Panbo

Iridium Force: 9575 Extreme, AxcessPoint, & the 9523 Core

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Sep 7, 2011
Iridium_9575_Extreme_sat_phone.jpg

"Iridium Force" -- announced today with much fanfare -- seems to be an entire "vision for the future of personal mobile satellite communications", a bunch of new hard- and software products, and what may be a heck of a business strategy. You can read the press release or sign onto a whole Iridium site full of videos and more, but just the hardware tells a lot of the story. The new Iridium 9575 Extreme handset seen above is not just a highly ruggedized version of Iridium's most recent 9555 sat phone; it includes an internal GPS, a dedicated SOS button, and it seems capable of doing most everything that devices based on Iridium's 9602 SBD modem can do, like, say, the DeLorme inReach and the YellowBrick3 that are both due to ship soon...

In fact, the Iridium Extreme will be a certified S.E.N.D. -- which stands for Satellite Emergency Notification Device, and differentiates things like this from EPIRBs and PLBs -- as determined by the RTCM, which the Extreme brochure describes as a "Search and Rescue Regulating Body." All sorts of tracking and geofencing, intialized either on the phone or from shore, will be available through a variety of "certified online portals" that apparently all use an underlying Iridium platform. And while the two-way texting and short emails that a product like inReach can do when connected via Bluetooth to a smart phone can be done right on the Extreme, there's still a way to use it with an Android, Blackberry, or (coming) iOS app... 

Iridium_AxcessPoint.jpg

Iridium also announced a MiFi-like device called the AxcessPoint which can use the Extreme's USB data connection to create a WiFi hot spot so you can use your phone or tablet to manage your email anywhere on the planet. The AxcessPoint will work with a 9555 sat phone too, and there will also be software called AccessPoint Connect that let's a windows PC serve as a similar hot spot. It's even free, but let's note that using AccessPoint is apt to be slow going given Iridium's base 2.4 kbps data rate, and that you'll be paying per-minute Iridium connect fees any time the AxcessPoint is hot.
   The Extreme phone, which is purportedly ready to ship now, is also pretty pricey, going for about $1,495 from early distributors like BlueCosmo. But it looks like a heck of a do-anything safety, tracking, and communications package for anyone who travels beyond cellular service and has a healthy comms budget. And apparently it won't be the only Iridium device with all these capabilities as the company also announced that its many partners can now work with the 9523 Core, the small module which is the data and voice "brains" of the Extreme. Are you feeling the Iridium Force? And how will Inmarsat, Globalstar, and Thuraya react?

Iridium_9523_Core.jpg

Comments

They're probably in breach of a patent with that product.
I'm sure that one of Nokia's phones from the early 90's was identical to that!

Posted by: Dan at September 7, 2011 11:24 PM | Reply

The standard for SENDs (RTCM 12800.0)specifically excludes satellite phones as well as mandating IPX7, waterproof to a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes. The 9575 is only IP65 - splashproof.

This doesn't take away that this is a very attractive phone for offshore sailors, just don't drop it in the water!

It gives the other makers something to aim for!

Posted by: Marius Coomans at September 8, 2011 12:48 AM | Reply

Thanks, Marius, and great to see that you've started a blog dedicated to SENDs. But let's give the Extreme credit for being somewhat better than splashproof. IPx5 is defined as "Water projected by a nozzle (6.3mm) against enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IP_Code

Also, are you sure that the RTCM 12800 SEND standard (which I don't have) absolutely mandates IPx7 and excludes sat phones, because the Extreme brochure seems quite specific in stating "Certified S.E.N.D. by Search and Rescue Regulating Body (RTCM)"? After all -- and to its credit, both in terms of safety and business -- it was Iridium that got the ball rolling to organize and regulate commercial distress devices by starting ProTECTS and then turning it over to RTCM; so I doubt that Iridium would then mess with RTCM's SEND regs: http://goo.gl/RNMPm

Posted by: Ben in reply to Marius Coomans at September 8, 2011 6:35 AM | Reply

Ben, I agree that Iridium can be proud of its efforts with ProTECTS and the RTCM special committee #128.

However, the relevant document is quite specific (Clause 1.2 scope) that Satellite phones are "excluded from the requirements of this standard". Clause 4.04 states that Category 1 and 2 SENDS shall be waterproof (IPX7). Additionally there are a whole heap of labelling requirements which I can't see the phone complying with.
For example (4.7.2.1), the outside of the SEND shall be marked indelibly with the warning; "USE SOS ONLY IN A REAL EMERGENCY".

The move towards SENDs is a very constructive and positive development, but claimed compliance should be 100% rather than just using it as a marketing phrase.

This phone is a terrific step forward and a practical proposition for offshore activities. I just hope we don't devalue the whole SEND concept before it even has established itself as a standard.

Posted by: Marius Coomans at September 8, 2011 7:54 AM | Reply

Might this be the opportunity to discuss in more detail the question raised here and there around Panbo but not quite answered: Can this or another SEND replace an EPIRB for ocean voyages for those that aren't mandated to carry one?
I'm planning the purchase of both an Iridium phone and an EPIRB so this is highly relevant for me.
If I could strike "ACR EPIRB GlobalFix iPRO Cat. II" from my list ($849 at Landfall Navigation) then this phone would actually be a bargain (vs. a 9555).

Posted by: Henning at September 8, 2011 8:56 AM | Reply

I don't think Iridium SENDs are close to proven yet, and Spot -- though performing better than it used to -- has known limitations and probably doesn't meet the RTCM spec. And in regard to the Extreme, the difference between IPx5 and IPx7 could be critical in a marine distress situation. But eventually? I think Doug Ritter made a good case: http://goo.gl/K1AsM

Posted by: Ben in reply to Henning at September 8, 2011 9:09 AM | Reply

Completely agree with IPx5 vs IPx7 being critical in a marine distress situation.

Spot looks great, but again (same comment as for Mini-VSAT), it is not global. The South Pacific, Micronesia, etc., are not covered.

Am I the only sailor in these waters?

Posted by: Pandora at September 8, 2011 1:34 PM | Reply

A lot of capability is included, very impressive.

Is MOB capability also included? E.g. crew wearing a Bluetooth dongle of some kind monitored by the Extreme. Functionality something like, the Extreme responding to an absence of the dongle by alerting the crew on the boat, and if the alert is either confirmed or not silenced, the Extreme then sending out a distress message with the lat/long at the time the dongle went overboard?

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at September 8, 2011 2:52 PM | Reply

Dan, The dynamics of a man overboard situation create one of the most marine specific issues there is, and the Extreme sat phone is not even a specifically marine device. No, I didn't see any mention of such a feature in all the references linked to above and I'm extremely doubtful that it even crossed Iridium's mind.

Posted by: Ben in reply to Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at September 8, 2011 3:55 PM | Reply

I would imagine with all the connectivity someone could create such a MOB capability I described via an application in an android or iphone, but with a smartphone in the middle of such a capability, I would think the reliability won't be good enough. Now if some of the existing MOB products added support for the extreme, well that would be different.

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at September 8, 2011 5:56 PM | Reply

We've been using Iridium on New Morning for 3 1/2 years. It's slow, expensive and pretty reliable; don't even think about accessing the web with it. An access point on a dongle is for government operatives with unlimited minutes/budgets, not for civilians spending money out of their own pockets.

Henning: I would never consider an Iridium phone a replacement for an EPIRB.

I've been surprised by the number of boats I've met in the South Pacific who have small BGAN units, the ones designed for land use. They report good results with them while at sea, lower cost than the fixed installation units, and apparently acceptable service costs. The only catch is that it looks like an internet connection so every piece of software on their computer starts trying to "call home". Something that will limit access to the device is needed.

It's nice to see Iridium update the phone. With good care (keep it dry) and feeding (lots of minutes and a fixed external antenna), it works great. But at the end of the day it's an expensive 2400baud phone with an integrated modem made for land use.

Oil company employees, military contractors, NGO personnel, etc are the target markets for these products, not sailors at sea.

Posted by: Russ at September 13, 2011 1:51 AM | Reply

Russ: Totally agree about the 2400 baud data service. I can't see many "ordinary" people using it.

Its tracking and messaging using Short Burst Data is very appealing, though. It needs a separate Short Burst Data plan but apparently works out at $0.15 per position update.

Posted by: Marius Coomans at September 13, 2011 2:09 AM | Reply

Maurius - $.15 for a position report is certainly reasonable, unless you have to commit to a bunch of them and yet another subscription (in addition to your minutes). I use Airmail/Winlink to file my position reports (computer is already connected to two GPS's), just a short email that gets sent when I connect to pick up my GRIBs, fleet codes or other weather info. And I can link to the Winlink position reports page (just a Google map) from my own web site.

But that feature is probably really useful for a manager trying to keep track of his employees on the ground in some far flung country.

Russ
s/v New Morning
www.newmorning.info

Posted by: Russ at September 13, 2011 2:29 AM | Reply

Hello All,

One of the things that was brushed over in Iridium's announcement was the release of a new "FREE" service called Iridium AxcessPoint Mail & Web.

This is a FREE email and web compression service, hosted at iridium, specifically designed to optimize data transmissions over the Iridium AxcessPoint WiFi device.

The service includes a FREE email service which allows any user who owns an Iridium 9575 and 9555 along with an AxcessWifi to do email. Web compression is also supported.

Supported Computers include Mac and Windows PC. iOS devices (iPod, iPad, and iPhone) will be supported with special client to be released later this year. This means that iOS users will for the first time be able to do optimized email and light web browsing over the Iridium network.

Full details on the release of this software can be found on our web site at

http://www.globalmarinenet.com/blog/2011/09/iridium-axcesspoint-mail-web-satellite-phone-data-service-introduced-by-gmn/

An audio blog describing the 9575 and the AxcessPoint WiFi device and the iOS software can be found here.

http://www.globalmarinenet.com/downloads/audio/9575vs9555+AxcessPointWifi+iOS.mp3


Take care.

--luis

Posted by: Luis Soltero at September 16, 2011 3:21 AM | Reply

This is good news, indeed. My sat phone experience is pretty limited, but it sure seemed necessary to use a third party service and software like GMN's xGate to make email and files downloads a reasonable process. Having that all bundled into the Iridium service is a good thing.

Posted by: Ben in reply to Luis Soltero at September 17, 2011 10:19 AM | Reply

Luis, Does the Email/Web compression also work with the software only solution(http://www.iridium.com/products/Iridium-AxcessPoint-Connect.aspx)?

Posted by: Marius Coomans at September 17, 2011 6:25 PM | Reply

Marius, Luis answered your question but accidently wrote it as a reply to the comment notification email rather than posting it:

"The answer is yes but not immediately. AxcessPoint Mail & Web will initially be released on Oct 1 for use with the Iridium Wifi appliance. Later in 4Q of 2011 the software will also work with AxcessPoint Connect.

However, link management (i.e. the ability of the software to control the link) will only be available with the Wifi device. With AxcessPoint COnnect users will need to bring up the link manually and then once its up the can use XWeb and Mail on remote computers connected via wifi to the PC.

At this time there are no plans to support directly connected USB phones.

Take care. --luis"

Posted by: Ben in reply to Marius Coomans at September 18, 2011 10:32 AM | Reply

iNavX (for iPhone/iPad) will support the download and display of GRIB weather forecast files (wind, waves, temperature, currents, pressure) via the Iridium WiFi appliance (In addition to standard WiFi and Cell connections).

Posted by: GPSNavX at September 18, 2011 12:29 PM | Reply

Thanks for that Rich...

A quick clarification. iNavX will download GRIB files via Iridium/Wifi but requires either the Iridium AxcessPoint Mail & Web software or XGate for iOS.

iNavX sends an email request to APMW or XGate which then transmits it over the satellite link with compression, midfile restart, etc. When the email with the grib attachment arrives then the user selects iNavX as the application to open it with.

Pretty easy to do.

--luis

Posted by: Luis Soltero at September 30, 2011 3:42 PM | Reply

I see the free AxcessPoint app is now available in the iTunes app store..

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iridium-axcesspoint-mail-web/id473888754?mt=8

Posted by: GPSNavX at November 17, 2011 11:10 AM | Reply

Quick eyes (and fingers) GPSNavX.

It's true, the Iridium AxcessPoint Mail & Web for iOS is out now. Get accelerated email and web browsing using your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad with the AxcessPoint Wi-Fi and your Iridium phone from anywhere on the face of the planet.

The PC and Mac versions are available directly on the Iridium site.

Posted by: John Dark at November 17, 2011 12:11 PM | Reply

Posted by: GPSNavX at November 22, 2011 10:50 AM | Reply

I see Global Marine Networs XGate is now in the Apple iTunes app store.

Posted by: GPSNavX at January 6, 2012 5:14 PM | Reply

Here's a description of the XGate app with lots of screen shots:

http://appshopper.com/utilities/xgate

Posted by: Ben in reply to GPSNavX at January 6, 2012 5:32 PM | Reply

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