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SPOT Messenger

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dustdriver:
Interesting gadget maybe some of you already know about (or own?).  If you do have one, I'd really like to hear your review!

It's basically a personal tracking and emergency signaling device.  It uses GPS satellite technology to find your position, but it can also SEND a signal to call for help in an emergency.  You buy the unit for about $150 bucks, then another $99 a year subscription for basic features like "Help", "911", and "Check In".  For an additional $50 a year you can also get (and this is pretty cool) a "Tracking" service, that allows your friends to follow your location using Google Maps.

For people working and/or playing in remote locations out of cell phone range, especially alone, this could be priceless.  I think you'll be seeing a LOT more of these gadgets being used in the future, probably even when you don't want to (like mandatory issue by agencies like the National Park Service and others who want to keep tabs on you "for your own good").  Despite the potential for misuse, they will definitely save a lot of lives.  And they are much cheaper than a satellite phone or a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon).

I believe this gadget is just the first in a long series of affordable PLB's with daily-use features that will appeal to a lot of folks.  This will mark a new era in the field of outdoor recreation, the same way that the first affordable, user-friendly GPS units did.  I can see these appearing everywhere in the next year or two, as competitors develop even smaller, lighter, cheaper units with even better interface.

http://www.findmespot.com/

http://www.rei.com/product/766529

RioGrande95:
Yeah, I was looking at those a while back and almost bought one.  But I have a feeling PLBs in general will become cheaper, smaller (spot is a lot bigger in person than it looks online), and all around better here in the next few years.  I have a bad habit of buying things 1 model before all of the bugs get worked out, so I'm trying to restrain myself on this one ;)

kizer:
You know I really like that gizmo. I'm going to hold off like Rio. My goal for building my GPS system for my Jeep was so I would know where I am at all times, but there was that missing piece to let others know. ;) That is simply kick ass and it will be something I watch for a while.

RioGrande95:
I really like that spot can be used for things other than just emergencies, but I think it's size will be cut in half in a few years.  Also I've heard rumors about Spots data transmission system being based on an older sat phone network that may be circling the drain, though I don't know for sure.  It's a great idea, there are a couple other similar products already hitting the market, and I can see it really taking off here pretty soon.

dustdriver:
Looks like I'll have a chance to use one of these soon and will let you guys know how it turns out.

I've been doing some research and this is what I've learned:
The SPOT utilizes the Globalstar satellite network, but while the satellite phones are duplex (transmit & receive) on the "S" band, the SPOT is simplex (transmit only) and utilizes the "L" band.  The "S" band is the one that is failing, due to the failure of a 13 cent part!  (DOH!)  I use satellite phones now and then, and their reliability has really gone down hill in recent years, but the "L" band that SPOT uses is supposed to be solid.  Globalstar apparently has another 48 satellites ordered and getting ready and should be launching in mid/late 2009, shelf life about 15 years they say.

The SPOT is reportedly accurate down to 3 feet!  That's cool.  They take "AA" lithium batteries, and should last a long time unless you use the "track mode" feature (which costs another $49/yr.) in which case the batteries should last 2 weeks in constant-on mode.

Each SPOT unit has an individual registry, but you can have multiple units accessible through one website, which is handy if you have a team of people (or a pack of kids at Disneyland) and one computer to follow them all.

Anyway I should have one in use within the next couple weeks and will post here for anyone interested.

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