Thursday, October 2, 2008

SPOT…Right On

The unit is simplicity itself with only four clearly labeled buttons that activate Emergency, Help, Check-in and Tracking.

If you travel in Baja, reliable communication is always an issue. Cell phones do not work throughout certain areas. For example, my Verizon works great in the Cabo area, La Paz and as far down as San Quintin on Mex 1, but it does NOT work in Magdalena Bay, East Cape or many of the remote areas that I visit. So now, I carry a Mexican cell phone as well in order to stay in touch. My other option up to this point in time has been to carry a Sat phone, which is very expensive.

When I spotted SPOT at the Fred Hall Show earlier this year I was intrigued. According to the person manning the booth, SPOT is a Satellite Personal Tracker-the next generation of PLB’s (Personal Locator Beacon).

The small, waterproofed and rugged 6 ounce handheld unit seemed to be packed with features that would solve some of the Baja communication problems I encounter. With a simple press of a button, I could determine my GPS location and send it along with a pre-programmed message to the contacts I designate over commercial communications satellites – in real time.

The unit is simplicity itself with only four clearly labeled buttons that activate Emergency, Help, Check-in and Tracking.

· 911-button notifies GEOS International Emergency Response Center of life-threatening events. The GEOS Emergency Response Center will contact public response agencies around the world, and call your emergency contacts to keep them informed of rescue progress. GEOS works with all rescue agencies from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and Coast Guard to local urban and rural 9-1-1 call centers. Optionally, GEOS will also dispatch private rescue agencies in those countries where public resources won’t do. Spot continues to send a message and location update every 5 minutes until cancelled.

· Help-button sends a text message to the cell phones and an email with a link to Google Maps to designated contacts indicating that you need help and your location. The message and location updates every 5 minutes for an hour or until cancelled.

· OK\Check in-button informs your contacts of your location and that you’re okay. It then saves your location for later viewing on the SPOT web service using Google Maps.

· OK\Check in-button held down for 5 seconds will activate tracking. Then it updates your outdoor position every 10 minutes to your SPOT web account, which in turn updates a Google map that can be accessed by your SPOT team.

SPOT service will also create a web page which will provide tracking information easily accessed by anyone you choose by simply sending them the link.

So far the unit has worked perfectly during my Road Trekker trips. Allowing my team to monitor my progress as I travel and even confirm where I have stopped for the night.

The uses for SPOT are limited only by your imagination. After seeing my unit in operation, several of my friends decided they needed one…but for different reasons. One wanted to use it when he was fishing off of San Diego. With the SPOT unit, he can let his family and friends know he’s okay when he can’t get through on his cell or VHF. Another thought SPOT would be an ideal backup at his home in Baja if he lost power and telephone service during a hurricane. With the unit, he can notify his friend’s world-wide that he’s okay.

The SPOT is one more inexpensive electronic communication tool that is a welcome addition for anyone who travels anywhere…in remote locations, on land or water.

I now carry my SPOT on ALL of my trips and have set up a special link which will demonstrate how SPOT works. I will display my travels on my next Baja trip. If you would like to see how it works. Go to the upper left hand corner to locate the SPOT link. If you are interested, bookmark the page and you can monitor my Road Trekkers Travels when I leave on my next road trip in early October.

Enthusiasm is my friend; my email is