gCaptain Contest – Win A Spot Satellite Messenger

spot satellite messenger

The SPOT Contest is now closed, but you can keep commenting as if it were open.  Thank you everyone for your participation.  We will have the winners announced shortly!

gCaptain has teamed up with the folks at SPOT to bring you this exclusive contest! The rules are simple. Each comment posted on any gCaptain blog post between now and October 1st will be entered in a random drawing to win one of 5 units and a gCaptain T-Shirt.

Rules:

  • No purchase necessary, just your thoughts entered at the bottom of any blog post.
  • As always, we reserve the right to pull inappropriate comments
  • Comments that don’t add value to the conversation (e.g. “Love the post” or “Great Idea Guys”) will not be entered into the drawing.
  • A free entry will be given to those who register and upload a photo or avatar.
  • Winners will be responsible for SPOT’s annual subscription fee.
  • Winners will be contacted via email by October 15th 2008.
  • Limit: 3 Entries per day

What is SPOT?

We first brought you news of the SPOT Messenger in episode 26 of our weekly podcast Messing About In Ships (audio attached below) where we interviewed Derek Moore, friend of our sister site Unofficial Squaw and SPOT representative. Here’s the basic information from the product’s homepage;

SPOT is the only device of its kind, using the GPS satellite network to acquire its coordinates, and then sending its location – with a link to Google Maps™ – and a pre-programmed message via a commercial satellite network. And unlike Personal Locator Beacons, SPOT does more than just call for help. Tracking your progress, checking in with loved ones, and non-emergency assistance are also available, all at the push of a button. And because it uses 100% satellite technology, SPOT works around the world – even where cell phones don’t.

Why is gCaptain interested in SPOT?

Being mariners we can’t say enough good things about EPIRBs. The life changing technology has saved countless mariners and remains to this day the most important electronic device carried aboard ship. SPOT is not an EPIRB and should not be considered as a replacement but it does serve a similar function. They tell us;

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 canceled. 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, our country’s embassy or 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.

In addition to notifying authorities of your MAYDAY call it also has a feature that let’s friends and family track your location. All Things Digital tells us;

When activated, the $170 SPOT Satellite Messenger from SPOT Inc., the Milpitas, Calif., unit of Globalstar Inc., emits a signal to GPS satellites, which notify SPOT’s messaging service. The service then sends a message to friends, family or emergency rescue teams about your current status. Because it uses GPS technology, the SPOT will work even when you’re far from cellphone signal range and anywhere in the world.

As exciting as the technology is there are draw backs for the commercial mariner. First it doesn’t work “anywhere in the world”. The unit relies on Globalstar satellites to transmit your messages, if you are not located within this network’s footprint the service does not work. You can view the coverage map Link. Second, unlike an EPIRB, it does not contact the authorities directly. The service, including the emergency response component, is all in the hands of private entities. Our friend and RTCM member Doug Ritter shares his professional insights on differences HERE.

Redundancy!

Despite potential problems we are excited by the technology. Having spent years of my life at sea I’ve learned two important lessons;

  1. Both equipment and systems fail.
  2. The best safeguard to failure is redundancy

While SPOT will not replace the EPIRB or PLB (what’s the difference?) it’s independant gives us reassurance in the event of EPIRB failure. Our friend and Chief Engineer Robin Storm has made the point of not relying on EPIRBS alone and, although his points have received criticism from experts we trust, having a back-up system when trouble finds you is always a safe bet.

At the price of $150 dollars plus a subscription fee, the ability to send a quick messege saying “I’m OK” is worth the price alone. Combine this with the ability to notify authorities, send a simple help message with you coordinates to any cell phone ( or your ship’s INMARSAT-C terminal!) and the relatively low price point make this device a true winner in our books. We hope that soon every lifeboat will carry a SPOT Messenger and that every mariner who reads this soon has one attached to his belt or lifejacket.

LINKS:
Richard Rodriguez’s SPOT Tracking Page
Review from Doug Ritter’s Survived
Online vessel tracking solutions – Panbo
Pro’s and Cons of the SPOT from GPS Magazine
Audio Interview With SPOT

Can’t Wait?

Can’t wait for the contest to finish? Purchase your SPOT Messenger from Amazon TODAY!

The SPOT Contest is now closed.  Thank you everyone for your participation.  We will have the winners announced shortly!