Thursday, January 03, 2008

Personal Locator Device at a reasonable price....

Spot Satellite Messenger is targeted at serious backpackers, boaters, hunters and other committed outdoor enthusiasts. The Spot is a chunky, 7-ounce personal tracker whose main purpose is to bail you out of trouble. The product — it looks like a bright orange PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) on steroids — taps into Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites to determine your whereabouts. Then if you get into a pickle, Spot, at the press of a button, will transmit your longitude, latitude and a preprogrammed text or e-mail message to emergency 911 authorities and/or your loved ones. Folks can view your location on Google Maps. Alas, you have no way of knowing if your cry for help has been received.

At $170 for the device, on top of a $100 annual subscription, Spot isn't cheap. But similar "personal locator beacons," or PLBs, may cost $400 or more. Spot claims it keeps costs down because of its proprietary low-power satellite technology.

Spot is meant to work even in areas where your cellphone won't function, under various environmental extremes — at elevations of up to 21,000 feet and at temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It floats and is waterproof, too, but won't do you any good if it ends up buried in snow. The device requires a clear view of the sky.

Spot can operate in virtually all of North America, Europe and Australia, and portions of South America, northern Africa and northeastern Asia, as well as thousands of miles offshore. It failed at times in the, um, wilds of Manhattan and northern New Jersey, even sitting uncovered in the stands of Giants Stadium. Tall buildings often block GPS signals


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