The Great Big SPOT Thread

Discussion in 'Mapping & Navigation' started by John E Davies, Nov 6, 2007.

  1. John E Davies

    John E Davies Runs at Mouth Adventurer

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    I was looking around on the GEOS website and found nothing about providing insurance coverage for non-registered folks in trouble. I don't see why you would expect them to do so, honestly. They are not in the business of giving away free services worth (possibly) $20,000+. (As a side note, I subscribe to NW MedStar, and the average 90 mile medivac flight costs US$12,000, of which health insurance pays perhaps 30% at best. The rest would come out of your paycheck... unless you are a member.)

    GEOS does provide full coverage for family members for $US7.95 each annually, and they are covered if they are in possession of a SPOT when they have the emergency. I think that is really affordable coverage - my NW MedStar membership is US$59 annually..

    http://www.geosalliance.com/sar_multiple_family.html

    I think this is one cool device. I'm holding off on a purchase however until I see more real world reports. I normally ride in deep forested canyons in North Idaho and often have poor or no gps fixes. I'm thinking a PLB might be a better choice....

    If you routinely ride with a buddy who doesn't own a SPOT, he should subscribe to a local emergency medivac service so that he will be covered if you have to call him in for rescue. The downside is that the coverage area is FAR more limited than the coverage through GEOS. I'm positive the SPOT system would work to rescue a non-member - it just wouldn't pay the VERY high SAR and transport fees.
    #61
  2. offroute

    offroute Been here awhile

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    Hi John,
    I'm really hoping others that own the device will do some of their own testing and report back here. I have not tested SPOT in northern Idaho. My only experience in Idaho is with a GlobalStar satellite phone and, to be honest, it was a real disappointment. While kayaking/rafting there I often had to climb up out of deep canyons. Even then I would sometimes have to wait 10 minutes or so for the thing to work (I guess as a satellite came into view.) SPOT has many advantages over the sat phone - and my guess is it would work much better there than the phones do. However, we will soon launch a rental program for SPOT and I am interested in more user testing. PM me and I will try and arrange for you to use a device free of charge in the next month or so.
    Thanks
    Offroute
    #62
  3. TomW

    TomW Long timer

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    Perhaps the reason for the Ok Check transmissions at 10 minute intervals. And I understand that Globalstar is pushing data services (e.g., SPOT) over voice until their next generation of satellites is in place.

    Cheers.
    #63
  4. Mike955i

    Mike955i Future Escapee

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    Just found this thread and wanted to relay my personal experiences with SPOT. I do quite a bit of solo riding (street and back country) and had been wrestling with the Sat phone/PLB choice for some time; price being the hold back. I ran across a post about SPOT in early November and, after doing a bit of review, purchased a unit for a trip across Southern Utah (the day before I left).

    Long story short, I used this device (with the extra "tracking" feature enabled) for this trip and it was almost a perfect experience. Basically, I only had 1 failed OK message and that was while I was in and out of the tunnels just east of Zion - no surprise there. Aside from that, all other OK messages went through and the Track feaute had great success keeping my motion tracked for my wife/family to monitor.

    My trip started in Vegas and ran up to, and into, Zion NP. Surprisingly, I had great success being tracked in Zion despite the tall, narrow canyons. After Zion, I ended up outside Bryce Canyon NP for the night and started out again the next morning. Once I got to Boulder I made a command decision to try and catch the ferry departing from Bullfrog Marina and ran down the Burr Trail and through Capital Reef NP. Canyons, switch backs, deserts to mountain passes - no issues with tracking. The rest of the trip was not a challenge for terrain (Mexican Hat, Valley of the Gods, Natural Bridges NP, Mokee digway, Monument Valley, etc) and the device work as expected.

    In my view, it's the perfect solution for my needs (and for many people, I suspect). The PLB's are great but the up front cost is steep and it's either "the barns on fire, send help!" or nothing. Sat phones work great but the costs are outside of my pain threshhold. The fact that I can let my wife/family know that I am OK, that I can request non-emergency help if needed and still have 911 assistance available at the push of a button was the feature set that sold me - and it worked great.

    Before I left I set my support network up to be notified of my SPOT messages/requests. We agreed that I would submit an OK message everytime I stopped for the night, started travling in the morning or was intentionally stopped for any lengthy period of time (lunch, hiking, etc). Only my wife got the OK messages. We also agreed that if I sent a Help message that would mean a non-emergency, non-medical help request and they would contact AAA and the local LEO community to report a non-emergency request for help. My wife, father and brother-in law got these messages. Any accident, injury that imoblized me or other medial trauma would be a 911 message that that goes directly to the SPOT Operations Center and they manage emercency response to my location.

    My only complaint with the product is that there isn't a "guest" login feature that would allow a "read only" look at your map tracking and messages. As it is today, the ID that has access to the maps also has full access to managing the account. For this reason, only my wife has access to the maps.

    While I have read about Globestar's problems with Sat voice services I also read several opinions that indicated the data portion of their network was much more reliable. I hope that remains the case. Of course, if/when an Iridium-based solution comes along with similar features I will likely swich to get the (potentially) better coverage. I now carry this device anytime I go off the beaten path and I feel a lot more confident know that if I get into trouble I have a very good chance of getting help.

    So far, highly recommended! :thumb
    #64
  5. SpotMaker

    SpotMaker Been here awhile

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    Spot uses the low speed data channels (AKA the Simplex channels) on the Globalstar satellites. It does not use the voice channel!

    This simplex system has always been part of the Globalstar system, in all generations, present and future.
    #65
  6. TomW

    TomW Long timer

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    Yes. I understand the receivers on the data channels are working better than the phone receivers; thus the emphasis on data over voice. (Also explains the bonanza pricing on Globalstar's voice service until the new satellites go up.)

    Cheers.
    #66
  7. John E Davies

    John E Davies Runs at Mouth Adventurer

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    The GEOS emergency insurance is US$7.95 per person if you sign up when you register for SPOT service. Normal price is US$150... has anyone seen info about what the renewal rate will be - discounted or full price? The website seems to suggest that the rate is permanent.

    http://www.geosalliance.com/sar/

    I'm currently paying US$59 for local medivac service (family plan) and would switch to GEOS, but I'd like to know if I am going to get screwed in Dec 2008 when I renewed.....

    Thanks.
    #67
  8. Essjay

    Essjay Been here awhile

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    What I'd love to know is how much the SAR cover is if you're not a US resident?

    I'm living in Ireland, but was planning on using this for a Pan-Am trip next year.
    #68
  9. aciurczak

    aciurczak Been here awhile

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    I purchased one this morning. They are in stock at REI locations, at least here in the bay area. I had thought I'd need to find a clever mounting location on the bike, but from reading this thread, it looks like people are just leaving them in tankbags or jackets and they are working fine. The plan was to velcro it to the top of my topcase, but it sounds like that is unnecessary.
    #69
  10. aciurczak

    aciurczak Been here awhile

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    Some folks were pondering the GPS equipment itself included in the SPOT, here's a press release describing the chipset:

    http://www.gpsbusinessnews.com/index.php?action=article&numero=482

    #70
  11. TomW

    TomW Long timer

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    I just ordered one from the SPOT website. I presume you pay for service when you activate?

    Cheers.
    #71
  12. aciurczak

    aciurczak Been here awhile

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    Affirmative.
    #72
  13. TomW

    TomW Long timer

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    Yikes! $20 cheaper at REI than at the SPOT site. Guess the difference is less since I'd pay tax here in Houston, or shipping from REI.com (no shipping charges from SPOT at the moment).

    Cheers.
    #73
  14. LKN4DRT

    LKN4DRT Mended

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    For emergency help I think it's faster to make a call on an iridium phone and give gps coordinates and medical condition. We tried to follow racers at the Baja 1000 and it was marginal at best. Sometimes it was hours between reports.
    #74
  15. offroute

    offroute Been here awhile

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    Is this referring to the TRACK function on SPOT?
    #75
  16. TomW

    TomW Long timer

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    In most cases that's probably true; however, doing all that requires some degree of mental and mechanical agility that may be beyond someone who's just had his head pranged. Plus, three separate pieces of gear need to be in the same place and working -- head, GPS and sat phone. Not to mention the cost of Iridium. Easier to push a button.

    Personally, if I was doing something truly dangerous at the fringe of the known world, I'd have SPOT, PLB, GPS and an Iridium (not GlobalStar) phone. Since I'm not doing that, I'll settle for, and use in the following order: GPS/terrestrial cell service, SPOT and PLB. I don't wear full armored leathers all the time either, just AeroStich. :beer

    Cheers.
    #76
  17. aciurczak

    aciurczak Been here awhile

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    As of this evening, there is now a way to get a GPX file from the track points on findmespot.com. The author of GMapToGPX has upgraded his bookmarklet:

    http://www.elsewhere.org/journal/gmaptogpx/

    Go to that site and install the bookmarklet (works best for me on firefox). Then when you are on the "show me maps/google maps" page on your account on findmespot.com, press the bookmarklet and voila, you have a GPX file with the points included. Just select all of that text, copy and paste it into a text file, and save the text file with a .gpx suffix. The file can be immediately loaded by Mapsource, Google Earth, or any other gpx reader.

    It's working perfectly right now, but I asked Josh to change it slightly so it shows as a track rather than just individual waypoints, and to include the timestamp in both the desc and cmt fields in the gpx file.

    EDIT: The update has been made, so the gpx file is now coming out as a track. If you need the individual waypoints, find/replace trkpt --> wpt in the file, and remove the track start and track end lines ("trk""trkseg", and "/trkseg""/trk", with < and > instead of "), and then you can load the gpx file to see all individual points.
    #77
  18. aciurczak

    aciurczak Been here awhile

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    This morning was my first decent-length ride using the SPOT, and I'm pretty happy with its tracking and communication performance. I had it on the continuous tracking mode ("spotcasting"), where it sends up a single message (non-repeated) every 10 minutes. I had it broadcasting from 7 AM to 1 PM while on the road, and it only missed 3 points all day.

    I exported the data to a gpx file; here's the info plotted onto a Google Earth page.

    [​IMG]

    I've got 2 other GPS devices on the bike within a foot or so of the SPOT, and none of them seemed to be adversely affected by either of the others. The SPOT was just sitting inside my tankbag, in a top pocket so it would stay facing up.
    #78
  19. m0to

    m0to Under the Big Hard Sun

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    I picked one up. Cool gadget. I'm thinking about writing a PHP Email parser to grab the emails and publish the route as it happens on my site. Seems doable, just need to sit down and do it. (Riding is much more fun)

    More so its not spamming those who care and they can just login to a page and see what's up.
    #79
  20. aciurczak

    aciurczak Been here awhile

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    As of now the emails are only sent for the manually initiated OK/Check, Help, and 911 messages; the SPOTcasting feature doesn't send any emails; only uploads trackpoints that can be viewed on the findmespot.com web interface. So if you hit the OK button every time you want an email kicked out, it will do exactly as you ask, but the device won't kick out automated emails without user interaction each time.
    #80