Panbo

DeLorme inReach 1.5, groovy with an iPad

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on May 21, 2012
DeLorme_Earthmate_inReach_app_on_iPad.jpg

DeLorme just started shipping a new 1.5 version of the inReach satellite messenger, tracker, and distress device that works with an Apple iOS version of the Earthmate app as well as an improved Android version. I again participated in the Beta testing and, though almost all of that was ashore, I'm even more convinced that inReach is going to become a constant cruising companion on Gizmo and many other boats. It's hard to say whether some improvements are due to the new hardware or the new apps versions or the platforms I'm using them on, but for boat use the combination of inReach 1.5 and even an iPad 1 is totally sweeeeet...

For one thing, Bluetooth pairing the inReach 1.5 with the iPad was dead simple and the connection has worked perfectly ever since. (Pairing and connection between my Android phone and the original inReach also improved since my first review, either when I switched up to a Galaxy Nexus phone or as DeLorme updated the V1 firmware, or both.) Plus the inReach 1.5 is supplying the GPS info to that iPad screen above, which the original model wouldn't do for my phone (though an update for that is coming too, I hear). Even if you have a pad with GPS built in, using the inReach to plot you on your phone or pad -- possibly while it's also sending track points to your private DeLorme web site and your share page -- will save significantly on its battery power...

DeLorme_inReach_user_web_site.jpg

But don't confuse the 10 minute satellite tracking points seen on my DeLorme site above with what was happening on the app as that data was collected. In fact, there's more than 10 minutes between some of those tracks, but that's reasonable given that the inReach was usually hanging from the rear view mirror of a steel roofed vehicle. I was also able to get and receive text messages in those difficult circumstances and the answer to my question about the Bluetooth GPS update rate is 1 second. (Incidentally, I was sat texting my friend John Gass, who went from Wayfarer Electronics Manager to running the inReach beta program; how lucky was that!)  His answer did not surprise me as the actual plotting in the app is quite responsive, even in Head Up mode as in the top screen. In fact, the inReach will supply GPS info to any plotting app on my iPad...

DeLorme_Earthmate_inReach_iPad_app_reference_point_cPanbo.jpg

And what if DeLorme added nautical charts to library of detailed North American topo maps an inReach owner can download to his or her phones and/or pads? I'm not saying they definitely will, but they already serve NOAA charts and other cartographic goodies to other software products. Plus Patrick Shay -- the very guy who used to tell me how deep the Iridium 9602 modem would penetrate the marine world when he worked there -- became DeLorme's VP of "Connected Solutions" just before the Miami Boat Show, where he grinned and said, "Ben, you ain't seen nothing yet!"
   So I think that anything is possible with inReach, like say a relationship with an MFD that has Bluetooth built in or with a towing company that you might want to two way text with location when beyond cellular range, or both!  But I digress, and just experiencing inReach mapping on a bigger screen is quite a big deal in itself. For instance, now I'm getting the value of nuances like Reference Points (screen above) where you can tap a location and message it to folks while also adding it to your share page and private web tracking site, where every outgoing message is also logged. The inReach system becomes a planner and log book, and quite possibly a backup chart plotter...

DeLorme_Earthmate_inReach_iPad_app_messaging_cPanbo.jpg

And of course the bigger keyboard of a pad is all the better for using the full 160 character messaging available. You can say a fair bit in that space but I didn't have room to note that when I sent that message above the inReach was 20 feet and two walls away, and still connected, and it got off all the messages I sent this morning despite being just east of my tall house and under a lot of fresh green leaves. I also tried NIMH batteries this morning, which DeLorme only recommends for an emergency. But one set did get a few messages and track points off and when they failed in the middle of a message send, the process started right up again after I changed batteries. It's that kind of "fool" proofness that I didn't see in the earlier model that I'm really liking in the 1.5 and iPad combo.
   Not that all is perfect. For reasons unknown my inReach MapShare page is only showing data from the first test unit -- and there isn't any for the last 30 days -- even though it was working fine yesterday. DeLorme is working on it and if you see data like Gizmo's temporary home at the head of the harbor below, feel free to text me. I'm into some projects that have me deep in the bilges and panels but I'll keep an eye. Oh, one of several inReach 1.5 improvements I probably missed above is a clear LED signal when a new message comes in. Plus the Earthmate app posts notifications on the iPad. Nice! 

DeLorme_inReach_1.5_share_map_cPanbo.jpg

Excellent PS 6/19: inReach NOAA charts are official, at least in the latest iOS version of Earthmate. I think the file compression and anti-aliasing could use some work, but the interface for selecting, previewing, and downloading charts is excellent, plus they quilt and are available at no extra cost.

DeLorme_inReach_Earthmate_app_w_NOAA_charts_cPanbo.jpg

Comments

Incidentally, the inReach 1.5 works on "iPod Touch (3rd and 4th generations), iPhone® 4S, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad® (3rd generation), iPad 2 and iPad" as long as they're running iOS 5.0 or later (and are also "Compatible with Android 2.1 and later). Which is a little sad as it leaves my Touch out.

However, I can use my phone with the inReach 1.5, like when I go hiking on some island, but you do have to un-pair and re-pair when you switch devices, which is a bit of a pain. Nice, though, that the Earthmate mapping works fine with the phone's GPS when the inReach is not connected.

Posted by: Ben at May 21, 2012 3:00 PM | Reply

Ben,

I Googled the Delorme inReach 1.5 and got the link below.

http://blog.delorme.com/2011/06/03/delorme-inreach-two-way-satellite-communication/

I generally avoid subscriptions to services. They are considering $10/mo. Price of the hardware/software was not mentioned.

Pat

Posted by: Patrick harman at May 21, 2012 4:01 PM | Reply

Pat, you got an old DeLorme blog entry. The link to the product page with all pricing and specifications is the first one in my entry, and again here: http://goo.gl/2b5Ci

The inReach retails for $250 with no added charge for the apps. Service plans start at $10 a month but ones with unlimited tracking start at $25/mo. They are actually a pretty good deal for work-anywhere satellite messaging. But SPOT is arguably a better deal if you just want tracking, but then again that's more impetus for DeLorme to pack inReach with boating features.

The inReach cost is also a lot lower than what I've sent Time Warner every month since the fabulous deal I signed up for two years ago ran out! Their scheme to hook me on HBO and an HD DVR worked perfectly. How do you avoid subscriptions?

Posted by: Ben in reply to Patrick harman at May 21, 2012 4:24 PM | Reply

My share page is working now (last link in entry), and the inReach 1.5 is at Gizmo's helm, where I'm hoping it will work well. So feel free to locate or text me while I work on some boat projects.

Posted by: Ben at May 21, 2012 6:07 PM | Reply

Looks good, I'll have to compare it to the spot messenger that I am considering.

One caveat: it is $1.50 per text message either sent or received -- so I hope that they have a VERY good spam filter...

Posted by: George at May 22, 2012 12:08 AM | Reply

One serious oversight in the design of both SPOT and InReach is their only source of power are from batteries. In the case of InReach, two AA Lithium batteries must be used and only last 60 hours under ideal conditions. Figure less then that in a real world. Lithium AA's cost about $8 per pair:

http://goo.gl/vknV5

Be sure to add battery cost for every 60 hours of use into the monthly cost of operation. Not designing an optional 12 VDC power supply so the InReach can run during a longer then 60 hour voyage is a problem for me. I'm not about to keep buying $8 Lithium AA's so I can transmit my track while sailing up the coast. If Delorme adds this power supply option I think they would open the door to more serious long term subscribers.

Posted by: Richard C at May 22, 2012 9:35 AM | Reply

Good point, Richard, but you should shop around! I've been buying excellent Energizer Ultimate Lithiums for less than $4 a pair with shipping: http://goo.gl/xIs9b

Also, I successfully used rechargables for a while yesterday and will experiment more once the boat is more settled (!). My sense is that they could do a lot of tracking and would be fairly easy to swap out on board.

And, finally, I have heard that DeLorme might be experimenting with a 12v "sled" that could optionally replace the bottom battery door seen in the Cerberus entry: http://goo.gl/iX6oq

Posted by: Ben at May 22, 2012 9:55 AM | Reply

Wow, when I just went to my explore.delorme.com site I was greeted with an announcement that I could link the inReach to a BoatUS towing account. I signed right up and apparently the three built-in messages can now alert BoatUS, send a further location, or cancel an alert. And if the phone or pad app is up, you can dialog with the BoatUS call center (and maybe even the tow boat?). There seems to be no extra charge.

Unfortunately, I was at the site because my mapshare page seems to be broken again, but I'm confident that's a very unusual situation brought on by my having two registered inReaches and messing with their assignments recently. But it was working last night and I had a little satellite repartee with one Panbo reader. Maybe we can try again later today.

Posted by: Ben at May 22, 2012 10:34 AM | Reply

Embarassing! John Gass figured out that my SharePage problem is not at DeLorme but rather somewhere in the cookie/caching whatever of my Chrome browser. It works fine in FireFox on the same machine and probably works fine on your machine. Give it try by messaging me here:

http://share.delorme.com/?MapId=4fe49467765d43a8aa27f258ec8baad6

The inReach has a poor sky view right now but I'll be on the boat soon...

PS George, I suppose inReach spam is possible, especially if you do what I just did, but understand that an inReach does not have a regular email address and users can turn off messaging on their sharemap. Then the only way to send a message to an inReach is by going to the link received in a message from the specific inReach.

Posted by: Ben in reply to Ben at May 22, 2012 10:45 AM | Reply

Ben,

How would you compare this to the Spot connect, any plus /minuses?

Thanks,

David

Posted by: David at May 22, 2012 12:53 PM | Reply

Ben, That's terrific if Delorme offers the 12 v "Sled" to power the InReach. I'll look forward to seeing that.

I looked carefully at the InReach subscription terms. I'm ok with most of it, but if a subscriber wants to terminate their account early you are obligated to pay for the balance of the full year. Seems to me like punishment for changing your mind about the product or much like what we see with cellphones subsidized by the carrier. Why not allow a customer to cancel a subscription and pay the balance of the month?

There is a seasonal subscription for Recreational boaters at $39.95 per month, however, customer service offered a canned reply when I sent them an email asking for the definition of "Seasonal". Their answer never defined "Seasonal". Since I sail in the summer only and the boat is on the hard for six months a Seasonal subscription would be desirable although way more expensive per month then I think it should be. But what is "Seasonal" - is it six months?

This all makes me wonder, if Delorme had more modest fees would they gain a massive amount more business or are the high fees designed to screen out all of the cheap sailors, like me, who clog the bandwidth?

Posted by: Richard C in reply to Ben at May 22, 2012 2:16 PM | Reply

Wow this looks great.
I think a nice tool for on board.

But will it also work in Europe? (Maybe except Greece :-)

Posted by: André V at May 23, 2012 1:22 PM | Reply

They're serious about "Anywhere in the World", André. I risk confusing people because I'm testing on shore and near shore right in DeLorme's home state of Maine, but inReach uses the Iridium satellite service and that means it's even more global than Inmarsat (not that it really matters unless you're going to the Poles).

But what you won't get use of outside of the U.S. or Canada is the detailed topographic maps that are included in the inReach system. DeLorme actually started as a cartography company, and now have lots of resources in that department, but they seem to have stayed focused on North America. And if they do offer nautical charts for the EarthMate inReach apps, it will probably just be NOAA charts, which they already have on their servers. But then again, they also have a relationship with Navionics so that those worldwide charts can display on DeLorme GPS units. Just saying!

Also Earthmate does include a fairly good global base map. I just zoomed into southern Greece and can make out the town of Kalmata -- of olive fame, I think -- on the Gulf of Messinia, plus a few major roads. But the islands thereabouts aren't named and some may not be shown.

It's funny you mentioned Greece as this morning I talked with a friend who will be helping to move a new cruising boat from there to England this summer. He's thinking that an inReach might be just the thing to keep him reliably and easily in touch with his family and friends, and I think he's right. That 12v "sled" would be nice though.

Posted by: Ben in reply to André V at May 23, 2012 1:45 PM | Reply

I just found out from the BoatUS web site, where InReach is now sold, "Seasonal" is defined as a four month plan. This is perfect if you live in Maine as the season for many boaters is about that long. A seasonal plan becomes less attractive as you move south to mid-coast where boating last for 5 -6 months. I think after that the full year is the better subscription choice. Remember there is a $20 activation fee to add in and the risk of buying out the full year if you decide to discontinue use early.
I still feel this great product will be passed up by many just because of the expensive and difficult subscription contract terms. Right now, InReach meets the need of a narrow customer base who sail less then 60 hours at a time, while reaching the far corners of the globe.

Posted by: Richard C at May 24, 2012 12:52 PM | Reply

Richard, I'll bet that new BoatUS page is poorly worded and that what's actually meant is a MINIMUM four month season. Which would make more sense. If a user is willing to pay a $15 monthly premium not to have an annual plan, what does it matter to DeLorme or Iridium if it's for 5, 6, 7, or whatever months? In fact, it's better for them.

I don't understand your comment about a "narrow customer base who sail less then 60 hours at a time, while reaching the far corners of the globe". Please explain.

Posted by: Ben in reply to Richard C at May 24, 2012 2:39 PM | Reply

With worldwide coverage, from pole to pole, you would think Delorme is targeting blue water sailors and those who tend to trek off the beaten path well out of cellphone range. I think that's a pretty small customer base and not the type of people who like being restricted by a short 60 hours of battery life. I can't imagine carrying a pocket full of lithium batteries for every 60 hours as I cross the Atlantic. As I mentioned earlier I can't wait to see if that 12 v sled is soon offered to power the InReach.

I hope you're right on the Seasonal Minimum of four months. At my latitude buying 5 to 6 months of service works for me.

Posted by: Richard C in reply to Ben at May 24, 2012 3:56 PM | Reply

This looks very useful. Can it link to any Bluetooth device or must they be Apples?
Also, I'd never buy something that required me to keep changing batteries at this rate. If forced to get one, I'd cobble up a 12 or 24 volt supply that delivered the required voltage. There are lots of switching or linear supplies that deliver 3 volts.

Posted by: Michael at May 24, 2012 8:23 PM | Reply

Michael, the original inReach only worked with Android devices. This new model works with both Android and Apple phones and pads, and quite possibly other operating systems if DeLorme decides to make apps for them, or offers an SDK so that other developers can integrate the hardware's messaging and GPS abilities.

Product info: http://goo.gl/2b5Ci

Posted by: Ben in reply to Michael at May 24, 2012 10:37 PM | Reply

+1 for a 12 V sled, or should that be +12?

Posted by: Marius Coomans at May 26, 2012 6:25 AM | Reply

Ben,

Have you received any information on how robust Zigbee has been as a link for the PN-60w paired up with the inReach in a boating electronics environment?

We found a 1-2 foot range was max for Zigbee when working in a residential environment due to RFI.

Posted by: Christopher at May 27, 2012 4:37 PM | Reply

Note the Inreach can use lithium, alkaline, or NMH. You can select the profile for each type of battery. Trust me, that is a good thing if you know anything about discharge curves.

I'm not positive, but it wouldn't surprise me if the differences between versions were merely firmware, excluding the version that uses a dedicated GPS. I just bought one and fortunately it is the rev 1.5 (blue) version that does Android and iphone/pad/pod.

It is a shame they didn't cover blackberry, if only for the messaging. [I can't imagine anyone purchasing the bluetooth version not already owning a GPS, so putting mapping in the app is dubious.] Blackberry phones are much more rugged than Android or iphone since they use plastic on the display rather than that glass that cracks. I had to buy a used android phone just to use the inreach.

Incidentally, the SPOT messenger is terrible. The Inreach uses the irridium network, while SPOT is on Orbcom. Many people are dumping SPOT for Inreach. I never really understood why Delorme resold SPOT other than to have something to sell in that market.

Delorme doesn't publish the API for the Inreach, so dream on about doing your own bluetooth hacks. Possibly someone will reverse engineer the protocol.

Posted by: agent g at June 1, 2012 2:56 AM | Reply

Actually Spot uses the Globalstar network, which has been upgraded recently and has more new satellites about to go into service. So past problems with Globalstar phones are not necessarily true today or may go away tomorrow. Plus the Spot simplex service has always worked fairly well and it too has improved. Many boaters would be surprised to hear that it's "terrible"!

That said, the Iridium 9602 devices like inReach do offer a lot more features, like two-way messaging, longer messages, and track points with COG and SOG. It would be nice for early adopters if the inReach 1 and 1.5 were just firmware differences but they are not. At minimum the 1.5 has a different Bluetooth module that can work with both Android and iOS and I think there are other hardware differences. Their labels clearly differentiate them.

Posted by: Ben in reply to agent g at June 1, 2012 7:29 AM | Reply

when you have the InReach paired to an iphone/ipad, can you use any other mapping software, or will it only work with Delorme's Earthmate app ?

-Jose

Posted by: jose mera at June 11, 2012 12:00 AM | Reply

Yes, Jose, the inReach seems able to serve as a Bluetooth GPS for any iOS app, and I think its battery life in that mode is huge

Posted by: Ben in reply to jose mera at June 12, 2012 10:17 AM | Reply

I don't know how much custom coding was involved, but inReach is providing the tracking and messaging for the Greatest Loop's very nice trip map:

http://www.thegreatestloop.com/

DeLorme also announced a firmware update for both inReach models that more than doubles battery life and also provides GPS to Android devices. A world database of topo maps is now available free to inReach apps users (and those NOAA really are in the works).

http://www.satnews.com/cgi-bin/story.cgi?number=428938071

Posted by: Ben at June 15, 2012 10:35 AM | Reply

This will be brilliant for our organisation if it works blue water pole to pole. We have observers on fishing boats all over the place and they need an independent communication device.

Posted by: NickReese in reply to Richard C at June 19, 2012 1:57 AM | Reply

Nick, inReach uses the Iridium system which can and does claim true global coverage because its 66 satellites are in polar orbits. It should work "blue water pole to pole":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iridium_satellite_constellation

Posted by: Ben at June 19, 2012 7:27 AM | Reply

Sweeet!...the inReach app, at least the iOS version, now officially offers NOAA charts. See new PS above for comments and screen shot.

Posted by: Ben at June 19, 2012 11:46 AM | Reply

Very nice post!
I'm really interested in the inReach for tracking and communication for bush flying in Southern Africa. Sadly their customer service sucks, sent 3 e-mails in 4 days and no reply. Probably they are not interested in business outside north America.
Spot doesn't work in this part of the world so I have not many options left

Posted by: Liviu at August 11, 2012 1:01 AM | Reply

inReach is being sold all over the world, I'm pretty sure, and should work anywhere. The one service exception may be SMS messaging. From what I understand there's no problem with outgoing SMS texts from the inReach but in some countries like Australia and Brazil return texts don't back through the Iridium gateway to the inReach.

There's more info on this issue if you search "SMS" in DeLorme's inReach Forum:

http://forum.delorme.com/viewforum.php?f=232

Posted by: Ben in reply to Liviu at August 13, 2012 11:12 AM | Reply

Good news for inReach in the USA: West Marine is now carrying the product and the inReach canned message buttons can now be set up to call VesselAssist as well as BoatTowUS.

Posted by: Ben at August 13, 2012 11:16 AM | Reply

Actually, the inReach should function just fine with modern NIMH batteries; assuming you use a battery with a storage capability of 2500 mAH or better.

I'm considering the inReach and would use NIMH batteries for day to day operations. I'd keep Lithium Ultimate Energizer batteries for emergencies.

And when all else fails, their is always my amateur radio.

Cheers!

Posted by: Mostly Michael at August 26, 2012 2:52 AM | Reply

Sorry I haven't yet put together an entry this week, but I sure have been testing stuff! Mistakes have been made, and problems discovered, but inReach is one of several systems that is working wonderfully. Feel free to test the messaging function. I'm about to go on an easy (though rolly) watch and will keep an eye out for incoming texts.

Just go here:

http://share.delorme.com/(S(wm4b3sr5gjvokbm0sdkctd2g))/?MapId=4fe49467765d43a8aa27f258ec8baad6

Posted by: Ben at September 21, 2012 11:35 AM | Reply

I would buy this in a heart beat if it offered a plan that suited people that hike infrequently. Do to work I am lucky to get away 4 times a year. If there was an option to pay for single months I would be all over it.

Posted by: Quasii at November 7, 2012 8:56 AM | Reply

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