SPOT Gen3 Satellite Messenger
Primary use: emergency device (GMDSS) or tracking/texting device (SEND)?
A Satellite Emergency Notification Device (SEND) is a portable emergency notification and locating device that uses commercial satellite systems, rather than the international government-based COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system, to transmit GPS location-based distress, check-in, and tracking messages. They add social networking and communication capabilities to emergency beacon functions. The SPOT Gen3 Satellite Messenger and inReach Smartphone Satellite Messenger are two examples of SEND units. Participants in activities such as hiking, mountain biking, climbing, boating and flying are typical users of SEND devices.
Individual features vary, and new features are added with new models being introduced, but SEND devices generally allow you to:
- Send pre-configured messages (“I’m OK,” for example) to a selected group of your contacts
- Check in and let these family and friends track your location using Twitter, Facebook, Google Earth and other web tools. The latest models let you create an electronic “breadcrumb trail” for the folks back home, mapping your position at user-selectable intervals ranging from once every 2 ½ minutes to every four hours. Currently, SPOT’s social media platform, SPOT Adventures, has over 61,000 tracked trips from all over the world and users have uploaded over 11,000 pictures to the site.
- Request non-emergency help from your personal contacts
- Request emergency help, with your information relayed to the appropriate agencies worldwide by a private organization (such as the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center). Since 2007, the family of SPOT messenger devices has initiated more than 2,000 emergency rescues in 78 countries around the world and at sea. Hikers, boaters, pilots, and remote workers are just a few examples of SPOT users who have signaled for assistance.
- Purchase costs are lower than for buying an EPIRB, but SEND devices generally require a subscription. Subscription plans vary in cost and features.
Do you want to receive as well as send messages?
SPOT allows you to send, but not receive messages. Red or green blinking lights inform you if your message was attempted. SPOT tries three times to reach the satellite network (when you’re successful, your contacts only receive the message once). Delorme inReach offers two-way messaging with delivery confirmation to ensure that the message was successfully sent.
DeLorme inReach™ Smartphone Satellite Messenger (left) and inReach SE (Screen Edition) Satellite Communicator (right)
Do you want the ability to send custom messages?
The basic SPOT Satellite Messenger lets you customize messages at home on your computer, and send these pre-programmed messages using the Check-in/OK function. You can create custom messages of up to 41 characters, plus pre-programmed 120-character messages using the SPOT Connect, pairing with your smartphone via Bluetooth wireless technology. The DeLorme inReach products allow two-way on-the-fly text messaging to email addresses or cell phones (send/receive up to 160 characters). Their inReach Smartphone Satellite Messenger links to your smartphone by Bluetooth, like SPOT Connect,
Geographic coverage: continental and coastal or worldwide?
SPOT uses the Globalstar satellite system. SPOT’s continental/coastal coverage includes virtually all of the continental United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe and Australia, portions of South America, Northern Africa, and North-Eastern Asia and hundreds or thousands of miles offshore of these areas. See their coverage map at findmespot.com. The inReach device operates using Iridium, with global pole-to-pole coverage and across all oceans.
What’s the best pricing scheme?
SPOT’s basic annual subscription plan costs $99.99 per year. Type & Send custom messaging adds $49.99 for a 500-message bundle. Tracking is $49.99 per year. There are a range of other services including SPOT Assist Maritime with BoatUS for $10 per year.
DeLorme’s plans are monthly, with three pricing/service levels of $9.95, $24.95 and $49.95 per month.