intuitive and works well with my phone. So much easier to set up fences and see where your dog is. I couldn’t be happier. Thank you!”.

The overall outcome of this successful, ongoing partnership between Whitespectre and SpotOn has been a light, performant and stable application and platform, powering state-of-the-art GPS technology. Today, SpotOn's customers can rest easy while their pets run freely and unleashed.

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