Outdoor Retailer: DeLorme InReach offers 2-way messaging

2:18 a.m. on August 4, 2011 (EDT)
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This thread is for comments on the article "Outdoor Retailer: DeLorme InReach offers 2-way messaging"

With DeLorme's inReach two-way GPS satellite communicator, users won't be left wondering if rescuers received their emergency message about a broken leg in the backcountry, or if Mom got the text update on their summit attempt.

Full article at http://www.trailspace.com/blog/2011/08/04/delorme-inreach-2-way-messaging.html

8:09 a.m. on August 4, 2011 (EDT)
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Would be great to see this hooked-up with Apple ( iPhone ).

                                                  ~r2~

1:48 p.m. on August 4, 2011 (EDT)
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Apple is too restrictive of licensing, program, and development rights, making Android far, far more attractive for the development of emerging tech.

The Steve Hive Mind puts out some really nice, user friendly, slick products. But control is the name of his game, and that does not mesh well with third-party innovation in technical application areas.

 

1:50 p.m. on August 4, 2011 (EDT)
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About the product though, the two way functionality sounds really interesting.  I am sure my wife's mother will be pushing for me to carry one of these. I think I'll tell her that if it will make her feel so much better, that she can buy it and pay the monthly service fees ;)

8:29 p.m. on August 4, 2011 (EDT)
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gonzan said:

About the product though, the two way functionality sounds really interesting.  I am sure my wife's mother will be pushing for me to carry one of these. I think I'll tell her that if it will make her feel so much better, that she can buy it and pay the monthly service fees ;)

 I am with ya on that one.... I am not even mentioning this to the wife. I can see it now.

10:36 p.m. on August 4, 2011 (EDT)
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I have the PN-60w with the SPOT transmitter. It is disconcerting to not have any way to know if your 'I'm OK' (or your SOS) was received. This new device is a great step up. I do agree, however, iPhone support is a biggie. Ideally I would want to be able to use a device like the Inreach, with just one device compatible with both the PN-60w for backcountry use and with the iPhone for on the road etc. But that's apparently not in the near term at least, partly because it doesn't support iPhone and partly because the Inreach for phone uses Bluetooth and the Inreach for PN-60w uses a priorietary protocol. It's an either/or decision.

I have to admit, too, there is a part of me that eschews the idea of having a two-way communicator with me in the backcountry...

2:27 p.m. on August 5, 2011 (EDT)
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The new tech stuff tends to go over my head.  How does that hook up to signal flags;)

7:04 p.m. on August 5, 2011 (EDT)
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Guyz said:

The new tech stuff tends to go over my head.  How does that hook up to signal flags;)

 Not as good as smoke signals and jungle drums.

                                                        ~r2~

4:49 p.m. on August 6, 2011 (EDT)
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Smoke signals and jungle drums.  Probably get you arrested for air and noise pollution after they rescued you.  Also give the die hard leave no trace people heart attacks.

7:39 p.m. on August 8, 2011 (EDT)
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I really like the idea of being able to customize your message. Hearing back is not a bad feature either. But, the monthly service fee is pretty steep. My SPOT is alot less every year than the $50 per month (and I suspect it would cost that much to use all the features, and if you dont use all the features, why buy it?). I suspect I will wait at least a year for some of the bugs to work out and the price to come down. I wonder if you can deactivate the service on months you are not using it? SPOT doesn't allow that. In fact, SPOT is a hassel to cancel from what I have heard.

9:41 p.m. on August 8, 2011 (EDT)
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Although it is specifically stated in Alicia's writeup, it appears that most responders overlooked the fact that the inReach communicates through the Iridium satphone system (using the digital service, rather than the voice service). The SPOT devices (there are 4 distinct ones) use the GlobalStar satphone system, again the digital service rather than the voice service.

Also, it should be made clear that the PN-60w and android phones are used to generate and display the messages and maps, not to do the direct communication, and not the cellphone system the Android phones use for voice communication. They link to the inReach unit via a wireless link (basically Bluetooth), with the inReach unit making the 2-way communication with the Iridium digital text system. The PN-60w to SPOT Communicator link is also a wireless link, with the SPOT Communicator doing the uplink to the GlobalStar satellites, which relay the messages on through the Internet as an email or text message to the pre-designated members of your "team".

The SPOT Connect is a SPOT device that uses iPhones and Android phones to generate the text messages that are linked to the Connect, again with a wireless link. The Connect then relays the message via the GlobalStar digital text system in the same manner as the original SPOT ("SPOT 1"), the SPOT 2, and the SPOT Communicator. Note that the SPOT "1" and "2" only relay canned messages (OK, Help, and 911/SOS), while the Communicator and Connect can relay "freeform" text messages that are generated by the PN-60w (Communicator) or iPhone or Android phones (Connect).

Again, all 4 SPOT devices use the GlobalStar digital text system one-way only (same one-way as standard PLBs and EPIRBs), while the new (not yet released - Dec 2011, I think Chip said) inReach uses the Iridium digital text system and is 2-way (with limitations).

Remember that no emergency notification system (ELT. EPIRB, PLB, SPOT, inReach, or 911 on a cellphone/copper phone/Iridium/GlobalStar/InMarSat, or even human runner) is guaranteed to save your life - and NONE are intended to give you a helicopter or taxi ride home.

11:15 a.m. on August 9, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks to Bill for the information above.

To answer some of the other questions:

DeLorme is "in discussions" to launch an iPhone version. Basically, they had to pick a platform to start with and they picked Android. While DeLorme can't give any confirmation or timeline, I personally will be surprised if we don't see an iPhone version by next year.

About the subscription plans:

Iridium requires a one-year contract plan. So DeLorme (and any other manufacturer that works with them) has to offer its plan annually.

DeLorme is choosing to have monthly payments though, so you can change your plan monthly, though there are fees involved. You can move upward in payment plans (more features, higher price) any month for no extra fee, beyond the monthly plan charge. However, moving down costs an additional $25 charge every time you change plans.

So, if you have a major trip at a certain time of year, it might make sense to upgrade for that and stay at the low level the rest of the year. But, it's a question of cost-effectiveness.

Here are the plans:

  1. Safety: $9.95/month (SOS + 10 messages)
  2. Recreation: $24.95 a month (SOS, 40 messages, tracking)
  3. Pro: $49.95/month (SOS, 120 messages, tracking)

DeLorme has an inReach: Question and Answer on its website.

11:29 a.m. on August 9, 2011 (EDT)
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Also, I'm working on getting the unit weight, but did add dimensions to the article above: 3.36" H (4.78" including antenna), 2.85" W, 1.73" D.

Also, here is info from DeLorme on the platforms.

Operating System Support: Android OS and Earthmate PN-60w

Android Application

  • The free Android application will be available through the Android Marketplace
  • Android inReach users will receive DeLorme Topo North America® maps for free
  • In addition to superior detail, the DeLorme topo maps will be stored on the phone, unlike subscription service maps that are unavailable when there’s no cell phone signal
  • The inReach GPS signal can be driven to the Android for significantly improved accuracy
  • Using the inReach for the GPS device, instead of the phone’s native GPS, will dramatically reduce the phone’s battery drain
  • Android users without an inReach may purchase DeLorme Topo North America maps by region

PN-60w Details

  • Supports the inReach device two-way communications in addition to all standard GPS features
  • A new firmware update enabling the new inReach functionality will be available at launch time
12:26 p.m. on August 9, 2011 (EDT)
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One more update, here is the weight from DeLorme:

The weight is 7.9 oz without batteries. The device uses 2 AA batteries. We recommend lithiums, but it also supports alkalines.

8:12 a.m. on August 10, 2011 (EDT)
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Thats really not bad to give folks back home a little peace of mind.  The message is usually, "I'm ok."

6:59 p.m. on August 10, 2011 (EDT)
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One further clarification of a possible source of confusion (and a coming new product that was at the OR Show) -

The SPOT and inReach products relay "OK" and "Help" messages via satphone systems (GlobalStar for SPOT and Iridium for inReach) into either the Internet email system or as a text message via cellphone to the listed members of your "team". You have to set up your "team member" list in advance, designating whether the message is relayed via email or text message. The inReach system does allow entering a new email address via the wireless link of the PN-60w or Android phone.

The cell phone system is NOT involved except for delivery of the message to the team members. In the case of the SPOT Connect, your smart phone (iPhone or Android) is used to select the pre-programmed messages or write a freeform message, but does NOT need a cell tower within range of your own phone. Similarly, your Android phone uses its wireless connection to select the pre-programmed message or write a freeform message that the inReach unit relays, with no interaction with any cell tower.

In short, the cell phone system is NOT involved in the origination of SPOT or inReach messages, only in the final link to get the message to your team members. The cell phone system is NOT involved at any point in relaying any 911/SOS message to the GEOS emergency response organization.

The reason I mention this is that there is a start-up company, My Running Guard (www.myrunningguard.com) that is developing a small device (pair of devices, actually) that is aimed at runners and hikers that does indeed use the cell phone system. The woman at their booth at the OR Show was describing the system as "like SPOT." The system uses two devices - a ring that has the alarm button on it and a small box that contains a recording GPS receiver and GSM cell phone transmitter. Your route, pace, and distance are recorded by the box (size of a thick credit card-style camera) for downloading to your computer at home. If you have an emergency, you press the button on the ring (or one on the box). This transmits an emergency message with your location through the cell phone system (the phone carrier was not specified) to a call center (again, unspecified except for being located in New Brunswick), which notifies your local 911. This is similar in description to the "Help me! I have fallen and can't get up!" ads you see on late night TV. I can see that it could potentially be a useful device for runners, hikers, and cyclists, though in many of our parks in the SFBay Area, you have no cell phone coverage. However, it is quite unlike the SPOT, inReach, or COSPAS-SARSAT systems, in that it does not use a satellite-based system to summon search and rescue. The system will cost $150 to purchase plus $10/month.

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