SparkFun GPS Breakout (ZOE-M8Q and SAM-M8Q) Hookup Guide

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Contributors: Elias The Sparkiest
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Introduction

The SparkFun ZOE-M8Q and SAM-M8Q are two similarly powerful GPS units but with different project applications. They both have a 2.5m horizontal accuracy!

SparkFun GPS Breakout - ZOE-M8Q (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS Breakout - ZOE-M8Q (Qwiic)

GPS-15193
$44.95
SparkFun GPS Breakout - Chip Antenna, SAM-M8Q (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS Breakout - Chip Antenna, SAM-M8Q (Qwiic)

GPS-15210
$39.95

Required Materials

To follow along with this tutorial, you will need the following materials. You may not need everything though depending on what you have. Add it to your cart, read through the guide, and adjust the cart as necessary.

SparkFun RedBoard Qwiic

SparkFun RedBoard Qwiic

DEV-15123
$19.95
Qwiic Cable - 100mm

Qwiic Cable - 100mm

PRT-14427
$1.50
Molex Flexible GNSS Antenna - U.FL (Adhesive)

Molex Flexible GNSS Antenna - U.FL (Adhesive)

GPS-15246
$3.95

Additional GPS Antenna Options

Below are some other GPS Antenna options. Some of the options below have an SMA connector, so make sure to get the u.FL to SMA cable if you decide to use those. Link for that is below in the GPS accessories. If you want to try different chip antennas, then try the GNSS Antenna Evalutation Board listed below and make sure to get the u.FL to u.FL connector in the accessories.

SparkFun GNSS Chip Antenna Evaluation Board

SparkFun GNSS Chip Antenna Evaluation Board

GPS-15247
$24.95
GPS/GNSS Magnetic Mount Antenna - 3m (SMA)

GPS/GNSS Magnetic Mount Antenna - 3m (SMA)

GPS-14986
$12.95
1
GPS/GNSS Embedded Antenna - 1m (SMA)

GPS/GNSS Embedded Antenna - 1m (SMA)

GPS-14987
$59.95
GPS 3V Magnetic Mount Antenna SMA - 5m

GPS 3V Magnetic Mount Antenna SMA - 5m

GPS-00464
$12.95
3
GPS Embedded Antenna SMA

GPS Embedded Antenna SMA

GPS-00177
$11.95

GPS Antenna Accessories

Interface Cable SMA to U.FL

Interface Cable SMA to U.FL

WRL-09145
$4.95
3
GPS Antenna Ground Plate

GPS Antenna Ground Plate

GPS-15004
$4.95
U.FL to U.FL Mini Coax Cable - 200mm

U.FL to U.FL Mini Coax Cable - 200mm

WRL-15114
$1.95

Other Qwiic Cable Accessories

SparkFun Qwiic Cable Kit

SparkFun Qwiic Cable Kit

KIT-15081
$7.95
1
Qwiic Cable - 100mm

Qwiic Cable - 100mm

PRT-14427
$1.50
Qwiic Cable - 200mm

Qwiic Cable - 200mm

PRT-14428
$1.50
Qwiic Cable - 50mm

Qwiic Cable - 50mm

PRT-14426
$0.95

Suggested Reading

If you aren't familiar with the Qwiic system, we recommend reading here for an overview.

Qwiic Connect System
Qwiic Connect System

We would also recommend taking a look at the following tutorials if you aren't familiar with them.

GPS Basics

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is an engineering marvel that we all have access to for a relatively low cost and no subscription fee. With the correct hardware and minimal effort, you can determine your position and time almost anywhere on the globe.

Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI)

SPI is commonly used to connect microcontrollers to peripherals such as sensors, shift registers, and SD cards.

I2C

An introduction to I2C, one of the main embedded communications protocols in use today.

How to Work with Jumper Pads and PCB Traces

Handling PCB jumper pads and traces is an essential skill. Learn how to cut a PCB trace, add a solder jumper between pads to reroute connections, and repair a trace with the green wire method if a trace is damaged.

Getting Started with U-Center

Learn the tips and tricks to use the u-blox software tool to configure your GPS receiver.

Three Quick Tips About Using U.FL

Quick tips regarding how to connect, protect, and disconnect U.FL connectors.

SparkFun ZOE-M8Q Hardware Overview

Power

Power for this board should be 3.3V. There is a 3.3V pin on the PTH header along the side of the board, but you can also provide power through the Qwiic connector.

Battery

The small metal disk opposite of the Qwiic connector is a small lithium battery. This battery does not provide power to the IC like the 3.3V system does, but to relevant systems inside the IC that allow for a quick reconnection to satellites. The time to first fix will about ~29 seconds, but after the product has a lock, that battery will allow for a one second time to first fix. This is known as a hot start and lasts for four hours after the board is powered down. The battery provides over a years worth of power to the backup system and charges slowly when the board is powered.

This is a picture highlighting the battery opposite the large Qwiic connector.

LEDs

There's a single red power LED just above the Qwiic connector to indicate that the board is powered.

Pictured is the RED LED just next to the large Qwiic connector that lights up when the product is powered.

Jumpers

There are three jumpers on the underside of the product, each labeled with its function. The first in the top left of the picture is a three way jumper labeled I²C that connects two pull-up resistors to the I2C data lines. If you have many devices on your I2C data lines, then you may consider cutting these. To the right of that jumper at the very edge of the board is the LED jumper. If you cut this trace it will disconnect the Power LED on the topside of the board. Finally, at the lower left is the SPI jumper that when closed enables SPI communication. The board defaults to I2C and Serial so close that if you'd rather get your NMEA data over SPI.

This is a picture of the underside of the product with the three jumpers highlighted.

U.FL Connector

The U.FL connector on the board is where you will plug in your antenna. This is a compact connector for RF antennas, that has the same function as the traditional SMA connector. You may be more familiar and even own some antennas that use SMA connectors; never fear, we carry a U.FL to SMA cable adapter. Check out our tutorial on using U.FL connectors, if this be your first.

Pictured is the small u.FL connector that is just right of the IC when the Qwiic connector is facing up.

FTDI Header

At the bottom of the board we have the traditional pinout for an FTDI header. Make sure that the FTDI that you use is 3.3V and not 5V!

This is a picture of the FTDI header on the left side of the board when the Qwiic connector is facing up. The top six pins can mate with an FTDI.

Qwiic and I2C

Next to the FTDI header at the bottom of the board. There are two pins labeled SDA and SCL which indicates the I2C data lines. Similarly you can just use the Qwiic connector on the left side of the picture. The Qwiic ecosystem is made for fast prototyping by removing the need for soldering. All you need to do is plug a Qwiic cable into the Qwiic connector and voila!

Pictured is the ZOE with the large Qwiic connector at the top highlighted and the lower two I2C through holes at the bottom left highlighted.

SPI Header

This sets the ZOE-M8Q apart from the SAM-M8Q. On the underside of the product as mentioned above, is a jumper that can be closed to allow for SPI communication. The header is labeled for the pinout for SPI.

This picture highlights the longer through hole header from the underside which is labeled with "SPI".

Broken Out Pins

There are four other pins broken out: Pulse per second PPS, Reset RST, Safeboot SAFE, and finally the interrupt pin INT. The first pin PPS outputs pulse trains syncronized with the GPS or UTC time grid. The signal defaults to once per second but is configurable over a wide range. Read the u-blox Receiver Protocol Specification in the Resources tab for more information. The reset pin resets the chip. The next pin, SAFE is used to start up the IC in safe boot mode. The final pin INT can be used to wake the chip from power save mode.

This picture highlights the smaller header of four through holes that are various broken out function pins from the chip.

GPS Capabilities

The ZOE-M8 is able to connect to up to three different GNSS constellations at a time making it very accurate for it's size. Below are the listed capabilities of the GPS unit.

GNSS GPS and GLONASS GPS GLONASS BeiDou Galileo
Horizontal Position Accuracy 2.5m2.5m4m3m---
Max Navigation Update Rate ROM 10Hz 18Hz 18Hz 18Hz 18Hz
Flash 5Hz 10Hz 10Hz 10Hz 10Hz
Time-To-First-Fix Cold Start 26s 29s 30s 34s 45s
Hot Start 1s 1s 1s 1s 1s
SensitivityTracking and Navigation -167dBm -166dBm -166dBm -160dBm -159dBm
Reacquisition -160dBm -160dBm -156dBm -157dBm -153dBm
Cold Start-148dBm -148dBm -145dBm -143dBm -138dBm
Hot Start -157dBm -157dBm -156dBm -155dBm -151dBm
Velocity Accuracy 0.05m/s
Heading Accuracy 0.3 degrees

SparkFun SAM-M8Q Hardware Overview

Power

Power for this board is 3.3V. There is a 3.3V pin on the PTH header along the side of the board, but you can also provide power through the Qwiic connector.

Battery

The small metal disk in the upper left corner is a small lithium battery. This battery does not provide power to the IC like the 3.3V system does, but to relevant systems inside the IC that allow for a quick reconnection to satellites. The time to first fix will about ~29 seconds, but after it has a lock, that battery will allow for a one second time to first fix. This is known as a hot start and lasts for four hours after the board is powered down. The battery provides over a years worth of power to the backup system and charges slowly when the board is powered.

Pictured is the small battery on the upper left side of the board, if the board is oriented with the two Qwiic connectors on the sides.

LEDs

There's a single red power LED just above the Qwiic connector to indicate that the board is powered. There is another LED labeled PPS that is connected to the Pulse Per Second line on the GPS chip. When connected to a satellite, this line generates a pulse that is synchronized with a GPS or UTC time grid. By default, you'll see one pulse a second.

Pictured is the power LED on the right side just above one of the Qwiic connectors and the PPS LED on the left side of the board just below the other Qwiic connector.

Jumpers

There are three jumpers on the topside of the product, each labeled with its' function. At the bottom right of the picture is a three way jumper labeled I²C that connects two pull-up resistors to the I2C data lines. If you have many devices on your I2C data lines, then you may consider cutting these. Just above that jumper is the JP2 jumper. If you cut this trace it will disconnect the Power LED just above the Qwiic connector. Finally, on the left side of the product is the JP1 jumper that when cut disconnects the PPS LED.

This picture highlights two jumpers, one on the right labeled "JP1" and another on the left named "JP2". Orientation is Qwiic connectors on a horizontal plane.

Chip Antenna

This GPS unit at the center of the PCB may look a bit funky to you. In fact you may be thinking, "Wow, that looks suspiciously like a GNSS Antenna....". That's very astute dear hookup guide peruser. This GPS IC is actually built into the antenna giving you an all-in-one GPS solution.

This picture highlights the large chip at the center of the board that is a large GNSS chip antenna.

FTDI Header

At the top of the board, we have the traditional pinout for an FTDI header. Make sure that the FTDI that you use is 3.3V and not 5V!

This picture highlights the FTDI header at the top of the board that mates directly with any standart FTDI pinout.

Qwiic and I2C

At the opposite side of the board. There are two pins labeled SDA and SCL which indicates the I2C data lines. Similarly, you can use either of the Qwiic connectors to provide power and utilize I2C. The Qwiic ecosystem is made for fast prototyping by removing the need for soldering. All you need to do is plug a Qwiic cable into the Qwiic connector and voila!

This picture highlights the two Qwiic connectors and the I2C header at the bottom of the board. The four lower right through holes are the I2C pins. Orientation of the board is the two Qwiic connectors on a horizontal plane with the battery at the top left.

Broken Out Pins

There are four other pins broken out: Pulse per second PPS, Reset RST, Safeboot SAFE, and finally the interrupt pin INT. The first pin PPS outputs pulse trains syncronized with the GPS or UTC time grid. The signal defaults to once per second but is configurable over a wide range. Read the u-blox Receiver Protocol Specification in the Resources tab for more information. The reset pin resets the chip. The next pin, SAFE is used to start up the IC in safe boot mode. The final pin INT can be used to wake the chip from power save mode.

This picture highlights the other through holes on the lower left of the board that breaks out functional pins of the GPS unit.

GPS Capabilities

The SAM-M8 is able to connect to up to three different GNSS constellations at a time making it very accurate for its' size. Below are the listed capabilities of the GPS unit.

GNSS GPS and GLONASS GPS GLONASS Galileo
Horizontal Position Accuracy 2.5m2.5m8m---
Max Navigation Update Rate ROM 10Hz 18Hz 18Hz 18Hz
Time-To-First-Fix Cold Start 26s 29s 30s ---
Hot Start 1s 1s 1s ---
SensitivityTracking and Navigation -165dBm -164dBm -164dBm -157dBm
Reacquisition -158dBm -158dBm -154dBm -151dBm
Cold Start-146dBm -146dBm -143dBm -136dBm
Hot Start -155dBm -155dBm -154dBm -149dBm
Velocity Accuracy 0.05m/s
Heading Accuracy 0.3 degrees

Which GPS Unit Do I Pick?!

Size and GNSS Antenna

In each of the Hardware Overview sections we laid out the characteristics of the two GPS boards. Let's begin with the more obvious differences between the boards. The SAM-M8Q is a larger board with dimensions of 1.6 x 1.6 inches. The relative larger size of the board helps to enhance the product's GNSS antenna that houses the GPS unit inside. The ZOE-M8Q is 1 x 1 inch board that does not have an onboard GNSS antenna, and instead has a U.FL connector to connect to an external one. This gives you the option to use something that can be attached outside while the GPS unit is inside connected to your microcontroller. If you want to try out a number of different antenna shapes and sizes, we have a GNSS Evaluation Board for the purpose of finding the best antenna that works for your project.

This picture shows the size difference between the two GPS products.

GPS Capability Comparison

These two GPS units are so similar in their capabilities that the difference is negligible. The one difference between the two is that the SAM-M8Q does not connect to the Chinese GNSS constellation BeiDou.

NMEA Data

Both have I2C and serial capabilities to receive your NMEA data, but only the ZOE-M8Q has SPI capabilities. Enable SPI by closing the jumper on the underside of the product labeled SPI.

This picture shows the SPI jumper and header on the underside of the ZOE-M8Q board.

Hardware Assembly

For this example, I used a Qwiic capable RedBoard and associated USB cable. With that and a Qwiic cable, the assembly is very simple. Plug a Qwiic cable between the RedBoard and the GPS unit, and attach the antenna to the U.FL connector. If you need tips on plugging in the U.FL connector, then check out our U.FL tutorial. If you're going to be soldering to the through hole pins, then just attach lines to power, ground, and the I2C data lines to the microcontroller of you choice. Of course, if you're using the SAM-M8Q then you don't need an antenna since it already has one.

ZOE-M8Q connected to an Arduino and GPS Antenna

RedBoard Qwiic and the ZOE-M8Q with attached Adhesive Antenna

SAM-M8Q Connected to an Arduino

RedBoard Qwiic and the SAM-M8Q

SparkFun U-Blox Library

Note: This example assumes you are using the latest version of the Arduino IDE on your desktop. If this is your first time using Arduino, please review our tutorial on installing the Arduino IDE. If you have not previously installed an Arduino library, please check out our installation guide.

Both the SAM-M8Q and ZOE-M8Q share the same library. These two also share a library with their other u-BLOX higher precision cousins. The SparkFun U-blox Arduino library can be downloaded with the Arduino library manager by searching 'SparkFun Ublox' or you can grab the zip here from the GitHub repository:

There are 13 example sketches provided to get you up and receiving messages from space.

Example Code

We're just going to look at example two (i.e. "Example2_NMEAParsing.ino") which in my opinion, makes it clear the awesomeness of these GPS receivers. That is to say, talking to satellites and finding out where in the world you are.

language:c
#include <Wire.h> //Needed for I2C to GPS

#include "SparkFun_Ublox_Arduino_Library.h" //Click here to get the library: http://librarymanager/All#SparkFun_Ublox_GPS
SFE_UBLOX_GPS myGPS;

void setup()
{
  Serial.begin(115200);
  Serial.println("SparkFun Ublox Example");

  Wire.begin();

  if (myGPS.begin() == false)
  {
    Serial.println(F("Ublox GPS not detected at default I2C address. Please check wiring. Freezing."));
    while (1);
  }

  //This will pipe all NMEA sentences to the serial port so we can see them
  myGPS.setNMEAOutputPort(Serial);
}

void loop()
{
  myGPS.checkUblox(); //See if new data is available. Process bytes as they come in.

  delay(250); //Don't pound too hard on the I2C bus
}

When you upload this code you'll have to wait ~29s to get a lock onto any satellites. After that first lock, the backup battery on the board will provide power to some internal systems that will allow for a hot start the next time you turn on the board. The hot start only lasts four hours, but allows you to get a lock within one second. After you get a lock the serial terminal will start listing longitude and latitude coordinates, as seen below. Make sure to set the serial monitor to 115200 baud.

This image shows a screenshot of the Arduino Serial terminal spitting out latitude and longitude data.
These are the coordinates for SparkFun HQ

Resources and Going Further

Now that you've successfully got your ZOE-M8Q/SAM-M8Q GPS receiver up and running, it's time to incorporate it into your own project!

For more information, check out the resources below:

Are you looking for a GPS receiver with an insane 10mm 3D accuracy? Then check out these other u-Blox based GPS boards by SparkFun below.

SparkFun GPS-RTK2 Board - ZED-F9P (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS-RTK2 Board - ZED-F9P (Qwiic)

GPS-15136
$219.95
5
SparkFun GPS-RTK Board - NEO-M8P-2 (Qwiic)

SparkFun GPS-RTK Board - NEO-M8P-2 (Qwiic)

GPS-15005
$199.95
4

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