Panbo

DeLorme & Spot, who knew?

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Jan 6, 2010
delorme-pn-60w-and-spot-communicator.jpg

The gadget and GPS blogs are all over this combination of DeLorme handheld GPS and Spot messenger, which will apparently get official when the CES opens tomorrow.  With good reason, too, because a user will be able to key a free-form text message into that new PN-60w and get it delivered from a lot of places where cell phones are useless.  I didn't think a Spot could handle custom messages from the point of origin, and it sure makes me wonder what we don't know yet about the fixed marine model...

Not that the PN-60w isn't one powerful looking handheld.  The best detail I've seen so far is on DeLorme's own blog (and I'm sure this unit doesn't suffer from the sluggishness and silly chart pricing I saw in the original PN-20).  Valued GPS sites like GPSTrackLog seem disappointed that the satellite communicator isn't built right in, but the fact that the Spot component is so easy-to-pocket small, and appears to at least have an SOS button, might save someone's bacon.
    But here's what I'm wondering:  If DeLorme can send a satellite text message first via some yet undisclosed low-power short-range wireless protocol and then via that little communicator, why couldn't Garmin, Raymarine, etc. do the same thing from one of their MFDs which has a touchscreen keyboard or supports a real keyboard?  Of course these messages are one-way only, and two-way global Iridium would be better, but DeLorme is going to sell that whole package above for $549 retail, and I'm not sure Iridium can get near what the satellite modem portion of that is.  We also know that Spot is working on the HUG fixed boat system.  If there was a connection between it and an MFD, don't all sorts of possibilities emerge, besides offshore text?  Maybe somehow a great anchor alarm?

delorme-pn-60w--spot-communicator_screens.jpg

Comments

SPOT uses GlobalStar's network (since GS owns SPOT). GS offers 35-character text messaging to their sat phones, and I'm guessing that's the channel used for this service (and maybe for the SPOT-only messages, though being static perhaps they are further optimized in some way). The DeLorme blog doesn't mention a character limit.

Posted by: Adam at January 6, 2010 7:05 PM | Reply

Looks like around 62 characters (above message 51 plus 11 remaining)?

Posted by: Roger B at January 7, 2010 4:51 AM | Reply

When you have a SPOT account you can fill in 115 characters for the OK function and the HELP function.

Posted by: Reinier Zwolsman at January 7, 2010 6:32 AM | Reply

That's true, Reinier, but it's not related to how long a message the Spot messenger can actually send via satellite. We're creating those 115 character messages on a web server. All spot has to send is unit ID, lat/long, and a code for which message to send. When that very short message gets to the FindMeSpot server then it becomes the longer message the recipients see. (Hope you follow)

At any rate, I think Roger B correctly deduced that DeLorme is using Spot to send a 62 character message, plus unit ID and location, plus also some indication of who the message is going to ("Susan" in the screen shot). I'm guessing the messages go to a pre-defined list of emails and texting phones, just like the regular Spot, but I don't know for sure.

Posted by: Ben at January 7, 2010 9:08 AM | Reply

Looking at engadget, which mentions a feature where the one transmitter will send the GPS locations of multiple people (I guess they are thinking hikers) in range, and be able to send twitter and face book messages (one way, you won't be able to see comments coming back).

Each hiker is a different unit ID, or sub unit ID? Clearly the maximum message size for sat is not an isue, perpahs they break up twitter and facebook messages into smaller pieces when transmitting and use virtual unit ID's?

There is also a reference for the hikers to be able to find each other. Since it's only one way to the Sat, clearly that capability is between the products in the hands of the user. If so, might as well build in a MOB function, e.g. alarm if user is xxx feet away (calculated by GPS) and/or no longer transmitting (out of range, fell in the water, fell out of a tree, devoured by bear)

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at January 7, 2010 10:21 AM | Reply

I think I see two way text messaging coming down the pipe. With dynamic data entry and transmission from this device, receiving a text messaging is not much of a leap. Global Star is upgrading their constellation in the next 18 months and may even be back in the phone business by then. Text messaging is such a money maker for cell companies with almost no impact on bandwidth, I can see GlobalStar developing that market with the GPS makers.

Posted by: Tom at January 7, 2010 7:42 PM | Reply

Doug Ritter dug up some more details, including the fact that the wireless link between handheld and Spot is "802.14.4" (ZigBee?)

http://www.equipped.org/blog/?p=207

Posted by: Ben at January 8, 2010 4:06 PM | Reply

Yeah, it's Zigbee, so there won't be any connecting to the phone in your pocket with this particular hardware.

Posted by: Adam at January 9, 2010 1:53 PM | Reply

Given GlobalStar/Spot's poor performance in most ocean areas (including serious, hours long link outages), hikers and inland waterway boaters may find this useful, but I wouldn't recommend it to someone looking for reliable service on a voyage.

Posted by: ANeblig at January 10, 2010 6:59 PM | Reply

Examples of poor performance in most ocean areas? The Dutch rowing guy who rowed solo from Fiji to New Guinea had no problems. Every message was being sent perfectly.

Posted by: Reinier Zwolsman at January 14, 2010 7:43 AM | Reply

ANeblig may be a little confused. The performance of Globalstar phones and Spot messengers simply are not comparable. They may use the same satellites, but the task and equipment used are quite different.

Even Spot, though, doesn't claim global coverage like Iridium does. We saw that their coverage map seemed fairly accurate when FOB carried one across the Atlantic:

http://www.panbo.com/archives/2008/06/fob_update_spot_and_ais_ok.html

The map suggests that Spot might work OK between Fiji and New Guinea, but there's a huge hole between Fiji and the Americas.

Posted by: Ben at January 14, 2010 10:54 AM | Reply

Dear Ben, that is correct according to the coverage of the SPOT satellites http://www.findmespot.eu/nl/coverage.php
but most ocean areas is a large statement.

Posted by: Reinier Zwolsman at January 15, 2010 11:09 AM | Reply

Nope, not confused. A former government investor/customer tired of hype in lieu of engineering.

Posted by: ANeblig at February 14, 2010 4:26 PM | Reply

I have just read that there is possibly some concerns about the reliability in some remote locations. I am not suggesting I take what I read as true, it is that the manufactures and promoters must reaffirm its reliability.

Posted by: Nathan at June 9, 2010 5:17 AM | Reply

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