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Old 01-25-2008, 07:40 AM   #1
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SPOT

SMB Adventurers -

Many times our rigs are taking us places that normal cellular service isn't available. We have discussed before the high cost of satellite phones (I am a current Iridium user). Here is something I came across that seems much lower in cost and functional in situations where some type of help is needed. I think it would also be a cool way for friends/family to 'track' your progress during a trip into a remote area via the web. I don't have one yet, but the reviews I've read have been positive.

http://findmespot.com/
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Old 01-25-2008, 09:16 AM   #2
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I purchased one of these as soon as I read about it, I had planned to do a little write up on it but just got it back from my parents who I lent it to for their trip to Costa Rica and the carribean.

I think for anyone traveling outside of cell phone range it is simply a must have. It lets you send preset msgs letting people know you're "ok" or "need help but it's not an emergency" or "need emergency help 911!". The ok feature is great cause it lets people know where you are and that you're ok. The non emergency help is nice too I've let my family and friends know that if i send that msg it most likely means that i'm okay but my van has broken down and i need either a tow truck or for someone to come get me. And of course the 911 feature is just fantastic, it alerts their 911 center from which they will contact search and rescue, 911 services local to your area, US embassy if you're out of the country, etc. There's already been several reports of people using it to be rescued.

One thing people worry about is that it uses globalstar's satellite system which everyone knows is virtually useless for satellite phone calls. However this works on the simplex band (one way traffic) which is uneffected by the problems they're having on the duplex bands.

I'm quite impressed with it so far and I've found that while it won't broadcast through the vans metal roof it will go through the fiberglass poptop just fine.
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Old 01-25-2008, 09:21 AM   #3
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This is an example of one of the okay messages:

Just checking in to let you know we're doing okay.
Tom and Ann Marie
Unit Number: 0-7352661
Latitude: 17.2903
Longitude: -62.7225
Nearest Town from unit Location: La Gu*rite, Saint Kitts and Nevis
Distance to the nearest town: 1 km(s)
Time in GMT the message was sent: 01/16/2008 11:29:05
http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&g ... &z=12&om=1


The "Just checking in to let you know we're doing okay.
Tom and Ann Marie" part of the message is something you setup on the spot website, you can't change that msg via the spot device itself.
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Old 01-25-2008, 09:42 AM   #4
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yeah it's too bad you couldn't use it like a text pager.

Also, it would be cool if you could log your 'ok's to a google map set or live maps set, make for a real easy trail marker...
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Old 01-25-2008, 10:27 AM   #5
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actually all your msgs are logged, they're all stored online in the spot website, unfortunately right now they're only stored for 30 days, i sure hope they bump that up to more like a year. A waypoint doesn't exactly take up much storage space! But anyways they're stored in the online spot interface and you can download them as gpx, csv, or kml files. You can also just view them on the spot map (which is google maps).

That reminds me I forgot, for an extra $50 per year you can sign up for the tracking service which records your location every 10 minutes which you can then view on their online map interface or download, granted most gps devices have some sort of breadcrumb feature that does the same thing. Right now you have to be logged into the website to view that data but hopefully they'll let you create a non administrator account to login and view it, then friends and family could basically watch where you are in real time.

Here's an example of all my parents ok messages from their cruise...


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Old 01-25-2008, 11:39 AM   #6
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I think the challenge would be coming up with an appropriate message.

"Either I'm OK or an indigenous person is pushing buttons over my dead body."

Problem is it's just not funny after the 3rd or 4th update.

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Old 01-25-2008, 04:20 PM   #7
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Here is a pretty detailed review of the SPOT:

http://www.equipped.org/SPOT_ORSummer2007.htm
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Old 01-26-2008, 01:28 AM   #8
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Its funny I see this post today right after seeing it in a climbing and saving that page for further research. This looks interesting.
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Old 01-26-2008, 09:21 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeff@work
I purchased one of these as soon as I read about it, I had planned to do a little write up on it but just got it back from my parents who I lent it to for their trip to Costa Rica and the carribean.

I think for anyone traveling outside of cell phone range it is simply a must have. It lets you send preset msgs letting people know you're "ok" or "need help but it's not an emergency" or "need emergency help 911!". The ok feature is great cause it lets people know where you are and that you're ok. The non emergency help is nice too I've let my family and friends know that if i send that msg it most likely means that i'm okay but my van has broken down and i need either a tow truck or for someone to come get me. And of course the 911 feature is just fantastic, it alerts their 911 center from which they will contact search and rescue, 911 services local to your area, US embassy if you're out of the country, etc. There's already been several reports of people using it to be rescued.

One thing people worry about is that it uses globalstar's satellite system which everyone knows is virtually useless for satellite phone calls. However this works on the simplex band (one way traffic) which is uneffected by the problems they're having on the duplex bands.

I'm quite impressed with it so far and I've found that while it won't broadcast through the vans metal roof it will go through the fiberglass poptop just fine.

I'm a globalstar customer. Until the late part of 07, their service was about as bad as you describe. Getting a sat signal was iffy at best and often took as long as 30 minutes. And even then, the signal would only hold for 5-10 minutes. But in recent months, something has changed. I presume the satellites they have been trying to get up for months finally got launched. Not sure what, but it is welcome. Now I'm getting a signal quickly in places where I'd been waiting a very long time, and once received, the signal holds. If the service deteriorates again, I'll cancel my subscription because an unreliable sat phone is not exactly what you want in an emergency.
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Old 04-06-2008, 09:33 AM   #10
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My experience with SPOT

I used SPOT on a recent motorcycle trip to from Seattle to Copper Canyon Mexico, 2500 miles each way with my brother.
I loved it, or more accurately, my wife loved it which makes me quite happy.

The device was $149 + base service for a year + optional tracking for a year + evac insurance for a year. It worked out to roughly $300.

We didn't intend to use it as an emergency location device and the Help me function was useless in our eyes since our family was so far away. We used it to touch base with family when we knew we were out of cell phone range. It worked like a champ.

Enclosed are screen shots from what my family could see.

I would use it in both passive tracking mode (Track) as well as OK mode(ok).



OK mode takes a manual push on the device and my wife knew I was pushing a button to specific I was ok. There is drill down on each message.



It can be overlay on their maps with a push of a e-button.



Once, it fell from my bike at 40mph or so. It doesn't show a scratch and continued to perform without a problem. I consider it quite robust:-)

I kept it in my clear window folder on the top of my tankbag. This worked well although I assume that I blocked the required line of sight occasionally with my body. In either case enough messages went through to give my wife a level of comfort.



I don't think I would use it as a EPIRB or an emergency device because the reliability wasn't there for a true emergency.

That said, it was great for me to send a comforting message to my family that all was ok in an area where cell phone coverage was either expensive or unavailable.

-Mark
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