Panbo

Yellowbrick 3, the Iridium 9602 strikes again

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Aug 10, 2011
yellowbrick_3_packaging.jpg

The UK company Yellowbrick has made a name for itself primarily by supplying offshore racing fleets with self-contained tracking devices based on Iridium's original 9601 short burst data modem. But the new Yellowbrick 3 hardware announced this week is build around the smaller, less expensive, and more able 9602 modem and Yellowbrick intends to sell it as a standalone marine safety, tracking, and communications product as well as use it for fleet rentals. Yes, the Yellowbrick 3 is similar to the DeLorme inReach announced earlier this summer, but it's got more features and flexibility, and it costs more...

Unlike the inReach, the YB3 has a small OLED screen which apparently can be used to "choose from hundreds of preset messages to send via e-mail or SMS, and receive messages back..." It also has a 5.3Ah LiPo battery that can purportedly handle over 2000 messages and which can be recharged via USB cable, and it supports an external Iridium/GPS antenna so it can be set up down below. But like inReach, the standalone device can be used via Bluetooth to send and receive custom messages using an Android or Apple apps phone or pad...

yellowbrick_3_key_features.jpg

Seen below are some screens from the Yellowbrick iOS app that will let you trade 160 character messages (email or SMS) with anyone ashore from anywhere on earth (with a decent sky view). Which I think is the key feature that will possibly make inReach, YB3, and other 9602-based products popular on boats and elsewhere. Of course it doesn't hurt to be an excellent tracking and distress device too...

yellowbrick_3_smartphone_screens.jpg

But I shouldn't forget that none of the 9602 products are available to boaters yet, and there are always devils in the details. Discouragingly high monthly service costs with mandated twelve month contracts is one possibility I'm concerned about. I've seen a draft describing DeLorme's service plans for the $250 inReach and they seemed reasonable, especially if you can easily switch among them as mentioned here. But it was only a draft, and didn't mention if there is a fee to change plans. Meanwhile, Yellowbrick is selling the YB3 at four different prices according the features available, with the "Standard" model at about $815. If the monthly plans are like DeLorme's, then a message is the equivalent of 5 position reports.
   At any rate, all will become clear soon as the YB3 is slated to ship in September and inReach in October, and I hope to test both myself. And there are dozens more Iridium partners working with the 9602 SBD modem. Total operating costs will be certainly be a factor in how widely these devices are adopted, but I have little doubt that 9602-based communicators will eventually be a significant niche.

yb3_pricing.png

Comments

Ben, The inReach plan has no fee for upgrading but a $25 fee for a downgrade according to this article:
http://findout.rei.com/blog_detail/?contentid=6466506033585812846

Posted by: Boatie at August 12, 2011 2:23 AM | Reply

Thanks, Boatie. I think a $25 downgrade fee would be OK with lots of customers, but I'm quite dubious about the subscription prices quoted on that blog. I very much doubt that inReach will include unlimited tracking. The draft I've seen specified 40 text messages and 200 track points for the $25/month "Recreation" plan.

(I understand that subscription "units" will be interchangeable on a 5-to-1 ratio; in other words, those 40 monthly messages could be used instead as another 200 track points, or the track points used as 40 more messages. Similarly, overage fees for Recreational subscribers will be 50 cents per text and 10 cents per track point. The $50 Pro subscription gets you 1,500 units with overage of 5 cents a unit. Mind you that DeLorme characterized this as tentative subscription rates, not definite.)

Posted by: Ben in reply to Boatie at August 12, 2011 6:48 AM | Reply

As a recreational boatie, I would baulk at paying even $25 per month if I was only doing serious boating, out of cell phone range, for a month every year. A flexible plan based on usage would remove that barrier. It will be interesting to watch this play out in the market place over the next year or so.

Posted by: Boatie at August 12, 2011 4:58 PM | Reply

Boatie, as I understand it the minimum annual DeLorme inReach plan with be $10/month, which gets you 75 units, which means either 15 messages or 75 track points or some mix thereof. Extra texts are 95 cents, and extra tracking points 10 cents. If the blog you referenced is correct a user can upgrade to Recreation or Pro plans without a fee but it will cost another $25 to downgrade back to the Safety plan.

Posted by: Ben in reply to Boatie at August 12, 2011 6:11 PM | Reply

I come from outdoors, not boating background, but these devices are also very interesting for outdoors hobbyist.

Just to update the info about Yellowbrick: "There is no minimum contract, simply pay per month when you need to use the Yellowbrick." (from their page http://www.yellowbrick-tracking.com/?wpsc-product=yellowbrick-3)

This might make it interesting for those needing it only for a month or two a year.

Posted by: Korpijaakko at December 15, 2011 2:01 PM | Reply

Pleased to report that I will soon be testing a Yellowbrick3, as I am the inReach now: http://goo.gl/c8sWG

I've also been testing a beta version of the BriarTek Cerberus system and will be getting the production model soon. Cerberus will be available soon for sale or weekly rental: http://goo.gl/U1BsH

Posted by: Ben in reply to Korpijaakko at December 15, 2011 2:40 PM | Reply

I've recently used the Yellowbrick 3 while sailing North of New Zealand, It's a great little piece of kit and well worth the money.
According to the Australian distributor:
http://g-layer.com.au/?page_id=97 , it works with Android and Iphone/Ipad. I haven't tried those features yet, but next time I'll be tweeting from the Tasman!

Posted by: Emma at March 3, 2012 11:32 PM | Reply

What a great day to start a Bermuda Race! I believe all 20+ classes are equipped with Yellowbrick 3 tracker/messengers and you already see them in action:

http://goo.gl/NnSed

There will be a six hour delay for the first 36 hours of the race, but after that the tracks should be near real time. I believe that many boats will be tweeting too.

Posted by: Ben at June 15, 2012 11:15 AM | Reply

The Bermuda Race officials have rescinded the tracking delay early because this particular race isn't really tactical and the lead boats are going so fast new records may get set. The Yellowbrick online tracking is great, but do note that you have to pay $3 for this race if you use their apps.

Posted by: Ben at June 16, 2012 5:03 PM | Reply

Never seen anything like this. The combination of the perfect wind speed and angle, Gulfstream direction, and benign weather is making this a one of a kind race. The majority of the boats are crossing the Gulfstream as we speak, and these racers are literally cutting the Atlantic in two. I'm using Nobeltec Trident with their unreleased beta module with the race feed overlaid on the GRIBs, very cool stuff. It may not have the coverage of the Volvo Race or the AC, but it's still about as exciting as a Mets game.

These boats are flying! Keep an eye on Bacchanal, a J133 that is my sleeper for this race.

Posted by: Labozza at June 16, 2012 5:41 PM | Reply

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