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Old 11 March 2008, 10:09   #1
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SPOT Satellite Messenger

I am highly intrigued by these things:

http://shop.malthouse-marine.com/ind...d=191&parent=0

And have got five in, one of which I am going to have a play with myself and the other four I have listed on my shop at damn near cost price. If anyone else would like to get one and help me asses them, now might be the chance.



I understand that the SMS Alert function does not work with UK mobiles, but there must be a way round that.


Edit: I posted this in Electronics as it may be more of a talking point than a hard sell, but if it should be in Trade/offers then that is fine by me.
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Old 11 March 2008, 13:02   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by malthouse View Post
And have got five in...
... Now down to two as a couple of sailing clubs are trialing some.

Once these couple are gone I will be unable to offer them at a subsidised price, this is not a special offer but a chance for some fellow RIB.netters to help me evaluate a new and hopefully exciting product.

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Old 11 March 2008, 13:56   #3
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Malthouse,

Can you explain a little more how this works?

I follow that is has a GPS to fix your position. It then seems to send an SMS message via an integrated sat phone with your location and "status".

So what happens when I hit the "911" button? Who does that message go to? What about the other buttons? Then to track it - people go to a website.

Which bits are you not sure will work in the UK?

Thanks,

Neil
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Old 11 March 2008, 14:08   #4
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Originally Posted by Polwart View Post
I follow that is has a GPS to fix your position. It then seems to send an SMS message via an integrated sat phone with your location and "status".

So what happens when I hit the "911" button? Who does that message go to? What about the other buttons? Then to track it - people go to a website.

Which bits are you not sure will work in the UK?
Hi Neil,

I will know more once I have had a good go with mine, but I shall do my best....

Rather than using a sat phone it uses spare bandwidth in commercial satellites to send back a very brief "message" which consists of lat/long and either OK, Help, Cancel Help or 911 (effectively a mayday). Because it uses the satellite to bounce the message to a ground station coverage is not quite global.

The 911 function is set up by yourself, once you register and purchase the subscriptions you want you get to enter the details of who is notified for the various options.

The SMS function for UK numbers does not seem to work yet, but I am fairly sure a fix can be found or at the very least an email to SMS option.

Cheers,
Martin
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Old 11 March 2008, 15:00   #5
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Hmm,

Not sure why it uses satellite to send messages.. if it can text, surely it has a simcard? or similar in it? or does it talk back to a central server via "satellite" and then that server sends it out?
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Old 11 March 2008, 15:00   #6
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Martin,

I have to say I am intrigued, possibly to the extent of being interested...

One point you might want to fix is you say it is 1kg on your website - but the manufacturer says just over 200g. At 1kg there is no way I would put it in my pocket on a boat, or on a mountain.

Are these legal in the UK/EU? I know they are not EPIRBS and don't fall foul of those rules - but do they not need some form of type approval as a radio transmission device?

If this relies on the SPOT company processing messages (rather than a mainstream sat phone provider) how sure are we that they won't go bust leaving the device useless.

I'm not sure how much I like the idea of me having to decide how a "mayday" is responded to. Yes, I would like to think if am on mountainside with a broken leg, or in the drink that my loved ones would get a report and respond to it - but I don't know anyone who would be 100% reliable to respond (e.g. phone turned off in a meeting, phone not charged, phone left at home, phone out of signal area). Also if I haven't told them where I am going they will need to have access to a map/internet to work out if they need to call e.g. the UK CG or French Mountain Rescue... The US website implies that GEOS do this for you... that sounds much more reliable BUT how can you test that in your evaluation (as I understand it you are amongst the first people to test this in Europe so I would want to know that this KEY FEATURE works).
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Old 11 March 2008, 15:48   #7
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Ben - It doesn't send SMS messages at all and no SIM card. The SMS is just what your contacts receive. You set up fixed messages on your account beforehand. It then uses the satellite to notifiy position and message type to ground station to pass on to contacts.

Polwart - The message handling company are GEOS - see www.geosalliance.com for more info. They don't just do SPOT, but a lot of corporate activity as well, but yes, they could go bust in theory.

They are legal for use in UK - I don't think they would be available from the distributor otherwise.

It's just the 'OK and 'HELP' (like a PAN-PAN really) messages that get sent directly to your contacts. For a 911 message, they will validate location with your contacts and then contact authorities. Think of it like an alarm monitoring company calling the police for you if there's a break-in.

If you take the tracking option, it could be quite a useful tool for non-emergency use as well eg watching boat delivery progress.
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Old 11 March 2008, 17:06   #8
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OK I read the user manual and it is CE marked so presumably legal.

I am surprised to see that you can activate either the help or 911 functions with a single button press (assuming the unit is turned on - which it will if it is in tracking mode).

The other obvious room for improvement is accepting other batteries if necessary - Li Ion have a lot of plus points - but if you discover the unit is dead in a remote area getting replacements is going to be difficult. I suspect it may still work but not float, and power may not last as long etc - but it specifically says may damage the unit.

The unit would also be improved it it would float in the correct orientation to send a message automatically. (The instructions may imply this may not happen).

Finally it always annoys me when I have to pay more for technology in the UK than the US. So where does the justification arise for the cost differences:

$169.99 USD <-- Unit cost --> 149 GBP (list) which is approx $ 300 USD. TBH this difference doesn't surprise me and is typical.

$99.99 USD <-- Basic service --> € 89.00 EUR which is approx $ 137 USD.
$49.99 USD <-- tracking option --> € 39.00 EUR which is approx $ 60 USD

Why, when this is a global service (a US citizen can buy it there and use it here; or I can buy it here and use it there) is there any price differential for the services.

So to buy this product in the UK with tracking will cost me (not counting this special deal) about 100 quid more than it would in the US. That is a turn off.

Don't get me wrong I think it is a pretty good product - but I think it will be interesting to see if there are me2 competitors who can address these issues.
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