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Old 11-06-2007, 05:29 PM   #1
John E Davies OP
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The Great Big SPOT Thread

They are now available, and I would bet we will start to see "testimonials" and user reviews in a while. Any links would be greatly appreciated.

Has the company ever answered reviewer concerns about 911 calls from non-subscribers, and also what happens if you are trapped with no gps signal?

And yes, I am aware there was a thread here a few months back.

Website:
http://www.findmespot.com/

User Manual:
http://www.findmespot.com/downloads/...2007_10_16.pdf

Thanks.
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Old 11-06-2007, 07:35 PM   #2
offroute
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John E Davies
They are now available, and I would bet we will start to see "testimonials" and user reviews in a while. Any links would be greatly appreciated.

Has the company ever answered reviewer concerns about 911 calls from non-subscribers, and also what happens if you are trapped with no gps signal?

And yes, I am aware there was a thread here a few months back.

Website:
http://www.findmespot.com/

User Manual:
http://www.findmespot.com/downloads/...2007_10_16.pdf

Thanks.
Am being provided with a demo unit tomorrow and will be testing extensively next week. Will report back then.
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Old 11-07-2007, 10:38 AM   #3
John E Davies OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by offroute
Am being provided with a demo unit tomorrow and will be testing extensively next week. Will report back then.
Cool. Please try it out in a non-911 mode under tree cover where the unit can't get a fix. I am curious about what it will do. Does it report the last known good fix or just stall out?

Thanks.

John
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Old 11-07-2007, 11:21 AM   #4
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The web page says this:

Even if SPOT cannot acquire its location from the GPS network it will still attempt to send a distress signal – without exact location – to the Emergency Response Center, which will still notify your contacts of the signal and continue to monitor the network for further messages.

-
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Old 11-08-2007, 07:20 AM   #5
offroute
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Very Preliminary Impression

Spent considerable time with a demo unit yesterday. Nice and small. Setup is easy. Operation is not very intuitive. LEDs and button operation can be confusing unless you commit some stuff to memory. Biggest concern is reliability and on this point a lot more testing needs to be done. So far in testing around Reno/Tahoe I'm finding that the unit definately needs a reasonably clear view of the southern horizon to get its message out. With a clear view the messages are delivered promptly. However, my concern is crashing alone in a heavily timbered or easy-west facing canyon and not being able to walk the unit up so it can communicate with the GS satellite. Getting a GPS fix appears easier than sending the message out successfully. When it works it's great! Being able to send check-ins or non-catastrophic helps is an adventurer's dream come true. Looks like for two or more riders it may be just the ticket, but when riding solo I'm still a bit concerned that certain situations might keep the user from getting his message out - in which case a real PLB is still the much safer solution.

I'm reserving judgement until after more real world testing over the next 10 days. I'll be riding in several narrow east-west canyons next week and will do a number of test messages with those back home to get a better sense of how much I can count on it. I'll report back then.
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Old 11-08-2007, 12:33 PM   #6
John E Davies OP
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offroute - do you currently have the "real time tracking" or whatever they call it? If so that would be a great way to see how sensitive and accurate the unit is under cover.

John
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Old 11-08-2007, 04:54 PM   #7
TomW
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Quote:
Originally Posted by offroute
...I'm finding that the unit definitely needs a reasonably clear view of the southern horizon to get its message out... With a clear view the messages are delivered promptly. However, my concern is crashing alone in a heavily timbered or easy-west facing canyon and not being able to walk the unit up so it can communicate with the GS satellite....
Hmmm...I read their material and although they never say so, Spot does not use geostationary satellites. They use a constellation of some 40 satellites in low earth orbit, thus they can be anywhere above the horizon -- not just in the southern sky. Spot is owned by Globalstar, operator of the somewhat popular consumer sat phone system, so I'm sure they use the same satellites (the coverage map on Spot's website is the same map Globalstar uses).

Regarding reliability of uplink sat comms, here's an excerpt from Globalstar's web site:

"...Technology / Path Diversity
Path Diversity is a patented method of signal reception that permits the combining of multiple signals of varying power strengths into a single, coherent signal. Subscriber terminals [i.e., Spot units] will be able to operate with a single satellite in view, though typically two to four satellites will be overhead."

So, that's good news for a rider down in an east-west canyon (a view of the southern sky is not required); however, since a line-of-sight path to the satellite is still required, a canyon will reduce the time a satellite is in view as it passes overhead. (That window of time may not correspond with the Spot unit's once-every-5-minute transmit schedule.) Logic dictates that sooner or later a satellite will be in view when the unit transmits, but the narrower the canyon, the longer that wait might be. Hey, nothing's perfect, and at a cost that's a fraction of a PLB (which has the same technical limitation re: line of sight path to the satellite), Spot sounds pretty attractive to me.

It would be more attractive if it had an external power jack (with the internal battery for backup) and provision for external antennae (so it could be kept in a secure location when used for tracking).

I'm interested to hear your real-world findings as I'm thinking about getting one myself.

Cheers.
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Old 11-21-2007, 08:40 AM   #8
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SPOT Satellite

I just got on, I first tried it from in a window in the house sitting about 2 feet back. It sent the message just fine. In using it along the roads today in some good tree cover it seemed to still sent the location out.

Quote:
Originally Posted by John E Davies
Cool. Please try it out in a non-911 mode under tree cover where the unit can't get a fix. I am curious about what it will do. Does it report the last known good fix or just stall out?

Thanks.

John
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Old 11-21-2007, 04:57 PM   #9
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WebBikeWorld:

http://www.webbikeworld.com/gps/gps-personal-tracking/


nothing new there, but it seems to be picking up momentum as a product. I see REI and Cabelas are carrying it now.
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Old 11-21-2007, 08:37 AM   #10
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Spot Satellite

I got one a few days ago. I have been using it for a few days just around the local area. Seems to work fine, I just came back from Max BMW in NH round trip 150 miles on two different routes. The unit tracked just fine. I got the unit for a trip to Alaska next May, to give the better half a way to know that I am ok. As for functions, once the unit is activated you can go to the web site and for the HELP and OK check in you can type in your own message. HELP is 90 letters and OK is 100. I have added up to four contacts emails, cellphone numbers for contacts. They all have worked just fine
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Old 11-24-2007, 06:26 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Starblazer
I got one a few days ago. I have been using it for a few days just around the local area. Seems to work fine, I just came back from Max BMW in NH round trip 150 miles on two different routes. The unit tracked just fine. I got the unit for a trip to Alaska next May, to give the better half a way to know that I am ok. As for functions, once the unit is activated you can go to the web site and for the HELP and OK check in you can type in your own message. HELP is 90 letters and OK is 100. I have added up to four contacts emails, cellphone numbers for contacts. They all have worked just fine
If you bought it for Alaska return it. It won't go up to that latitude.
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Old 03-04-2008, 01:11 AM   #12
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New thread started to address the issue of mounting the SPoT:
http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=317736

(Hey SpotMaker, any chance you guys can talk to RAM about making a mount specific to the unit? )
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Old 04-16-2008, 10:57 AM   #13
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This is not directed at spotmaker:

I just finished a ride from Wisconsin to Ushuaia. (Ushuaia is the southernmost town in South America.) I carried a lot of gear. I used everything. I was extremely demanding of my equipment. SPOT does not meet my criteria for adventure-grade. There are a lot of things that go into being adventure grade vs not adventure grade. For example, a product has to be foolproof. If I'm tired, hungry, or just whatever, I need a thing to work. If a product is supposed to save my life, and I can't get it to work 100% of the time, then it has failed me.

In Alaska I purchased bear spray. Later, in Canada, some experienced outdoor people said, ¨It usually works.¨ I was, like, what? Usually?! What if I need it! For $20, and the slim chance of a bear attack, I think bear spray is a good investment. (I used it against 3 muggers in Argentina and it worked perfectly.)

I have less-than-stellar opinions of some of my other equipment, but nothing failed as spectacularly as my SPOT.

I have other equipment that is more complicated than SPOT. For example, my camera. I operate if fine. Not every photo is perfect. But I don't depend on the camera to save my life.
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Old 04-16-2008, 11:15 AM   #14
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Here's a hypothetical:

In track mode, the SPoT sends out a waypoint every 10 minutes for 24 hours.

In 911 mode, it sends out a point every 5 minutes (twice as often as in track mode) until the batteries die (more than a week, if the batteries were fresh when you started) or until you cancel or shut it off.

Now, suppose the typical performance of the SPoT was that one in every 12 messages gets through (worse than the performance that Bananaman describes as a "failure"). And, BTW, much worse than I've ever observed from my SPoT, even wearing it on my belt, that I readily admit is not at all optimal.

That means, in 911 mode, at this really low performance level, one message per hour would get through.

I submit that, THAT would, in fact, save your life. (At least, it would get your location though to the GEOS center, assuming you trust them to notify the correct S&R people.)

Why wouldn't that performance level save your life?
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Old 04-16-2008, 12:10 PM   #15
TomW
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We all have different requirements for equipment. If something doesn't meet your expectations, you're under no obligation to use it. Very simple.

SPoT's 911 function seems like it should be pretty reliable as long as everyone understands it's not going to be instantaneous (i.e., the first 911 message may not go through, or even the 5th one). In today's culture, at least in the USA, everything is expected to happen 'right now', but SPoT may not provide that level of performance. For that, you'll need an Iridium satellite phone and the cognitive capacity to operate it. Most of us can't afford the phone, and, at the worst of times, may not be physically able to operate it. (PLBs, depending on their configuration, your latitude and satellite tracks, may also take a significant amount to time to calculate and report your position.)

As for the belt clip, I agree that its inclusion could be misleading becuase it orients the antennas incorrectly during use. Perhaps the belt clip is meant to provide a convenient way to carry the device between uses -- it's rather big to put in a pocket, right? As an alternative, I'd suggest big letters molded into the top of the unit that say 'This side up during use' and, rather than a belt clip, provide a pouch with a belt clip (implying that it should be removed from the pouch during use). An alternative that would require some retooling would be to have the unit look more like a golf tee or inverted L, with the antenna molded into the top so that it's oriented more correctly when clipped to a belt.

My $0.02.
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