Panbo

Spot, another tracker/beacon

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 9, 2007

Globalstar Spot

Interesting! The just announced Spot is a waterproof Globalstar messenger and GPS combo that will purportedly let you alert the authorities (at least the U.S. ones) with your position, or ask for help from your friends or just notify them of where you are, or build an online track of your travels. It will be available in November for $149 with an annual service contract ranging from $99 upwards depending on what features you want to use. There’s not much detail on the Spot site yet, except for some pretty extreme fear marketing, but I’d guess that this product will get some real attention, even from some boaters. And I’m glad that, unlike TracMe, Spot is not confusing the market place by using the term Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). Safety-seeking boaters will be confused enough, what with this, possibly MOB Guardian, and who knows what else competing for our confidence.

PS 8/13  I spoke with the gentleman from Spot who was good enough to straighten me out about its technology in the comments section below. Indeed, Spot uses Globalstar’s reliable one-way messaging system, which has nothing to do with the failing amplifiers that are causing trouble for the voice/data service. I also learned about GEOS Alliance, which will be providing Spot’s 911 capability. Sounds interesting, and I look forward to possibly trying Spot this fall.

Comments

I checked out the website and you're right. Talk about scare tactics.

Posted by: Pbot at August 9, 2007 3:13 PM | Reply

Given my poor service this summer with Globalstar (you've already written about the satellite problems) I think it would be better to buy a "real" PLB. Until Globalstar gets new satellites launched I wouldn't want to count on making contact through their service.

Posted by: Dan Gingras at August 9, 2007 5:59 PM | Reply

I can echo Dan's remarks above about Globalstar. I had signed-up for their unlimited minutes plan when I heard about it a couple of months ago, before I had reasons to use my Globalstar phone. Now I know what they meant by unlimited minutes. You will spend unlimited minutes searching for service! Thus, this "Spot" product must be viewed with extreme caution. Even now, when the boat is tied to the dock in Maine, the Globalstar phone does mostly display "looking for service". Not what you would want to see, when you need your "Spot".

Posted by: Seajet at August 9, 2007 9:56 PM | Reply

I'm thinking that Spot's Nov. 1 launch is timed such that the four new Globalstar satellites will be fully operational. What's unclear so far is if the device will tell you if it succeeds in sending a message. Hope so.

Posted by: Ben at August 10, 2007 7:27 AM | Reply

Full Disclosure: I am with SPOT, Inc.

I saw the commentary here and thought it would be worth clearing up how SPOT works. SPOT gets a GPS fix using an onboard GPS chip. SPOT sends the coordinates and a status indicator (911, Help, or OK) to the right destination. Communications are outbound only -- using the highly reliable and robust Globalstar Simplex data network. (For the more technical - this is the L-band, not S-band portion of the Globalstar Network)

The Globalstar constellation of 40 satellites is fully operational and stable in supporting the Globalstar Simplex data network. The Globalstar Simplex data network has a proven 99.4% reliability while processing over 6 million messages a month – the equivalent of 2.3 messages per second. It has been operational for several years sending messages for industrial and governmental customers.

Posted by: SPOT, Inc. at August 10, 2007 3:09 PM | Reply

Globalstar sucks. We have had it for five years on our yacht.I am finally getting the owners to come around, and they want to change to iridium. we have a qualcom/globalstar box connected to pbx. constant busy signals and dropped calls, what a waste. the service has never been good. the owners had a hard time letting go of the $3500+ worth of equipment. i told them to write it off, its not worth it. Capt.J

Posted by: Anonymous at September 28, 2007 1:31 PM | Reply

Easy people, calm down.
Indeed, the Globalstar network is currently not offering reliable voice and data (duplex-) connections, as most of the satellites are already spoiled. This is why globalstar phones are looking for a signal most of the time - as the signal can just not get through TO the phone. However, the signals originating FROM the phone - or tracking device - are still beeing forwared to the gateway. Therefore the simplex service, which is used for tracking units, but also for the new Spot service, is not affected.
I guess this beacon will offer a reliable securtiy backup, and due to the comphrehensive pricing, draw a lot of attention!

Posted by: satellite at September 30, 2007 6:18 PM | Reply

Get an Iridium SAT phone instead. I had SPOT and my friend had the aforementioned phone this summer on a 3 week canoe trip in Labrador. Friends and family were worried after they hadn't received my signal for a week - which we discovered after phoning. The SAT phone worked flawlessly every time. I imagine that before too long small, durable, cheap and reliable SAT phones with more features like GPS etc will make SPOT outdated; and a phone allows precise communication, not just 1 of 3 levels of messages.

Posted by: Anonymous at March 27, 2009 10:13 PM | Reply

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