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Reviewed - SPOT Messenger with satellite uplink
Posté le 15 mars 2008 à 22:25:04 par gpspassion.

UPDATED 20080429

Over the past few years, several consumer grade Live GPS trackers have become available, such as the Globalsat TR-101/102 or the Haicom SVT-601, but they rely on a GSM connection to upload the GPS data, so they'll blank out in remote areas where you might find yourself in need of help. This is where the SPOT Satellite Messenger comes in with its satellite uplink that will work almost everywhere around the world. I took one for some high altitude testing in the Alps recently and will share my thoughts as well as screenshots of the web interface and pictures in this article.

If you have questions or comments you can use this topic of the "Live GPS Tracking Systems" forums.

1. Field Testing Report

1. Web site : :
- Internet website is a bit on the slow side
- Translations (at least the French one) not quite finished and not always correct
- Changing languages means you can’t pull up the messages sent by the device
- Message list allows for display of messages sent in the past 24 hours, 7 days or 30 days
- Messages can be export to GPX/CSV/KML
- Not all mobile carriers can be used to send SMS messages, you will need to switch to email
- The SPOTcasting feature (live tracking) is billed $50/year but isn’t fully operational yet. It can be activated from the device but to view the reported positions you need to log in with the owners ID and password. SPOT say they are working on enabling tracking by third parties but they don’t have an ETA…UPDATED 20080429 : this feature is now live with messages and maps available for 24 hours, more details here in the SPOT Tracker topic.

2. The Tracker :
- The device is quite large compared to GSM trackers
- Battery life is excellent (designed to work with Lithium batteries), I had it turned on for a month with several test sessions and it’s still ticking !
- There is a LED for each button but they don’t offer much infomation. When a message is sent the LED stays on for 5 seconds, but unless you’re keeping a close eye on it, it’s easy to miss and no that help is on the way.
- GPS sensitivity is good on paper (Nemerix NX2/NJ1030 chipset rated at -152dBm) but for a message to be sent via the satellite uplink you need a clear view of the sky. It won’t work in a car for instance. Not necessarily a problem given it’s main purpose, but it could have been useful in combination with the SPOTCasting feature.
- The "ok" feature sends one message
- The "help" feature sends 5 messages every 5 minutes
- Did not try the 9-1-1 feature
- The messages sent by the device show the GPS coordinates down to the 4th decimal,, the standard 5 decimals would have been better as the give a bit more accuray (about 10 meters).

Final Words : The SPOT is a unique device with its satellite uplink that will work pretty much anywhere. It's full potential is now unleashed with SPOTcasting tracking on top of its main purpose as a security device. The « interface », in this case the LEDs, could use some work to provide for better feedback when commands are sent (confirmation that a message has been sent).

The pricing is reasonable given the potential life saving nature of the device, $170 for the actual device, $100/year for the basic service plan, $50 for tracking, $8 for GEOS, but those who have an occasional need for the device might be interested in week-end, weekly or monthly loans as is being done in France by Espace Mobilité.

2. Web Interface and Alert Messages

Configuring "CHECK IN" (SPOTchecking) and "ASK FOR HELP"

Configuring "ALERT 9-1-1" (urgences)

Not seen the boxes to add the contact information of two people

A "HELP" message sent by email, google maps link embedded

Three decimals in this messages, but they normally have four

List of Messages sent by the device

Viewing messages on the map with their nature (help, track)

3. Picture Gallery

Compared to some GSM trackers: Leadtek, Globalsat TR101/102, Globalsat TR-150

4. Where to Buy
The SPOT Messenger can be purchased directly from SPOT at MSRP for $170 or from online retailers such as LiveViewGPS for a low $150.

You will then need to get a subscription from SPOT :
* Messaging: $99.99 USD/YR - Unlimited basic satellite messaging service subscription
* Tracking (SPOTcasting): $49.99/yr (Optional Service)
* Rescue insurance: $7.95/yr - GEOS Search and Rescue Benefit (Recommended Service)
If you have questions or comments you can use this topic of the "Live GPS Trackers" forums.

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