SPOT Satellite Messenger System

SPOT is a handheld satellite communication device that can determine your location using a GPS system and send messages via its own commercial satellite network. It will work almost anywhere in the world as long as you can see enough sky to access satellites. Its big advantage is that it works where there is no cellular coverage. Many outdoor enthusiasts, especially individuals or couples with no close family in the area, are using the system to notify others of their backcountry trips. Group of like-minded people are banding together to moniter each other by keeping a Google Maps window open on their computer when they know their friends are on a trip.

SPOTCost: The unit costs C$169.99 plus a subscription of US$99.99/year for the basic plan and an additional US$49.99/year for Tracking, the most reliable and useful feature for keeping a reasonably close track of your friends. Think of it as part of your personal insurance cost.

Alert 9-1-1: For critical, life-threatening emergencies SPOT will dispatch emergency responders to your GPS location. It functions as an emergency locator beacon. A dedicated International Emergency Rescue Coordination Center (IERCC) based in Houston, Texas, GEOS is manned 24/7, by highly trained personnel who have instant access to national emergency response units worldwide. Their average response time between receipt of your 911 activation and dispatch of emergency responders to help you—wherever you are in the world—is only 11 minutes. The survivors of a multiple-fatality snowmobile avalanche incident near Fernie in December 2008 used SPOT to alert rescuers who were able to get a helicopter to them before dark to pick them up.

Check/OK: Lets contacts know where you are and that you are OK or to save waypoints so that you can renew them later. A pre-programmed message will be sent to your contacts by text message and/or email with a link to Google Maps with your GPS location. It will send the message three times and deliver the the first message received to your contacts.

Help: You can use this option in the event of a non-life-threatening situation to send a pre-programmed help message via text message and/or email with a link to Google Maps to your SPOTteam – the friends and family you have chosen to notify that you need assistance at your GPS location. It will try every 5 minutes for one hour or until a message is successfully sent.

If SPOT is unable to acquire its GPS coordinates, it will still attempt to send a satellite message, without coordinates, when either the 9-1-1 or HELP functions are activated. In the rare case that SPOT cannot obtain your GPS coordinates, but sends a 9-1-1 message, the Emergency Response Center will contact the primary and secondary contacts on your account to notify them of the distress message. The Emergency Response Center will then continually monitor the SPOT network for further messages.

Tracking: Allows you to send your location to your SPOT account every 10 minutes so your SPOT team can follow your progress in real time, or to save waypoints so you can view your full route at a later date. Your exact location is updated every 10 minutes for 24 hours, after which you must activate the unit again.

See their website for more details.

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2 comments… add one
  • Kary Troyer Sep 4, 2009, 5:55 pm

    I usually go alone (or with my dog), and so tracking is worthwhile for man-down situations. If you can’t activate the HELP or 911 buttons, then at least your last known position is available. The clip on the unit is pretty poor, and I have to lash mine manually onto my backpack or camera sling. I signed up for teh new Share feature, but have not tried it yet.

  • John Abraham Aug 25, 2009, 9:51 pm

    The tracking isn’t that great, it sends a message every 10 minutes but if the unit isn’t taped to your shoulder with the logo facing up the message probably won’t get through. But it for the “OK”, “Help” and “911” features then decide if the tracking is worth an extra $49.99

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