SPOT Satellite Messenger and Request for Cold Beer

My friend Yoyar is currently on his way to a 14 day solo camping and canoeing trip in Algonquin Provincial Park, in Ontario. We were talking about what he might do in case he got in trouble (sprained ankle, broken wrist, torso three-quarters devoured by a pack of wolves and then having the remaining one-quarter predated upon by a family of black bears, etc...). We thought first of all that he could send an SMS (phone text message) daily to say all is well, or to send a 'help' message. But there isn't phone service in the vast majority of the Algonquin region, so I suggested that he look into the SPOT Satellite Messenger.

So he went and bought one - about $200 from BestBuy and a basic $10 monthly service plan.

There are 4 buttons on this satellite device (which is about the size of a BlackBerry device):
  1. An OK Button.
    When you press the OK button, SPOT acquires your location from the GPS network and routes it through the SPOT satellite network. Your contacts receive either an SMS text message on their mobile phone with your message and coordinates, or an email with your message and a link to Google Maps™ showing your location.

  2. A HELP Button.
    Once activated, SPOT acquires your location from the GPS network and routes it along with the HELP message through the SPOT satellite network every five minutes for one hour or until cancelled. Your contacts will receive an SMS text message including coordinates, or an email with a link to Google Maps™ showing your location.
    I guess this is one step up from 'I'm okay' but not severe enough to alert the emergency and Search and Rescue groups as described next. They say it is for a non-life-threatening incident. I can't imagine what help would be required. Cold beer? More beef jerky? More mosquito repellent? Maybe more like 'Ran out of gas' or 'Bicycle tire punctured' or 'Snowmobile stuck'.

  3. A Track Progress Button
    Yoyar didn't spend the extra for this option, but it would allow the user to send out 'cookie-crumb' messages every 10 minutes, so that friends and family could track the person's progress live via Google Maps. This would be great so you could do a trip log later. But even still, you can simply hit the 'OK' button every so often (unlimited allowance) and this would do the same thing. It just means you'd need to manually put together all the GPS locations later. Big deal.

  4. A 911 Button.
    Once activated, SPOT will acquire its exact coordinates from the GPS network, and send that location along with a distress message to a GEOS International Emergency Response Center every five minutes until cancelled. The Emergency Response Center notifies the appropriate emergency responders based on your location and personal information – which may include local police, highway patrol, the Coast Guard, the Canadian consulate, or other emergency response or search and rescue teams – as well as notifying your emergency contact person(s) about the receipt of a distress signal. Note: not to be pressed for fun, or if you are bored and lonely in the middle of the wilderness and just want to hear the sound of someone else's voice.
Coverage is a lot better than my cell phone service provider's coverage.
"SPOT works around the world, including 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."

Les Stroud does a promo for the device - see below.

Cool, huh?


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