Spot news: DeLorme Communicator & HUG
As best I can tell, Rich Owings at GPStracklog is the first to write up a field test of the interesting wireless pairing of a specially designed DeLorme handheld mapping GPS with a specially mated Spot Satellite Communicator, and he's pretty excited about what he found. Yes, you can type a 41 character message from anywhere with Spot coverage and post it to Facebook or Twitter, or send it to one of several pre-defined e-mail/text groups. And that includes quite a lot of ocean and coast, as we saw even with the first generation Spot Messenger. And even though DeLorme's core clientele are terrestrial types, I notice that the PN60w/Spot system (and its PN-Series siblings) now support Navionics Gold SD chart cards (and HotMaps lakes), as well as NOAA raster downloads...Given that Spot GPS reception and message transmitting are generally more reliable with the wide open sky view always available on a boat, won't the expanded messaging abilities of the DeLorme system be of interest to cruisers, racers, and fisher folk who venture beyond cell coverage? I'll be interested to read reports from Rich and others about how easy the system is to set up and use (especially as the early Amazon reviews are quite mixed), and maybe I'll get to test one myself.
Meanwhile, the Spot HUG specifically designed for boats, pre-announced and discussed here a year ago, is finally getting real. While the prototype I saw at the NMEA Conference below was not quite functional, it will be demoed live during the Ft. Lauderdale show in two weeks. And while it does not include type-and-send messaging capabilities, like I hoped for when the DeLorme product was announced last January, it still looks like a killer combination of security, monitoring, messaging, and tracking functions at a reasonable price. I'm not clear on all the final details but believe the hardware cost will be under the hoped-for $500 with an a la carte menu of service options something like the existing offerings, only with geofencing and a remote interface to a few onboard sensors like high bilge alarms added. I'll check out the demo boat at FLIBS, for sure.